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Italy Shootings Underscore Racial Tensions; Uma Thurman Describes Weinstein Assault; Trump Claims Memo Provides Vindication. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired February 4, 2018 - 02:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta and your CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


VANIER: A far right supporter in Central Italy is accused of opening fire on African migrants on Saturday and wounding six of them. The suspect did not run away. After the shooting, he drove in front of a war monument and made a fascist absolute, wearing what looked like an Italian flag.

This is happening just a month before the national election. It is sending shock waves through Italian politics. Barbie Nadeau has the details from Rome.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A series of drive-by shootings in a Central Italian town have underscored racial tensions here in Italy ahead of national elections to be held March 4th; 28-year-old Luca Triene (ph), a member of the far right Northern League political party, was arrested for the shootings, making the fascist salute in front of a war monument.

He shot six African migrants, five men and one woman, most from Nigeria, one from Gambia, in this small town at three separate stops. The shooting spree is thought to be related to a retaliation act after a Nigerian man was arrested in connection with a violent murder of an 18-year-old Italian woman was murdered, dismembered and placed into two suitcases that were found earlier this week.

Italy's far right parties have distanced themselves from the shooter. But they have underscored the racial tensions ahead of the election, saying that mass migration into this country has caused these tensions; 600,000 mostly African migrants have crossed the sea and entered into Italy since 2014.

And that has become one of the crucial issues ahead of the elections in March -- this is Barbie Nadeau for CNN in Rome. (END VIDEOTAPE)


VANIER: Dominic Thomas from the University of California at Los Angeles is with me now.

Dominic, you're an expert in European affairs but you also write on racism and immigration. We want your point of view on this.

Do you look at this as a totally isolated incident, the work of a madman like Silvio Berlusconi said?

Or does it reflect xenophobia in the country?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: It without a doubt reflects xenophobia in the country and in Europe in a broader context. Since the Brexit referendum of 2016, the election of Donald Trump in 2016, every European election has been shaped by the question of immigration, national identity and the broader question of Islam and migration crisis.

And as Italy heads into an election in four weeks' time, this has been -- these number one questions leading up to that, it's proved incredibly divisive. And I believe this is really at sort of a physical expression of the tensions in the country today.

VANIER: Dominic, the leader of the Northern League, of course, condemned the shooting but then he went on to blame it and blame the situation not on the person who opened fire but on the invasion of migrants. Those are his words.

THOMAS: Right. So of course he can sort of denounce the horror of shooting down, racially motivated, a crime in the streets of Italy today but the basic fact is that his electoral campaign has been shaped by anti-immigration rhetoric, by inciting racial hatred and by linking the migration crisis to criminality in Italy, promises that people will be deported and promises that border control will be enhanced, should he be elected in the election coming up in a month's time.

And so it's all very well to denounce it after the fact. But one has to look very carefully at the ways in which this rhetoric and this divisiveness is fueling and encouraging people, legitimizing, one could say, to behave in this horrendous way.

And he takes responsibility for this.

VANIER: What's the general situation of migrants who arrive in Italy?

We know that many cross from Northern Africa, often from Libya into Italy.

What is the government doing for them?

I mean, is there a kind of government structure or do they live on the fringes of society, as we've sometimes seen in other countries?

THOMAS: There are both elements. The main thing, of course, is that when one enters the European Union, what is so absolutely crucial is where one sets foot. And because of the geographic proximity of the country of Italy to the African continent, they have been welcoming large numbers of migrants since the 2014 migrant crisis.

Many migrants attempt to dodge the Italian authorities and to move on immediately to other European countries, where they try to declare their arrival. So and Italy has very carefully coordinated reception centers.

But the big question with the European Union is always to determine whether these individuals arriving are economic migrants or whether they are political refugees. And the European Union and Italy is, it's --


THOMAS: -- very clear on the distinctions between those particular groups with an attempt to deport or remove those that are economic migrants and attempt to provide asylum to those who are refugees.

VANIER: OK, Dominic Thomas, thank you for joining us and shedding light on this, thanks.

THOMAS: Thank you.


VANIER: In Syria now, a Russian warplane was shot down on Saturday by militants in Idlib province. That's according to Russian state media, citing Russia's defense ministry. This footage from anti- government activists in Syria appears to show the wreckage.

Russia says the pilot was able to eject but then died fighting the militants on the ground. More than 13 militants were reportedly killed in a retaliatory strike.

Staying in Turkey now. Saturday also turned deadly for Turkish troops -- sorry, staying in Syria. State media reports at least seven soldiers were killed in separate incidents. Five died when a Turkish tank was reportedly attacked near Afrin with a missile.

CNN has not been able to independently verify this video but it purports to be of Kurdish forces destroying a tank north of Afrin. Saturday is believed to be the deadliest day for Turkish troops since they began Operation Olive Branch, as they call it. That was more than two weeks ago. The offensive has been targeting the Kurdish YPG.

Actress Uma Thurman is opening up about experiences with disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein. She claims he sexually assaulted her several times during their working relationship. Her voice joins a chorus of more than 60 women who say that they also experienced Weinstein's alleged sexual misconduct. Brian Stelter has the story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN STELTER, CNNMONEY SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Hey, that's right. Uma Thurman now the latest woman speaking out against Harvey Weinstein, adding her name to a list of dozens of actors and assistants, who say Weinstein either assaulted or harassed them over a course of decades.

Now Thurman says the two incidents in her case happened in the 1990s after she starred in the film "Pulp Fiction," which Weinstein helped produce. She says Weinstein initially celebrated her, helped her career.

But then, on two separate occasions in London and Paris, she says he sexually attacked her, tried to come on to her, propositioned her for sex.

She says, in both cases, she rebuffed his advances and then they continued to have a relationship together on a professional level, as she appeared in the films "Kill Bill" in the 2000s.

This is notable for a couple of reasons. Thurman has not spoken out until now. She had indicated she was gathering her thoughts and wanted to speak at the right time.

She has an interview in Sunday's "New York Times" with the columnist, Maureen Dowd. She also says she regrets not doing more to try to protect other women, who were then later apparently assaulted or harassed by Weinstein.

You know, he has denied some of the claims against him, admitted to some wrongdoing and, in the case of Thurman, his camp has put out a statement, saying that he does acknowledge that there was some behavior but that he didn't physically assault her. We can put on screen part of the statement.

It says, "Mr. Weinstein acknowledges making an awkward pass 25 years ago at Ms. Thurman in England after misreading her signals after a flirtatious exchange in Paris, for which he immediately apologized and deeply regrets. However, her claims about being physically assaulted are untrue. And this is the first time we have heard those details."

That's a statement from Weinstein's camp. He has a number of lawyers and agents and spokespeople representing him. It's interesting; recently he has started to become more aggressive in his responses. Of course, this scandal broke in October in the pages of "The New York Times."

It's been going on ever since with more and more women coming forward at times and places of their choosing. Weinstein's camp has denied some of the allegations. He apparently remains in rehab in Arizona. Meanwhile, there are ongoing criminal probes in London, Los Angeles and New York -- Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: The latest in U.S. politics: the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee is slamming a controversial Republican memo that alleges the FBI abused its surveillance powers. Congressman Jerry Nadler denounced the memo as, quote, "an organized effort to obstruct the Russia probe."

He and other Democrats say the memo deliberately misrepresented congressional testimony by then deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. But U.S. president Donald Trump, who approved making the memo public, doesn't see it that way. He says it totally vindicates him. Let's get more from CNN's Boris Sanchez.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What we've heard coming from administration officials over the past week regarding the declassification of the Nunes memo is that this is strictly about transparency and does not reflect on the substance behind the Russia investigation.

In fact, here's House Speaker Paul Ryan, reiterating what we've heard from many congressional Republicans, as well as officials in the White House.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice. It does not impugn the Mueller investigation --


RYAN: -- or the deputy attorney general.


Despite that, in a tweet from President Trump on Saturday, he contradicts what many of those around him have been saying, implying that the Nunes memo reveals a bias against him by investigators in the Department of Justice and the FBI. The president believes that this memo is evidence of a witch-hunt being persecuted against him.

Similarly, there's a disparity between the messaging coming from the president himself and some officials at the White House, about how the president feels regarding deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.

The president was asked if he had confidence in Rosenstein and he told reporters, "You figure that out."

Well, Raj Shah, deputy press secretary for the White House, was on CNN and he gave a more ringing endorsement of Rosenstein. Listen to what Shah had to say.


RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I'm saying it on behalf of the White House. And that's that, you know, no changes are going to be made at the Department of Justice. We fully expect Rod Rosenstein to continue on as the deputy attorney general.


SANCHEZ: And sources familiar with the president's thinking tell CNN that, at this time, there is no consideration of firing Rod Rosenstein; in part, because the president fears that taking that step may lead to prolonging the Russia investigation, something that this president clearly does not want.

We should note, though, that we've heard similar votes of confidence from this administration before for officials that were soon after shown the door -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president in West Palm Beach, Florida.


VANIER: Super Bowl Sunday is upon us. The U.S. football championship this year pits the Philadelphia Eagles against the New England Patriots. And it is set to be the coldest Super Bowl on record. Don't feel too sorry for fans, though.

Yes, they are going to the game in Minnesota but they will be getting some relief, the stadium is indoors. Meanwhile, the game is also a tale of two cities' fan bases. The notoriously rowdy Eagles fans are looking for their first-ever Super Bowl victory and then, of course, there is the reigning champions, the Patriots, who are looking to score a sixth Super Bowl win.

The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans are betting about $4.8 billion on Sunday's Super Bowl and a staggering 97 percent of those wagers or $4.6 billion will be bet illegally across the U.S. That's right.

The organization predicts that only 3 percent of Super Bowl bets will be legally wagered through licensed sports books in Nevada, the only state exempt from a federal ban on full-scale sports betting.

Finally this: Egypt, we are getting a rare glimpse into the life of an important priestess who lived more than 4,000 years ago. Archeologists have discovered a well-preserved tomb near the pyramids in Giza belonging to the priestess Hetpet. The walls are decorated with images of her hunting, fishing and receiving offerings.

Officials are hoping that new discoveries like this one will attract more visitors to the country.

That's it for now. Thanks for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier. Stay tuned. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" and we've got the headlines in 15 minutes.