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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Announces Tariffs, Stock Market Plunges; Culture of Fear at the White House; Putin Boasts of "Invincible" Nuclear Capability; British PM to Give Speech on Post Brexit Trade Deal; Immigration Dominates Italian Elections Sunday ; More than 100 Schoolgirls Still Missing in Nigeria; U.N. Truce Vote Failing to End Strikes on E.Ghouta. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired March 2, 2018 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're watching CNN, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, Donald Trump announces plans to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, sparking fears it could trigger a global trade war.

Plus, Vladimir Putin says he now has invincible nuclear missiles and uses an animation of a strike against the United States to drive home his point.

And Oscars in the #MeToo era, this weekend the Academy Awards will try to balance entertainment with activism.

Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause and we're now into the second hour of NEWSROOM L.A.

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VAUSE: Donald Trump may just have set the stage for a global trade war by announcing plans for tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. It is still not a done deal. We'll get details next week.

But in a hastily arranged news conference on Thursday, Trump seemed determined to go ahead with this blatantly protectionist move against the advice of many of his closest aides, despite disbelief and outrage from many Republican lawmakers and threats of retaliation from U.S. trade partners around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful. It's disgraceful. And when it comes to a time when our country can't make aluminum and steel, and somebody said it before, and I will tell you, you almost don't have much of a country, because without steel and aluminum, your country is not the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: As the news broke, the Dow plunged, closing 420 points down. Even the normally Trump-friendly "Wall Street Journal" calls this the biggest policy blunder of the Trump presidency.

Let's bring in Democratic strategist Robin Swanson, CNN political commentator and Republican consultant John Thomas. Also with us, global business executive Ryan Patel and CNN's Andrew Stevens joins us now from Hong Kong.

So Andrew, first to you.

What's the reaction there on the Asia markets and beyond that?

How serious are the consequences here internationally if the U.S. president does stick to this policy and imposes those tariffs?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: If it is a blanket 25 percent on steel production, tariffs against exporters coming into the U.S., it will have a big impact. We're already clearly seeing a lot of the steel traders that the U.S. does business with, foreign ministers, trade ministers are all saying they will take action to protect their own interests. That's basically shorthand for we will take some sort of trade action against the U.S.

So you have in effect a trade war. Have a look at what the markets here have done today. Not surprisingly, they are down in Asia. South Korea is a key supplier to the U.S. Japan is also a supplier. The Australian market is a supplier as well. They're all taking hits in this on fears of this trade war.

And in a trade war, as we said many, many times, there aren't any winners and there aren't any real winners apart from U.S. steel and aluminum. They don't have any winners apart from in that industry because a lot of economists ae now saying that the negative impact of that steel tariffs would increase prices on so many products made of steel. It could have an impact on the U.S. economy itself -- John.

VAUSE: Andrew, stay with us.

Ryan, to you, there is also this issue, the authority which the president is using for all of this to enact these tariffs. He's citing national security as an excuse. The biggest (INAUDIBLE) Washington based think tank wants this.

"If the United States goes down this path of steel and aluminum, there's little to prevent other countries from arguing that they do it to justify new similar exceptions. Don't U.S. exports are completely different from actually their markets.

"And because this leads to a downward spiral and erodes meaningful obligations under international trade rules, justifying import restrictions based on national security, is really the nuclear option.

"In the 23 years of the World Trade Organization, no country has used this as an excuse for tariffs. Donald Trump, it seems, if he goes ahead, is tearing apart the international order."

RYAN PATEL, GLOBAL BUSINESS EXECUTIVE: Yes, you know --

VAUSE: And the consequences?

PATEL: -- the consequences is, everybody else will do it as well.

You look at China about the consumer, the companies that are going in there now, about -- they pulled the consumer data in China now. They used that rhetoric a little bit about protectivism and how to really keep security and I.P rights. So they're just going to go further out. The U.S. will go, well, what was this trade between us and --

[01:05:00]

-- China?

PATEL: Now I.P. rights and protection of trademarks, that will go out the window now. There's no point. Everybody will say it is for security reasons.

VAUSE: John and Robin, stay with us.

Just quickly back to Andrew, this announcement from the U.S. president came as a senior Chinese official was in Washington for talks on trying to avoid a trade war.

So how is this all going to go down in Beijing?

STEVENS: We can only read it as a slap in the face for the Chinese. Liu Hu (ph) is a very, very close confidant and ally of Xi Jinping, who as we know, is basically just a name himself or is going to become pretty much president for life at this stage.

So for Xi to send someone of Hu's (ph) stature over there to try and head off this sort of confrontation and so abjectly fail in that; in fact, the announcement was made when Hu (ph) was supposed to meet some key trade officials in the U.S., it really does send a very, very blunt message to China.

So the question becomes what does China do?

And a lot of analysts, a lot of commentary is that China can very easily target soybean producers in the United States. It would be clever because a lot of these farmers who have voted for Donald Trump, they are red state people.

And the Chinese are excellent at applying political pressure, looking for pressure points on the U.S. administration in trade if they need to. So that is certainly an option that the Chinese could take.

VAUSE: OK. Andrew, we appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

Many Republican lawmakers have slammed this decision. This is a statement released by Senator Ben Sasse. "Let's be clear: the president is proposing a massive tax increase on

American families. Protectionism is weak, not strong. You would expect a policy this bad from a leftist administration, not a supposedly Republican one."

Also this from Mike Lee, another Republican senator, he calls it "a huge job-killing tax hike on American consumers."

John, this may save a few jobs in the steel industry and the aluminum industry. But the price for that could be hundreds of thousands of jobs elsewhere in the economy.

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's possible. The free trader --

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: Likely, not possible.

THOMAS: -- yes, the free trader in me is sad to see this policy. But it's not unusual coming out of where Trump has been. He ran on a populist, protectionist agenda and America first agenda. He looks at steel and aluminum as fungible commodities that why not be produced in America?

This will drive, as we go into the midterm elections, his America first message, even if it doesn't actually result in that. At least he can claim on TV that he's trying to keep things here.

VAUSE: Robin, some Democrats are not happy but some are pretty pleased with this.

ROBIN SWANSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But I think the most troubling part of all of this is how ill thought-out it was and how little he prepared not only his staff but the rest of the country and also that he didn't take into account our allies.

So this doesn't just impact China. This impacts trading partners all over the world. And I think not knowing the consequences of that and for a man who prides himself on what the Dow Jones does every day to not see that coming is a problem. It's very short-sighted.

VAUSE: The president also took a swipe at the World Trade Organization. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: The WTO has been a disaster for this country, for our country. In fact, the rise of China economically was, if you look at it, directly equal to the date of the opening of the World Trade Organization. It has been great for China and terrible for the United States and great for other countries. But terrible for the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Ryan, it has not been terrible for the United States. Here's an op-ed from "The Hill" last year.

(INAUDIBLE) for the U.S. comes from its disputed resolution process -- this is the WTO -- as the world's largest exporter with well over $2 trillion per year and its biggest importer, the U.S., is the greatest beneficiary of the WTO's disciplines."

If Donald Trump rips apart the WTO, it is every man for themselves.

What sort of economy, what sort of world is that?

PATEL: Well, for maybe 15 years ago, we would be in a better position. But not today. The U.S. isn't that superpower they used to be, that they were 15 years ago, where China, Europe and even other parts of the country that are using other countries, the WTO, when he uses rhetoric, when I see this, it is about strategy.

And he thinks again that this 25 percent if he closes this cap it will benefit the U.S. and put them in a better position to negotiate in other countries.

Well, as you can see today, in the last four or five hours, when you have all these countries' heads come out and say we will retaliate, there's no soft language around this. Trust me, the multinational companies here in the U.S., consumers, we don't want to see that. That's not the way you should drive the negotiations to start with.

VAUSE: Go back to 2007, 2008, the financial collapse. When the economy was in freefall around the world, and there was this great temptation for a lot of countries to put up tariffs, to devalue their currency, to protect their own industries.

They didn't do it and they didn't do it because of --

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VAUSE: -- the WTO.

And the net effect of that was we didn't have a great depression, right?

PATEL: Exactly. I'm still -- that this is a big bad dream but I'm still wondering what exactly he will say next week, that maybe there's a way around, that is he really going to charge 25 percent?

Because to your point, a lot of countries that we have some of these great deals with in some places, I don't know how we would want to come off those positions. I don't think that the administration would want to come off those positions just because of steel and aluminum.

VAUSE: Robin, it seems the president wants all the good parts of the trade and not take the onerous or the bad parts, if you like.

SWANSON: Right. And I'll take my toys and put them in my sandbox. And so he's never been much of a team player and he's never let facts stand in the way of his assertions, his rhetoric or his policy. And I think understanding the value of something like the World Trade

Organization and the United Nations or any of these global entities that actually bring partners to the table is really important and lacking.

VAUSE: So if there's anyone here actually -- we'll move on to another topic. Anyone here actually interested in a trip to Vancouver because I know of a really nice hotel where you can stay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANKA TRUMP, TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: We wanted a hotel to be very modern, very cool but in a timeless way. That's appropriate for our brand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: But now CNN is reporting that Ivanka Trump in her role in hammering out the deal for the Trump International tower -- hotel and tower in Vancouver, she is now being investigated by the FBI. That was all back in 2014.

The hotel opened just one month after her father entered the White House.

So, John, reason number 584 why family should never work together.

THOMAS: No, absolutely because even if she did -- there was no wrongdoing, just the simple appearance of wrongdoing is bad enough. It's -- the good news is, through all the chaos over the last week or so with security clearances or whatnot, it looks like the family is being swept out whether they like it or not.

VAUSE: Robin, we are expecting Jared Kushner, her husband, to leave. But if the FBI and the reporting is correct, he doesn't leave exactly with clean hands.

SWANSON: And I'm sorry but it is more than the appearance of wrongdoing, especially with Jared Kushner. He's talking about $500 billion in loans to his family. And it is very clear. The laws are very clear. And the laws are very clear, frankly, about taking money from foreign entities.

And so if you don't understand that, you shouldn't be working in government.

VAUSE: We also have word that there is another shakeup coming; this time, it is the national security adviser, the third national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. He could be gone by the end of the month.

CNN reports this, "Aides have discussed for some time an exit strategy for McMaster, who has clashed with Trump on policy matters, including Iran and Afghanistan strategy. While chatter of McMaster's departure has persisted for months, there now appears to be a scaled-up effort to locate a replacement." John, when the chief of staff says the reason why he was transferred

from Homeland Security to the White House is because it was punishment from God, it seems that he was not kidding.

(CROSSTALK)

THOMAS: That was a joke.

(CROSSTALK)

THOMAS: -- it's not an easy job, no doubt about it.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: This is a tough place to work. This is not a normal functioning White House.

THOMAS: Sure, it's difficult when you come in as an outsider. You're running against the establishment. You don't have any political apparatus that you're bringing in with you. There are seasoned, timeless pros.

He surrounded himself with people that were jockeying for power and so there was tons of infighting. There are multiple communications directors. I mean, it is a hard place. But I think General Kelly has brought some level of stability. And as much as we're dealing with these challenges --

(CROSSTALK)

SWANSON: But because he's an outsider, wouldn't you want to bring in people who did know what they were doing so it wasn't this revolving door?

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: -- some experiment, hey, Jimmy Carter, how did that work out for you?

You mentioned the communications director, which, when was that?

Let's hear from the fourth communications director on the mood inside the White House and who he blames for that mood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER TRUMP COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think it is the chief of staff. I think there is a culture of fear inside the White House. People are afraid to talk to each other. The morale is terrible.

The reason why the morale is terrible is that the rule by fear and intimidation does not work in a civilian environment. And so I predict more departures.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Robin, it seems a bit tough to lay all this on General Kelly when you realize that the guy at the top was the chaos candidate, now he's the chaos president.

SWANSON: The Mooch was right there, right, that there were more departures and I do think it's a sign of, what, the rats leave the ship first when it's sinking.

THOMAS: Mooch is bitter because General Kelly fired after 48 hours of being on his job.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: I've had milk in my fridge longer than Scaramucci was the White House communications director.

THOMAS: He has an ax to grind --

VAUSE: But, what, our fifth -- sixth communications director in the White House. Obama had four in eight years.

SWANSON: In fairness, I think she was actually a security blanket more than she was a communications director.

[01:15:00]

SWANSON: Because the woman, she was a fashion model and I think a friend of Ivanka Trump's. That was her qualifications.

THOMAS: She was never formally trained as a communications director.

SWANSON: I mean, but how --

(CROSSTALK)

SWANSON: -- how could you be trained for that job?

There is nothing to be trained about.

(CROSSTALK)

SWANSON: Or how to be thrown under the bus on a regular basis.

THOMAS: -- job because Donald Trump is his own communications director.

VAUSE: And the rumor out there or some of the scuttlebutt is that he actually won't hire a new communications director, firstly because he is his own guy when it comes to communications.

And secondly, who the hell would want that job?

SWANSON: Nobody wants it. Or Kellyanne Conway?

VAUSE: No.

SWANSON: No, I think she was offered it --

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: Robin, John and also Ryan, thank you, guys. Really appreciate you being here.

Coming up here on NEWSROOM L.A., Russia's president delivers a speech that might single-handedly revive fears of the Cold War.

Is Russia's nuclear arsenal now invincible as Putin claims?

Also, footprints in the sand and empty dorm rooms, stark reminders that more than 100 Nigerian girls are missing. Here we go again. We will take you to the scene of their abduction.

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VAUSE: There are fears of a new Cold War after a provocative speech by the Russian president. Vladimir Putin claimed Russia have an invincible new generation of nuclear weapons. We get details now from CNN's Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vladimir Putin is boasting about new Russian weapons in a speech to parliament.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The Ministry of Defense, in collaboration with the aerospace industry, has begun an active phase of testing a new missile system.

STARR: This time with a pointed message for Donald Trump.

PUTIN (through translator): Russia still has the greatest nuclear potential in the world, but nobody listened to us. Listen now.

STARR: A Russian animation video shows nuclear warheads raining down on Florida, President Trump's home away from the White House.

Putin claiming the Russians now have a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a massive underwater nuclear drone, Russian video showing it attacking an aircraft carrier and city coastline and an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach anywhere in the world.

PUTIN (through translator): As you can see from the video, it is capable of attacking targets via both the North and South Pole. It is a formidable weapon. No systems, not even prospective missile defense systems, are an obstacle for it.

STARR: The Pentagon has been watching all of this for months.

DANA WHITE, SPOKESPERSON, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: We're not surprised by the statements.

STARR: The Russian cruise missile already has crashed in testing, according to one U.S. official. While there is plenty of skepticism on the Russian claims about new weapons, the fundamental worry is Putin's military strategy.

The U.S. claims Russia is in violation of an arms treaty after deploying nuclear-capable cruise missiles.

THOMAS KARAKO, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I think the important is to see this as part of a larger pattern --

[01:20:00]

KARAKO: -- of developing new capabilities, but also doing provocative things, invading small countries and really creating a greater reliance upon nuclear weapons.

STARR: The Pentagon now planning to build new low-yield nuclear weapons to further deter Russia. Moscow is furious and claims it will defeat U.S. missile defenses.

WHITE: They know very well that it's not about them. Our missile defense has never been about them.

STARR: The Defense Department making clear it feels Moscow well knows that U.S. missile defenses are about countering a rogue missile launch from North Korea or Iran, not from Moscow -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: For more let's bring in arms and proliferation expert, Paul Carroll. He's in San Francisco, the senior adviser at N Square (ph), a group that promotes nuclear disarmament.

Paul, not a good day I imagine for your group when you hear this sort of talk coming from the Russian president.

Let's look at the big picture though. We've got the U.S. and now Russia in what appears to be an arms race.

How long before other countries, China, India, even Japan, which has a virtual newcomer on the drawing board, how long before they all join in?

PAUL CARROLL, N SQUARE: Thanks for having me, John. The worst kept secret here is the race has already been on. Today's announcement, today's speech by President Putin really makes it explicit and formalizes what those us who work in this topical area and those of us in the defense community have known for some time.

Even during the Obama administration when there was a much-heralded new arms control agreement with Russia, within a year after that there were announcements of the United States spending nearly $1 trillion to modernize its weapons. And it's not like this is a surprise, as the Pentagon spokeswoman

said. What this has done, though, is crystallize and formalize what many of us are calling Cold War 2.0.

VAUSE: There are those who argue that Russia at best is regional power. The economy is tanking. The military has seen some improvements over the decade but it's still no match for the United States.

So how serious is the threat that Putin is making?

And how credible are these claims that he's got this new invincible weapon, which has been successfully tested?

CARROLL: Well, I'd say a couple of things about that. First of all, another badly kept secret in the nuclear arms community is that missile defenses are still very rudimentary. To call them shields and layers of protection, it is mythology.

For President Putin to say we have new invincible nuclear weapons is really not accurate. Most nations, I would say all of the nations in the world that possession nuclear weapons have some level of invincibility.

We don't even have assurances that we could take out all of North Korea's nuclear weapons. So this is really a rhetorical flourish. I wouldn't however dismiss the fact that Russia is planning to test and, in some cases, deploy types of nuclear weapons. Not necessarily the bombs themselves but the means of delivery.

And yes, this is important to watch. But as you said at the beginning, the much bigger picture here, the much bigger story is we are now revisiting a chapter in our past that everyone agrees what we go through more by luck than by skill.

VAUSE: You mentioned these missile defense systems which essentially are pretty rudimentary and not exactly entirely foolproof and effective.

The basis of U.S. nuclear deterrence policy, though, has not relied on missile defense systems. It's basically been overwhelming response and annihilation, essentially don't do it because we'll wipe you off the face of the planet.

Is there anything that Putin said in that speech which would change that policy?

CARROLL: No, not at all. In fact there's a long history to missile defense but what we're hearing today from President Putin really is the culmination of two things, of the abrogation by the United States, the exit by the United States in 2002, under President George W. Bush of something called the anti-ballistic missile treaty.

It's a little counter intuitive. It's a little hard to wrap your head around. We agreed in the early '70s not to develop defenses, the Soviet Union and the United States because there was this belief and confidence that you can deter one another by leaving yourself vulnerable.

It is not a natural human thing to do. But by leaving ourselves vulnerable we enhanced, if you will, nuclear deterrence. So when we abrogated that treaty in 2002, we laid the groundwork for Russia's concerns about the U.S. building up missile defenses.

And you're seeing today the culmination of a decade and a half of Russia responding to those concerns.

VAUSE: It's funny that you bring up the U.S. and the 1972 ABM treaty because NBC actually aired an interview with Putin --

[01:25:00]

VAUSE: -- in the last couple of hours. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PUTIN (through translator): My point of view is the individuals who have said that a new Cold War has started are not really analysts. They do propaganda. If you were to speak about arms race, then an arms race began at exactly the time and moment when the U.S. opted out of the anti-ballistic missile treaty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: That was back in 2002. Putin was president back then. Didn't say a word. When the actual -- when George W. Bush actually signed off on it, no one raised an eyebrow.

And even now, using that -- technically Putin's correct. But in theory and in practice, it just seems like this is an excuse.

CARROLL: Yes, you're exactly right.

Again, there are a couple of points here to make. The tradition of U.S.-Soviet bilateral arms control was a currency during the Cold War that we always looked to as common ground.

As much as there was enmity and there was no love lost between Moscow and Washington, at the end of the day, both nations and its leadership realized, look, we will end ourselves if we go into a nuclear war.

So there was always common ground to talk about nuclear stability, nuclear safety and nuclear arms control. We're in a different world today. We -- the Soviet Union has gone through its collapse. It had a heyday of some economic growth but now, as you said, it is dismal. They're losing population.

The one card they have to play is their nuclear arsenal. So on the one hand, you have opportunity still to find that common ground and talk about nuclear security and stability. I don't know if I would call it arms control. There is some baby left but there is an awful lot of bathwater. We need to find new ways of engaging with Russia for this fundamental existential threat. So there's plenty of both blame and opportunity on both sides. VAUSE: Paul, good to have you with us because I don't think a lot of people really understand exactly what's going on here right now with the Russians and I think you've had a great explanation and some good insight as to what the play is here. So thank you so much for being with us.

CARROLL: My pleasure. Thank you.

VAUSE: Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., Britain prime minister is about to make the case for the U.K.'s post-Brexit trade relationship.

Will that speech satisfy the European Union?

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VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Thanks for staying with us. I'm John Vause. We'll check the headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES)

VAUSE: That news sent markets plunging. The DOW close down 420 points. Trump announced the move during hasty arranged meeting which caught many off guard.

Moscow is claiming to have invincible nuclear weapons including underwater drones that could strike anywhere in the world. President Vladimir Putin made that boast in a speech on Thursday at the Russian parliament. Some U.S. (INAUDIBLE) are skeptical that any of these new weapons are actually operational.

Now the British Prime Minister Theresa May gives a speech on Friday to layout her vision for a strong post Brexit relationship with the E.U. (INAUDIBLE) and E.U. can have the broadest, deepest possible trade agreement because it's in their mutual interest.

OK. (INAUDIBLE) now with CNN's European Affairs Commentator, that's our brand new European affairs commentator, Dominic Thomas, he's Chair of the Department of French and Francoophone Studies at UCLA, congratulations. Welcome to the family.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Thank you.

VAUSE: Once we have you, you'll never leave, it's like the Mafia. Glad it's all official though.

THOMAS: It's not Brexit.

VAUSE: Yes. No Brexit for you. (INAUDIBLE), anyway. This speech my Theresa May, it's called our future partnership with the E.U. That could be the title of her coalition -- of her government rather and essentially of all of the U.K. right now because this is a country and a government which is tearing itself apart over Brexit.

THOMAS: Right.

VAUSE: This speech is going to bring all those fractions together. Can she do it? What does she have to say? Is she capable of delivering that kind of unifying speech?

THOMAS: My feeling is -- and I've lost count that she's already given these speeches. She went to Florence, she's talked about triggering Article 50, she's outlined the vision for a global Britain that sounds like a sort of post imperial Britain of establishing these bilateral free trade agreements with countries that were once colonies, working with India, working with parts of Africa and so on.

So, of course, this hangs a huge question mark yet again over her and over the different divisions that we're seeing in her cabinet when it comes to her trying to map out what this Brexit vision will be. So nobody really knows what it is she's going to say tomorrow because she's yet again embroiled in a whole set of issues and problems over with the -- sort of the Brexiteer hard cores and then over the question of the Irish border.

VAUSE: Yes. Which is -- has been one of the more contentious issues. But another big area of disagreement at least in her cabinet appears to be regulations. There are those who want to essentially stick with the E.U. regulations for the most part, there are others mostly the Brexiteers who say we want our own regulations, that was the point.

THOMAS: Right. That's the thing, they want to be out, they don't want to be answerable to the European Court of Justice and they want to be able to go it alone. And then there were others who were increasingly vocal who were saying no, there are enormous benefits to having those trade agreements and then having a conversation about the custom union and having no barriers to our trade especially with a partner that is geographically and so close and there is such a longstanding relationship.

But these divisions across in party lines. Jeremy Corbyn has stepped into the fray talking about the customs union but this is agreeing within the labor party. So overall, and here we are in March 2018, one year away from the sort of final moments.

VAUSE: It feels like they've really squandered what time they've had because these are a lot to show for all that period of time. You mentioned the issue of the trade and tariffs and the customs area, that kind of stuff.

"Bloomberg" has this incredible report about just how contentious and finicky these negotiations are, "There is controversy in drawing a distinction between "the" or "a" customs unions. The premier insists neither is possible because both would rule out the ability to strike free trade deals further afield."

When you get to the point we are arguing over propositions "the" and "a" you've really lost your way, haven't you? THOMAS: Completely. I mean, they're not trying to site their sort of

planning the decorations at a wedding or something. I mean, every little bit is going to count. But the big picture is really not there right now, right, because the -- and as this drags on, you're finding more and more people getting the solution and frustrated with the process.

It's getting more and more people an opportunity to really question what Brexit is about and it's not just that, it's the detail of the border where we'd forgotten about that. So at every turn, there's a new obstacle and a new seemingly unresolved issue that crops out.

VAUSE: Which is such incredibly sort of the minutia, the fine detail and it just get all lost in the weeds. So stay with us because we have a report now in Italy which is preparing for national elections on Sunday. (INAUDIBLE) is keeping a close eye on this.

Forty percent of voters remain undecided, many are frustrated by high levels of unemployment, they're also angry about immigration. That's giving an opening to far right near (INAUDIBLE) parties. Details now from CNN's Ben Wedeman reporting in from Rome.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Migrants from Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East are learning the essentials of Italian in a cold classroom in Rome. More than 600,000 immigrants and refugees have arrived here since the last election in 2013.

[01:35:18]

Sparking a backlash, this has dominated this year's election campaign. "Italians first, Italians first" proclaims Matteo Salvini leader of the right wing anti-immigrant Lega Party. His call is echoed on the far right. At a rally, the leader of the neo-fascist CasaPound, Simone Di Stegano declares "Italy belongs to the Italians and no one else."

This heated rhetoric is spilled into violence. In February, Luca Triani, a failed candidate for the Lega is accused of going on a shooting rampage in the town of Macerata wounding six African migrants. The remnants of the once powerful Italian left recently demonstrated in Rome against the rising tide of fascism and racism but the far right has latched on to the issue of migration.

"Here we are on our national land called Italy and for us, Italians comes first" says Mauro Antonini, CasaPound's candidate for the regional elections in Rome. He shows me around the once middle class, now multiethnic district of Esquilino. "If you look at the names in the doors, Italians, their names are rare" he says. "The businesses here are all Indian, Pakistani, and Chinese." Antonini isn't shy about his political leanings. "If they ask me if I'm fascist, I respond absolutely yes" he says.

Migrants ran most of the stalls in Esquilino's main market and most of the customers are also migrants. For all the mounting hostility, it really depends on workers from abroad. According to one study, in 2016, 2.4 million migrants worked in Italy producing nine percent of the gross domestic product. Naim from Bangladesh works overnight in a bakery.

"Italians don't want the kind of work foreign do" he says, "The jobs are more tiring, more sweaty, and pay less." But it's a lesson some Italians have yet to learn. Ben Wedeman, CNN Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Back now to CNN's European Affairs Commentator, Dominic Thomas. OK. So looking at this (INAUDIBLE) the big concern beyond Italy here is if these far right parties, if they get enough votes to form a coalition, it's looking like a possibility given the number of undecided.

Then they can form maybe a government and then you back into this question will at least stay in the euro zone? Will they be part of the common currency? If they don't, even let's say, think about leaving, they have this huge impact on the economy of Italy and Europe and beyond.

THOMAS: Right. So the whole of 2017, right? The French, the German, the Dutch elections, the Austrian elections focused on these same questions, immigration, Islam, identity, and the European Union that lead to mainstream political parties being weakened to extended coalition talks.

I think the greatest indicator of where Italy is going is the German election and the Austrian election that saw the rise of the far right AFD and a coalition being formed. In other words, the far right political party being legitimized and accepted this time around by the European Union in Austria and there's a possibility here that not only does the league gain sufficient votes to into a coalition with another party, but all of the other parties actually look like the league or the northern league because they've also moved to the right on the question of immigration.

VAUSE: Right. OK. So obviously this is something which a lot of people will be keeping an eye on to find out exactly how it goes. But then again, Italy, they could surprise us.

THOMAS: Right, they will.

VAUSE: Dominic, thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well the winter storm known as The Beast from The East is joining up with another big storm, Meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the bone-chilling details after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:40:16] VAUSE: Well the details are disturbingly familiar. A deserted dorm room and hastily scattered belongings in Northeastern Nigeria. It's been more than a week since Boka Haram militants abducted 110 schoolgirls, yes, and still no word on their whereabouts. Although the government insist the search continues. Details from David McKenzie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These young girls in Dapchi escaped abduction but they've already lost so much.

"I've looked for her at the school but I couldn't find her" says Yagana Mustafa. "I tried her number but I couldn't get through." Their sisters have been taken. "My sister was second bed" says Zara Bukar. "I took her medicine but then the gun shots started. They took her right from her bed" she says. The Nigerian military fell back from this town saying it was safe. Just weeks later, gunmen stormed Dapchi Science and Technical College in three cars and a flatbed truck. They wanted to load up as many girls as they could.

When the militant stormed the school, they came in and said to the young girls, "Come here. You'll be safe" because they were Nigerian military uniforms and made the girls sit like this. But some of the girls told us they noticed they were wearing flip flops on their feet, not boots like normal military, so they ran. The men attacked at prayer time. Many girls were in the mosque, their bare footprints still in the sand. In the terra, girls escaped over fences into bushes, others hid in classrooms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will not go back to their school again.

MCKENZIE: ISIS-linked Boka Haram militants took 110 say parents, the youngest just 11-years-old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My demand now is to see my -- is to see our children back, that's our demand.

MCKENZIE: The fathers of missing daughters are asking how never again could now happen. After almost 300 Chibok schoolgirls were taken four years ago, they are helpless to a government that says it has scrambled jets and choppers to look but so far has achieved nothing.

Boka Haram forces girls into becoming sex slaves, straps bombs on their bodies and sends them into markets. The girls of Dapchi are too terrified to go back to school. "We are just afraid that if we return there they will come back and attack again" says Zara. But mostly, she's afraid for her abducted sister. "I worry that I've lost her for good" she says. David McKenzie, CNN Dapchi, Nigeria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Now U.N. official is vowing to continue to negotiate for a ceasefire until he's blue in the face. He wants a ceasefire which will work in Syria and will hold. The Security Council voted for a 30-day truce less than a week ago. In that time, about 80 people have reportedly being killed by airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO SYRIA: We don't have and we cannot afford to have the luxury of giving up. So any type of feeling that the U.N. is frustrated, forget it. We are not frustrated, we are determined because this otherwise becomes a copycat of Aleppo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[01:45:27]

VAUSE: That was the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria. Even Russia has ordered humanitarian borders for Eastern Ghouta, that started last Tuesday but there still has been no sign that the fighting has eased up.

The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan has (INAUDIBLE) now for 16 years costing more than 100,000 lives including many innocent Afghan civilians. With the Taliban getting more territory, Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani is making an unprecedented offer to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party to try and move peace talks along. He spoke exclusively to CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: But the ultimate point is clear, every war is to end up politically. And that the political end game that we're seeking and we are offering a comprehensive peace deal so that it could not be rejected. And were they to reject it, then they would be responsible but for the consequent consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Mr. Ghani says women must be part of any peace talks with the Taliban but that might escape the militants from the negotiating table because they do not see women as being equal to men.

And prove ties between North and South Korea apparently did not end with the Winter Olympic Games. South Korea's President Moon Jae-in told U.S. President Trump he's actually sending a special envoy to the North. Mr. Moon appears to be in response to a personal invitation from North Korean Leader Kim Jong-U.N., his sister delivered that invitation during her visit to the South for the Olympics.

Blizzard, strong winds, and sub-zero temperatures are causing major disruptions across Europe as a weather system nicknamed "The Beast from The East" is now mixing it up with another storm named Emma, sounds nice. The U.K. has been particular hard hit. The storm has buried the U.K. in the snow. Weather warnings remain in place for as much as Central and Southern Europe. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins. So you got The Beast and Emma, sounds -- pretty odd match.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Working together and the last thing we need, right John?

VAUSE: Yes.

VAN DAM: Well this is what a red alert for heavy snow looks like. This is the Dublin Airport yesterday and -- well, I don't know about you but I certainly wouldn't want to be flying in those conditions. In fact, they've suspended all their operations, all flights in and out of Dublin canceled until Saturday morning.

Treacherous conditions, that's just one of the many airports impacted by these storms that continued to move across the U.K. In fact, Thursday's cancellations from Aberdeen to Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London saw over 650 flight cancellations. On top of that today we have roughly 350 cancellations. You can imagine the snowball effect, no pun intended, of these flight delays and cancellations right through the course of the weekend. A travel nightmare for people across the U.K. to say the least.

Here's the latest satellite loop and I just want to show a few different things. We've got some snow bands across the North Sea that continue to bring heavy snowfall into Scotland but quite a different setup across the Southern portions of the U.K. from Wales into Southern Ireland. You can see a different type of snow event taking place here. This is all from a low pressure system, that is the other storm that continues to bring the moisture into that area.

So we've got the Beast from The East and we've got our other low pressure that is really colliding together to create this messy travel conditions across the area. In fact, some of the snowfall totals have been impressive in England, 45 centimeters of snow basically within the past 24 hours. But we know that The Beast from The East started in the middle of the week causing travel nightmares for people.

Dublin's temperature is going to stay just above freezing for the next couple of days. So maybe they can start to create a little forward progress on the runways there to help open up the airport earlier than what they anticipated but time will tell, of course. There's the low pressure system moving away from the U.K. as we head into the day on Saturday. Conditions will finally start to improve but as it stands according to the U.K. Met Office we still have Amber Alerts for disrupted snowfall across Scotland and into parts of England, low to medium impacts with the highest impact still expected across Southern Ireland at least through the rest of your Friday afternoon and evening.

So Dublin, (INAUDIBLE) that is where we're expecting anywhere from another 15 to upwards of 30 centimeters on top of what's already fallen, the snow is also being whipped around creating high snow drift across this area but that too should improve as we head into Sunday. John.

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) good news I guess. Derek, thank you.

VAN DAM: Try to a little ray of sunshine.

VAUSE: You are a little ray of sunshine. Thanks Derek. OK. Well beyond that question of who will win an Oscar, Hollywood's biggest night has a new level of suspense. How will the TimesUp and MeToo campaign play out at this year's Academy Awards?

[01:50:26]

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VAUSE: Well some good news for workers in South Korea, a new law cuts the maximum work week from 68 hours, one of the longest in the world to 52 hours. Mr. Moon Jae-in hopes this will improve quality of life. It's on business leaders, they're complaining the shorter work week will drive up their costs.

The Academy Awards on Sunday marks the end of Hollywood's award seasons and when while the Oscars are known for the south convention (INAUDIBLE) and sometimes pointed political comments, this year is the show is haunted by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and accusations of sexual misconduct. Details now from Stephanie Elam.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The groundswell has been impossible to ignore.

OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: Now that we've all joined as one voice, it feels like empowerment to those women who never had it.

ELAM: All award season, the #MeToo and TimesUp Movement have dominated red carpet conversation as the entertainment industry took a stand against sexual assault and harassment. Allegations against numerous Hollywood heavyweights spurred the action with the social calls to action providing an outlet for victims to speak out against their aggressors.

TARANA BURKE, PUBLISHER #METOO CAMPAIGN: It's humbling but it's also empowering, right? I just think that this is such a bulk statement for women who work in Hollywood to meet in solidarity with women across the world.

ELAM: Other celebrities have used the word season to show their support.

ALISON BROWER, DEPUTY EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: We still see the TimesUp in many events and you still hear people at events and on the carpet that brings this movement, referring to the opening up the (INAUDIBLE) in Hollywood and how important it is to keep the conversation going.

ELAM: And both the Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards, attendees arrived in all black with some bringing female activists as their guest. The SAG Awards featured only female presenters and guests at the Grammys carried white roses in solidarity. Now the question is, how will the Academy Awards address the surge in activism?

BROWER: "ABC" and the Academy have both been made pretty clear statements that they hope that they can find a way to appropriately address it possibly within the program but that it won't dominate the conversation. ELAM: While the Oscars are meant to be a celebration of film's biggest achievement, backlash is expected at the industry's largest hurdles are not addressed during the broadcast.

BROWER: As much as Hollywood wants to celebrate the films and supports the notion that the Oscar should never be completely politicized, I think there would be a backlash if they don't find one official moment within the show to acknowledge the movement.

ELAM: The effect of a major shakeup in the industry rippling into Hollywood's biggest night. Stephanie Elam, CNN Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: A programming note here, please join Isha and me for a special coverage of the Academy Awards. We'll have all the news, the winners, the scandals, the controversies, well the gowns and the props from Hollywood's biggest night. That's right after the Oscar telecast assuming it affects us and on time. But we will be on air regardless, 1:00p.m. Monday in Hong Kong, 5:00a.m. in London right here on CNN. My God, stirring music, how could you not tune in (INAUDIBLE)

OK. Mr. Magoo is back and we have the U.S. president to thank. Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The president who once said he was proud to call Jeff Sessions, Attorney General now calls him Mr. Magoo. According to the "Washington Post" President Trump privately refers to Sessions as the bumbling cartoon character so nearsighted he mistakes a mounted moose for a man.

[01:55:30]

MR. MAGOO: Is this the Hodge Podge Lodge?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cue the split screens, they're now all over the internet. Now someone imagine Mr. Magoo himself saying, "Turn on the Twitter baby, I'm trending." Someone (INAUDIBLE) both the president and the Attorney General by having Magoo declare, "I will not be compared to that nincompoop by that nincompoop."

MR. MAGOO: I'll blast you.

MOOS: President Trump, you're dating yourself, Mr. Magoo was created in 1949. Millennials are saying, "Magoo who?" The original Magoo was created by left-leaning animators reefing on conservatism in the era of Hollywood blacklisting. President Trump is catching flap for using the childish nickname, "Our cartoon president" read one comment.

From comedians, "Yes, I would laugh. From the president, well that's not leadership." Comedians like Stephen Colbert --

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: Please welcome Attorney General Jeff Sessions. MOOS: It was this Sessions. Some see a resemblance to the Keebler elf, so (INAUDIBLE) recurring Keebler cookie bit imitating Sessions.

COLBERT: These insults have come into the quick, to the quick cafe (INAUDIBLE) my delicious fudgy Santa.

MOOS: And "SNL's" Kate McKinnon plays him as an possum-like creature --

KATE MCKINNON, COMEDIAN: Oh no, I dropped my loopa. But don't worry, my trusty little tail is going to get it.

MOOS: Sure, Mitch McConnell has been compared to a turtle for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You carry your house around on your back.

MOOS: But at least he doesn't have the president on his back calling him names.

MR. MAGOO: Twinkle toes Magoo they call me.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

MCKINNON: I'm not elf on the shelf, I'm Jeff Sessions.

MOOS: -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: OK. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause, stay with us. Back with a lot more news after a very short break.

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