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Trump Hails China's Move to Drop Term Limits; Parliamentary Election Underway in Italy; Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired March 4, 2018 - 00:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president praises China's presidential power grab, saying it's great Xi Jinping could lead the nation indefinitely.

In one hour, polls open in Italy for an unpredictable election that could see populists and the right wing rise to power.

And Hollywood is gearing up for its biggest night.

Will we see the women's movement center stage on the red carpet for the season's final awards show?

Hello, everyone, thanks so much for joining us, I'm Lynda Kinkade in Atlanta and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


KINKADE: U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized China mercilessly in the past but he's praising a proposed change to Chinese law, abolishing presidential term limits. Have a listen to what Mr. Trump said Saturday during a speech to donors at his Mar-a-lago estate.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't forget China is great and Xi is a great gentleman. He is now president for life. President for life. And, look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we will give that a shot someday.


KINKADE: That move is likely to pass this week's annual session of the National People's Congress in China. President Xi Jinping is also expected to be elected to his second five-year term, which would be his last.

Mr. Trump was not as supportive of the European Union. At that same fundraiser, the president accused European Union countries of banding together to beat the U.S. on trade. He called E.U. policy "brutal for the U.S." Mr. Trump's proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, a move that prompted threats of retaliation. Mr. Trump fought back in a tweet, saying, "If the E.U. wants to

further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S."

He added that there's a "big trade imbalance". The E.U. made it clear it will defend itself against new tariffs.


JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION (through translator): The European Union will have to take a stand against this plan because we cannot just stand aside and watch how, for some reason, the industrial dislocation in Europe is going to be marginalized and tens of thousands of jobs are lost in Europe.

And Europe needs to defend itself against this and we will defend ourselves.


KINKADE: Let's get some perspective on the situation. We're joined by political analyst, Michael Genovese, the author of the book, "How Trump Governs."

Great to have you with us, Michael.


KINKADE: I want to start first with the message we heard Trump give to some donors in regard to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and his push to lead indefinitely.

Should we take what Mr. Trump said as a joke?

Or should we be concerned that many a truth -- that many a true word is spoken in jest?

GENOVESE: Well, I think the president did intend to be humorous, he was being a little flippant. But presidents have to realize that they're always on camera, always being recorded and they have to always exercise a bit of caution because, even when joking, what a president says matters.

For a president, jokes are very serious and so they'll have consequences. Never being off camera means you always have to be aware of how whatever you say or do is going to be perceived by people both at home and abroad.

KINKADE: Of course I want to mention the trade deals because he is accusing his predecessors of leaving the U.S. hostage to what he calls "very stupid" trade deals. And now he's mentioned this tariff, 10-25 percent on imported aluminum and steel.

And, of course, they're expected to start next week. He's now threatening European carmakers. He claims that trade wars are good. Are they?

GENOVESE: He claims that they're good and that they're easy to win, I think neither of which is true. The president is often engaged in very loose talk, sometimes making direct, sometimes indirect threats and there's -- he's spreading unnecessary alarm because I think his inexperience, his naivete is what's frightening people. And he doesn't know just --


GENOVESE: -- how important what he's saying is and how it could have a backlash, slapping a tariff on cars, European cars.

Now no one wants a trade war, no one needs a trade war and no one wins a trade war. (INAUDIBLE) president's suggested; it's kind of foolish and it's also dangerous. And so you would hope that the president might read something like Barbara Tuchman's "Guns of August" before he moves too far into this.

KINKADE: Something that's happening this week in Florida, this weekend, is there's a lot of talk about gun legislation and what can happen there in the wake of the latest mass shooting.

It doesn't seem clear where President Trump stands when it comes to gun laws. We heard earlier this week in a meeting, where he said, well, police should have the right to take away guns from someone if they think they are mentally ill, in the case of the Florida shooter.

That of course startled the NRA. He then met with the NRA and he seemed to change his tone.

GENOVESE: Well, the president changes tone about guns every 15-20 minutes, it seems. In reality, he does it about two or three times a day. And that's a function of who he speaks to last.

If he speaks to the victims, he gets very sympathetic and says, oh, we have to do something. If he speaks to the National Rifle Association, he says, oh, my goodness. We can't do anything. If he speaks to the Republican Party, let's not do anything. If he speaks to mass voters, he says, oh, let's do something.

And so the confusion the president is reflecting is also a confusion in the American political system. While we want to do a lot, we want to do some things about background checks, about restricting guns, the National Rifle Association is the loudest voice in the room and the president and the Republican Party are a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA.

He's not going to move unless they give him the OK.

KINKADE: So you don't think we'll see any sort of policy in place anytime soon?

GENOVESE: We might see a Band-Aid, we might see something cosmetic but nothing fundamental, I'm afraid. KINKADE: All right, Michael Genovese, always good to get your perspective. Thanks so much for joining us.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

KINKADE: Polling stations in Italy open in less than one hour, the first parliamentary elections there since 2013. Of course anti- migrant sentiments are overshadowing this historic event. Take a look at the major players, we have got 81-year-old former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. He is barred from office until next year but he has put together a coalition of center right and far right parties, including Matteo Salvini's Northern League.

And Luigi Di Maio leads the populist Five Star Movement, which is anti-European Union. And former prime minister Matteo Renzi is heading a center left coalition.

The most recent polls show Berlusconi's strong anti-migrant message is resonating with almost 37 percent of voters. The Five Star Movement has 28 percent, making it the strongest single party.

Renzi's left-wing coalition is close behind at 27 percent and 40 percent of voters say they are undecided. It's considered unlikely any group will capture the 40 percent needed to form a government. That could spell a protracted period of dealmaking and coalition building.

Let's bring in CNN European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas for more on all of this.

Good to have you with us, Dominic.


KINKADE: I wanted to start off by looking at the issues at stake this election, immigration followed closely by the economy. Just talk to us about what people will be thinking as they go into the polling booths in the next hour.

THOMAS: There's a lot of frustration with the economic climate, unemployment, a struggling economy and so on. And as we've seen in the past year or so, in all European elections, the question of national identity and immigration have really shaped the debate.

So we're hear candidates talking about putting Italy first. And they've been skillful at manipulating the question of immigration and national identity to in some ways sort of scapegoat these folks as a way to move these agendas forward.

And the big questions are being taken over by all parties now and in so many ways, mainstreamed. The discussion is about migration and this is really the key question, shaping this. And of course it has turned a lot of voters away and off.

KINKADE: European leaders are watching this election very closely.

It is after all European Union's third biggest economy and we're seeing parties that are dominated, that are eurosceptics, right?

THOMAS: Yes, so they are but they've been careful. Of course, this interesting Five Star Movement that is polling at the highest as a individual --


THOMAS: -- party, and in fact, it's not a party, it's a movement.

And so for them going into this, these are some of the key issues and of course around Europe, really what we see is resistance to the kind of Macron-Merkel model, which is for greater European integration.

So they fall short of calling for a Brexit Italian style but there has been some critique of it. Now the European Union, I think, is concerned with this election because it's yet again a frustrating moment, where you have to deal with the question of the far right or the radical right and anti-migration rather than getting on with the business of ruling and doing something in Europe.

And I think it's also frustrating to deal with some of these far right or radical right parties that are so against the liberal democratic values of the European Union. So to that extent, they would like for a slightly smoother outcome.

KINKADE: You mentioned the Five Star Movement. This is a party that is set, from the polls we've seen, said to get the most vote. It's led by a 31-year-old former waiter, very little political experience. And we've heard him whip out Trumplike lines, talking about fake news when it comes to newspapers in the country.

What do you make of this party and this leader?

THOMAS: Yes. This is interesting. He's the vice president of the deputies right now and so this is a deputy and senatorial election. But I think really what's interesting about this, as I said, it's a movement. The problem with this movement, it's basically right now a 25 percent party.

The question is can it gets more votes than that?

Secondly, it's been fighting along the line and there are a lot of divisions within the party as to whether the party should consider going into coalitions, which are a core part of the DNA of the Italian electoral system.

It's very hard to come into power, unless you get into these talks. And so this I think is really what will be interesting here is how well they do and whether or not they're willing to move to coalition talks.

And right now, as you already mentioned, the center right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi has the greatest chance of getting close to that magic number of 40 percent, which allows them to form a government, because I think we're going to see Matteo Renzi's, the former prime minister's Democratic Party, much like other center left parties in the Dutch elections and the French elections, are going to be punished for their failure to address some of the economic problems and left-leaning parties not doing well these days in European elections.

KINKADE: And the Five Star Movement a pushback against forming a coalition, even the idea of forming a coalition. But they might have to go down that path. We'll see how it plays out in the coming hours. Always good to have you on. Thanks so much for your time, Dominic.

THOMAS: Lovely, thank you.

KINKADE: Germany's political future could be decided in the coming hours. Members of the center left Social Democrats are voting on whether to join another grand coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc.

Results are expected in just under three hours. If the yes side wins, Ms. Merkel can get back to running Germany with her coalition government. But if the vote is no, it could mean a minority government or new elections.

The monster bomb cyclone that pummeled parts of the U.S. is safely out to sea now but the other deal is not over for thousands of people who lived through the ferocious storm. We'll have more on that coming up in a live report.

Plus, global outrage over the war in Syria. What we now know about the impact of the U.N. cease-fire vote -- ahead.





KINKADE: Welcome back.

A powerful winter storm has claimed the lives of at least six people in the northeastern U.S. They were all killed by falling trees as a ferocious bomb cyclone battered the region with heavy rain, hurricane force winds and historic flooding across several states.

So far more than 600,000 customers are without power. And officials warn it could be days before it's restored. In Massachusetts, the National Guard has rescued people from flooded homes. Residents there say the storm was unlike anything they'd seen before.


KINKADE: There is outrage over the war in Syria and it's spreading around the world. Have a look at this video of protesters in the Indian capital, marching on the Syrian embassy to demand an end to the bloodshed. A United Nations cease-fire vote has not stopped the violence.

Doctors without Borders say almost 800 people were killed in Eastern Ghouta in the second half of February. That group says more than 4,000 people were wounded.

As Britain's prime minister lays out her vision for Brexit, she admits --


KINKADE: -- leaving the E.U. won't be an easy transition. And that uncertainty is why some British residents are jumping ship to France. Our Jim Bittermann has more.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It didn't take Birgit Schyns long to decide. The day after the British voted in favor of Brexit, she began making plans to leave.

BIRGIT SCHYNS, BUSINESS PROFESSOR: I don't see anything good coming out of it, especially for universities.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): The business school professor, who was comfortable teaching management courses at the University of Durham in Northeast England followed a friend's suggestion and moved to a university in Reims, France, and now feels she has beaten others, who she believes will be heading for the exits from the U.K.

SCHYNS: In two years' time more of my colleagues will be on the labor market. It might that we don't have that same opportunity again.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): Her companion, computer programmer Shaun Wilson, a native of Durham, moved with her. Wilson didn't speak French and had a difficult time at first but has no regrets, especially when he goes back home to his favorite pub in Durham and talks to his old friends.

SHAUN WILSON COMPUTER PROGRAMMER: Everybody gives me all of their problems about the U.K. and when it turns to, we wish we'd moved, why didn't we do that?

It's absolutely ridiculous here.

BITTERMANN: According to relocation experts, it's probably not accurate to say that British residents are flooding into France but they are seeing a steadily growing stream of companies and individuals like Brigit and Shaun, who are moving here; a Brexodus, as one of them put it.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): Sophie Girault, who runs an agency to help newcomers establish themselves in France, points out that a nationwide association of companies just like hers has now created a special commission just to look at Brexit questions -- for one good reason.

SOPHIE GIRAULT, RELOCATION EXPERT: More business. We know there is business to do. This is an opportunity for us.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): But not everyone will face problems relocating here. Certainly Parisian Erich Bonnet didn't. He uprooted from France and moved to London four years ago to create his asset management company because the business climate seemed better in London than here in France.

Last summer, the situation completely reversed; a new government here and uncertainty there. So he moved his nine employees to Paris.

ERICH BONNET, CEO: Uncertainty is probably the biggest problem. The day-to-day life doesn't seem to change a lot but, in fact when you will see in 10 years' time, you may see the difference.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): Whether it's new residents who want to be ahead of the curve or returning French men who want to avoid what they see as gathering economic clouds in Great Britain, this country is happily accommodating the Brexit refugees, sure that whatever Britain will be losing will be to France's gain -- Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


KINKADE: Still to come, Hollywood prepares for its biggest night of the year.

Which movies are up for Best Picture Oscar and how did a horror movie make the cut?

Let's take a look when we come back. Stay with us.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

Hollywood has its biggest night of the year on Sunday with the Oscars. The anti-sexual harassment initiative #TimesUp will have an official moment during the telecast to bring attention to the cause.

Celebrities are also expected to bring awareness to gun safety by wearing orange pins from Gun Advocacy Group. As for the awards, the fantasy --


KINKADE: -- film, "The Shape of Water" leads with 13 nominations, including Best Picture. Other films are "Lady Bird," "Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri," "The Post" and "Get Out."

It is pretty rare the Academy recognizes a horror film and one helmed by a first-time director. But "Get Out" has beaten the odds to nab four nominations. Stephanie Elam looks at how it went from a low- budget thriller to an Oscar contender. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A thriller that cost only $4.5 million to make...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel now?


ELAM (voice-over): "Get Out" has grossed more than $250 million worldwide and is now a Best Picture contender at the Academy Awards.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are still mostly going to put --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- their money on either "Three Billboards and "The Shape of Water," which comes in with the most nominations.

However, second to those two movies, I would say "Get Out" is right there.

ELAM (voice-over): Oscar front-runners normally consist of period dramas, like the "Darkest Hour" and "Dunkirk" or big-name projects like Steven Spielberg's "The Post."


ELAM (voice-over): "Get Out" might be this award season's most unlikely success story. No one is more surprised than the film's nominated star, Daniel Kaluuya.

DANIEL KALUUYA, ACTOR: It will be cold. I'll put on a coat following and it will do what it needs to do. But for it to transcend do us in, the fact that I am here talking to you is -- I did not think that.

ELAM (voice-over): Without a big star attached, the contemporary film from Jordan Peele, a first-time director known more for his comedy, "Get Out" had an uphill battle getting awards attention.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how long has this been going on, this thing?



ELAM (voice-over): But "Get Out" went on to score a rare 99 percent approval rating on the movie review website, Rotten Tomatoes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It got a lot of people who are not horror fans

at all, like myself, into the movie theater to see what this thing is that has really tapped into the real world zeitgeist.

ELAM (voice-over): The horror genre is often ignored by major awards shows. In fact, the last scary film to have a Best Picture trophy was the "Silence of the Lambs" in 1992.

JACKSON PEELE, DIRECTOR: Besides just wanting to make a horror film that brought something new to the genre, I wanted to call out racism in America. It is a true horror and it deserves -- it is turning the genre.

ELAM (voice-over): The question is, will that be enough for "Get Out" to pull off another thriller and take the Best Picture win at the Academy Awards? -- Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.


KINKADE: We'll have to wait and see. Thanks so much for joining us for this edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.