tv CNN Newsroom Live CNN March 23, 2019 1:00am-2:00am PDT
a book that you're ready to share with the world? get published now, call for your free publisher kit today! announcer: this is cnn breaking news. we are following breaking news on two fronts this day. the u.s. backed syrian democratic forces announced they have defeated isis, repeating, they have defeated isis. the terror group's last stronghold in syria. robert mueller delivered his report to the attorney general. welcome to viewers from the united states and around the world. i'm george howell. first, the breaking news out of syria is an historic day on
isis. they liberated the town, the caliphate's last stronghold. they displayed their flag, you see atop that building, ending weeks of gruelling combat. hours ago, they battled isis fighters who were holed up in tunnels near the village. you can see some of the battle playing out. this somes a day after the white house declared the group had been 100% defeated. we are covering the story from multiple locations here. arwa damon is in istanbul, turkey. the caliphate, seeing it crumble. women and children moved on to refugee camps. you visited some of those camps. tell us what you have seen. >> reporter: well, in recent weeks, george, as the battle was going on, you had thousands of women and children pouring out of that last enclave that isis was holding.
now, they have ended up in camps in northern syria, most of them in a camp dubbed the camp of death because of the conditions there. the number of children, most of them infants who died on the journey to the camp. upon arrival, more than 100 children, according to aide organizations. we visited that camp a couple times in the past couple of weeks during our time in northern syria. it is quite a dire situation. they are the camp authorities and also the syrian democratic forces and organizations. they are saying they don't have enough aid for those stranded in this camp. the vast majority of the population, george, they are not isis family members. they were living under the rule of isis and whose lives were shattered by the terror group. now, they are living side by side with the same people they
accuse of destroying their life, who they blame for their situation. these foreign women are fenced in this area called the immigrants or the section where we went in and met women from every corner of the world, almost, from europe, from north africa and from this region. now, the big question, george, at this battle comes to a close, who happened next to these women, their children and that humanitarian situation, which is only getting worse by the day? >> to your point, it is an interesting mix of people. you have those who did, you know, go along with the isis ideology. beside people who saw their lives destroyed by the same people. thank you. let's bring in our colleague, arwa damon in istanbul. putting this in perspective.
you are talking about a caliphate invading neighbors. now, its physical footprint is no more. >> reporter: yes, george, but the digital footprint still exists and manages to operate in iraq and syria as small gangs. it does manage in both of those countries to continue to terrorize where the security forces have no control. it also has, according to numerous analysts and detainees we have spoken to, have sizable, financial investments across the world according to a number of analysts and based on our reporting on the ground, george. from the moment isis took over and declared that so-called caliphate, the organization, which is forward thinking was preparing it preparing itself for the day it
would be defeated. by preparing itself, they have sleeper cells in europe, asia, africa, the united states, numerous locations around the world with a vast financial network to tap into. if you look at the history for a brief moment, this is an organization that has, time and time again, managed to re-emerge stronger than it was. isis began as al qaeda in iraq going back to 2004. it then morphed into the islamic state of iraq. that was, at one point and time declared defeated before the u.s. military withdrew from iraq. the fighters went to ground in iraq, managed to evade any attempt to hunt him and top leadership down back then, only to emerge as the isis we saw terrorize and then control such a vast stretch of territory. as far as we are aware, from
reporting and from sources, there is -- they do have a plan in place to be able to re-emerge to a certain degree, as a different entity and form. the threat that isis and ideology impose -- the important thing, george, is to recognize that this next phase, what happens next, all those issues that she was addressing, this is what is just as important as that territoryial defeat. if nations fell now, it is almost guaranteed isis is going to re-emerge as isis or something else. >> arwa, thank you. to the same point, what about the people who see this happening on this day in eastern syria, but at the same time, the threat, as arwa is pointing out, the threat of continued radicalization. people who see this are inspired
to consider that twisted ideology. >> that is the big concern, george. we have been speaking to officials on the ground when we were in syria from the syrian democratic forces saying, okay, the battle is over but what comes next is as critical. you have so many issues that need to be addressed, the same issues that led to the rise of isis in the first place. unless those are addressed and dealt with, you are going to have that fertile ground that will lead to the emergence of another group and their concern is going to be tougher to deal with than isis. one of the issues they are concerned about is the camps, the camps we visited a whole camp where you have 70,000 people there struggling to deal with the camp. it is at over capacity, but breaking point. they are struggling to provide services for the camp.
the most critical issue is the deradicalization, dealing with the population that has emerged from living under the control of isis for years, especially when we talk about foreigners, women who crossed and joined the terror group. their children who have been endoe involved in. they are grateful for the international coalition that supported them in the fight against isis during the actual war. they say these countries need to step up now and deal with what comes next, when it comes to their own citizens. they are rejected and stranded in northern syria, left pretty much for the sdf and the authorities in that part of the country to deal with. we are talking people from 50
different countries, george, in those camps. you have thousands of children. you have women. also, they have more than a thousand fighters. this was a couple weeks ago, an estimate from the pentagon saying there are a thousand foreign men held in sdf detention facilities and the kurds cannot deal with it. they want their countries to take them back, deradicalize them. they do not have the ability or infrastructure to deal with this, especially when itd comes to dealing with the children, who are very vulnerable, living in camps that have been described as kurdish officials as a ticking time bach. george? >> one question to you. we hear about the united states drawing down troops, confusion on how many troops will remain there in ser ya. is there a concern about seeing troops leave, seeing security
forced dwindle and the threat of another group reemerging? >> reporter: yes, there is, george. it's a very real threat. even though the u.s. does not have a great number of troops in syria, the fact they are there, they are providing much needed air support and their intelligence to the table, that has been crucial in the battle against isis. that is something the sds is fighting in syria. they rely heavily on u.s. coalition support. the battles would not have terminated territorial speaking. in syria, you have the dynamic of the american presence just being there. it means, america, to a certain degree, has a seat at the table when it comes to finding long-term resolution to the
country. the concern in syria is, if the u.s. were to draw down forces, not only would it not be able to adequately support sds, a resurgence of isis. again, that allows for iranian-russian forces to fill in and move that vacuum itself. they are various front lines and various interested parties. a lot is at stake. officials are looking at what happened and expressing their own concerns that the u.s. may decide to draw down from iraq. it's quite a flash point that american troop presence when it comes to what's happening in syria and iraq. the crucial thing that a lot of analysts point to is that u.s. support is vital in the battle against isis, at this stage.
to draw down prematurely has devastating consequences. when we see what happens, when they withdrew from the obama administration, despite warnings from iraqi leaders on the ground, at the time they withdrew from iraq, u.s. officials were saying publicly, they believe the iraqi security forces could hold on to security gains. that's exactly how it was phrased at the time. we saw iraq slowly disintegrate and take advantage of the situation and emerge stronger than it ever was. >> arwa damon in istanbul, turkey. also ben weedman pointing out the defeat of isis, this last sliver. we appreciate your reporting along with ben's. we'll stay in touch with you all. coming up on news room,
robert mueller's investigation is over. that is the other top story. now, the battle begins on what the u.s. attorney general will release to congress and to the public. got it? got it. nooooo... nooooo... quick, the quicker picker upper! bounty picks up messes quicker and is 2x more absorbent. bounty, the quicker picker upper.
again, an update on the breaking news out of eastern syria. the syrian democratic forces have finally defeated isis and liberated the town. they displayed their flag over the town. it was the caliphate's last stronghold. they battled the last pockets of fighters outside the village. we will continue to follow developments in syria and bring details as we get them here on cnn. that's the other big story we are following, the special counsel robert mueller and the investigation into election meddling is done. the report in the hands of the u.s. attorney general, william barr. what does that mean? first, no more indictments coming directly from the mueller team according to a senior official. but, that does not include federal prosecutors in virginia,
washington, new york or elsewhere. remember this, according to justice department rules, a sitting president cannot be indicted. an official says mueller is comprehensive. barr says he may give congress the special counsel's principle conclusions as soon as this weekend. congress may not get full scope of the investigation, at least not yet. evan perez has this report. >> the question is, how much detail is barr going to be able to get into when he provides his own, what we call the barr report, essentially, to members of congress. this weekend is the first time he is going to be able to brief them on the principal conclusions of the report. how detailed will that be? it's important to underscore
that. no more indictments. that's important for the president. the investigation that is clouded his administration since the beginning of his presidency. the president can begin to probably breathe easier that the idea that his vindication is coming. he knows that, so far, from the mueller investigation, the public information that's been released by robert mueller, there's been nothing that comes close to what looks like collusion or conspiracy, which has been the focus of this investigation. the idea that there was somebody in the president's campaign who was colluded with the russians. none of that has come forward in any of the public court documents, indictments that have been brought. this has been a very investigation. 37 individuals and entities have been charged, including six trump associates. the central question of russian
collusion has not, so far, been proved in a public document. the report is now in the hands of bill barr. does it say anything about that? did they find proof of that? that's the question that remains unanswered at this point. >> evan perez, thank you so much. the white house reaction can be summed up in two words, we won. that's according to an official who pointed out there was no conspiracy or obstruction charges against the campaign. he spent the night having dinner with friends and family in florida. he was chatting with the white house lawyer responsible for the response to the russian probe. president trump's lawyer, rudy giuliani and jay sekulow released a statement saying this, they were pleased the special counsel delivered his report to the attorney general. the attorney general will determine the next steps. a lot to talk about this hour. let's do it with the panel.
a cnn legal analyst from los angeles and a professor of government from university of essex joining us. good to have you with us. starting here with you, from what we know, so far, no new indictments. the report has been delivered. is it too soon for the white house and the president to call this a win? >> i think so, george. even though there are no additional indictments coming and the investigation is ended, we have so many questions that need to be answered. hopefully the report that is presented to congress will answer some of those questions. we know there's a department of justice regulation or guideline about indicting a sitting president. we know that for the department of justice or for mueller to indict someone there has to be, meet this really high standard
of being able to prove, in a court of law, beyond reasonable doubt a crime was committed. when you look at what congress' role is, the role of providing checks and balances, they don't have to meet the beyond reasonable doubt standard. there may be information in the report that suggests trump was engaged in a wrong doing. may not rise to the level of a crime that could be indicted by special counsel mueller, but it may expose the president. so, i think it's to early for the white house to claim a complete victory or state that they have won. there's so much information, yet, to be revealed. >> that is a true point, for sure. there's a lot more we may learn soon. politically, the single point of collusion, the president seems to have a win to his back heading into 2020. what impact does all this have for the 2020 election for the
president, republicans, democrats, now? >> well, if you were to look at polls taken about the mueller investigation in december of 2018, only 17% of republicans actually felt the mueller investigation was fair. you have 82% of democrats thinking that it was fair. most republicans thought it was a total witch hunt, which is the way that trump has characterized this investigation from the beginning. he's tweeted about it constantly and it's always on his mind. now that it's coming out, he seems more confident this idea of collusion wasn't proven and that, you know, his son, don jr. wasn't indicted, jared kushner wasn't indicted. it's a relief to him. i don't know if it was really going to change the way the republicans feel about trump or democrats feel about trump. democrats have always been suspicious it's not just this
mueller investigation that is going on, but a lot of other suspicious activity, financial crimes that possibly have been committed, campaign finance crimes. they dislike the president for other reasons. republicans think he is doing a great job. maybe it doesn't push things one way or another. >> it is, again, important to overstate that we are just at the beginning here. we still don't know exactly what is in that report. more to come, of course, from the attorney general. he will decide what is made public. you can sense the arguments, legal challenges. one lawsuit already has been filed. democrats want as much of this as possible made public. the white house wants to see it first and make decisions. >> we have heard congressmen and women come forward and say they
expect not only the report to be made public, but all the findings, the investigation, the interviews, the supporting documentation that accompanies this report. they want all the documents made public. we should expect the white house is going to push back on that. we don't know what position barr is going to take. you will recall when barr went through the confirmation hearings, he refused to state he would make the entire report public. he was vague when he answered questions about whether he would make the report public. it's very clear, there's going to be a challenge from the left to get as much information as posz possible. we should hear claims from the department of justice and the white house and information subjected to executive privilege, certain information not being, you know, easily made available because it contains grand jury testimony and then
the claim that some of this information is confidential and classified information that cannot be made public. there's a big, legal challenge ahead. we cannot underestimate the other jeopardy that trump and his family members, his sons and daughter find themselves in, particularly with the southern district of new york and the attorney general for the state of new york and the district attorney in the state of new york. so, trump's legal troubles definitely did not end with the ending of the special counsel's investigation. >> to that point, this question to you with regards to those investigations. what is the path forward for democrats? do you see them continuing to move the goalpost? more probes? >> i think they are going to continue to investigate further. i mean they have stated that. i think after the michael cohen hearings that were so explosive, they made it clear there was a lot of suspicious behavior
taking place, criminal behavior taking place they wanted to continue to investigate. if you listen to the comments from house speaker, nancy pelosi, she appears to not be too eager to pursue impeachment before enough evidence has been presented to the public, before there's a general strong backing for this. she's trying to be cautious, i think, because she is fearful if the democrats go after trump too hard and pursue impeachment, which would not pass in the senate, this is going to lead to a huge backlash. it looks like, based on what pelosi is saying, they are going to continue to have different investigations, which i'm sure are going to, you know, be not greeted well by trump, they are not going to be aggressively pursuing impeachment until all the facts have been laid out for them. >> thank you so much.
>> thank you. >> thanks, george. still ahead here on newsroom, we head back to the other top story. isis losing final territory in syria. what it means for the future of the terror group as newsroom continues. ♪ even in my own home, i had my own designated space to smoke. if i think about it, it really was like i was punishing myself. a friend of mine that said, why wouldn't you just try the juul. and so i went out and i bought one. the idea of going back to smoking... i couldn't even imagine doing that. i don't think anyone including myself thought that i could switch. 12 hours? 20 dogs?
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hours ago, they battled isis fighters holed up in tunnels near the village. you can see in this village here, the fire fight that played out during the nighttime hours. our senior national correspond ben is in eastern syria. he filed a report an hour ago. we heard from him, giving his first impression of the area around him, moments after the announcement that isis had been defeated. listen. >> reporter: we are in the encampment over which we were watching for weeks, bombardment, air strikes, mortar strikes, artillery strikes in this area. it really is a wasteland. there are wrecked motorcycles, cars and trucks around me. you see the remnants of tents people were living in. inside the tents, people dug trenches to get some sort of
protection. for me, this is quite an experience. we have been watching from a distance as this bombardment was taking place. now, certainly, to be in it is somewhat surreal. but, this is an historic day. we did hear from a spokesman for the syrian democratic forces that isis, the so-called caliphate has been eliminated. certainly, it was a rough, long war against isis going back at least five years. yes, for the syrian democratic forces and the u.s.-backed international coalition against isis, this is a significant day. it was a long and difficult struggle. yes, it is significant and it's quite an experience to actually see all of this around me. >> that was ben wedeman filing a
report an hour ago marking the defeat of isis. joining on the line to talk more about this is lena. she is the head of the houses middle east and north africa program joining us now from london. good to have you with us. >> good morning. >> let's talk about the simple significance of this moment. isis no longer holding territory in that region after years and years of bloody war. >> this is a very significant moment. having territory and having a so-called caliphate was a very big component of isis propaganda that it used to draw supporters from around the world. it went ahead, in terms of what they have said to achieve from supporters, ahead of any other islamic militant group in the world. that was a massive, massive draw, which means this is a
massive, massive blow. >> the terror group no longer claims territory. doesn't the threat remain as the ideology is embraced by some who escaped and survived war and the threat of radicalization continues? >> absolutely. i think we should be very careful when we talk about defeat of isis at this moment. all isis lost, which is significant, its lost territory but the group is not eradicated. isis is very much at large. now, they will try to use this to portray themselves as victims and continue to use propaganda and attract supporters. the group has many fighters at large between 15,000 and 20,000 in the area around syria and iraq. so, we are likely to see a surge
in activities by the group as it transforms into an underground militant organization. >> one of those people who are now homeless, stateless, caliphateless, those women and children, isis brides who are now on their own, many left in these camps. >> yes, this is also very significant. in addition to the fighters, we have around 37,000 women and children currently detained by the syrian democratic forces. the fate of these women remains, and children, remains to be seen because many countries in the west simply feel nervous about bringing back women and children who were basically living under isis and who belong to isis. we are yet to see a coherent strategy to deal with them and deradicalize them. we have a ticking time bomb on
our hands as these women still very much embrace the isis ideology and there's a risk they will raise their children, also the isis ideology. the problem is much larger than something that can be sorted out to military action. >> it took many, many troops coming together from many nations, many groups to try to remove this footprint that isis had throughout that region. that has happened. as we see troops being drawn down, the united states drawing down, the number remaining, still unclear, is there a threat, a concern that if you let up a little, that the group could re-emerge? >> absolutely. the risk of re-emergence is very real. we always need to think back of what happened in iraq with al
qaeda around a decade ago when it was defeated. there were only a few members left after the u.s. led a search campaign to target the group. however, you know, a few years later, before isis emerged from the ashes of al qaeda and iraq. so, we have to remember that military defeat is not enough. you need a comprehensive long-term strategy. i emphasize the word very. we really need, i would say, a ten-year strategy to handle the isis aftermath. deradicalization programs, addressing with governments, the context of syria, the political situation is a huge role in why isis existed and will exist as a caliphate. you need to address all these
issues, to prevent and enable an environment to exist and then the re-emergence of isis. the stories, unfortunately, very complicated. >> lena, thank you, again, for your time today. after 675 days of investigation, the mueller report is finally finished. when we come back, what has already been revealed in the russia probe and, of course, there's more we don't know yet. stay with us. that rocking chair would look great in our new house. ahh, new house, eh? well, you should definitely see how geico could help you save on homeowners insurance. nice tip. i'll give you two bucks for the chair. two?! that's a victorian antique! all right, how much for the recliner, then? wait wait... how did that get out here? that is definitely not for sale! is this a yard sale? if it's in the yard then it's... for sale. oh, here we go. geico. it's easy to switch and save on homeowners and renters insurance.
turnls. we will bring you updates as we learn more. again, isis has been defeated there in eastern syria. we are following the breaking news here in the united states. the mueller report in the russian meddling in the 2016 election is finally finished and in the hands of attorney general, william barr. i's not clear what is in the report or if or when it will be made public. there are no more indictments expected from the mueller team. a lot is already known. pamela brown has more on that. nearly two years after it began, robert mueller concluded the special investigation into the russian meddling in the 2016 election. through his filings, mueller showed how russians strive to interfere scrutinizing those in trump's circle as part of the effort.
today, 34 people and russian entities charged of crimes. ranging from hacking computers and networks of prominent democrats to using social media to sew political discord in the u.s. to help elect president trump. >> what they called information warfare against the united states. >> reporter: the president, always careful to distance himself from those charged. >> of the 34 people, many were blocked from moscow or people who had nothing to do with me or what they are talking about or people that got caught telling a fib or telling a lie. >> reporter: even when some were in the president's inner circle or found to violate the law, the president remained defiant. >> the russia thing is a hoax. i have been tougher on russia than any president. >> reporter: the initial stages
of the probe unfolded. george papadopoulos bragged to a foreign diplomat in a london bar about what a man with ties to russia got dirt on hillary clinton. that 2016 encounter may have prompted the counter intelligence investigation, which would become mueller's inquiry. the long-time political adviser, roger stone communicated with wikileaks while in coordination with a trump campaign official. the extent and substance of the communications are not yet known. >> i, actually, have communicated with asang. >> reporter: in 2016, he bragged about contact with julian assange. >> roger stone didn't work on the campaign except way, way in the beginning. >> reporter: the investigation
revealed trump campaign chairman paul manafort's ties to pro-russian ukrainians and the litany of crimes he committed. he lied about contact with an associate linked to russian intel who gave trump campaign polling data to. his contact with him strike at the heart of the investigation into russian efforts to seek ways of removing sanctions, in this case, to end conflict between russia and ukraine. >> he worked for me for a very short period of time. i think it's very sad what they have done to paul manafort. >> reporter: the special counsel revealed the president was pursuing business deal with russia to build a trump tower in moscow, cohen talking of traveling there after the republican convention. the deal fell apart. why cohen lied about how long
talks took place. >> he is lying to get a reduced sentence, okay? >> reporter: in charging the president's former security adviser, the public learned flin's contact with russia's ambassador to the u.s. discussed conversations with others in the trump administration. discussions within the administration have been raised at various points in the investigation. cohen's attorney says he talked to white house staffers about the congressional testimony beforehand. manafort had contacts with the white house after being indicted. during the campaign, with trump in the room, papadopoulos raised the prospect of using contacts to set up a meeting between trump and putin. president trump, all the while, insisted mueller doesn't have evidence on him and has repeatedly called the investigation a witch hunt and disgrace. >> it's a total witch hunt and doesn't implicate me in any way.
there was no nothing. >> reporter: they moved the goalpost from no collusion in the campaign to only trump himself. >> i never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign. >> reporter: through it all, mueller remained silent on findings, refusing to utter a word publicly, relying, instead on indictments and court documents to speak for themselves. >> it was whether or not a foreign national interfered with the integrity of our 2016 presidential election. giving a report of the findlings was of critical importance to the legal system and the american public at large. >> reporter: with his report on the desk of the attorney general, it is now up to william barr to decide what to disclose to congress and the american public. >> my goal and intent is to get as much information out consistent with the regulation.
>> william barr may be ready to share his principle conclusion with lawmakers over the weekend. we'll continue to follow the story and bring updates as we learn more. now, to australia. a nation battered by not one, but two cyclones. look at the damage that's been done there and where they might strike next. stay with us. unpredictable crohn's symptoms following you? for adults with moderately to severely active crohn's disease, stelara® works differently. studies showed relief and remission, with dosing every 8 weeks. stelara® may lower your ability to fight infections and may increase your risk of infections and cancer. some serious infections require hospitalization. before treatment, get tested for tb. tell your doctor if you have an infection
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to share with the world? get published now, call for your free publisher kit today! aide workers say the devastation is much worse than thought more than a week after a cyclone slammed into southeast africa, humanitarian needs will only grow in the coming weeks. the immediate concern is flooding, cholera, devastation. entire towns and villages are flooded. disease and outbreaks are being reported. the death toll is close to 300 killed. there are fears that number could be higher. rescue and relief operations are ongoing at this point. the situation is chaotic. survivors cut off by flooding
and landslides. in australia, two powerful cyclones are battling opposite coasts. derek van dam is here tracking it. >> we are talking three systems in the hemisphere in the course of a week. a very active season right now. they are not related. australia, the northern territory called for a state of emergency after tropical cyclone trevor made land fall, eight hours ago. they deployed 200 personnel to help assist. some of the people evacuating the communities in the path. they called it the single largest evacuation in the northern territory's history for a storm of this magnitude. you have to take it with a grain of salt. this is a sparsely area.
185 kilometers per hour wind as it moves into the northern territory. gail force warnings expected to continue inland away from the coast. that includes parts of the northwest and queensland as well. since we lost the moisture, we have no moisture source to work with. so, we'll start to see the system kind of fizzle out, but not before producing a tremendous amount of rain in the area, in what is a very dry part of the world. localized flooding, definitely a likelihood here across the area with rainfall totals and computer models exceeding 200-300 millimeters. this cyclone has not made land fall. it is looking less organized. a very large eye associated with the system. it's expected to stall out, which is not necessarily good news. it may start to become weaker over the next 24-48 hours. when it stalls out along the
coast, it has potential to produce significant amounts of rainfall as well, more than trevor. we could see 400 millimeterses of rain. flooding a possibility here as well. we have gail force winds across the area and in place. i want to show this population density map. it is slightly more populated. look at the northern territory. 250,000 people living across the entire territory there. needless to say, it's going to cause serious problems with the rain and strong winds. >> all right. derek, thank you. thank you for being with us this hour. i'm george howell at the cnn center in atlanta. our coverage continues at the top of the hour. stand by. ahoy! gotcha!
when i had my brother take me places, it was always like, we had to get there early so i could smoke a cigarette before we go inside. i'm a pain - i'm a little sister! we always had to stop for cigarettes... yea exactly it's true. get up... first thing smoke a cigarette. before lunch... after lunch. another one on the way home. before dinner... after dinner. now that i am talking about it, i'm kinda feeling like i lost about 4 hours of every day. i didn't realize it was that much. i know. i decided i needed to find an alternative... so i started looking and then juul came up. i did both for a while. and eventually i just switched over, it was very quick. i honestly feel like i remember recently you asking me like did you want to smoke before we go in? and i was like no, i don't need to. ♪
like never before store. the xfinity store is here. and it's simple, easy, awesome. >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. we are following two major stories this hour here on cnn "newsroom." robert mueller has finally submitted his report. we may learn about that in the coming weeks. of course, we are following the news out of eastern syria. isis has been defeated there. welcome to the united states and around the world, i'm george howell in atlanta. a story out of eastern syria, u.s.-backed forces declaring victory over isis. the so-called caliphate is no more after grueling combat there. th