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Friend of San Bernardino terrorist arrrested; President Obama says no credible holiday threat to the US; Putin says Trump is the leader of the presidential race; Chelsea FC fire manager Jose Mourinho; China set to issue a second red alert in anticipation of smog; An up-close look at Russia's military in Syria; New Star Wars movie opening in US. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 18, 2015 - 00:00   ET

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


ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Ahead this hour, former neighbor and friend of one of the San Bernardino attacker charged with supporting terrorism.

SESAY: Plus, football manager Jose Mourinho is sacked by Chelsea.

VAUSE: And mutual admiration. Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump trade some personal compliments.

SESAY: Hello. And thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause, NEWSROOM LA starts now.

SESAY: Well, we begin this hour with a new arrest in the San Bernardino terror attack. Enrique Marquez, a friend of gunman Syed Farook is accused of buying two of the assault rifles used in the mass shooting.

VAUSE: Marquez made his first court appearance just a few hours ago. His lawyer declined to comment as he left the courthouse. We have more details now from CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Twenty-four-year old Enrique Marquez is under arrest and now in federal custody, facing charges of providing material support to terrorists and making false statements to purchase firearms. Those charges are centered on the two AR-15s used in the San Bernardino terrorist attack and aborted plots that Marquez and Syed Farook planned in 2012.

Marquez allegedly told FBI investigators he bought the two guns for Syed Farook to help his friend from this Redlands neighborhood avoid scrutiny, a violation of federal and state law. In a twist, according to the complaint, prosecutors say Marquez called 911 after the shootings earlier this month to report his friend. He was the shooter, Marquez told the operator, adding, Farook "used my gun in the shooting."

Marquez is also facing charges of visa and marriage frauds stemming from his marriage with a member of Farook's family, which authorities say is a sham. Marquez has told investigators he knew nothing about the San Bernardino attacks that Farook launched with his wife, Tashfeen Malik. She came to the US under a fiancee visa in the summer of 2014 from Pakistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did we miss the lady in San Bernardino?

BROWN (voice-over): Today on Capitol Hill, lawmakers pressed Obama administration officials for answers as to how Malik got into the US, missing signs Malik was already radicalized. The FBI says her thoughts about Jihad were contained in private messages she shared with Farook.

ALAN BERSIN, DHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY: There was nothing in the system that we used that would pick that up. There was no data that we would turn into actionable information to deny admission.

BROWN (voice-over): Questions too about another concern, how well the US government tracked the more than 9,000 people who had visas revoked for possible ties to terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of those people are still in the United States?

MICHELE THOREN BOND, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR CONSULAR AFFAIRS: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't that scare you?

BOND: Many of the people whose visas are not in the United States when we revoked the visa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have no idea how many of those people are in the United States?

BROWN: As for San Bernardino, the complaint says that Marquez and Farook built bombs together over the years and that the powder that was in the IED found at the center where the attack happened in San Bernardino was actually purchased by Marquez, according to this complaint.

However, Marquez told investigators that he knew nothing about the San Bernardino terrorist attack in advance.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: US President Barack Obama will travel to San Bernardino on Friday to meet with the families of the victims of that attack. On Thursday, he was at the National Counterterrorism Center in Virginia, saying Americans should feel safe this holiday season.

SESAY: Mr. Obama will hold his end-of-the-year news conference Friday, before traveling to Hawaii for his family vacation. The president says there are no specific and credible threats to the US.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot give in to fear or change how we live our lives because that's what terrorists want. That's the only leverage that they have. They can't defeat us on the battlefield, but they can lead us to change in ways that would undermine what this country is all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Steve Moore, a former special agent with the FBI, is with us for more on this. So, Steve, we've just heard the president make those reassuring remarks and they sound very similar to the remarks which were delivered after the Paris attack, a week before the attack in San Bernadino.

[00:20:00] They're probably accurate, but how reassuring are they? How much credibility do they have?

STEVE MOORE, RETIRED SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Well, I think they're not very reassuring because we heard - he said we should feel safe to go about our business at Thanksgiving.

And a week later, we had the San Bernardino attack. He's saying it again. It's almost a dare at some point. I don't think it helps the American public to feel safer for him to say we're safe when the last time he said, he was clearly wrong.

SESAY: So, let me ask you this, when a president - any president - comes out and makes such statements of assurance to the public, what's the feeling among law enforcement, the folks on the frontline, the FBI?

You can say it.

MOORE: It can drive you crazy, especially if somebody comes up and says the president wants a briefing on your case. He's speaking about it.

When that happens, you think my life is over because the scrutiny on your case is going to be immense. And all that scrutiny keeps you from actually working the case sometimes. I know it's a necessity, but still it really is a troubling thing.

VAUSE: What we're seeing right now is actual tangible evidence of the proof of an elevated terror threat, if you like. (INAUDIBLE) metal detectors, increased security, bomb sniffing dogs, more of a heavy police presence. Is this actually effective? Because the metal detectors are often random people, not everyone is going through the metal detectors. Is this security or is this just sort of security as performance art?

MOORE: Well, a case can be made for both, but I know the people at Disney, for instance - and they are smart people. I have always said that if you do random security checks, it's enough of a deterrent to where any risk-averse terrorist organization are going to say, I've got a one in three or one in five chance of getting caught. Then they're going to try to do something that's easier.

If Disney screens one out of ten people, they're going to go to a park that doesn't screen anybody.

SESAY: The question becomes, though, is this the beginning of the slippery slope, metal detectors, kids over 14 not being allowed to wear masks? Ultimately, the entire experience and the way we live our lives is being altered before our very eyes.

MOORE: And we've seen this before. We saw when after 9/11, we saw what happened. We created TSA. Remember, what it was like in the 70s and 80s - maybe you don't remember - to get on an airplane. Nowadays, it's totally different. And you can expect that same change for every public event.

VAUSE: Because what we have, the situation in countries that are often hit by terrorism, like Israel, is that you have people who check for bombs in the trunk of your car when you go to the mall. You will always go through a metal detector whenever you go into a bus station or a train station or an airport or a shopping mall, and this is just part of everyday life.

And, I guess, just to pick up on that point, is that where all this is now heading because is that the only way to make these soft targets a little less soft?

MOORE: It is the only way that it's going to go unless we can stop ISIS where they are now. You worked in Pakistan like I did. You remember driving into a hotel, you'd have the car mirrored to see if there was a bomb under it.

That's how people live in other parts of the world. We may be finding out how that is.

SESAY: Steve Moore, always appreciate the insight and analysis. Thank you. I know you'll be with us next hour. Thank you.

MOORE: Yes.

VAUSE: Thank you.

Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US presidential hopeful Donald Trump are exchanging a little mutual admiration. Putin says Trump is a bright and talented person. Trump responded saying it was an honor to be complemented by a man so highly respected. SESAY: Mr. Putin praised the billionaire businessman during his annual news conference Thursday in Moscow, but as Brian Todd explains, there may be a hidden agenda behind the compliments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For about three hours, he wouldn't comment on the American presidential race. But after an exhaustive news conference, Vladimir Putin got a question he couldn't resist. What do you think of Donald Trump?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that. He is an absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level of relations, to a closer, deeper level of relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that?

TODD (voice-over): Is the feeling mutual? Donald Trump has both praised and criticized the Russian leader.

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (voice-over): Putin is a nicer guy than I am.

(on camera): Putin is a nastier guy than me.

TODD (voice-over): Either way, Trump seems to think he is the right person to speak directly with Putin.

TRUMP: I think I'd get along very well with Vladimir Putin. I just think so. People say, what do you mean? I think I'd get along well with him. Obama and him - he hates Obama.

TODD (voice-over): But analysts have a warning for Donald Trump, reminding him Putin once managed KGB agents.

MATHEW ROJANSKY, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: He reads Trump. And he says this is a guy I want to feed his ego. I want to make him feel like he can actually achieve the unrealistically big things he says he can achieve. And then I want to use him in doing that.

[00:25:05] TODD (voice-over): Experts say by praising Trump, Putin probably was taking a jab at President Obama. But they say Putin and Trump also have similar perspectives on leadership.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They're both focused on this image of action and strength and the individual's ability to bend global forces, that you really need the great man at the top of the apex of the nation to defend it against the shadowy forces at home and abroad.

TODD (voice-over): But there is one shadowy force who Vladimir Putin happens to respect, a man, who, like Donald Trump, is an antagonist of Barack Obama, General Qasem Suleimani, Iran's top commander in Syria.

US officials have classified Suleimani as a terrorist who helped target US troops in Iraq. Iranian media reports Suleimani met with Putin in Moscow last week. The Russians deny it.

(on camera): If they did meet, it was very likely to assess their common client, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Analysts say Putin and Suleimani are both very worried that Assad may fall and may have wanted to discuss just how much staying power Assad has left.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: And at that same news conference, the Russian president also had some kind words to Sepp Blatter, the controversial boss of FIFA, the corrupt body that governs world soccer. Putin suggested Blatter should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

So, with that in mind, let's bring in Josh Rogin, CNN political analyst, columnist for "Bloomberg View". Hey, Josh, given Putin's comments, on Blatter and on Trump, would you say that perhaps the Russian president has a unique way of making character judgments?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we can say that he doesn't lack for a sense of humor. He knows exactly what he's doing here by praising Trump and building him up. He's throwing a wrench into the US political discussion at the same time, declaring triumphantly that he doesn't want to interfere in US politics.

So, this is all part of Putin's revenge for when the Obama administration, in his view, interfered in his election in 2012. So, he's having a good time with it.

VAUSE: There was also some praise, though, for the Obama administration, or at least for for UN resolution, which the US is putting forward to try and resolve the Syrian conflict, but how does that actually marry up with Russian action on the ground in Syria?

ROGIN: Well, the Russians are open to US cooperation in the fight against the Islamic state and other terrorists that they see as fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. But on the ground, the cooperation is not going well at all.

According to my sources and administration officials, the Russians have been expanding their military presence inside Syria. This is complicating the coalition airstrikes, especially Northern Syria, near the Turkey border.

Very simply, the Russians are happy to play along with Secretary of State John Kerry on the diplomatic stage, but in the war zone they're not playing nice at all.

VAUSE: OK. So you're saying this build up is to the north, close to Turkey. So, how much has that got to do with the Turkish shoot-down of a Russian military jet last month because, in that same news conference, Putin had some rather salty language for the Turks.

ROGIN: That's exactly right. Putin said that he doesn't expect Russian/Turkey relations to improve anytime soon. And when Putin expands the Russian military presence into northern Syria, he achieves two objectives.

One is to thwart US operations in the area and the other is to put pressure on Turkey. This is a direct mission to counteract Turkey support for the rebels fighting Assad. While the US primarily wants to fight the Islamic State, Turkey is supporting those groups who are fighting the regime.

So, when Russia interferes with those operations, they can have two effects, neither of which is good for those fighting ISIL or the Assad regime.

VAUSE: Josh, we'll leave it there. But he also just in that news conference did say that he thought the Turks were looking at certain body part of the Americans, which was quite astounding to hear that from a head of state. Josh, good to speak with you.

ROGIN: Always.

VAUSE: Astounding.

SESAY: Astounding.

Time for a quick break. Chelsea Football Club manager Jose Mourinho is sacked over a dismal season. Coming up, we'll speak to football journalists about what went wrong for the so-called special one.

VAUSE: Plus, the man dubbed one of the most hated executives in America now facing criminal charges, detail next on Martin Shkreli's arrest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:33:22] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. A pharmaceutical executive reviled for food drug price gouging now faces securities fraud and conspiracy charges.

SESAY: US federal authorities arrested Martin Shkreli Thursday. Prosecutors say that 32-year-old built millions of dollars from a biotech firm before it ousted him as CEO last year.

Shkreli caused an uproar this year when as chief executive of a different company, he jacked up the price of an anti-parasitic drug, also used by aids patients, by more than 5000 percent. He was released on a $5 million bond and denies the charges.

VAUSE: Apparently, the special one just not that special any more. Chelsea Football Club has sacked its manager, Jose Mourinho. It comes just seven months after he led the team to the English Premier League title, but Chelsea has been struggling this season.

SESAY: And that is an understatement. A statement on the club's website, however, says, they "parted company by mutual consent."

VAUSE: Gardeningly.

SESAY: Gardeningly. Football fans have had mixed reactions to Mourinho's departure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was inevitable. It was about to happen. He'd lost the dressing room. He'd lost the players' confidence and it was on the cards. So, no, not at all surprised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very, very surprised. He's the best manager in the world. So, a big shot. He's the only one, in my opinion, who can get them out of the mess they're in at the moment. So, yes, it will be very interesting to see what happens in the next coming months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, it looks like the players, like, are not, like, really doing what he was asking for (INAUDIBLE) he would go away and they'll bring a new coach and the things will get better. For sure, next match will be so much better already.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[00:35:06] SESAY: Well, for more on the sacking of Jose Mourinho, let's bring in football journalist Alex Labidou. He joins us from Philadelphia. Alex, good to have you with us. Let's set the stage for our viewers. Chelsea has suffered -- Chelsea

has suffered nine defeats in 16 league matches. They sit one point above the relegation zone. Very, very strained relations between Mourinho and his players.

Let me ask you this. How on earth did the relationship between Jose Mourinho and his players break down so dramatically?

ALEX LABIDOU, FOOTBALL JOURNALIST: Well, I think the thing that Mourinho, in the past, has gotten so much credit is the fact that he's able to call attention to himself as opposed to his players.

I think this season it might have backfired. You look at guys like Diego Costa and Eden Hazard and they aren't producing on the level that they in the past. Hazard is still scoreless in this season. I believe Costa only has three league goals. That's unacceptable compared to what they had done in the past.

SESAY: Unacceptable, especially when you consider the kind of money these guys are making weekly. Everyone is pointing to the post-match comments Mourinho made after Chelsea's defeat at the hands of top of the table Lester.

Mourinho said he had been betrayed by his players. Folks are saying that this was the final straw. Do you think so?

LABIDOU: I think so. I think that there's a lot of factors to consider. One, Chelsea's payroll is 190-something-million pounds and they're 20 points off of the lead spot in the League.

So, when you look at those two factors and the fact that the players haven't been responding to anything that Mourinho was doing, it kind of almost looked like he just threw his hands up and said, listen, I don't have any more tricks in the bag. This is all I can do. SESAY: Yes, that's a very good point. It was like - that was the moment where it almost seemed like he conceded that he had lost the dressing room completely.

The technical director Michael Emenalo has been quoted as saying that you're not a big club if you don't have a contingency plan for situations like this. All eyes now on Guus Hiddink, Chelsea's previous caretaker manager to return to Stamford Bridge.

In your view, can he steady this thinking ship.

LABIDOU: I think the biggest priority for Chelsea right now has to be the Champions League. They already have nine defeats, as you mentioned previously, and based on previous seasons, it's going to be pretty hard for them to get into the top four.

So, now, they have to focus on, A, doing well in the knockout stages and maybe having an unlikely run to the Champions League final like they did in 2012. If they can pull something off like that, then he'll continue his streak.

The only thing that's interesting with Guus is the fact that he - ever since his last interim show with Chelsea, he hasn't done much. He's struggled in his coaching jobs in Russia, Turkey and Holland. So, it'll be interesting to see if he passes this primer if he can still deliver at Chelsea.

SESAY: Yes. And it will be interesting to see if he can win the dressing room once again, if he can get these players to start performing the way they should be considering how much money they're making.

Alex Labidou, appreciate the insight. Thank you so much.

LABIDOU: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: Officials in Beijing have issued a second ever red alert in preparation of choking smog expected to arrive this weekend. With that in mind, let's go to Karen Maginnis standing by at the CNN world weather center there in Atlantis.

So, Karen, I guess over this weekend, if you have to breathe, do it now? Just get it out of the way while the air is good.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you're absolutely right. It is going to be rather frightful over the next probably 48 to 72 hours as we watch that smog just kind of filter in all across Beijing.

They're anticipating a red alert is going to be issued across this area. And that is going to be what we saw just at the earlier part of December. Let's go ahead and - we probably need to switch these graphics around just a little bit, so we can see what's happening here.

But nonetheless, they're anticipating that the red alert will be as bad, perhaps even worse than what we saw right around that first week of December.

But we will see a ridge of high pressure that builds across the region. And as we do, that acts like a dome. So, it suppresses any kind of movement in the lower atmosphere. And because of that, you don't get a lot of mixing in the lower levels.

So, all those pollutants, the smog - there's lots of coal-burning this time of year. Also because weather plays a part in this. This is why we are looking at the dome effect right across Beijing.

[00:40:02] We are anticipating that we could see 500 on the scale. And, typically, what we have been seeing are like 200 or 300 ppm, but in this situation, it is going to be essentially a code red.

So, schools could possibly close. They're looking at traffic that's going to be impacted, construction that will be impacted as well. That ridge of high pressure dominates this region. Winds coming out of the north, so this is going to be sticking around for a little while, at least in the short term, if we saw a weather system move through that would potentially blow all of this matter out of the atmosphere.

But, in fact, because we are looking at a situation where the air mass is just not mixing, that's why we're looking at a situation where the smog is going to be particularly bad.

And It looks like a hurricane force storm is building in the Bering Sea. John and Isha, this is going to be the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane. The one before this was the equivalent of a Category 3. So, it happens in other areas besides the warm waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Back to you, guys.

SESAY: We'll be watching closely. Karen, thank you.

VAUSE: Thank you, Karen. It's going to hit 500 on the index scale, the air pollution because it doesn't go beyond 500. Anyway, they need to change that because, obviously, it's worse than 500.

SESAY: Yes. It's much worse than that.

Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, the new Star Wars movie - I know how excited you are.

VAUSE: Ah, thrilled.

SESAY: The new Star Wars movie has reached screens in North America and CNN's Paul Vercammen is getting first word from the fans. Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Isha and John, we're reaching all- time highs on the fan geek meter. We've got people here who are lined up, getting ready to go into a maniacal Ewok and a self-proclaimed happy fan. The Chinese spear important to so many of them because Star Wars premiered here back in 1977. And shortly, the fans will pour out and we'll get the first reviews right here from the streets of Hollywood. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:45:34] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour. China is warning residents to prepare for a wave of choking smog over the weekend. The worst is expected to hit Beijing, prompting the city to issue its second ever red alert. That alert is triggered when the air pollution index rises above 200. It's expected to surpass 500 through Tuesday.

VAUSE: Jose Mourinho has been sacked as manager of the Chelsea Football Club. He is known as the special one. Mourinho is the club's most successful manager, but Chelsea has had a dismal season, losing 9 of the last 16 games. The club says he left by mutual consent.

SESAY: Investigators say they think this man, Enrique Marquez, bought two assault rifles used in the San Bernardino terror attack earlier this month. He was friends with the gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. Marquez is under arrest, charged with providing material support to terrorists.

VAUSE: Russia may be softening its stance when it comes to Bashar al- Assad remaining in power in Syria. Diplomats from the International Syria Support Group are meeting in New York Friday for a third time to discuss the country's transition amid an ongoing civil war.

SESAY: In the past, Moscow stuck by al-Assad, but diplomats now say Russia has accepted he may need to step down as part of the peace process.

VAUSE: Russia continues to intervene in Syria, at least on a military level on behalf of Assad.

SESAY: CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is embedded with its military at a base in Latakia. And on Thursday, he visited a Russian warship to witness the fight firsthand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Off the Syrian coast, a rare glimpse at the naval power behind the Kremlin's air war who were ferried off shore by the Russian military.

(on camera): This really is extraordinary access that we're getting to Russia's military operations in and around Syria. You can see we've been brought off the coast of Syria. Now, we're in the eastern Mediterranean. And we're just about to go on board that ship there. It's called the Moskva. It's a missile cruiser and it's one of the most important Russian vessels in this entire region.

(voice-over): On board, we were shown why the Moskva is such a formidable symbol of Russian power. After the shoot-down of a Russian war plane by Turkish interceptors last month, the Kremlin vowed to destroy anything that threatens its aircraft in Syria.

The captain of the Moskva told me his ship, bristling with antiaircraft missiles, was sent as a warning on the direct orders of a furious Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

ALEKSANDR SHVARTZ, CAPTAIN OF MOSKVA MISSILE CRUISER (via translator): The Moskva is in itself a threatening weapon. And with its arrival in the region, we have noticed a significant decrease in activity in the skies over Syria.

CHANCE (voice-over): Other countries bombing Syria, in other words, have taken notice.

(on camera): Well, this is an extremely impressive bit of military hardware out here in the eastern Mediterranean. It's a missile cruiser and you can see it's got these enormous missile launching tubes which can carry a nuclear missile, although we're told there are none on board at the moment.

It's got this big gun as well to defend itself. But most importantly, this ship, the Moskva, has very sophisticated surface-to-air missiles and that's why it's been deployed here off the coast of Syria to provide air defenses for the Russian war planes to carry out their air strikes back there in Syria.

(voice-over): Already Russia has used its naval power to strike targets across Syria, firing cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea and from a submarine in the Mediterranean.

So far, the Moskva has yet to fire a shot in anger. But its mere presence off Syria is delivering a powerful message.

Matthew Chance, CNN, on board the Moskva missile cruiser.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, the new Star Wars movie has finally been released worldwide, but in China they will have to wait another three weeks. And we'll tell you why after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:53:01] SESAY: Hello, everyone. Pope Francis celebrated his 79th birthday Thursday. A group of young Catholics were invited to the festivities at the Vatican where they sang happy birthday in Spanish.

(VIDEO PLAYS)

VAUSE: The children and teenagers are involved in projects that welcome migrants in their countries. As for the rest of his birthday, in typical Pope Francis style, it was all fairly low key.

SESAY: Well, turning now to something that is the very opposite of low key -

VAUSE: Very not low key. SESAY: Very not low key. It has already opened in other parts of the world and now the new Star Wars movie is hitting theaters in North America where people are camped out to get their seats.

VAUSE: They have, indeed, which is really odd, but good for them.

SESAY: Some of them have done it for days.

VAUSE: Which is really odd. Online ticket seller Fandango says the film has shattered the record for advanced ticket sales. The Force Awakens is expected to gross up to $220 million in North America this weekend alone. I think it will do a whole lot more.

The movie opened Friday in wide release across the United States. It has trickled into a few theaters on this Thursday.

SESAY: It certainly has. CNN's Paul Vercammen is posted outside one Los Angeles theater to get fans' first reaction. He joins us now. Paul, are they out? Are you getting any reaction?

VAUSE: Are they thrilled?

VERCAMMEN: As we speak, John and Isha, here they come. The first of them is starting to trickle out at the Chinese theater here in (INAUDIBLE).

Mitchell is one of these fans. Mitchell, come on in here real quick, please. You just saw this. Sort abuse missiles were these physical commodity real quick please you just saw this dubious review. No spoilers please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing. (INAUDIBLE) four, five and six were just amazing and grabbing from you, this is definitely worth it. You get to re-see all the old characters you know such as Stewie, Collin Silvers (ph), Harrison Ford, just all of them are back and it's definitely, definitely worth it.

[00:55:00] VERCAMMEN: Describe what it was like to see it here at the Chinese theater with 932 other souls who are obviously diehard fans, many of you who have camped out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very exciting. Very definitely emotional. Very energetic. Just the effect of when you see some of the planes actually flying around - of course, Star Wars, always they have a star battle. Just seeing them like that was just so cool. It's almost like you're actually part of the movie almost, like you could feel like you were in an acting league (ph) or something.

VERCAMMEN: Thank you for your view. You're getting the trickling theory of reviews here. As we said, Star Wars back in 1977 had its premiere at the Chinese Theatre. So, it's steeped in tradition. We even ran into some folks over here that had come all the way from Panama. And later on tonight, they're going to go in and see it. So, quite a lot of festivities.

Let's show you one more outfit. Here's a gentleman who's got on his pilot outfit. Perhaps I could duck it and get a quick question from him as well. I don't want to butt in too much. John and Isha, a little chaotic -

VAUSE: It could be on with a light saber, but you never know, Paul. You could be in trouble there. It could have a light saber, obviously. You don't want to get on their bad side.

VERCAMMEN: I could be. I don't want to risk it, by the way.

VAUSE: We had time for a question, we do (ph). Go for it.

SESAY: Paul, did lots of people get dressed up for this? Just set the scene for us.

VERCAMMEN: A lot of people did, sure. Well, here's somebody who got dressed up. All right. Without a spoiler, give us your view.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, it's 10. It's toss.

VAUSE: Speechless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't even - I can't even say anything. I don't want to spoil it. It's exciting to even talk about it. This is the second time I saw and it's better the second time (INAUDIBLE) the sound and the quality. Just it's amazing. I don't even know what to say.

VERCAMMEN: Describe for us your outfit tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to do you Snap, which is one of the new pilots for the movie. But we all dressed up. It's about - all 12 had all dressed up for the red carpet premiere as all the extreme pilots.

VERCAMMEN: And what would you see anybody who's debating about whether or not they should see this movie?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't even think. Just go. It's amazing. I loved it. If you even have an inkling of good movie or if you enjoy a good movie, you just got to see it.

VERCAMMEN: All right. We thank you so much for taking time out. So, you've had a couple of early reviews. People whooping it up, having a great time here. Not far from -

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SESAY: No more Yoda impressions. Paul Vercammen out there with the fans just coming out of seeing a Star Wars episode 7.

VAUSE: OK.

SESAY: Thank you.

VAUSE: From here in Los Angeles, let's go to China because that's one place where the new Star Wars film is not generating the movie going frenzy, which is seen elsewhere in the world. SESAY: And that because the franchise isn't all that familiar in China. Disney is pulling out all the stops to change that. CNN's Matt Rivers joins us now from Beijing. Matt, I'm assuming it's a lot quieter where you are. But let me start by asking you the basic question as to why episode 7 is opening in China three weeks after the rest of the world.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, like so many other things that have to do with China, the answer is not entirely clear on that. It is the Chinese government that chooses which films, which foreign films are allowed into the country to be shown and also when those release dates for those films will be assigned.

So, the Star Wars movie, this latest chapter in this saga, will not be shown here in China until January 9. Now, as for the reasons behind that, there is a quota for the amount of foreign films that are allowed into China each year.

So, because the film is being shown in January, maybe the Chinese government already hit their quota for last year. That's one option.

The other option amongst all this is that sometimes the Chinese government sets aside certain months for domestic film that can only be shown - only domestic films, films shown in China, can be shown during those months. Maybe December was one of those months.

And then finally, there's not a huge Star Wars fan base in China. It's not this cultural phenomenon that it is around other parts of the world, and so perhaps the Chinese government thought we can wait a couple of weeks, get away with it, and the fan base - the film fans here in China won't really revolt because of the date being a little bit different than for other parts of the world.

VAUSE: Matt, officially, it has not hit the cinemas, but if I know anything about China, I know there's about thousand bootleg copies of Star Wars: The Force Awakened in that shop across the road from the bureau. Have you picked one up yet?

RIVERS: As a part of my journalistic due diligence, I plan to go out this weekend, and just for journalism purposes, see what I can find. And I'll let you know.

VAUSE: OK, Matt. Well, obviously, research is important. We appreciate it.

SESAY: We certainly do. It is a great movie. Everyone should go and see. You must stop doing Yoda.

VAUSE: OK.

SESAY: Thank you, Matt.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Isha and I will be back at the top of the hour. We'll look at the day's top stories. But, first of all, sport starts after a short break. CNN watching, you are.

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