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Concerns Over Russia Meddling U.S. Election; Famous for Being Famous; Words of Warning; China Reacts to Trump. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired December 19, 2016 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Making an official. The president-elect gets one step closer to becoming the president of the United States. But as the Electoral College passed its votes some within Donald Trump's own party have questioned about Russia's involvement in the election before they vote.

Words of warning, one of Vladimir Putin's biggest critics tells CNN the hack attack is just the start of a greater assault on the west.

Plus, one of the first celebrities to be famous for being famous dies at the age of 99 years old. We'll have more on the life of Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Live from CNN world headquarters here in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

Three a.m. on the U.S. East Coast, Russian hacking, the U.S. President-elect chief of staff isn't so sure about that, at least not yet. This is despite the fact that the CIA, the FBI and the director of U.S. National Intelligence apparently are increasingly convinced that Russia hacked democratic e-mails all in effort help Donald Trump to win the White House.

Reince Priebus says top intelligence officials should lay out their findings first against Moscow publicly.


REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It sure would be nice to hear from everybody. I mean, if there is this conclusive opinion among all of these intelligence agencies then they should issue a report or they should stand in front of a camera and make the case.


HOWELL: Two top democrats and two senior republicans want a bipartisan probe into Russia's alleged hacking of the U.S. election. That group includes incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, he says nothing less than special Senate committee investigation will do on this. Listen.


CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Leader McConnell has said let the intelligence committee do this alone. That is not good enough for three reasons.

First, there are conflicting jurisdictions. The judiciary committee has jurisdiction over the FBI. The foreign affairs committee has jurisdiction over foreign policy. The armed services committee has jurisdiction over the hacking of military and the intelligence committee, of course, has jurisdiction over the CIA.

With all these conflicting jurisdiction, if we don't have one select committee, first, things could be left out. There could be holes that no committee covers. Second, we could get contradictory information, the FBI says this, the CIA says that and they're not reconciled. And third, the existing committees are very, very busy.


HOWELL: Questions about hacking front and center, CNN's Matthew Chance following the story live for us in Moscow this hour. Matthew, good to have you. The top democrat in the U.S. Senate as you had heard calling for a special Senate committee investigation, the drum beat here in the United States are certainly picking up. But how are these allegations being perceived there in Russia?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, George. Well, the consistent position of the Russian government has been to flatly reject that it has got anything to do with any of this hacking of political institutions in the United States.

The last comment that came from the Kremlin came late week, and it was another denial, they've been denying it since October when this story first broke at the height of U.S. presidential campaign. The Kremlin said it was indecent, this allegation continued to be made by the United States without any evidence and that the U.S. should present that evidence or stop talking about it.

I mean, that was the -- that was the flat rebuttal of the Kremlin when it comes to these allegations that we had on Friday.

And so, yes. Look, I mean, there isn't a great deal or any in fact concrete evidence that any of us could point to say, hey, look, this is fundamental proof that the Russians did this. And if there is that evidence and it hasn't been made public at this point by the intelligent services in the United States.

So, yes, I mean, the recalls on really both sides now on the Russian side and on the U.S. side, for that kind of evidence to be made more public. And so we can all see the extent to which Russia may have been involved in trying to disrupt the U.S. presidential polls.

HOWELL: Reince Priebus again, pointing saying, you know, if you have the information make it public, echoing what we're hearing from Russia. [03:05:00] But the question is would intelligence officials, would

that community revealed sources and methods that's yet to be seen. But if you could just explain on, Matthew, to our viewers the sophistication of Russian systems when it comes to hacking in cyber's ability.

CHANCE: I think it's pretty sophisticated. We don't know for sure what their -- what their capabilities are. But we've seen evidence over the past couple of years really starting to meddle about a, you know, sort of really multi-layered strategy that the Russians have when it comes to controlling information and weaponizing information.

The most recent example, of course, being that presidential election when they're not just allege to have hacked information from political institutions, particularly the Democratic Party, but then also taking the unprecedented step of releasing that information through WikiLeaks to discredit one of the candidates, in this case, Hillary Clinton.

And so, we've got a situation whether the Russians have weaponized information, I mean, using it against the perceived opponents, in this case the United States. I mean, did the multi-layered strategy is to say there are other elements to it.

There's trolls that are employed and paid by the Kremlin allegedly to insert themselves into internet chat rooms and to online debates and comment sections and trying to steer the narrative towards a more pro- Russian position.

There are fake news sites that day that have been traced back according to analysts to Russia, as well. And so, there's a whole kind of range of techniques that the Russians are now apparently employing to get their message across and to distort the message to a certain extent around the world.

HOWELL: CNN's Matthew Chance, live in Moscow. Matthew, thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

Russia again, insist it did not meddle in the U.S. election. But a long time Putin foe says the Russian president may have an interior motive as for the allege hacking and suggest President-elect Trump should be wary.

Our Nick Paton Walsh has this story.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A few know Putin better than his odds Nemesis. Russia's richest man turned its most famous political prisoner of modern times. Mikhail Khodorkovsky warns that the Kremlin use of attack to influence the U.S. election, this is just the beginning.


MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, KREMLIN CRITIC (TRANSLATED): For Putin it was very important not so much to demonstrate on direct influence on the American election process, because it's not very possibly in reality, but to show that it's capable of such influence. And now with the help of western press that actively brings this to

life. He will use this card in his relations with his counterparts from democratic countries as a threat to influence election process.


WALSH: Khodorkovsky has been locked in a near mortal struggle with Putin for over a decade and in short when he challenged Putin politically lost badly. Yet, he remains and a key student of his enemy's character on what that may mean to his apparent 'bromance' with Trump.


KHODORKOVSKY (TRANSLATED): Putin perceives Trump is playing weak and controllable. Trump perceives Putin is clear and sincere. As soon as they feel themselves being deceived and they are too quite emotional people they might be a very serious conflict. That's what I definitely wouldn't like to happen.


WALSH: And in the heart of Moscow and Washington relationship will be Rex Tillerson, secretary of state nominee. His time as Exxon oil giant chief open in Russia led him to a very closely with the Kremlin may be two closely with its top players.


WALSH: That's not a problem his close relationship to one of the most powerful man in the Kremlin, Igor Sechin.

KHODORKOVSKY (TRANSLATED): I'll say I have, I don't know for whom this is a problem. The fact that he knows them too well could be a problem for America and it could be a problem for Sechin and Putin. And the issue here depends on value.

I know from my own experience that business and politics, especially international politics are absolutely two different things. When you actually go into international politics everything changes completely. There's no rules, common rules, at least, and there's no enforcement mechanism that could enforce those rules.

So, here one has to be guided by values. The only beacon of life.


WALSH: Khodorkovsky once communist youth activist has married the post-Soviet rise and fall of this homeland small businessman, turned oil giant, persecuted and prosecuted into pecuniary and then in Russia's ubiquitous GULAG and most famous political prisoner where he learned, oddly, in jail that there is goodness at the heart, even society's most desperate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [03:09:59] KHODORKOVSKY (TRANSLATED): The president's administration wants to make it my punishment harsher, so they tried to make different convicts say all sorts of lies about me. But none of them agreed, no one.

And when I asked them why, they say that that's because I haven't done anything bad unto them so they weren't able to set me up. They might have made a mistake, behaved wrongly, had a difficult life, but still had something in their soul you can rely on.


HOWELL: Nick Paton Walsh reporting there for us. We have a programming note also for our international viewers all this week, CNN will have special coverage of Vladimir Putin's Russia from allegedly meddling in the U.S. election to annexing Crimea and its role in the Syrian conflict. Be sure to join CNN for reports on Russia flexing its muscle on the global stage.

One adversarial relationship Trump has had appears to be friendlier, Donald Trump and the U.S. President Barack Obama have not only met, but aide say they have spoken a number of times.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more now on the talks between the president- elect and the president.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For months it was bare knuckle brawling.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Barack Obama has been the worst president ever.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the republican nominee is unfit to serve as president.


FOREMAN: But look at them now, ever since the election and their first meeting afterward, the sitting president and the next president have seem decidedly warm.


TRUMP: I really like him. We have a really good chemistry together. We talk. He loves the country. He wants to do right by the country and for the country.

OBAMA: I think ultimately he's pragmatic in that way and that can serve him well as long as he's got good people around him and he has a clear sense of direction.


FOREMAN: How much are they speaking, it's not precisely clear. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: They've been talking regularly on a number of issues, they talked just yesterday.


FOREMAN: Neither the president-elect's team nor the White House will confirm which subjects have been brought up.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In the same way that I protected the ability of President Obama to consult confidentially with other senior officials, including some former presidents, I'm not going to read out or confirm, you know, every reported meeting or phone call or conversation.


FOREMAN: Certainly both men have vested interest in healthcare reform, immigration law, national security, and the economy and the president-elect has vowed dramatically change direction on many of those fronts.


OBAMA: Do I have concerns, absolutely, of course I've got concerns. You know, he and I differ on a whole bunch of issues.

CONWAY: They disagree on many things, that's not going to change.


FOREMAN: But both in hand in a broader sense, they have found common ground in how hard uniting it may be.


OBAMA: And I will always make myself available to him just as previous presidents have made themselves available to me.


FOREMAN: They may not sound like much, but considering the veracity of the campaign and the lingering bitterness, the tone between Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump seems remarkably good and for people who are looking for a truce in the Washington words, perhaps that's not a bad start.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

HOWELL: Tom Foreman, thank you.

Donald Trump won the presidency spending far less than Hillary Clinton spent and figures released by his campaign showed that he paid his own companies more than $12 million during the election.

CNN's Drew Griffin goes through the numbers.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Donald Trump's airplane company got $8.7 million, his hotels and golf courses got 1.4 million. More than 200,000 went to Trump restaurant and food services, all that money came directly from Donald Trump's own campaign.

CNN analysis have reports filed with the federal elections commission shows during his 18 month presidential campaign, Donald Trump paid nearly $12.5 million to Donald Trump's own businesses. Who else got the money, well, Trump Corporation, Trump Towers and payroll, $2.2 million.


LARRY NOBLE, CAMPAIGN LEGAL CENTER GENERAL COUNSEL: I don't think we've ever seen one like this in another campaign like this where somebody has run so much of their campaign through their own businesses and in a way that is really hard exactly what the money was spent on.


GRIFFIN: Like many other things about the Trump campaign, Larry Noble with the Campaign Legal Center calls the expenditures unique. Who else can charter their own 757. House campaign staff in his own Fifth Avenue office building and even run up $32,000 tab to his son Eric's wine company and, essentially, pay himself back through his own campaign. Legal? Yes. Ethical, sort of.


NOBLE: If you do it legally, and it was near the course of business, then you know, you have to say that he's allowed to do that. If he was doing it to make a profit off of it and he charge more than he was supposed to have charged, then there was a problem.


[03:15:07] GRIFFIN: And that's hard to tell. Congressional laws on campaign financing are not regularly enforced. So, who is going to find out, for instance, if that $94 tab at Trump cafe was extreme profiting or just an average cup of coffee or $607 tab at the Trump grille, one expensive BLT or 30 sandwiches, we will never know.

Don't blame Trump, Congress sets the rules when it comes to campaign spending, those rules require little, if any details.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

HOWELL: Drew, thank you.

Still ahead here in NEWSROOM, China hits back after some hostile tweets by Donald Trump. But the U.S. president-elect did to anger to Beijing this time. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATE RILEY, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: I'm Kate Riley with your CNN headlines.

It's been another fabulous year for Cristiano Ronaldo. It's been also a pretty memorable week too, he picked on Ballon d'Or player award on Monday and he scored his 500 club goal on Wednesday. And then on Sunday, he won club World Cup with Real Madrid in historic fashion.

Ronaldo scored the first ever hat-trick in the club World Cup final and has railed Kashima Antlers the 4-2 in extra time. The victory extends Madrid's record unbeaten run to 37 games now.

And the English Premier League where Manchester City a sitting pretty in second after coming from behind to beat Arsenal. The Gunners took an early lead at the Etihad Stadium, thanks to Theo Walcott that (Inaudible) will disappear after a pair of seven half goals from the citizens, Leroy Sane leveled the match before Raheem Sterling will get the winner, 2-1, this is now Arsenal's second defeat on the spin.

And Tottenham, another team he came from behind to run out winners at home on Sunday as well three goals in this one against Ashley Barns (Inaudible) ahead for 20 minutes, this goal was soon cancelled out by England international Delle Alli, Sally Roads got the winners for the Spurs with 20 minutes to go, 2-1, that one would end at (Inaudible).

And that's a look at all your sports headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

HOWELL: Just look at these images from Mexico, a volcano erupted twice Ssaturday and the images you see here simply stunning.

[03:20:01] It's spewed massive amounts of lava smoke and ash into the sky. The mountain is known as the fire volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico. The first eruption happened during the day and this is how it looked from high above, wow.

We all know about Western Europe's migrant crisis, but there is another happening as well. In the Americas are thousands of migrants are trekking across Central America hoping to reach the United States. But they also face the threat of human traffickers.

CNN's Shasta Darlington has today's Freedom Project report.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The buzzing border town of Paso Canoas, the main crossing between Costa Rica and Panama long an important trade and tourist route.

In recent months, however, the town has seen an unprecedented influx of migrants. Tracking north from South America. Thousands of them many originally from Africa and the Caribbean bound for the United States.

Closing a logistical and humanitarian nightmare for the government of Costa Rica, Communications Minister Mauricio Herrera Ulloa spearheading the effort to process them.


MAURICIO HERRERA ULLOA, COSTA RICAN COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: At this moment Costa Rica is absolutely overwhelmed with immigration situation. No one were prepared or was thinking in the possibility that received 10,000 people from Haiti or for Africa.


DARLINGTON: Cy Winter of the International Organization for Migration is in charge of border management for north, south and Central America. He worries that migrants will lose patience with the bottlenecks and look for another way across the border putting them at risk for human trafficking.


CY WINTER, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION REPRESENTATIVE: I can't get through the front door so they go through the window. And by doing that they end up unknown to the state, and so a country doesn't know the person, the person doesn't have access to the services of the country. And that's a core vulnerability that can be capitalized on by traffic.


DARLINGTON: Costa Rican officials say they're trying to process the migrants as quickly as possible. They're admitting 1 to 200 day, but there is a waiting list several weeks long before migrants can receive a laissez-passer, the document that allows them into the country.

Once the migrants finally have those papers in their hands they're brought here to this warehouse that use to hold fertilizer. But now they can hold up to 250 people, they get free meals, a roof over their head and a mattress to sleep on.

The shelter is just a few kilometers north of Paso Canoas. Many here say they were on the road for months before getting stuck on the Costa Rican border. They're tired, frustrated and running out of money and they've heard the situation on Costa Rica's northern border isn't any better.

That's because Nicaragua has closed its borders to documented migrants, forcing thousands there into deplorable conditions and makeshift shelters and tent villages.


WINTER: The Costa Rican authorities are working to accommodate. They've got some 5,000 people and they're expecting that the number will rise.


DARLINGTON: To stem the growing human trafficking concern in Costa Rica, the government has been cracking down on trafficking. At the same time, IOM officials are trying to prevent human trafficking from happening in the first place.

They are meeting with migrants offering counseling and advice as new arrivals continue to pour in. Like these brothers who just arrived in Costa Rica, optimistic and unaware of the backlog they're about to face.


WINTER: They, of course, want to go to the United States. That's all they're talking about. If they proceed as they are, i if they do run the risk of becoming vulnerable, I thought them that they could easily become victims of labor exploitation.


DARLINGTON: None of the migrants I spoke with had even heard the term human trafficking. Winter says many people in this population are so accustomed to being exploited but they don't recognize it as modern day slavery.

[03:24:58] And to tens of thousands of migrants on the move throughout Central and South America, he fears this crisis is not likely to end any time soon.

Shasta Darlington, CNN in Paso Canoas, Costa Rica.

HOWELL: Shasta Darlington for us. And on Tuesday, Shasta introduces you to Yolanda, a migrant who landed in Costa Rica bound for the United States.

DARLINGTON: Yolanda says she arrived four days ago hoping to quickly receive a laissez-passer, the document she and husband need to legally enter Costa Rica and transit north to the next border, only to discover they'll have to wait six weeks just for an appointment with Costa Rican immigration officials.

HOWELL: Again, the story of Yolanda, a migrant who landed in Costa Rica bound for the United States. You can of course see this story Tuesday it's all part of the Freedom Project series, perilous journey, only here on CNN.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, a close friend of South Korea's president finally has her first day in court, what this means for the country's corruption scandal, still ahead.

Plus, Donald Trump called China seizure of a U.S. drone unprecedented. How China reacted to the U.S. president-elect.

Live from Atlanta to our viewers here in the United States and worldwide this hour. You're watching the CNN NEWSROOM.


HOWELL: A warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

[03:30:04] The next White House chief of staff expressing doubts about U.S. intelligence findings that Russia meddled in the U.S. election all in effort to help Donald Trump win the White House.

Reince Priebus saying that he wants intelligence leaders to make their case publicly to the American people.

A small plane belonging to the Russian Defense Ministry has crash landed in Siberia. All passengers and crew members though have survived. Sixteen people were severely injured and happen to be taken to nearby health centers.

In Jordan, 10 people there have been killed in what officials call a cowardly terrorist attack. Gunman opened fire at police officers in two different locations then moved in to a castle with popular tourists in the city of Karak. Security forces there killed four gunmen.

It's the early hours of Monday, at least 65 buses have left eastern Aleppo carrying about 3,500 people, that's in addition to the hundreds that were taken to the Aleppo countryside on Sunday.

Activists also say 15 buses have left two other besiege areas that were included in the evacuation deal. The weights to be evacuated from eastern Aleppo has been especially difficult for the wounded, as Simon Israel from ITN reported just a while ago, a makeshift hospital wasn't given enough ambulances to evacuate patience.

And we do want to warn you, some of the images that you'll see in this report are disturbing.

SIMON ISRAEL, ITN REPORTER: They said they needed 50 ambulances for 120 patients, today, they were promised only two, under the renewed evacuation plan. Yet, in every corridor in every corner on every inch of floor lie the injured, the sick and the dying in this makeshift hospital basement.

He's been waiting a week and the bleeding won't stop. As the hours tick by, still no news, no ambulances, no buses. The desperation, the urgency increases. This man wants his friend to be treated as a priority, now they've been told only two ambulances will be coming.

"Two cars are only enough for four cases. Nothing more than that. The rest of the injured people are still in the only field hospital left inside the city. The rest of the injured are all over the streets and no one are listening to our calls."

And then there are the babies whose cries have barely heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TRANLSTED): She's two months old, just arrived here in the hospital. They were at the checkpoint for three hours and the weather was very cold. They couldn't cross and they came back, just cramps now, there's no pediatrician and no basic medicines.

ISRAEL: Their releases from Aleppo has been hanging on one crucial condition, the freedom of hundreds of others in the besieged pro-Assad villages of Foua and Kefraya. A convoy of buses was laid on.

But then a Sunni extremist faction intervene and set fire to the fleet before it could reach those villages.

"We won't let you evacuate this year, you pick," said one attacker, "they've only come out when they are dead."

Back in the rebel enclave of eastern Aleppo tonight, all hope has been crushed. And the sick and the injured have returned to their precarious existence.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we are cleaning the hospital preparing all the rooms to start working again. And we are -- or we will stay here now. And we don't know if we will leave. And no hope but all to leave.


ISRAEL: But that is not the picture Syrian state TV is broadcasting tonight. It shows half a dozen buses with it said militants and their families waiting a checking to cross into the west of the city and free them. Yet one person can be seen on the coaches or on the road side.

The injured and the vulnerable are supposed to be their priority in an evacuation from a war zone where civilians and fighters live alongside each other. Tonight, by any account they would not.

HOWELL: We also want to warn -- update you now, a story that we've been following about a little girl in Syria. We've learned that seven- year-old Bana Alabed and her family have been evacuated from eastern Aleppo to a rural area outside the city.

[03:35:08] Thousands of people have been following Bana's tweets about living under constant and terrifying bombings and shellings.

A Syrian relief coordinated tweeted this, "Thanks to God, Alabed Bana is safe with her family after she was evacuated from her city. She survived siege bombings, apathy. Hash tag, Dem of Aleppo."

Now to China, a nation seizure of a U.S. underwater drone has sparked the war or words with the incoming president, the President-elect Donald trump. The device was snatched by China in international waters last week. Trump then responded with a series of angry tweets. China said it will return the drone but it is taking Trump the test for his reaction.

CNN's Matt Rivers has more from Beijing for us.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Will the seizure of this U.S. navy under water drone by a Chinese naval ship really played out along the entirety of the weekend. We found out about it on Friday, it was on Saturday that the ministry of defense here in Beijing confirmed what had happened and said it would be returning that drone to the United States. And then it was President-elect Donald Trump's turn to weigh in. He

tweeted twice about this issue with the second tweet appearing to be a little more aggressive saying that the United States should just let China keep the drone and not worry about getting it back.

And then on Sunday it was the state run media here in China. It was their turn to weigh in on all of this. And it was the state-run tabloid newspaper called the Global Times which is known for its provocative use on issues like this that really stood out to us.

Let me read you some of the editorial that was written about the subject. It read in oart, quote, "The tone of bystander fanning flames in Trump's second tweet is particularly worrisome that he might treat the relationship between super powers as a game, given that he has not been in the White House, the official Chinese rhetoric about him so far has been measured. But this restraint will not last when he officially becomes president if he still treats China the way he did today."

And that really matters because state-run newspapers in China are just that, they are state-run, nothing gets published here even if it is an editorial without the sign off of communist party sensors.

And so while you might not see a spokesman with a ministry of foreign affairs getting up and making a provocative statement like that, the fact is that this is a state-run newspaper expressing state views.

Now, a big question here that's remaining in Beijing, is how will this incident affect U.S./ Chinese relations going forward. If you look at what has happened over the past couple of weeks. It's just the latest negative incident frankly in terms of the relationship between both sides, and it all surrounds the incoming Trump administration.

Donald Trump taking a call in early December from the president of Taiwan and questioning the one-China policy and then tweeting about this latest incident and it's drawn the eye of the Chinese government.

And so whether that is part of the Trump's administration plan moving forward, we're still not sure this kind of tough take on China. But it is safe to say here at least on the Chinese side of things that the Chinese government given their statement statements in what they're saying in state media not really happy so far with the take and the track of the incoming Trump administration.

Matt Rivers, CNN Beijing.

HOWELL: Thank you. A close friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye has appeared at her first court hearing. Choi Soon-sil was indicted last month over a string of corruption allegations. She's accused of using her relationship with Ms. Park to meddle in state affairs.

Mass protest in support of Ms. Park and others demanding that she leave office continue.

CNN's Saima Mohsin is following this story for us live in Seoul, South Korea. Saima, good to have us this hour, what more can you tell us about this first court hearing?

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what was extraordinary, George, was Choi Soon-sil actually turned up herself. We haven't seen her since October, since she finally returned to the country to face those charges and has been detained since. So, she turned in court today, has held high in a prison gear, she was wearing overalls from prison, she wasn't handcuffed that's not the norm here in Korea.

She was living by a female guard or off the bus into the courtroom. And then as she sat down, she bowed her head down. She remained very quiet or some have described it with an empty stair throughout the court hearing.

She didn't speak to her lawyer when things were being discussed, she only spoke once to say that she was sorry for the trouble called in society and that she will face the trial with sincerity. That's the only thing we've heard from her.

Now, there are a string of charges, as you say, against her, 11, in fact, including abusive power, attempted fraud, attempted coercion.

[03:40:03] And that is why, George, this is so important because this is all linked to link to President Park Geun-hye. Now she is accused of using her close friendship with the South Korean president to accumulate millions of dollars for her own foundation. And that connection to President Park Geun-hye is what's causing so much political turmoil here. George.?

HOWELL: Saima Mohsin, following the story for us in Seoul. Saima, thank you for your reporting.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, Amnesty International says Myanmar's military campaign against the Muslim minority group may amount to crimes against humanity. The damming accusations, still ahead.


HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

Amnesty International says Myanmar's military may be committing crimes against humanity. The human rights group believes security forces have been targeting the country's Muslim Rohingya minority in a vicious campaign.

Amnesty says the military has destroyed more than 1200 Rohingya homes you see from the satellite images that they're using sometimes destroying entire villages.

Soldiers are accused of raping or raping Rohingya women and randomly killing civilians.

Joining now live to discuss this in London, Laura Hayes, the Amnesty International Myanmar researcher. It's good to have you with us to talk more about the situation.

First let's discuss what's happening on the ground thousands of the buildings there have been burned, these homes destroyed. So many Rohingya have been displaced. Human rights watch saying that the military is behind it, pointing to satellite imagery as evidence.

But government officials they are saying that militant groups are behind these arsons, so there is a bit of finger pointing here.

LAURA HAYES, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL RESEARCHER: Yes, there is. But I think what's quite clear from our finding is that the military is responsible for this campaign of violence that we've seen against the Rohingya since the start if October.

[03:44:59] Not only do the satellite images and the interview that we've done with Rohingya's themselves point to this. I think that we can all say that they've embarked on a campaign of other violations as well.

So, we've had women and girl just being raped. We've had random killings. We've also had mass arrests of men and boys. Many of whom we just don't know where they are.

HOWELL: And pointing out here. Amnesty warning that this is -- actions by the government, the military against Rohingya may constitute crimes against humanity.

HAYES: Yes. The violations that we're documenting are very, very serious, they seem to target the Rohingya community as a community because they are Rohingya for their ethnicity for their religion. This is a full of collective punishment and violations we've documented are very grave and indeed made mass crimes against humanity.

HOWELL: Is the government feeling international pressure to do something, to change course in its treatment of the Rohingya minority?

HAYES: Well, today, the government has actually met all of these allegations with blanket denials, you know, they're refusing to acknowledge that these violations are taking place. What we want to see them do is stop these denials, acknowledge that these abuses are taking place, and we need to see them to commit to it independent incredible investigation.

We also want to see them allow media workers and independent journalists into these areas. because for over two months this area has been sealed off.

HOWELL: And leaders have been criticized for not doing enough, not saying enough about the treatment of Rohingya. One of them Aung San Suu Kyi who is set to speak to members of the Association of Southeast Asian nations.

So, is anything set to come out of this, is there any optimism about this meeting?

HAYES: Well, what we really hope is the various and concrete action that comes out of this. You know, the situation has gone on for much too long. What we do need to see and what we believe as Amnesty International is that so far Aung San Suu Kyi in both her political and her moral responsibility to cut then these violations.

But I think it's also important to realize that the violations that we've documented are being committed by the military. And I think we do have serious questions about this extent to which the civilian government can actually reign them in.

So what we need is much more international pressure from the military to stop these abuses, we need to see humanitarian aid and assistance getting to these people who are in need. And of course, we need to see this investigated and the perpetrators punished.

HOWELL: And just briefly here, one of Bangladesh's role and possible responsibility in defusing the tension if Myanmar can't or won't find the a workable solution here.

HAYES: Well, since the October attacks the U.N. has estimate around 2700 Rohigya's across the border into Bangladesh. This is despite Bangladesh tightening security and a long-standing policy of sealing the border.

These people are in a desperate situation there as well. Many of them are in hiding because they fear a deportation or arrest. And they are also not allowed access to humanitarian aid. So the Bangladeshi government obviously has a huge responsibility, but has a huge burden to face with these people as well, and we need to see them live up to their responsibility to protect these people and they have to open the borders, allow them to cross and they need to allow them to also get the humanitarian aid and assistance they need.

Many of these people don't have food, they don't have shelter, they don't have health care. Bangladesh must step out to protect these people.

HOWELL: Laura Hayes with Amnesty International, live for us in London. Laura, thank you so much.

HAYES: Thank you.

HOWELL: And we'll stay in touch with you. Thanks for the insight.

A long and famous life comes to an end. Still ahead, a look back at Zsa Zsa Gabor's personal life and her overshadowed career.


KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hello, everyone. I'm CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis.

It is going to be a very cold start to the work week in the lower 48 states as frigid Arctic air dives towards the south, so bundle up. We're just getting started with winter. Mountain snow fall is going to be dropping to lower levels into the Pacific northwest as storm system expected to move there.

But look at how much expanse across the United States is going to be relatively dry, cold, but at least it's going to be dry. Temperature wise, minus 9 in Chicago. The heightened temperature sunshine, though, only about three degrees expected in Dallas, and for New York City minus one.

But the good news is New York City, not just New York, but a good portion of the country is expected to warm up rather nicely. By Thursday, New York 7 degrees. By Wednesday in Atlanta, 15 the expected high temperature again.

Let's look around the Gulf of Mexico into Central America and across the Caribbean. Kingston, 32, San Juan is looking 28. Cartagena, 32 degrees expected there. And for Quito, 17 for a high, and some thunderstorms on the way. Bogota, early morning thunderstorms and 20 for a high.

We look further south, in South America Montevideo early morning clouds and i-22.

HOWELL: A the box offices around the world, "Star Wars" moving entire strikes again. "Rouge One" the latest spin-off in the "Star Wars" franchise made jumped into hyperspace this weekend with $290 million worldwide box office to view. That made it to the top movie, made at top movies, I should say in the world this week.

The films, As needed to the top movies, top movies, I should say, in the world this week, the films plot takes place right before the events of the originals 'Star Wars," film, 1977 "Star Wars." A new hope.

After years of health problems, Zsa Zsa Gabor has died at the age of 99 years old. The Hungarian socialite and her sister's came to the United States at the outbreak of World War II. Zsa Zsa spent decades in the Gossip columns for her many marriages while her acting career took a back seat.

Nischelle Turner reports.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She became one of the most recognizable figures in Hollywood with her trademark gown elaborate jewelry and Hungarian accent famous for being famous. While Zsa Zsa Gabor's acting career was perhaps undistinguished, the former beauty queen's outspoken ways grab headlines.


ZSA ZSA GABOR, ACTRESS: While everybody tell the truth, that's why everybody hates me because I tell the truth, people don't like to hear the truth.


TURNER: Gabor and her sister Magda and Eva immigrated to the United States from Hungary. But unlike Ava who started on TV's Green Acres, Zsa Zsa didn't immediately have showbusiness aspirations. A five-year marriage to hotelier Conrad Hilton produce a daughter Francesca that made her a great aunt to a later generation to celebrity sisters, Paris and Hilton. After she divorced Hilton, Zsa Zsa married actor George Sanders. She

said that union became her catalyst.


GABOR: They put me in a talk show, I met this George Sanders, the next day I have life cover, a look cover and all the covers and Jim approached me in Jim studio if I want to, I said, yes.


TURNER: Zsa Zsa went on to make more than 50 films, including 1952 Milan Rouge.

She also appeared in the Orson Welles classic Touch of Evil, but it was her off screen appearances that gabbed the most attention. In 1989, Gabor generated a media sensation when she was convicted of slapping a Beverly Hills policeman. She was sentenced to three days behind bars.

[03:55:04] Gabor parlayed the attention into TV and movie appearances, including a cameo in the "Naked Gun Two and a Half." In fact, it was once joked that Gabor played herself more often than any other role. The acting roles dwindled in her later years but that didn't keep Gabor's name out of the press.

A car accident in 2002 left her partially paralyzed and she was subsequently in and out of the hospital for a series of health cares.But it was her marriage to Prince Frederic von Anhalt, her ninth husband that provided plenty of bizarre tabloids father.

Von Anhalt who married Gabor in 1986 once claimed to be the father of Ana Nicole's Smith's daughter after the actress's death. But turn the test later this proves that claim. In 2011, he announced an unusual plan to make Gabor who was 94 years old at the time, a mother again using an egg donor and surrogate mother. A plan Gabor's daughter Francesca called weird.

It was many one of many disputes Francesca had with von Anhalt whom she once accused of taking Gabor away from her. The two would eventually reach the truths over the Gabor's care in July of 2012.

As her personal matter still made headlines well into her 90's, Zsa Zsa Gabor will perhaps be remembered as a professional celebrity who seemed happiest living life on the front page.

HOWELL: Zsa Zsa dead at the age of 99 years old.

We thank you for being with us for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta.

For our viewers in the United States, Early Start is next. For other viewers around the world, stay with us for another edition of CNN NEWSROOM live from London. You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.