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Trump Challenging Obama on a U.N. Vote; Aleppo Under Control; Massive Manhunt all Across Germany; Obama to Close a Dormant Program. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired December 23, 2016 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] NATALIE ALLEN, CNN HOST: The fingerprints were in the truck. New evidence tying the suspect in the Berlin terror attack to the crime scene.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: The stepping on the president of the United States, Donald Trump pressure the White House to change U.S. policy toward Israel.

ALLEN: And Aleppo under control. The Syrian regime says the city has been reclaimed from the rebels. Supporters celebrate in the streets.

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

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen, and this is CNN Newsroom.

HOWELL: It is 3 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. First to Germany, where police there may have broken up yet another terror plot just days after the deadly attack Monday at a Christmas market that happened in Berlin.

Authorities arrested two brothers near the city of Essen. The two originally from Kosovo suspected of planning attacks in Europe's largest shopping mall. It's not clear if the plot is linked to the tragedy in Berlin.

ALLEN: Officials investigating that attack say they have found more evidence involving the main suspect. Fingerprints, belonging to Anis Amri, were found in the truck used to plow through the crowded market.

Here's Erin McLaughlin with more.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chilling new video of the moment, a 25 metric ton truck plowed in to a Berlin Christmas market Monday night. This as we learning German authorities knew in advance that Anis Amri the prime suspect in the Berlin Christmas market was a potentially dangerous man.

Amri spoke several times about committing attacks in Germany according to investigative records shared with CNN. German officials issuing a formal warrant for Europe's most wanted man as new evidence points to the 24-year-old Tunisian as the man behind the wheel of the truck.


FRAUKE KOHLER, SPOKESWOMAN, GERMAN FEDERAL PROSECUTORS (through translator): We were able to find fingerprints outside of the door of the truck and inside, and our investigation make us assume that Anis Amri did drive the truck.


MCLAUGHLIN: A desperate manhunt for Amri and possibly even more suspects has led investigators on raids across Germany and as far north as coastal Denmark. The intelligence revelations increasing the political pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany now joining France and Belgium whose intelligence services failed to stop known security risks from carrying out attacks. This, as we're learning more about the suspect. In a Tunisian radio interview, Amri's father said it's been years since he has seen his son.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's been about seven years since he left home. I have not spoken to him directly for that long. I do not even have his cell phone.


MCLAUGHLIN: But he has kept track of Amri revealing his son was imprisoned in 2011 convicted of assault and arson. It was released in May of 2015. Italian authorities tried to deport him but Tunisia turned him away.

Two months later, Amri crossed to border to Germany. But Amri's Tunisian hometown, a man claiming to be a friend says he can't believe Amri is a terrorist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He's a normal guy who fled despair in search of a better life.


ALLEN: Erin McLaughlin there in Berlin for us. We are joined now by CNN's former Berlin bureau chief Chris Burns, he's on the story. And Chris, first of all, people that knew him talking about Anis Amri. The question is, where could he be now? Is there any idea whether he is close by or he's fled?

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Natalie, that is a very, very big question. And just as you saw in that report he slipped through the cracks of German investigators. In fact, the Berliners have quite a -- shall we say a taste for irony. And this says the gaps at the very top. It shows the gaps between the concrete blocks behind me guarding that

Christmas market that was attacked, and it also talks about the gaps in the police investigation. And among the security agencies, there's some 40 police and security agencies spread across 16 states in Germany and they are not all talking to each other as they should be.

Now of course there is a manhunt going on with hundreds of German police busting down doors, going into different apartments and buildings, looking for Anis Amri. They haven't found him yet, but the search goes on, Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, and what about his reported ties, Chris, to ISIS?

BURNS: Yes, the tie is to a group led by a blind hate preacher called Abu Walaa. And this an organization that trains, recruits even proselytizes among youths. And they even have boot camps.

[03:05:02] They go of hiking, back-packing for 10 miles. And one of the trainers is a Serb-German who is training them to become battle hardened recruits to wage attacks.

And we also know through these nearly 350 pages of German intelligence files, obtained by CNN, that Abu -- that -- sorry, that Anis Amri had said he wanted to become a suicide bomber.

Now why wasn't he arrested? Well, it was believed that he was not very serious about it. They didn't take him as being a big fish so they didn't go after him as they should have. Natalie?

ALLEN: And we know police have made an arrest of two people that might have been planning an attack. What can you tell us about them and do we know if these were coordinated attacks they were planning with Amri?

BURNS: Yes, there's a -- the police aren't -- yes, the police are not connecting these guys with Amri they're so far any way. They are two Kosovo brothers 21 and 31 years old living in Germany. They were arrested in Dieburg near Essen and that is in western Germany, also not far from Bodelshausen where the largest shopping mall and Christmas market are.

That's about all that police are saying. They did send police to that area to make sure that nothing happened. But that's about it. We don't know how, what kind of attack that would have been, but it is very troubling.

I mean, keep in mind, that Kosovo War, which I covered for CNN back in '99 there were a lot of refugees, hundreds of thousands who came to Germany back then and these kids have grown up. Natalie?

ALLEN: All right. Chris Burns for us there in Berlin. Thank you, Chris.

HOWELL: Now to Australia, police there say that they have broken up a terrorist attack possibly planned for around Christmas Day in Melbourne. The targets were apparently the Flinders Street railway station and Saint Paul's Cathedral.

ALLEN: Seven people were arrested although two were released without charged. Police said ISIS inspired the plot.


ANDREW COLVIN, AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE COMMISSIONER: Let me just reinforce, so this is a significant disruption of what we would describe as an imminent terrorist event in Melbourne, Victoria.

Community safety will always be the number one priority for our law enforcement agencies and we have acted as soon as possible with the best evidence and the best material and the best intelligence available to us to make sure that community safety was being protected.


ALLEN: In October, two teenagers allegedly linked to ISIS were charged with planning an attack as well.

HOWELL: The situation seems unprecedented, the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump jumping into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even though he has not been sworn in to the oath of office.

ALLEN: This is one of the most complicated foreign policy issues for any leader, and on Friday, he publicly challenged current President Barack Obama by working to stop the U.N. vote.

Here's Elise Labott with more about it.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: A dispute over peace, politics and the role of the U.S. presidency may be coming to a head at the United Nations.

Just hours before the Security Council was set to vote for a resolution calling for Israel to stop building settlements the ballad was abruptly cut off, averting a potential clash between the current and future U.S. president over U.S. relations with Israel.


JOHN KIRBY, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We'll just have to wait and see what the results of those consultations are to see if the text moves forward.


LABOTT: The resolution demands Israel, quote, "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities," calling it a flagrant violation under international law.

CNN has learned that President Obama was prepared to let the resolution pass, either by abstaining or voting in favor of it. The U.S. Has traditionally seen Jewish settlements in areas controlled by Palestinians as an obstacle to a peace process, but has never gone so far in a U.N. vote.

The move today would have been seen by many as a provocation, a parting shot at Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with whom President Obama has strained ties.

Around 3 a.m., Netanyahu took to Twitter, writing in English and appealing for U.S. veto. But before the White House could announce its support for the resolution, this morning, President-elect Donald Trump sent out this statement calling for a veto and saying, peace between Israel and Palestinians needs to be negotiated, not, quote, "thru the imposition of terms by the United Nations."

A senior Israeli official tells CNN the Israeli government reached out to Trump to weigh in after failing to persuade Washington to cancel the vote. Then Egyptian President Sisi whose country offered the resolution put the vote on hold after a call from Trump.

Today, gratitude from Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer who tweeted Israel, quote, "deeply appreciates the clear and unequivocal call by Trump."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United Nations is not a friend of democracy.


LABOTT: Trump's statement appeared to again signal his desire to shift U.S.-Israel relations. During the election, he said he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and he denounced U.N. involvement in the peace process in an interview with Wolf Blitzer.


[03:10:04] TRUMP: This has to be a deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis.


LABOTT: Trump says he wants to be seen as an honest broker in the Mideast.


TRUMP: I would love to be neutral if it's possible. It's probably not possible because there is so much hatred. There is so much going on.


LABOTT: Israeli officials argue that by allowing the resolution to go through at the United Nations, President Obama would be tying Donald Trump's hands once he takes office to negotiate what the president- elect has called the ultimate deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Elise Labott, CNN, the State Department. HOWELL: Joining now to talk more about the President-elect Donald

Trump is Larry Sabato. He is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Larry, good to have you with us.

So, look, it is unusual to see a president-elect reach out to foreign governments to influence U.S. policy all the while making a move that is at odds with the current administration. Have you ever seen anything like this before?

LARRY SABATO, VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR POLITICS DIRECTOR: This is not completely unprecedented but it's extraordinary. The only example I can think of that has any parallel was back in 1968 when Richard Nixon, the candidate for president and then-president-elect Richard Nixon had to back channel to South Vietnam trying to urge the anti-communist south Vietnamese not to settle with the outgoing administration Lyndon Johnson because they would get a better deal under President Nixon.

But this is really the kind of thing that makes you wonder about what's coming. We used to have a phrase, there's only one president at a time. And that used to operate during interregnum, during the transition, but apparently in the case of Mr. Trump it does not.

HOWELL: And on Trump's transition team, it was indicated that they did give the White House a heads up about this, but again making a move that is at odds with the current administration.

I want to talk also, Larry about tariffs. Donald Trump talked about that on the campaign trail and now it seems his team is discussing, you know, the possibility of a 10 percent tariff on U.S. imports, apparently considering it as an executive action or going through Congress. Is this something that you believe establishment republicans would stand up to Donald Trump on this?

SABATO: Absolutely. If it goes through Congress. If it is an executive action, I'm sure it will be challenged in the courts, but it will probably take a long time to resolve it. But if it goes to Congress, I think you can expect people, like Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to oppose the idea.

They are long time, established free traders. And in fact, most of the republican members of the House and Senate have long supported free trade. So, I'd be shocked if they went along with tariffs.

HOWELL: Let's talk here about Trump's campaign promise to drain the swamp. Earlier this week, the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that Donald Trump didn't want to use that phrase anymore, drain the swamp. But take a listen to what he is saying now, Larry. We can talk about it here in a moment.


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: I want to report that I made a big boo-boo. I talked this morning with President-elect Donald Trump and he reminded me, he likes draining the swamp. I mischaracterized it the other day. He intends to drain the swamp. He even describes it as DTS.


HOWELL: Newt Gingrich saying he made a boo-boo?

SABATO: I've never heard him admit that before. He doesn't often admit mistakes at all. But that phrase made a big boo-boo will be with him for a long time.

Clearly Donald Trump, President-elect Trump resented what Gingrich said because it suggested that Trump would be going back on one of his major campaign themes. Draining the swamp, whatever that really means, I guess, you know, forcing the lobbyists out of the system and that kind of thing.

The truth is if you want a staff and administration, you need experienced people and people who understand how Washington works. Donald Trump will end up having his fair share of precisely those sorts of people.

HOWELL: And that's the question, though. You know, during the campaign Trump promised to drain the swamp. But, you know, the question is, his supporters, do they support, you know, what he's doing right now bringing in people who are certainly Washington insiders by many regards.

Also want to talk about this. There's some video that we can play to show this. Ivanka Trump and her family on a JetBlue flight. You see her in the middle. They were reportedly recognized and then harassed by another passenger.

Here's the question, do you see this sort of thing happening more and more, this ugliness. Is that going to go away anytime soon from the Trump side and also from the people who lost the election, the supporters?

[03:14:57] SABATO: Tragically, this campaign and the aftermath of the campaign has added to the political polarization and divisiveness in the country. And as a result, I really don't see it fading anytime soon.

The instability that we're seeing in cases like this, and it's an outrage, you don't want to attack, verbally attack the daughter of the president-elect in that fashion, but there's been plenty of incivility on the Trump side, too, aimed at Clinton supporters.

Just go on Twitter if you doubt that. This kind of incivility is going to continue and there has been very little graciousness on both sides, although, President-elect and President Obama have set a pretty good example of cooperation.

HOWELL: Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Larry, thank you so much for being with us.

SABATO: Thank you, George. ALLEN: All right. The back and forth continues. The Obama

administration is making its last moves before Trump takes office in January. It plans to close a dormant program once used to track mostly Arab and Muslim men in the U.S. And many see that as a response to Trump's previous proposal to institute a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

The National Security Entry/Exit Registration System or NSEERS was created after the 9/11 attack under then-President George W. Bush. The program was suspended in 2011 after failing to result in a single terrorism conviction in nearly a decade.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on Newsroom, Syrians in Aleppo cheer the end of fighting in their city.

ALLEN: But there is a warning as rebel forces move out and government troops move in.


RHIANNON JONES, CNN WORLD SPORTS ANCHOR: I'm Rhiannon Jones with your CNN World Sport headlines.

After we learned that Petra Kvitova faces a minimum of six months way from tennis after the shocking knife attack she suffered early this week, receive good news from her management team. They've told CNN that the two-time Wimbledon champion will be out at hospital as early as Friday.

She's be giving a short statement at a press briefing before heading home to spent Christmas with her family.

To the English Premier League where Alan Pardew is being sacked by Crystal Palace that follows eight defeat in 10 Premier League matches for Palace, the 1-nil home loss to Chelsea last Saturday.

Left the Eagle to just one point above their relegation zone in '17. The club had a dismal 2016 so far winning just six of their 36 games and picking up a low 26 points.

Pardew who led Palace to their first F.A. Cup final in 26 years and may have 18 months left on his contract.

The doping storm continues as Russia is pulled out of hosting a biathlon World Cup event in March and the World championship.

[03:20:03] It comes amid growing concerns that extend that the country's doping program highlighted by the McLaren report. The Czech Republic and Britain had threatened to boycott the World Cup event if it was held in Russia.

That's a look at your sports headlines. I'm Rhiannon Jones.

HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom.

For many years now, we have been covering the bloody hellish battle in Aleppo. That battle is officially now over. The last Syrian rebels and civilians fled that city Thursday in a convoy of vehicle many of them headed now to Idlib province, the west where they could still face the danger of renewed fighting.

ALLEN: Well, soon after they pulled out of Aleppo, government forces moved in to reclaim what's left of the neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo.

CNN's Muhammad Lila has more on this major milestone in the Syrian civil war.

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question this is a decisive moment in this bloody civil war. In fact, perhaps one of the most significant moments the turning point really since this war began five years ago.

Syrian state television breaking into regular programming to announce that they have, quote, "liberated all of eastern Aleppo from all armed terrorist groups." That is confirmed by rebel negotiators on the ground who say that all armed groups, civilians and rebel-fighters have been evacuated from that part of the city.

Syria's state broadcaster show images of people celebrating in the streets and waving flags. Clearly for supporters of the Assad government this was a decisive victory. What this means is that the city of Aleppo is no longer divided between the western side, which was the government side and parts of the eastern side, which have been held by the rebels since they occupied those neighborhoods as early as 2012.

And the loss to the rebels can't be underestimated. The eastern part of Aleppo was their command center for so many years. They coordinated operations out of there. They had a network of local activists on the ground who communicated with activists across the country, and in fact, around the world.

Well, that base is no longer there. The city is no longer divided. And Syria's Bashar al-Assad now controls that city. In fact, the Syrian armed forces control all of Syria's major cities for the first time now since the Civil War began.

Something that many people thought was really unthinkable when the revolution got underway. Even more now is the fact that Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is proving that he may well outlasts America's President Barack Obama.

Again, this was unthinkable just a few months or years ago.

And the question is being asked now is what happens to the revolution? Well, we know that the fighters who have evacuated from eastern Aleppo have been taken to the province of Idlib which is basically the Aleppo countryside.

The problem with the province of Idlib is that there are other groups already there. There is a strong ISIS presence there. There is a strong presence of Jabhat al-Nusrah, which an Al-Qaeda affiliate. And they're there as well as the so-called moderate opposition.

Now, the problem is these are groups that have been fighting each other for the last several years. So, it remains to be seen just how stable that province will be, if they will be able to unify ranks and how, or if they will continue fighting.

But once again, all of eastern Aleppo now belongs to the Syrian government and the Syrian government is celebrating it as a major victory.

Muhammad Lila, CNN, from the Syrian-Turkish border.

ALLEN: Well, 600 kilometers or about 370 miles east of Aleppo, Iraqi forces continue to wage a major military campaign to retake Mosul from ISIS.

HOWELL: Well, on Thursday, the Iraqi air force dropped four million letters over that city. Those letters were personal messages from other Iraqis urging the people of Mosul to keep the faith as the Iraqi military advances on that city.

ALLEN: And as it advances, the people of Mosul find themselves in a dangerous limbo between war and peace just like the people in Aleppo.

HOWELL: Indeed. CNN's Ben Wedeman takes us into one neighborhood soon after it was liberated with this story.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This family returned today to find their home in shambles. A missile landed outside of their house in the eastern Mosul district of Al Barid. They fled two weeks before. I asked Um Ahmed (Ph) how she reacted when she walked through the door.

"Put yourself in my place," she responds, struggling to hold back tears. The front line is just a rocket's throw away but her husband Hamid is worried about the risk.

"Here there's danger. On the other side there's danger," he says. "All of Mosul is inflamed. If we die here, this is our place. It's God's will."

Those who stayed home while the battle waged around them have no regrets.

[03:25:01] "We hung on because we knew that displaced camps are uninhabitable," says Abu Saiff (Ph), a teacher. "We accepted that either we die in our homes or make it out alive."

There's an odd feel here. Soldiers in Humvees and the occasional crackle of gunfire. While seemingly carefree children wander in the street.

Unlike previous battles in Iraq, this time the Iraqi government told local inhabitants to stay in their homes if they felt safe. By doing that, they prevented a flood of people leaving the city.

But the problem is, the city, as the battle goes on, is still full of civilians.

General Abdul Asadiq (Ph) concedes the presence of civilians has slowed down the offensive but insists Iraqi troops are still ahead of schedule.

The battle for the city will almost certainly go on for months with its residents perilously close to or directly in for line of fire.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, in eastern Mosul.

ALLEN: Now what more can you say. How many more terrifying images of innocent children. We'll you posted on that fight there in Mosul.

Well, we turn now back to Donald Trump and critics have certainly attacked his friendliness with Russia.

HOWELL: But that script has flipped overnight as concerns grow about the U.S. president-elect igniting a cold war arms race over Twitter. We'll have that story live from Atlanta to our viewers here in the United States and around the world this hour. You are watching CNN Newsroom.


ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom life from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

Germany says there is more evidence that Anis Amri was behind Monday's terror attack in Berlin. The manhunt continues for the Tunisian whose fingerprints were found on the truck used in that massacre. If you'll remember that 12 people were killed in the attack at a Christmas market.

ALLEN: The U.N. Security Council has now delayed a vote on a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement in Palestinian territories. A source says U.S. President-elect Trump called Egypt's president and persuaded him to put off the vote. Israeli officials say they asked Trump to intervene.

HOWELL: Deutsche Bank has agreed to a $7.2 billion settlement with the United States government. Germany's biggest lender was accused of packaging toxic mortgages between the years of 2005 and 2007. The U.S. government was asking for a $14 billion settlement just a few months ago.

ALLEN: Donald Trump tweeted another bombshell on Thursday. This time quite literally. He suggested it was time for the U.S. to expand its nuclear arsenal.

HOWELL: Got to love those 140 characters in Twitter. And that recent statement, that statement that are out from Russia they're also raising the specter of a cold war arms race. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more for us.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Did Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump just have their first nuclear standoff? Today, Russian's president vowing more nuclear weapons are needed.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and perspective missile defense systems.


STARR: A clear shot at U.S. defense plans in Europe something Russia believes is a threat. Within hours, President-elect Trump tweeted, quote, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

The two declarations raising the specter of an arms race renewed. Donald Trump briefed just yesterday by senior air force officers on the need to modernize the aging nuclear infrastructure. During the second presidential debate, a hint of his thinking.


TRUMP: Russia is new in terms of nuclear. We're old. We're tired. We're exhausted in terms of nuclear. A very bad thing.


STARR: Nuclear limits are limited by treaty. Today, Russia has 7,300 warheads. The U.S. just over 6900. The Obama administration gave up on the idea of a U.S. pledge for no first use of nuclear weapons, worried the idea could embolden Russia and China.

U.S. dismantling of its own arsenal has slowed in recent years.

Putin's nuclear vow came as he boasted of Russian military superiority after a year which saw successful Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee by the Russian military, sustained air strikes in Syria and continued occupation of Crimea.


PUTIN (through translator) Today, we are stronger than any potential aggressor. I repeat, any aggressor.


STARR: The Trump transition team later issued a statement saying the president-elect was really referring to nuclear proliferation, trying to make sure nuclear weapons are kept out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. But it is still not entirely clear whether Mr. Trump supports more nuclear weapons.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

HOWELL: Barbara Starr, thank you. Now let's go live to Moscow. CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is standing by live for us this hour. Matthew, good to have you with us.

Let's first talk about these two superpowers who have in the past committed to the idea of reducing their nuclear arsenals setting the leading example for the rest of the world. But now these latest comments from the Russian president and this tweet from the incoming U.S. president-elect make it seem like the arms race could be back on. What's the read there in Moscow from all of this?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I think it is a different situation to the Cold War between the two super powers of the Soviet Union and the United States.

I mean, Russia is no longer in that category. It still has nuclear weapons but it doesn't have a global reach in the same way that the Soviet Union had and it's not ideology opposed in the same way that it was during the Cold War to the west and to the United States.

[03:34:59] But you know, you're right, Donald Trump has been going on about this for a while throughout his campaign as well, how the United States needs to further modernize its arsenal of nuclear weapons.

What the Russian concern is that as anti-ballistic missile defenses are finalized and are improved on the part of NATO and the United States, in particular, that could have an impact on its own nuclear deterrent.

I mean, even though the United States and NATO insist that their anti- ballistic missile defenses are not aimed at Russia, that's not something that has ever been fully accepted by Moscow. They believe at a future point those anti-missile defenses could be turned on Russia's nuclear deterrent.

So, they want to make sure that their nuclear deterrent, which is the centerpiece of Russia's military power is not -- is not neutralized by these other defenses and can avoid missile defenses.

And so, you know, it seems like both countries now are talking about further modernizing their nuclear arsenals. You know what, there's a -- there's a good argument for that. I mean, we would rather have, wouldn't we, modern nuclear weapons rather than old rusty ones as it were.

And so, you know, it's not necessarily the first step towards, another step towards Armageddon that it may have been during the Cold War.

HOWELL: Matthew, it is nice, though, as you pointed out, from the perspective, just giving that nuance, important nuance to point out that these two nations the Soviet Union and United States were diametrically opposed to one other ideologically. So, not the same difference there, but again, these two nations do

have differences, and you know, when these type of things flair up it causes a great deal of concern and question.

I also want to talk about Vladimir Putin, he is set to hold his annual news conference. And as we have seen in the past, the topics he's willing to discuss they can be wide ranging. Are the people in the audience, though, able to ask any questions they want? That's question one. And two, Matthew, which topics do you expect to come up?

CHANCE: Well, in terms of the first question, I mean, to a large extent, this set piece event that Vladimir Putin has now done on 12 previous -- I think is the 12th occasion he's done it. They are highly choreographed. That means that some questions will be planted by journalists, by the Kremlin and journalists who are sympathetic towards them.

But that doesn't mean that some other journalists can't get in questions that perhaps Vladimir Putin was not entirely prepared for. I mean, he is a well-briefed president.

When he stands up there, he's got a lot of information at his fingertips. It is one of the characteristics of Vladimir Putin's events. I mean, that's why he's able and willing to do events like this that last several hours.

I mean, last year it lasted three hours and it's lasted longer than that in the past. Because he has a very high degree of command over facts, but, you know, he often talks about the economy.

He's going to be talking, I expect, about international terrorism and we have the assassination of the ambassador from Russia to Turkey just, what is it, four days ago now. He may well bring up that nuclear issue.

It's also an opportunity for, you know, people to journalists to throw him sort of random questions, perhaps about his personal life, which is normally off limits when it comes to talking about Vladimir Putin. And so, it's going to be interesting to watch.

HOWELL: Many people will be keeping a watch on that news conference. You say last year some three hours, and of course many people will keep an eye on Donald Trump's Twitter account, as well. Matthew Chance, live for us in Moscow, thank you.

ALLEN: Well, there is new evidence Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. The cyber security firm that first investigated the hack says the same hackers have been targeting the Ukrainian military.

CNN's Clare Sebastian reports from Washington.


DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, CO-FOUNDER & CTO, CROWDSTRIKE: In the summer of 2015, you have an initial intrusion into the DNC from Kosovo. CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The anatomy of a

cyber-attack that shifted the world's view of the Russian threat. This is the Washington, D.C. office of Dmitri Alperovitch, the cyber security firm CrowdStrike was hired earlier this year by the Democratic National Committee.


ALPEROVITCH: We were brought in May and that's when we merely discovered that both Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear were inside the DNC network.


SEBASTIAN: Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear two separate hacker groups both Alperovitch believed connected to Russian intelligence. Russia has repeatedly denied this. And yet, using their software called Falcon CrowdStrike was able to embed in the DNC network and watch.


ALPEROVITCH: This is the chain of commands that they are executing.

SEBASTIAN: So, when the president-elect says you have to catch them in the act.

ALPEROVITCH: Well, we did. We caught them in the act.


SEBASTIAN: Alperovitch grew up in the Soviet Union moving to the U.S. as a teenager in the 1990s. He said it wasn't the breach that shocked him. It was what happened next.


ALPEROVITCH: July, right before the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks...

[03:40:00] SEBASTIAN: Right.

ALPEROVITCH: ... discloses a lot of e-mails from the DNC.

SEBASTIAN: Had you ever seen this happen before, anything like this?

ALPEROVITCH: Well, actually we have observed just this type of behavior in Ukraine. The Russians have hacked into political parties of opposition candidates in Ukraine, they'll leak their e-mails, they'll leak their documents. But I never thought that they would do this in the United States. I just didn't think that they would have the goal to do that.


SEBASTIAN: The hack on the DNC computer network and the timed release of information found revealed not only the growing power of Russia in cyberspace but also raised questions as to whether the U.S. and other countries had underestimated this threat. Questions that are dividing Washington.


JOHN MCCAIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR: They are ahead of us in many respects in this whole issue of cyber warfare. Perhaps the only area where our adversaries have an advantage over us.

GREGORY MEEKS, NEW YORK STATE REPRESENTATIVE: If Russians want to have a cyber war in that regard, I feel confident that we are the best and we can do what we need to do in that regard.


SEBASTIAN: Gregory Meeks chaired the committee on Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats.


MEEKS: We have some big elections that are coming up in Europe in 2017. And it seems to me that the only one that has an interest to see a divide between the European countries and the United States and the west in general, to try to up their power is Russia. And so we have to make sure that we send a strong message back to them.


SEBASTIAN: So far, Alperovitch said, the message is not getting through.


ALPEROVITCH: Fancy Bear, we've seen a pickup in their activity after the election but now it's already Europe. I think it's now very likely that the same play book that they've executed successfully against the U.S. will be playing out and all of those countries in the coming year and I'm not sure that the Europeans are prepared for it.


SEBASTIAN: A play book, he says, where hacking is a means to an end. The real weapon in this cyber war is information.

Clare Sebastian, CNN, Washington.

HOWELL: It is a new world order with that, you know, when it comes to cyber and Russia. Certainly sophistication there, so, you know, the question is will we see this play out again in other nations.

ALLEN: Can we stay ahead of them.

HOWELL: Yes. Still ahead here on Newsroom, chilling new details on that huge fireworks explosion that many of you saw in Mexico.

ALLEN: But what one survivor went through to save his elderly mother. That's coming up.


HOWELL: There is outrage in the U.S. state of Texas after a police officer they arrested a mother who called to complain that a neighbor allegedly assaulted her young son. The relative of the woman uploaded this video that you see on Facebook. It happened on Wednesday in Fort Worth.

ALLEN: Now the officer approached the mother, who told him a neighbor choked her son, her 7-year-old because he reportedly littered. Here's what happened next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn't you teach your son not to litter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't. He came above to me that my son littered but it doesn't matter if he did or didn't. It doesn't him the right to put his hands on him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we don't.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we don't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This man is (Inaudible) This white man not have the...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you ask me why don't I teach him, you don't know what I teach him and you know, whatever you teach your kids don't mean they go by your rules when they're not in your sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't know that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you just pissed me off telling me what I teach my kids and what I don't.


ALLEN: And now you can just see how horrific that turned out.


ALLEN: The young woman in pink was her daughter who was just trying to help her mother. Then the officer arrested the mother and her two daughters, but not the neighbor who allegedly choked her boy.

HOWELL: Just looking at that video, many people, you know, there's a sense of frustration that boiled over. Especially in Fort Worth, Thursday night the officer has been placed on restrictive duty and the police department though, says this, in part. "We acknowledge that the initial appearance of the video may raise

serious questions. We ask that our investigators are given the time and opportunity to thoroughly examine this incident and to submit their findings." This is a story, of course, that we will continue to follow, as well.

ALLEN: Well, at least 35 people are now confirmed dead from that massive fireworks explosion in Mexico. Dozens escaped the Tuesday blast, but many are now recovering from serious injuries.

HOWELL: CNN's Leyla Santiago met with one survivors who is thankful to have survived.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Seeing something like this can be tough to watch. For Miguel seeing this video is too much. He can't watch the entire video and he doesn't need to. He was there.

So, Miguel is telling me that he thought he was dead but thank God he wasn't. When Miguel heard the explosion Tuesday afternoon his instinct told him to run but he couldn't leave behind his 84-year-old mother.

He went back to help her. And that's when as they were getting out together something struck him in the arm. His mother then fell down. Struck by debris they waited for rescue together and he remembers thinking his single mother never abandoned him. This time he was not about to abandon her.

And then his nephew and some other co-workers came in and they had to take him out carrying him and his mother as well. She is in the hospital in stable condition now. The two have been selling fireworks as one of hundreds of vendors in the famous San Pablito firework market just north of Mexico City.

Days ago, state officials called it one of the safest in Latin America. Yet he lived through blasts that rocked the market in 2005 and 2006.

I'm asking if he would go back to work. And he says, yes, that's with they live off of and that's what they will keep -- that's the industry in which they'll keep working.

He lives just a mile away from the fireworks market. This is a market that sells nearly 100 tons of fireworks annually. This industry, he explains, defines who they, are who he is. His family depends on it.

So he plans to continue this life once he can overcome the physical pain and the emotional pain. He tells me he's crying not only for himself but the lives that were lost. And all the injured that he saw there beyond himself.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Tultepec, Mexico.


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good day. I'm CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam with a quick look at your weather watch. We start over the Western United States where active weather is

starting to shape up for the course of the weekend. This is the latest satellite loop. We have snowfall across the four corners.

Good news for the ski resorts. But look at storm system impacting southern and central California, much-needed rain and snowfall for the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Also just to heads up, if you are traveling across Chicago even towards Des Moines we have the potential for a snowstorm.

We'll highlight that in just one second. Look at the winter storm threat over the western half of the United States. We have winter storm warnings, watches and advisories for many of the western states.

Here's a look at the winter weather advisory across parts of Wisconsin into Iowa and Minnesota. And then we look to southern California where we have a flash flood threat exists for the greater Los Angeles area, thanks to our oncoming storm systems, especially in those areas that have had recent forest fires. We could see mudslides through the course of the weekend.

We anticipate anywhere two to upwards of a half foot of snowfall across the Central Plains this weekend into the early parts of the weekend that could impact Chicago later today. Just to heads up, light snow anticipated to develop there.

There is a wet weather from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Look at the temperatures through the course of the holiday weekend warming up.

ALLEN: Cindy Stowell has become one of the most memorable champions of the popular TV game show "Jeopardy" and she did it without winning the most money.

HOWELL: Stowell showed a remarkable poise and strength that she fought a hopeless case of cancer while competing. She lost her life recently just days before her six-game winning streak aired on television.

CNN's Rachel Crane has more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cindy, congratulations, young lady. You are now a six-day champion.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cindy Stowell didn't live to see her episodes air but her "Jeopardy" journey and winning streak has captivated the nation.


CINDY STOWELL, ACTRESS: When you think the odds are completely against you, somehow, you know, via luck or something things can now work out.


CRANE: Stowell left behind inspiring words in a video that "Jeopardy" released on social media. Stowell also emotionally reveals her illness and her last wish.


STOWELL: I wanted to donate a lot of the money to cancer research, partly because this is hard -- I'm sorry. Maybe I should pause or something like this. But I'm dying of cancer and I really would like the money that I win to be used to help others and seems like an opportunity.


[03:55:09] CRANE: Stowell lost her battle with stage four cancer at 41, just eight days before her episode starting airing but her legacy includes leaving her winnings, over $100,000 to cancer research.


STOWELL: I'm overwhelmed by the amount of support that they've shown me.


CRANE: Stowell, a science content developer was a life-long "Jeopardy" fan.


STOWELL: I remember when I was in the ninth grade, I tried out for the teen tournament and I didn't pass the written exam.


CRANE: But flash forward decades later and Stowell passed the online test to become a contestant. She reached out to producers knowing that her time was limited.

In an e-mail she wrote, "Do you have any idea how long it typically takes between an in-person interview and the taping date. I ask because I just found out that I don't have too much longer to live."

Producers were able to expedite her taping and just three weeks later Stowell was on set. During that experience, Cindy had a fever and was on pain pills. Yet, she persevered and managed to keep her condition hidden from her competitors.


JASON HESS, CINDY STOWELL'S BOYFRIEND: When the lights were on, call it a surge of adrenaline or what, she was able to sort of fight through all that was going on.


CRANE: The host Alex Trebek paid tribute to the champ after her seventh and final appearance aired.


ALEX TREBEK, HOST: So, from all of us here at "Jeopardy" our sincere condolences to her family and friends.

HESS: We do sort of have a legacy of her and it's really kind of a great way that you know, she was able to leave something to be remembered by.


CRANE: Rachel Crane, CNN, New York.

ALLEN: How about that one. Thanks for watching. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Early Start is next for viewers here in the United States and for other viewers around the world, the news continues with Hannah Vaughan Jones, live in London.