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Trump at Odds With His Own Party; A Divided Israel; Modern Destruction of An Ancient City; A Threat to Health. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 5, 2017 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: A growing chasm. Senior republican slams Julian Assange after Donald Trump sides with the WikiLeaks founder on Russian hacking allegations.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This was done by the Russians, and I hope by Friday President-elect Trump will come to that realization and ignore Mr. Assange.


CHURCH: Israel's prime minister says he wants a pardon in a case that's causing deep divisions in Israel.

Also ahead, taking stop. What's left to the ancient Iraqi city of Nimrud after ISIS leaves in a hurry.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.

Donald Trump appears ready to take action against the U.S. intelligence community he's criticized for months. Sources with the transition say the president-elect wants to limit the power of the Director of National Intelligence. That office oversees 16 agencies.

A source says this push comes from Trump's pick for national security adviser. Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was pushed out of the Defense Intelligence Agency back in 2014.

Trump's plans for the U.S. intelligence agency come while he remains doubtful of Russia's involvement in allege hacking during the presidential campaign.

Sara Murray reports Trump's stance puts him at odds with leaders of his open party.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Donald Trump's relentless skepticism toward U.S. intelligence and praise for Julian Assange, highlighting a sharp split between the president-elect and other GOP leaders. House Speaker Paul Ryan unleashing a wave of criticism against the WikiLeaks founder who published the hacked e-mails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta. (BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the guy is a sycophant for Russia. He leaks. He steals data and compromises natural security.


MURRAY: As Senator Lindsey Graham offers this advice to Trump.


GRAHAM: Not only should he ignore Julian Assange, he should condemn him for what he's done to our country.


MURRAY: Assange insist his information isn't coming from the Russian government.


JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: Our source is not a state party. So, the answer for our interactions is no.


MURRAY: As CIA Director Brennan questions his credibility.


JOHN BRENNAN, UNITED STATES CIA DIRECTOR: He's not exactly a passion of truth and integrity.


MURRAY: And implore skeptics to wait for the upcoming intelligence report on Russia.


BRENNAN: I would suggest to individuals who have not seen the report, who have not yet been briefed on it, that they wait and see what it is that the intelligence community is putting forward before they make those judgments.


MURRAY: Today, Vice President-elect Mike Pence is backing up his boss's leeriness of U.S. intelligence.


MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think that the president-elect has expressed his very sincere and healthy American skepticism about intelligence conclusions. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, Sean Spicer, the incoming press secretary for Donald Trump's administration said it's not the raw data, the raw intelligence that Donald Trump is questioning when it comes to Russia, but rather the conclusions that intelligence agencies are drawing. He said Donald Trump looks forward to a face-to-face meeting to learn more about these conclusions that's slated for Friday.

Sara Murray, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: More for on all of this we are joined by Susan Hennessey, she is a fellow in national security in governance at the Brookings Institution and a former attorney at the NSA. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So, president-elect Donald Trump hasn't even taken office yet, and sources are telling us that he plans to shake up the intelligence community and may even limit the power of the Director of the National Intelligence. What are you hearing about that?

HENNESSEY: Right. So, actually on criticism of ODNI, which was formed after 9/11 and was one of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission is certainly not new. And this is something republicans have suggested in the past.

However, most of the thinking in the intelligence community has evolved to see the value of ODNI. There's certainly nothing alarming or wrong about an incoming president wanting to change the way the intelligence community is structured. But there are of course, concerns with the method in which it's being done and potentially the motivations.

CHURCH: Now, Mr. Trump is openly siding with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who's seen as an enemy of the United States, what does that signal, and how does the intelligence community dealing with that? What do you know from behind the scenes?

[03:05:02] HENNESSEY: Right. So, the idea that the intelligence community is staffed by thin-skinned individuals whose feelings are hurt by a tweet, I don't think that's accurate.

However, it's certainly is significant and alarming that the incoming president would be questioning not only their judgments, and relying on Julian Assange over the assessments of the CIA and NSA, but also that he would be questioning their motivations, I mean, suggesting that their findings weren't actually reflections of fact but instead political judgments.

CHURCH: Now Vice President-elect Mike Pence is standing firmly behind Donald Trump. He thinks he has a healthy skepticism, but others in the GOP, like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan, they see Assange and Russia as the bad guys here, so where's this all going, and what impact might this issue have on the Republican Party going forward?

HENNESSEY: So, certainly skepticism of the intelligence community and of intelligence findings is healthy, and we should welcome it. That's not exactly what we're hearing from Donald Trump in this case. He really is questioning the motive. He's suggesting that the intelligence community has become overly politicized.

That is really another way of saying that he thinks the intelligence community is lying, that they are making a finding, they're representing facts that they don't actually believe to be true.

That's deeply problematic for the relationship between the president- elect and his intelligence community going forward. And it's really at odds with traditional conservative and republican positions. That tend to back quite strongly not just the intelligence community but also robust national security authorities. And healthy relationship between the White House and his intelligence services.

CHURCH: And I have to ask you, too, who benefits from Mr. Trump's daily attacks on the U.S. intelligence community?

HENNESSEY: So, I think this is one element that's a little bit baffling for most people. And to understand even if Donald Trump had questions about the veracity of these intelligence findings, I mean, why exactly he's taking to Twitter, not only taking to Twitter to question the judgment, but also to essentially mock the intelligence community.

So early on, we saw him saying, you know, these are the same people that thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, now putting the word intelligence sort of in scare quotes. Really the tone of that engagement it's baffling and it's disturbing.

CHURCH: Now I did want to ask you how people within the intelligence community are feeling about their new incoming President Donald Trump, you said they don't have thin skin. But does this impact or could this possibly impact the way they do their job going forward if they feel that their own president doesn't really trust what they're providing him with?

HENNESSEY: So, certainly nobody wants to not be in good with their new boss. And so I'm sure that they are rather sensitive to the notion that Donald Trump doesn't trust them. And I'm sure they will want to win his trust and approval, in part because they understand the importance of their work and the value of what they do to the security of the United States.

CHURCH: All right, Susan Hennessey, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your perspective and background on this, we appreciate it.

Well, Donald Trump and countless republicans have repeatedly vowed to repeal Obamacare, and with Trump set to take office in just over two weeks, their goal is in sight. But there's growing concern about how to replace the health care law.

CNN's Manu Raju reports. MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Tonight, republicans taking

their first steps to dismantle Obamacare. But President Obama is rallying his party to defend his centerpiece of his legacy. And meeting with Senate and house republicans, Vice President-elect Mike Pence making clear that repealing the law will be Donald Trump's top priority as president.


PENCE: But the first order of business is to repeal and replace Obamacare. And that was our message today and it will be our message on Capitol Hill, and it needs to be done.


RAJU: In the Senate, republicans vowed to pave the way for repeal in a matter of weeks. But more questions than answers about what the GOP intends to replace it with, and that has rank and file republicans increasingly worried.

Speaking to democrats on a rare trip to Capitol Hill, sources said Obama warned that republicans would pay a steep political price for trying to gut the law. And he told democrats not to quote, "rescue the GOP" by giving them vote on a replacement plan, of course than the Affordable Care Act, the president branding the new GOP plan, Trump care.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look out for the American people.

RAJU: Would you work with them in finding a replacement?

BOB CASEY, UNITED STATES SENATOR: I am not going to cooperate with republicans when they try to repeal a bill that takes away health care for children, prescription drug cost benefits for seniors.

[03:10:09] They have no plan to protect seniors. So, you're damn right, we're going to fight them.


RAJU: Getting rid of Obamacare was a centerpiece of his campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Repeal and replace with something terrific.


RAJU: But today, even the president-elect is voicing concern warning in a series of tweets, "Republicans must be careful and that the dems own the failed Obamacare disaster," adding, "Don't let the Schumer clowns out of the web." Now that last comment in reference to new Senate democratic Leader

Chuck Schumer, who called Trump's plan, quote, "Make America sick again." Schumer has warned that his party won't work with Trump to replace the law if the GOP guts it.


CHUCK SCHUMER, UNITED STATES SENATOR: We are telling the republicans, show, if you are repealing, show us what you'll replace it with first. They're repealing. We're not. It's their obligation to come up with replace first, and I think we have unanimity within our democratic caucus on that position.


RAJU: Now in order to repeal the law the republicans will need to get 51 votes in the United States Senate, I mean, they cannot afford to lose more than three republicans and already yesterday they lost one republican, that is Rand Paul of Kentucky who voted against the proposal, because he believes it will expand the budget deficit.

So if Rand Paul, other republican senators join Rand Paul, it could be a problem, and that is before we even talk about replacing the law, where republicans will need to get eight democratic senators to join with them in order to get a replacement enacted, and right now there's no indication that that may happen.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

CHURCH: Chinese state media is blasting Donald Trump over his use of Twitter to conduct foreign policy. An editorial published by Xinhua says, "Trump's obsession with Twitter diplomacy is undesirable." It goes on to say, "It is commonly accepted that diplomacy is not a child's game and even less is it business dealing."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports a pardon for an Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter. The soldier faces up to 20 years in prison for shooting a Palestinian man who lay wounded after allegedly trying to stab another Israeli soldier.

Our CNN's Oren Liebermann reports the case has deeply divided Israelis.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds of protesters gather outside the heavily guarded ministry of defense, chanting "death to terrorist" and "our soldier are here." Inside, that soldier Elor Azaria who was found guilty of manslaughter and improper conduct. The verdict unanimous from a three member of military judges.

This case started back in March when Azaria was a soldier in Tel Rumeida, an Israeli enclave in the city of Hebron a largely Palestinian city in the southern West Bank. The Israeli military says two Palestinian defended the stab soldiers at a checkpoint there. One Palestinian assailant was shot and killed.

The other, Abed al-Fattah al-Sharif was shot and subdued, lying on the ground. The military says 11 minutes later, Azaria walked up and shot one bullet into the forehead of the wounded Palestinian suspect, killing him.

At issue was whether Azaria acted out of self-defense or vengeance. Azaria claimed he was afraid for his life, but the judges systematically rejected nearly every point in Azaria's defense.

Military prosecutors making it clear this wasn't an easy day for them or for Israel.


NADAV VAISMAN, IDF PROSECUTOR (through translator): This is not a happy day for us. We'd preferred if this act would not have been done and Azaria would not have to stand trial, but the act was carried out and the offense was serious. Therefore, it was necessary to charge and Azaria was convicted according to the law.


LIEBERMANN: This case divided Israeli society. The military here is supposed to be the great unifier, transcending differences in beliefs, cultures and backgrounds, but this case truly split people, between those who sided with the soldier and those who sided with the military leadership who said, no soldiers above the military code of ethics.

At the time, Israel was facing increased criticism for its soldiers being too quick to pull the trigger, using too much force against a wave of Palestinian stabbing and ramming attacks. Azaria became the lightning rod for that criticism.

Right wing politicians have demanded Azaria be pardoned, his lawyers promised an appeal and accused the military court of biased.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is a harsh verdict that rejected all of the defense's arguments. We claimed from the beginning that the military court was in favor of the prosecution, and we brought evidence for it.


LIEBERMANN: At times it seemed it wasn't the soldier on trial but the very values of the Israeli military, a dangerous prospect in a country where nearly every Jewish teenager serves in the armed forces.

[03:15:06] It pitted the military versus the soldier here, in a trial whose controversy will continue long after the appeals are finished.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Tel Aviv.

CHURCH: We'll take a very short break here. But still to come, dozens were killed in an Istanbul nightclub over New Year, we will take you inside that club where the terror attack unfolded.

Also jurors in a U.S. courtroom hear a young man's chilling confession about killing innocent people without remorse.


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

As London Derbies go, there was awful a lot on the line when Chelsea traveled to Tottenham on Wednesday in the English Premier League. The night belonged to Dele Alli. He scored a brace in the EPL for the third in a row. He's the first midfielder to ever do so. First won 2- nil on the night. And the win man that Chelsea's record of 13 consecutive EPL wins comes to a dramatic end.

Serena Williams will be looking to reclaim the world number one ranking in 2017. But things didn't go the way she wanted to in New Zealand. The 22-time major champion crashed out of the second round of the AFC classic in Auckland, she lost to the 72nd ranked fellow American Madison Brengle.

The one previous time two players has played two years ago, Serena crushed Brengle 6 lap 6-1. But on Wednesday the former world number one was unable to find her form, losing in three sets.

And the Brazilian football Chapecoense which lost the majority of its players in that devastating plane crash last year welcomed some new faces. The first three of 20 new players were unveiled to the media. The new signings post with smiles on the club shirts after agreeing to move to the club early still in mourning.

Chapecoense will play their first home game since the disaster at the end of this month.

And that is a look at all your World Sport headlines. I'm Kate Riley.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, Turkish police say they know who carried out the attack on an Istanbul nightclub over New Year's. But they still don't know where he is. Police have been ramping up their raids around the country, arresting 20 people with suspected ties to ISIS on Wednesday.

Some of those people are thought to have lived with the gunman. Turkey's president called for unity after the attack.


[03:19:57] RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): I'm aware that as our nations is huge, believe me, me too are angry before what has been happening as much as yourselves, and we are hurt and sad.

But we also know that the whole purpose of all this being experienced is to upset our stability and to make us fight at each other.


CHURCH: Our Sara Sidner was given access to the nightclub where this attack happened. Here's what she found.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In order to get to the Reina nightclub from the Bosporus, you of course have to take a boat. We're now entering where this massacre happened. It's truly in a beautiful spot. From the beautiful terrace, which is on the Bosporus, you really can't see any damage, but the moment you walk in you can see the very first bullet hole that we've been able to see from this attack.

That is definitely a high-caliber weapon, huge hole. That's blood from a victim on the wall right beneath the large bullet hole. To get some idea of just how frightened people were, look what they left behind. Shoes, coats, there are purses. There are glasses. And scarves.

We also see a hat, and that is stained with blood. This is the bar in the dance club area where people would eat and drink, dance and enjoy themselves. This area is where people sort to tried to hide behind anything they could. But in the end, this place where we're standing was strewn with bodies.

From what we can see, this is the area that seems to have the most bullet holes, and the holes are huge. But surprisingly there aren't that many considering all the shooting that happened that night, and that is because the terrorist was targeting people one by one by one.

This is the view from the Reina across the Bosporus. And you're looking at the age of sight with its rolling helms and beautiful mosques. This is why people came here. It is incredibly picturesque.

But now, so many people will remember that a slaughter happened here. And the owner is really struggling with figuring out whether or not he will open up this club again. He says he'll leave it up to his employees who both saved people and died here.

CHURCH: Sara Sidner reporting there.

Well, Chicago police have arrested a woman who streamed a horrifying attack live on Facebook. Three other people connected to the beating are also in custody. We do need to warn you, this video is very disturbing.

This man who has special needs was tied up in a corner with his mouth covered. His attackers beat and cut him. They yelled racially-charged language and anti-Trump obscenities at him.


EDDIE JOHNSON, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT SUPERINTENDENT: This is, it's sickening. You know, it makes you wonder what would make individuals treat somebody like that. You know, so, I've been a cop for 28 years, and I've seen things that you shouldn't see in a lifetime. But it still amazes me how you still see things that you just shouldn't, so I'm not going to say it shocked me, but it was sickening.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: And police say the man's parents received text messages that

he was being held captive days after he'd gone missing. They also say the man is so traumatized that he can barely talk about what happened.

And now to a chilling confession from a convicted mass murder who could be put to death in the United States. Not only did Dylann Roof admit killing nine African-Americans in cold blood inside a church, he said he only felt pity for himself.

CNN's Martin Savidge has the latest from Charleston in South Carolina.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The one thing we have known is that Dylann Roof has been a prolific writer. He had a manifesto that was a journal handwritten that was found inside his car when he was captured. Now it turns out and it was only revealed today by the prosecution that Dylann Roof also kept a jailhouse journal.

It was discovered by authorities they say six weeks after he had been captured. And if you thought that during the time while behind bars and after all of the horrific deaths of which he's now been accused he had some kind of a "come to Jesus" moment or maybe reflected upon it and began to have some remorse, absolutely not according to the prosecution.

Let me read you two excerpts from it. One begins, "I do not regret what I did." Let me just preface that. He started by saying, "Let me be crystal clear, I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed."

He went on. "I have shed a tear of self-pity for myself. I feel pity that I had to do what I did in the first place. I feel pity that I had to give up my life because of a situation that never should have existed."

[03:25:04] Again, the words of Dylann Roof as he wrote them in a jailhouse journal. And it was read by the prosecution, you could hear in the area where family members and victim's family members where disgust and groans.

CHURCH: All right. We'll take a very short break here, but still to come, Russia is firing back at the United States, Moscow's response to claims it's carrying out a scorched-earth policy in Syria.

Plus, thick fog and air pollution is making life difficult for many people in China. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam will have more in just a moment.


CHURCH: A warm welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. Time to check the main stories we've been following this hour.

Donald Trump appears to be siding with Julian Assange on the alleged U.S. campaign hacking. He tweeted his support for the WikiLeaks founder statement that Russia was not the source of leaked information. The U.S. intelligence community insist Moscow is to blame.

Chinese state media is slamming Trump's use of Twitter to conduct foreign policy. A Xinhua editorial says it's commonly accepted that diplomacy is not a child's game.

On Monday, Trump tweeted China isn't doing enough to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Israel's Prime Minister says a soldier convicted of manslaughter should be pardoned. On Wednesday, a military court convicted Elor Azaria for shooting a Palestinian man who lay wounded after allegedly trying to stab another Israeli soldier last year. Azaria faces up to 20 years behind bars.

[03:30:13] Well, Russia is responding to a claim from the CIA director that Moscow is carrying out a scorched-earth policy in Syria. The defense ministry says the U.S. is trying to weaken Syria's legitimate government by destroying its economic infrastructure.

Senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen joins me now live from Moscow with more on this. So, Fred, how exacty does Russia think the U.S. is destroying Syria's economic infrastructure as the defense ministry suggests?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What you could tell, Rosemary, that the Russians were quite angry about those comments made by CIA Director John Brennan in that interview with PBS where he accused Russia of that scorched-earth policy in Syria.

Obviously, first and foremost referring to places like Aleppo and that recent and very harsh campaign that was carried out there. Now the spokesman for the Russian defense ministry, Genera Igor Konashenkov went on a pretty long rant against the United States, going all the way back to, you know, the use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima, Nagasaki to Vietnam, to Laos and Cambodia.

So, he really, you know, put out a pretty long rant out there, but he says that basically, in the areas that are under ISIS control, in the areas where the U.S. is carrying out airstrikes, he says that a lot of civilian infrastructure was destroyed there in those airstrikes.

And that none of the oil fields that ISIS holds in the east of Syria, that none of those were targeted, and that was sort of what he was trying to get at, is that on the one hand, a lot of the civilian infrastructure where, you know, he mentions things like roads, things like water plants and the like were being targeted, he claims.

That's obviously something that the U.S. has denied. They say that their airstrikes are very, very accurate, trying to pinpoint ISIS leaders, a lot of them carried out with drones to minimize any sort of collateral damage. And he says that they've been very soft on ISIS's holdings on those oil areas in the east of Syria, which ISIS has still held onto.

So, certainly, a very long rant, and you could tell that the Russians were very, very angry about those comments made from the CIA director.

CHURCH: Yes. Indeed. And Fred, how is Moscow expecting U.S. Policy in Syria may change under the new leadership of Donald Trump?


CHURCH: Is anything being said about that?

PLEITGEN: I think that you can really tell how Russia is sort of trying to shape the battlefield, if you will, in Syria before Donald Trump takes office. You could tell that they really had a sense of urgency, especially in the Aleppo campaign, where they wanted Aleppo to fall back into the hands of the Assad government before Donald Trump took office.

You could tell that the campaign was accelerated. And I think first and foremost from analysts that we've been speaking to here, from people who also know senior Russian leaders, I think the thing that Russia wants most from the United States is to stay out of its way in Syria.

The Russians have gone all in with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They believe that they can take back the entire country, not just from rebel groups but from ISIS as well.

And right now, of course, we're also going, I wouldn't say into a partnership, but at least cooperating in many ways with Turkey as well. And one of the things you keep hearing in Moscow all the time is that, look, you can criticize the way that Russia is conducting this campaign, but it is producing results.

On the one hand, you have them taking back Aleppo, obviously President Assad is in power much more so than he was or his grip on power is much tighter than it was a couple months, a couple years ago, and at the same time you can tell that the cooperation with the Turks has led to gains against ISIS as well, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, the world is watching very closely to see how things may change after January 20 when it comes to many foreign policy issues.

Our Fred Pleitgen joining us there with that live report from Moscow, just after 11.30 in the morning. Many thanks.

Well, Julian Assange first came to prominence in 2006 with the launch of his web site WikiLeaks, ever since, his massive releases of classified documents have made him a thorn in the side of the U.S. and other governments.

CNN's Gary Tuchman takes a closer look.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This video from 2007 was secret, until WikiLeaks released it in 2010.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. I estimate there's about 20 of them.

TUCHMAN: U.S. Apache helicopter crew members see a group of suspected insurgents in Iraq and say they see rocket-propelled grenades. They get permission to fire. Turns out, two journalists from Reuters are among the group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me know when you get them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Line them all up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is two, traffic to safety.



TUCHMAN: At least a dozen people killed in the attack. Some innocent civilians, including the news crew.

[03:35:03] Release of this video helped make the founder of WikiLeaks, an Australian named Julian Assange, a household name.

Later in 2010, more than a quarter million confidential State Department cables were released by Assange and WikiLeaks. The documents revealing information that included Arab leaders were lobbying the U.S. to attack Iran. And suggested U.S. diplomats were told to engage in low-level spying.

Many politicians, democrats and republicans, outraged that classified information had been released.


PETER KING, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I'm calling on the Attorney General in supporting his efforts to fully prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder for violating the Espionage Act, and also calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare WikiLeaks a foreign terrorist organization.


TUCHMAN: None of that happened. The following year, Julian Assange appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes.


ASSANGE: I'm sure there are certain views among Hillary Clinton and her lot that we are subverting their authority. But you're right. We are subverting illegitimate authority. The question is whether the authority is legitimate or whether it's illegitimate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you consider the U.S. State Department a legitimate authority?

ASSANGE: It's legitimate insofar as its actions are legitimate. It has actions that are not legitimate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TUCHMAN: Since 2006, millions of classified and sensitive military

and diplomatic documents were released to and by Assange and WikiLeaks. And that's the only controversy surrounding Assange. He's been holed up for more years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after being accused by Swedish authorities for sexual assault. Charges he has denied.

Ecuador granted him asylum after charges were brought. But even in the embassy, WikiLeaks and Assange have been active. Just before the Democratic National Convention began this summer, WikiLeaks published thousands of leaked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The question of anger that you're interfering in the U.S. election, you say this is what you're, that your readers are American, and therefore it's OK?

ASSANGE: Well, it's what our readers demand. It's also our basic principles that the publication of true information and that's an important qualifier. True information about modern institutions allows us to understand what they're doing and therefore to reform them.


TUCHMAN: With the continuing release of DNC documents in the months after the convention, the overwhelming consensus among U.S. intelligence is that the Russian government is behind the leaks to WikiLeaks. And here's what Assange said about that in his most recent TV appearance.


ASSANGE: We can say, we have said repeatedly over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government, and it is not state party.


TUCHMAN: So who is Assange's source? He's not saying. While the mystery about the man and his methods continues.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.

CHURCH: And still to come here on CNN Newsroom, the modern destruction of an ancient city. CNN travels to Nimrud in northern Iraq to see the irreparable damage caused by ISIS.

Plus, a choking nuisance for residents of China socked in by a thick blanket of fog and smog. Stay with us for those details.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, family and friends are celebrating the return of a female Iraqi journalist who was kidnapped and interrogated. Afrah al-Qaisi was abducted from her home by a group of unknown gunmen

on December 26th. She was with her family, and her brother-in-law was beaten when he tried to stop the abduction. Al-Qaisi says she was kidnapped because of an article she wrote, accusing Iranian men of sexually harassing Iraqi women during a religious pilgrimage. She says the men interrogated her for four days before deciding she was innocent.


AFRAH AL-QAISI, IRAQI JOURNALIST (through translator): I want to thank the security forces and all their formation who stood by me and are standing by all Iraqi women. I pray Iraqi women never be humiliated. My God give strength to the security forces.


CHURCH: Al-Qaisi is well-known in Iraq for criticizing the government in satirical articles and for calling out corruption. She's a freelance journalist for various news outlets.

And in northern Iraq, the world heritage site of Nimrud is finally free of ISIS, and once again under Iraqi control but it will never be the same. ISIS spent two years destroying the site's priceless stone art work dating back thousands of years. The wholesale destruction also revived rumors of an ancient curse.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has that story.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was an orgy of obliteration, rapped in the usual slick production. No one boast barbarity like ISIS. In the spring of last year, the extremists meticulously documented their destruction of the ruins of the ancient Syrian city of Nimrud founded in the 13th century B.C.

They took their sledgehammers to the city's famous winged bulls, the Lamassu reducing them to a pile of rubble. Iraqi forces recently retook Nimrud just south of Mosul. We came to have a look, lone visitors to a lonely hilltop that hasn't seen a tourist in years.

The scale of the vandalism that took place here boggles the mind. Only ISIS could turn ruins into ruins. By some estimates in northern Iraq, the extremist group destroyed or severely damaged around 80 sites, archaeological ones like this one as well as Muslim and Christian shrines.

Through the warped lens of ISIS's logic, all idols must be destroyed. Their every action here nothing less than utter contempt for Iraq's rich multi-millennial history. And that includes the remains of the vast Syrian empire that once stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. The ruthless super power of its day.

The statues, the Cuneiform inscriptions now lay in pieces exposed to the elements. In ancient Mesopotamia ordinary structures like houses or shops were made with mud bricks with time they simply turned into dust. [03:45:04] But for the statues of the gods and the kings, they used

the stone. The purpose was that they would last for eternity. That is until ISIS came along.

Archaeologists may someday be able to piece some of this together, but that won't happen until the war against ISIS comes to an end. There is gold in this hill.

In 1989, Iraqi archaeologists uncovered what became known as the treasure of Nimrud. More than 600 pieces of gold, jewelry and ornaments, considered to be one of the greatest archeological finds in history, no doubt ISIS not above the love of money was searching for more treasure when their cameras weren't rolling.

But the Syrians built their tombs here with a curse, damning the souls of those who violated their sanctity to wander in thirst through the countryside restless for eternity. A curse that may soon come true.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Nimrud, Northern Iraq.

CHURCH: Well, Chinese weather officials have renewed alerts for air pollution and fog in parts of the country. And this video from Beijing shows just how thick the smog is. Look at this. It's also caused many flight cancellations of course.

Winter is typically the most polluted season in China when the country burns more coal to power heaters.

And Derek Van Dam our meteorologist joins me now in the studio to talk more about this. Because of course when you're looking at this sort of smog you're going to have healthy problems -- health problem.



CHURCH: And that, and asthma is one of the biggest things here.

VAN DAM: Right. We start talking about the size of these pollutants, and you understand why it's so dangerous for people who have asthma. People who have elderly family members or perhaps even young children. They're so susceptible to these small, small little particles.

I'll explain that to you. Take a look at this. You've seen the images, really coming out of Beijing. They're really no -- not familiar with this site. I mean, we've seen this so time and time again. We seem to talk about this so frequently, but why is it so unhealthy for the people there and people across the world who have to deal with this thick level of pollution.

It all comes to the size of these particles, combustion particles. The coal-powered plants that burn coal to help heat the houses in northeast China, and we're talking about microns, people. I mean, this is significantly smaller than a human hair, for instance, where 50-70 microns in diameter. Sand is 90 microns in diameter. The combustion particles less than two and a half microns. You can

imagine just how small that is and how easy it is for to get trapped within your lungs, making it so dangerous for people with breathing problems like asthma.

Now if you take a look at the satellite image, we'll kind of defer between the fog that is overhead and the smog that is in place across Beijing. That milky kind of white material there you see south of Beijing, that is the smog that is in place across northeast China. The white that you're seeing is actually the fog.

So, they have almost a one-two punch. You can imagine that the heavy air pollution and the fog leading to the reduced visibility, sometimes less than 50 meters at times.

And meteorologists use what is called the air quality index or the AQI to determine just how unhealthy and how low the visibility is. And you can see that within the past seven days it has been beyond what the index can actually read.

Current levels actually have improved somewhat. We're at about 255 AQI, air quality index. And there is some promising outlooks in the future, there is a bit of rain just to the south in Shanghai that's going to slowly move north. And with that change in the weather pattern, that helps stir things up a bit, helps move the clouds, the fog, and the smog away from the city.

So, we'll start to get into a little bit better of a weather pattern for the -- for northeast China, but still very, very unprecedented pollution that they've had to deal with, and we don't really see this improving anytime soon. I mean, considering that coal is such a major part of their industry there.

CHURCH: Yes. They really need to consider some firm action there.


VAN DAM: Absolutely.

CHURCH: Thank you so much, Derek. I appreciate it.

Well, we all know the story. An iceberg sank the unsinkable Titanic, or do we? Up next, historians reveal the evidence they say proves fire doomed the luxury liner. We'll explain when we come back.


CHURCH: When the RMS Titanic steamed from England to New York in 1912, it was ahead of its time. The unsinkable ship infamously sank on that maiden voyage due to an iceberg. Well, now some historians are setting fire to that idea.

Jeanne Moos explains.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the world's most famous iceberg... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iceberg straight ahead.

MOOS: ... being put on ice?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iceberg straight ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to stop starboard.

MOOS: Did fire and ice team up to sink the Titanic? That's what a new documentary scheduled to air later this month on the Smithsonian channel says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New evidence of an overlooked incident affecting the super ship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this anomaly in the hull. Wow.

MOOS: Titanic experts Senan Molony says recently uncovered photos show a 30-foot mark on the Titanic's hull.


SENAN MOLONY, TITANIC EXPERT: The first index struck us was that this is the exact location, not only where the iceberg strikes but also where there had been a spontaneous coal fire all through the maiden voyage in 1912.


MOOS: Molony says surviving firemen from the ship spoke about the fire when they reached land.


MOLONY: Quoted every one of them as saying that there was a serious fire on board.


MOOS: Even if we never heard about it from Leonardo or Kate, more than flying below decks, it's believed the coal fire had burned for days as crew members tried to put it out.


[03:55:00] MOLONY: That level of temperature is robbing the steel, it's turning it soft or it's losing 75 percent of its strength.


MOOS: Weakening the hull right where the iceberg hit. The fire theory is a news it's been smoldering for years. It was addressed at the official inquiry but played down. Some on social media mocked the resurrected theory, "The lookout was texting at the time of impact." Do you think the iceberg is getting a bad rap?


MOLONY: It's not the iceberg acting alone. The iceberg had co- conspirators, if you like.


MOOS: It would be ironic if fire would take some of the heat off the iceberg.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: All right, well, if you are a parent with one of those Amazon Echo voice assistants, listen up. A 6-year-old girl in Texas used the device commonly referred to as Alexa to go shopping without her mum knowing, and look what she got, a full-pound tin-full of sugar cookies and a $160 kid cross sparkle mansion dollhouse. The catch? Amazon records all the conversations, so mom was able to find out how it all happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alexa, order me a dollhouse and some cookies.

MEGAN NEITZEL: Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse? She immediately said Alexa, I love you. I said of course you do.


CHURCH: How about that. Well, mom says they are not keeping the dollhouse, but they did eat some of the cookies, and yes, they also set up a pass code for future purchases. That would have been a good idea in the start, right?

Well, I'm Rosemary Church. Thanks for your company. The news continues after the break with Max Foster in London. And you have yourselves a great day.