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Democrats Prepare to Grill Trump Cabinet Nominees; China's Jack Ma Promises Jobs at Trump Meeting; Trump Slams Meryl Streep for Criticizing Golden Globes Speech; Roger Federer Returns to the Court. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 10, 2017 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:24] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --


VAUSE: Hello. Thanks for staying with us. I'm John Vause. We're now into the third hour of NEWSROOM L.A.

In the coming hours, the first Senate confirmation hearings begin for two of President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet choices. It could be a rough going for at least one of them, the attorney general nominee, Republican Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. In an unprecedented move, fellow sitting Senator Democrat Cory Booker heads to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify against Sessions. His nomination is controversial because of allegedly racially tinged comments he made in the past. Booker told MSNBC that Sessions' is record is cause for concern.


SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D), NEW JERSEY: Please understand, I think these are extraordinary times and call for extraordinary measures. There's a whole spectrum of things and Jeff Sessions own words represent a real threat to vulnerable populations in this country. And it's something I feel necessary to do everything I can to speak out against.


VAUSE: On the same day Sessions will head to Capitol Hill, President Obama will deliver his farewell address to the nation. He'll speak Tuesday from Chicago where his political career began.

And on Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump will hold his first news conference in more than 160 days, and his first since winning the November election.

Joining me now Shawn Steel, a member of the California Republican National Committee; and Ethan Bearman, a talk radio show host in California.

Thanks for coming in.

One appointee, who will not have a confirmation hearing, is Jared Kushner, the president-elect's son-in-law. He will be the senior advisor in the White House. Democrats have a lot of concerns with this, in particular, are anti-nepotism laws. This is what the law says, "A public official may not appoint, employment, promote, advance or advocate for appointment employment promotion or advancement to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving in which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official."

It's complicated but, basically, it says he can't really do it.

So, Shawn, why do these laws not apply to the president.

SHAWN STEEL, (D), MEMBER, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: For one thing, it's not even the old-fashioned term nepotism. He's not going to get paid very much. He has to sign financial disclosure forms, a federal conflict-of-interest form. So, there's a lot of scrutiny already. If he's going to do anything that's going to be useful, the last thing he wants to do is get his father-in-law into trouble.

He also comes from a long family of Democrats. His father and his grandfather have been major donors in the Democrat Party nationally. For the Democrats to turn on one of their own is ironic.

VAUSE: Ethan, is there enough wiggle room for Kushner appointed to this position? How is this different from when Hillary Clinton when she was first lady appointed by Bill Clinton to oversee health reform?

ETHAN BEARMAN, CALIFORNIA TALK RADIO HOST: The different is, first, the first lady gets involved in numerous issues going back to Nancy Reagan in my lifetime. It's different on that alone. But Jared Kushner will be able to get the position by skirting the anti-nepotism laws because that was more directed at cabinet positions.

Look, I'm not a fan of Jared Kushner in the first place. We don't need another real estate magnate in the White House, who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. I don't know that he's the right person to provide another unique perspective in advising the president.

VAUSE: Shawn, you touched on he would divest himself of a lot of his business interests. There are still questions of a conflicts of interest. "The New York Times" reported over the weekend he held that meeting with a Chinese financial group with close ties to Beijing. There are a lot of questions here for Kushner. If he has to divest himself of all of his investments, why doesn't his father-in-law?

STEEL: We don't know how much they're going to divest or step aside. They all understand the pressure, they all understand that the "New York Times" solitary function is to attack Trump 24 hours a day and understand the scrutiny. And I'm going to suggest or think that they're going to be -- they're hyper sensitive about that and they're going to take extra steps to try to remove that parent conflict of interest. When have successful human beings, that's going to always be an ever-present issue. The question is, do they use those powers to enrich themselves? In this age of transparency and video recording, it's going to get hard to get away with a lot of that.

[02:05:10] VAUSE: Shawn is saying trust me.


VAUSE: It's a low-trust world we're in right now.

BEARMAN: Exactly. Here's the problem -- and Shawn knows this as well as anybody. You can layer corporations in ways that it's impossible, there is no transparency. You can hide transactions around the world. This is the biggest problem we have with Donald Trump's promise that he hasn't held up, which is to release his tax returns.

VAUSE: Donald Trump had his own meeting with the Chinese billionaire on Monday, Jack Ma, the founder of the e-commerce site Alibaba. This is what he said after the meeting.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a great meeting. It's jobs. You just saw what happened with Fiat where they're going to build massive plants in the United States in Michigan. We're very happy. And Jack and I are going to do some great things.

Small business, right?

JACK MA, FOUNDER, ALIBABA: Focus on small business.


VAUSE: Let's bring in "CNN Money's" Asia-Pacific editor, Andrew Stevens, live in Hong Kong.

Andrew, the big headline was the promise to create a million jobs in the United States. What are the details?

ANDREW STEVENS, ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR: Absolutely. Big, big things for small business, John. The details are few and far between to be honest. It's a big statement. It's a bode statement. It's also quite a vague statement. It's something that we do know that Jack Ma, who founded Alibaba has been focusing on for some time. He wrote an op-ed for the "Wall Street Journal" about seven months ago, saying what he wants to do is connect small businesses in the west including the U.S. Obviously with this growing consumer class in the east in China, the biggest, fastest growing consumer market of all. This is what he's saying to Donald Trump. I want to get my online platforms like Timor used by Chinese to buy online, I want American products on those platforms that Chinese middle class consumers want to buy. How that creates jobs, if more people buy more stuff, more stuff has to be made. That's pretty much the line. Where you get a million jobs from, I have no idea. What Jack Ma did

say -- this is new -- he wanted produce from the Midwest of the U.S. We're talking agricultural products. After that little sound there, you heard from Donald Trump and Jack Ma, Alibaba people are talking about organizing the conditions for thousands of small businesses to work out how they can take this forward. It's a bit vague at the moment.

VAUSE: It was good for the share price. Alibaba went up a percent or so after the announcements. From what I've read, many of these jobs if they're there at all, they were in the works many months ago. It seems like a bit I've stretch for Donald Trump to claim credit?

STEVENS: Well, yes, John. If you go back to the meeting with the boss of Softbank and Donald Trump, talking about creating 50,000 jobs, investment in the U.S., that was also work in progress before the election was known, the election result was known. Donald Trump certainly is emphasizing these deals. And these look like deals which, as you say, are in the pipeline and they are still vague. So, you can't justify this.

I should say it's also a pretty good photo opportunity for Jack Ma, as well. The share price is up. Jack Ma is a very savvy P.R. man. He was close to Barack Obama. He appeared with Obama several times and he wants to make sure he stays close to the incoming administration. It's good for Alibaba. Alibaba is facing scrutiny in the U.S. over the sheer number of counterfeits on its own platforms. The U.S. Trade representative slapped one of those platforms I was talking about on the list of notorious markets for operating fakes. So, Jack Ma wants to get close to the administration to make sure they get their point across. It's all good P.R. on both sides at the moment.

VAUSE: Andrew, I'm glad you brought up the issue of the counterfeit goods.

We'll say good-bye to you for now. Andrew Stevens, live in Hong Kong.

So, with that in mind, Shawn, I went online and I bought my Trump "Make America Great Again" hat. This cost $25. It's the genuine article.

STEEL: Are you sure it's genuine?

VAUSE: It's genuine.

STEEL: It's not a knockoff?

VAUSE: Well, you should mention the knockoff. Then I went to the Alibaba website, Taibao, and what do I find? A counterfeit version. "Make America Great Again," I can get it for $2.60 U.S. This is one of the big issues with Alibaba. And this is one of the big issues for Donald Trump on the campaign trail, intellectual property theft by the Chinese. Today -- on Monday rather, smiles and handshakes with Jack Ma and not a word of property theft being carried out by the Chinese.

[02:09:49] STEEL: One of the things I'm not worried about Donald Trump, despite the wonderful contradictions, I don't think he's going to be soft on the Chinese on trade in the first place. What really irritates me but I also find delicious is how the mainstream media is talking about Trump when he's talking about bringing jobs to America but he's creating a narrative. He creates an attitude, a tone and approach more and more businesses are thinking it's worthwhile to create jobs in the United States and makes practical or economic sense. He's doing it in his own way but he's actually beginning, I think we're beginning to find consumer confidence is up. Even liberal polling organizations are telling us that. People are beginning to believe the economy can get out of the doldrums. By creating the narrative, he might help it become true before passing a single legislation.

VAUSE: Ethan, we are seeing companies like Ford and Toyota and Chrysler, you know, saying they will stay in the United States, they will invest in this country.

BEARMAN: I think it's wonderful. Anytime we can add jobs to the United States, it's a great thing.

Let's go back to this Alibaba deal for a second. How -- I'm from the Midwest. I want us to export farm goods from the Midwest or manufacture and sell goods to China. The Chinese government has to lift tariffs and trade rules first. Alibaba has no control over what the Chinese government is prohibiting from coming into their country.

On top of it all, I find this interesting because there's a Chinese company called Leko (ph), which bought the Yahoo! property up in the bay area and announced back in October 12,000 new jobs that they're hiring in the San Francisco Bay area for computer programmers and software engineers. Why wasn't that touted by anybody?

VAUSE: We did hear from the president-elect on another issue today. He did slam actress Meryl Streep after her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. This is part of what Ms. Streep said on Sunday night.


MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: It was that moment, when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country, imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.


VAUSE: OK. So, on Twitter, Donald Trump posted this, "Meryl Streep, one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She's a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never mocked a disabled reporter. Would never do that. But simply showed him groveling when he totally changed a 16-year-old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more dishonest media."

Jarrett Hill is the host of "Back to Reality" podcast and a correspondent for "The Hollywood Reporter." He's with us now.

Jarrett, liberals love the Streep take-down. Didn't do a lot for conservatives though, did it?

JARRETT HILL, HOST, BACK TO REALITY PODCAST & CORRESPONDENT, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: The interesting thing we have to point out is in "The Hollywood Reporter" in 2015, Donald Trump talked about Meryl Streep being one of his favorite actresses and she was a great person. The moment she said something that's taken as an attack -- because he likes to use that verb -- then, all of a sudden, she's overrated, she's ridiculous. And you know, it's kind of the same thing we see again and again from Donald Trump where he will say one thing and then say something completely different and look over here, in a "look over here at this shiny thing" kind of way. It's frustrating to watch because it's completely contradictory to what he just said about Meryl Streep recently.

VAUSE: When we have high-profile actresses like Streep and others getting up and saying things about the president-elect, doesn't it backfire in a way and sort of solidify the support that support has? Doesn't it do them a disservice in the long run?

HILL: It has a galvanizing effect for some people on different sides of the aisle. But Meryl Streep didn't say anything that was all that controversial really. The real question you have to ask, what exactly did she say that we're arguing against that we shouldn't mock people that are disabled, we should defend people that are coming from our communities. It's challenging for me to watch the Meryl Streep speech and then think, oh, yeah, I could see why such and such could be controversial. It's incredibly frustrating. And Meghan McCain jumping in, talking about how this is how we're going to help Donald Trump get re-elected. What exactly are we railing against ta she said? What exactly was indefensible? It's hard for me to process.

VAUSE: OK. Jarrett, thank you for being with us. We'll catch up soon.

I want to stay with the Meryl Streep issue, Ethan. Just to pick up on the last part of Trump's tweets where he claimed he never mocked that disable the reporter. Look at the moment when it actually happened. This is it.


TRUMP: Right after a couple of good paragraphs, and talking about northern New Jersey, draws the prober's eye, written by a nice reporter, now the poor guy, Oh, I don't know what I said. I don't remember. He's going like, I don't remember. Maybe that's what I said. This is 14 years ago. They didn't do a retraction.


VAUSE: So clearly, he did mock the reporter. So why does Donald Trump feel the need to revisit these past controversies and deny what actually happened?

BEARMAN: I'm not a psychotherapist but it's interesting because he suffers from an issue that many narcissists have. which is the inability to admit they've done something wrong. Just as I said, the day after that video came out, I said just donate a million bucks to, like, a paralyzed Veterans for Americans group and apologize. Instead, he brings it back up and makes it an issue again. Maybe it's to take attention away from some of the other problems he has.


[02:15:36] STEEL: Such a fake story. He's used that particular caricature, using his arms like this. It's been recorded since 2005. He used it several times talking about himself. It's part of his self-expression. He wasn't using anything to try to identify a person's particular disability. This is just a typical mainstream media line. Half of America doesn't believe it.

VAUSE: Ethan and Shawn, I appreciate your being with us.


VAUSE: And former Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, now seems to be a leading voice against the incoming Trump administration. Chris Cuomo moderated a CNN town hall with the Senator from Vermont. He said Democrats should Trump's policies, the ones they agree with, and oppose the ones they don't.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The responsibility of the opposition party is to make constructive criticism where we disagree and to come up with alternative ideas as to how we can improve the lives of the American people.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Does that take shape the way it did with the GOP over the last eight years.

SANDERS: I hope not. But the GOP, literally, on the day Obama was inaugurated is sit down and say, OK, our strategy will be we will obstruct, obstruct, and do everything we can to make sure he accomplishes as little as possible, and then we'll go to the American people and say, see, this guy didn't accomplish anything. Vote for us. No, that's not what we do.

Where Trump has ideas that make sense that we can work with him on, I think we should. But I will tell you this, he ran a campaign whose cornerstone was bigotry. It was based on sexism, on racism, on xenophobia. And, on that issue, I personally will not compromise.


VAUSE: And if you missed it, we will replay the Bernie Sanders town hall a little later. Starts at 10:00 a.m. in London, 6:00 p.m. in Hong Kong, only here on CNN.

Iran is saying good-bye to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in Tehran. He was a crucial player in the 1979 Islamic revolution, served two terms as president, seen as a key figure in Iran's moderate movement, losing a presidential bid against the hardliner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. Rafsanjani died on Sunday, 82 years old.

Just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, grand-slam champ, Roger Federer, is eager to get back on the court after a six-month layoff. The moves he wants to make in the 2017 season. in just a moment.




[02:21:58] VAUSE: Tennis superstar Roger Federer is making a big comeback after being sidelined for six months with a knee injury. Federer had surgery last February and decided to take time off after hurting his knee again at Wimbledon in July. Last week, he was back on the court. Now his sights are set on the Australian Open in Melbourne next week.

I spoke with Federer earlier about how he feels to be back on the court before the Aussie Open.


ROGER FEDERER, CHAMPION TENNIS PLAYER: I'm very excited to be back. The six months was a long time especially if the moment you have to make the decision, you look at a year and six months is a big time. If you look at it as in a 20-year career, six months appears very little. I'm happy I took that decision because that knee needed heeling. It needed time. It needed strengthening. And like you said are, the cup went very well. I felt great. I'm super excited I was able to come through the three matches and have another week to get ready for Melbourne. It's good times again which is nice for me.

VAUSE: You decided to take an extended period off so you could keep playing for years to come.

FEDERER: Yeah, that was the idea really. I mean, health, my life that my knee and body was going to be better off in the future rather than always you know sort of trying to fix something because the beginning of the six months in 2016 was all about just trying to play OK and feeling OK and that's after a certain period of time is just not enough. You know? You don't get very happy if you play ha way too long. It was a tough decision to make but I really hope it's going to give me an extra few years on tour. I feel rejuvenated like I have more energy. So, that's exciting about what's to come now.

VAUSE: You seeded 17 for the Aussie Open. That's the lowest for you. How much will depend on the draw and who you face in the early rounds?

FEDERER: I hope it's not going to matter for me that I'm playing that well it almost doesn't matter who is going to come against me. Maybe it's better to play the better guys earlier. I might be having more energy left in the tank because that's one open question, how much energy do I have left in a best of five set match or after a lot of tough matches in a row. So, I hope that the other guys are going to follow this draw will be like I hope the number 17 seed is not my section rather than me thinking I hope I'm not going to be in their section. I'm super happy I'm in the draw alone because if you're not in the draw, you can't win it. I'm going to be falling regardless. It's exciting this time around. I hope the first round is not brutal so I can find my way into the tournament.

VAUSE: I read there are a few dad jokes from some of the younger players when you hit the dance floor on New Year's Eve. That raises a question on the court. There you are partying in Perth. How much longer do you think you can stay competitive on the court against this is next generation of younger tennis players?

[02:55:09] FEDERER: On the dance floor, I was pretty good. I hope on the match courts too I can be OK. Joking aside, it was nice spending some cool moments with the up and coming generation on the dance floor for New Year's Eve and feeling like it's one big family out there. Essentially really get along super well. I hope that you know, with just my all my professionalism with my new racket, with my team, with everything included I'm going to be strong for years to come. Only time will tell. I probably need three, four tournaments to be able to tell how good I'm going to be in the future. But we'll see. We'll see.

VAUSE: Out of everything that you've achieved, one thing you still don't have is an Olympic gold medal. You missed out on Rio because of the knee. Will we see you in Tokyo in 2020?

FEDERER: I hope so. But it's a long way away that I can't be thinking this far ahead. I could do it for the Rio Olympics, but for the Tokyo Olympics I can't, especially coming off injury. It's too far ahead. I did win the gold in Beijing in doubles with my friend, Stan, in doubles. I do feel like I have a gold. In the singles, I don't. It will be amazing to win the gold in Tokyo but, honestly, it's too far away to make that kinds of announcement.


VAUSE: Roger Federer there, talking a little earlier.

We'll take a quick break.

For our viewers in Asia, "State of America," with Kate Bolduan, is coming up next.

For everyone else, stay with us. As Donald Trump tries to move against allegations of Russian hacking, the Kremlin speaking out in predictably harsh terms.



[02:30:15] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES) VAUSE: The Kremlin calls it a full-scale witch hunt. U.S. intelligence accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering a hacking campaign during the presidential election. The Russian foreign ministry says if anything -- and this is a quote -- "hackers hacked President Obama's brain."

Jim Sciutto has details.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, President-elect Trump ignoring questions about the briefing he received from the intelligence community on Russian hacking of U.S. political groups.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll talk to you about that at another time.

SCIUTTO: This, as a spokesman for the Kremlin says, plans are in the works for a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man who intelligence leaders say ordered the hacks.

Over the weekend, Trump reiterated his intention to seek warmer relations with Moscow, tweeting, quote, "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only stupid people or fools would think that is bad."

Congressional Democrats today calling for an independent commission to investigate the hacking, which U.S. intelligence says it believes was designed to help Trump and weaken his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D), MARYLAND: Our intelligence agencies are warning us and they are screaming, trying to tell us that if we do not respond now the Russians will attack us again.

SCIUTTO: The Trump team, meanwhile, trying to turn the page on the issue, pointing to a series of other high-profile hacks by China and North Korea, and arguing that the Democratic National Committee's lax cyber protections made them an easy target for the Russians.

REINCE PRIBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Granted, we have bad actors around the world and cyberattacks have been happening for years. But we also have an entity that allowed, through a wide-open door, a foreign government into their system.

SCIUTTO: Other Trump advisers claiming that congressional outrage is political motivated.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR TRUMP ADVISOR: I just think there's been selective outrage only because some people want to conflate that with the election results.

SCIUTTO: Outgoing CIA Director John Brennan says any unwillingness by Trump to stand with the intelligence community puts the nation at, quote, "great risk and peril."

JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: I expect that the president of the United States will recognize that the CIA and intelligence community were established by statute for a very important reason.

SCIUTTO: Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, also ridiculed the intelligence report, saying it was embarrassing to the reputation of the U.S. intelligence services.

Joining me now from Moscow, CNN contributor and former Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty.

Jill, good to have you with us.

Assange was less emphatic when it came to the possibility the WikiLeaks source could have been some kind of Russian go-between. What exactly is the relationship between Assange and the Kremlin?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think you'd have to say who are you asking? Because both sides beak say they don't have any relationship at all. You know, Assange has said he's not working and has not received anything from the Russian government. And the Russian government says that there's no connection official or unofficial with them and Assange. It's the United States government and that report that allege that the GRU, which is military intelligence in Russia, got the information, those hacks, from Julian Assange and I'm sorry, they got the hacks from the hackers, gave it to Julian Assange, and then Julian Assange spread it in an effort, a coordinated effort to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. But there's a lot of deniability and denying on all sides I'd except the United States is pretty adamant that that is what happened -- John?

[02:35:19] VAUSE: We're also hearing about another round of sanctions from the United States. This happened Monday. Slapping sanctions on specific Russian officials some of them quite high ranking. These are not related to hacking but rather human rights abuses. What are the details here?

DOUGHERTY: This is another thing that has actually nothing to do with the hacking. It goes back to the Magnitsky Act passed by Congress in 2012. And it was connected to the death of a lawyer in a Russian prison, a lawyer who was working for an American businessman. And under that, they periodically, the U.S. government, periodically includes people on that list and President Obama in one of this last acts as president decided to list some pretty important people. One of them is Alexander Bastrikin, the Russian chief public investigator, very senior aide to President Putin, and some other people. And the importance of this is that this is one thing that would be very hard for Donald Trump to un-do because that is a law that was passed, as I said, by Congress. And now -- and that would be very hard to change. The Trump administration is saying, however, they would -- they may change some of those sanctions that were imposed after the hacking allegations. So, I think, again, we're moving toward now what could Trump do after he becomes president.

VAUSE: Yeah, it's looking like Obama is leaving a very complicated relationship behind, to say the least, for Donald Trump.

Jill, great to see you in Moscow. Thanks for being with us.

A short break here. When we come back, ISIS is losing its grip on eastern Mosul. We'll tell you how Iraqi troops are managing to retake the city and where they're headed next.


VAUSE: A show of solidarity in Germany. Berlin's Brandenburg Gate was lit up in the colors of the Israeli flag to honor the victims of Sunday's terror attack in Jerusalem. Funerals were held Monday for the three young Israeli cadets and one officer. A Palestinian driver rammed a truck into the group of soldiers. He was shot dead and killed at the scene. Authorities are investigating whether the attack was inspired by ISIS as claimed by the Israeli prime minister. Police have arrested nine people, including some of the attacker's relatives.

Well, Iraq's counter-terrorism forces say they're making significant strides in their fight to retake Mosul from ISIS.

We have details from Michael Holmes.



[02:40:02] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iraqi troops are one step closer to retaking the northern city of Mosul from ISIS militants. Over the weekend, they fought their way to the Tigress River, a milestone in this month-long battle. Iraqi security forces killed more than 125 ISIS fighters and counter-terrorism forces killed 40 more.

UNIDENTIFIED IRAQI MILITARY OFFICER (through translation): As soon as our troops began advancing, the defense of ISIS began to collapse. Most of the militants fled the area leaving behind explosives, suicide belts and the bodies of those killed. At first, they tried to resist. But, thank god, our troops demonstrated their excellent training and precision.

HOLMES: The Tigress River runs through the center of the city. Special Forces now control account eastern side, shown here in green, and the southern-most of the five bridges crossing the river.

UNIDENTIFIED IRAQI MILITARY OFFICER (through translation): The second convoy, which is our support of the counter-terrorism service, reached an area close to the river and gained control of the fourth bridge which separate the eastern side from the western side.

HOLMES: With air support from the U.S.-led coalition, all five bridges have been disabled.


HOLMES: Mosul is the terror group's last major urban stronghold in Iraq. Military operations to retake it have been ongoing since October.

The advance is welcome news to residents, many holds up inside their homes for days or weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): The situation was very difficult here inside Mosul. Living conditions and security was bad. We could not leave our homes or the neighborhood.

HOLMES: Iraqi forces had the upper hand in the east, but they still have a very hard fight to come in the west of Mosul.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.


VAUSE: Severe snow storms and freezing temperatures causing a lot of problems across Europe. More than 30 people have died over the weekend. In Poland alone, 17 died from hypothermia.

The extreme cold is hitting thousands of refugees especially hard. In Belgrade, thousands are struggling to keep warm as nighttime temperatures plunge. But the refugees have nowhere else to go.


UNIDENTIFIED REFUGEE: Actually, the cold is too much, and last night, we, all the people, sitting around the fire and it was too cold. I think it was minus 16 last night. Until now, we are here because the situation is too bad and snow is piling outside so try to arrange something for us and try to open the border. It is our request.


VAUSE: Fierce storms in the western part of the United States have forced thousands out of their homes. California and Nevada are dealing with heavy rain, snow, flooding, as well as mud slides. The storms damaged homes and left hundreds of thousands without electricity.

The storms also destroyed an iconic tree in northern California. High winds brought down the Pioneer Cabin tree over the weekend. It's believed to be more than 1,000 years old. The hole in the giant Sequoia was cut in the 1800s so tourists could pass through.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

Stay with us. "World Sport" is up next.

You're watching CNN.



[03:00:10] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump will move to appoint his son-in-law as an advisor --