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U.S. Sanctioned Russia Over Election Hacking Allegations; Trump: One China Policy Up For Negotiation; U.S. Republicans Seek To Dismantle ObamaCare; Poland Set To Formally Welcome Added U.S. Troops; Europe And U.S. Hit By Frigid Temperatures; Hungarian Camera Woman Sentenced For Tripping Migrants; Obama Girls Get Some Good Advice. Aired Midnight-12:30a ET

Aired January 14, 2017 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:13] CYRIL VANIER, "CNN NEWSROOM" ANCHOR: Just days away from moving into the White House, Donald Trump is considering how he might respond to alleged Russian election hacking.

The U.S. Republican lawmakers are poised to dismantle parts of Barack Obama's health care law but it's still unclear what they plan to replace it with.

Plus, deadly cold weather moves across Europe and the U.S. We'll be telling you where it's headed, next.

Hi, everyone. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta and "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

So we're less than a week away from Donald Trump taking the oath of office to become the next president of the United States. And a new article in the "Wall Street Journal" is giving us a glimpse into his thinking. In an hour long until you read the paper, the President- elect suggesting that he is open to lifting sanctions on Russia. This is what Donald Trump said, "If you get along and if Russia is helping us why would anybody have sanctions if someone is doing really great things?" However, he also said that he would keep the Russia sanctions for a period of time without saying how long that might be.

The U.S. sanctioned Russia last month for alleged hacking during the presidential election. Intelligence agencies say that Russia ordered the hacks to help Trump win. Now, the Senate Intelligence committee is planning to hold hearings to investigate those claims. The senators will also be looking into connections between Russia and the political campaigns.

Meanwhile a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee says Mike Flynn's call with Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. is suspicious. Flynn is Trump's pick to National Security Advisor and that phone call happened the same day that President Obama announced the Russia sanctions. Jim Sciutto has more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a great transition. JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Confirmation that President-elect Trump's National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn was in contact with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. The very same day the Obama Administration announced retaliation for Russia's unprecedented cyber attack of the 2016 Election.

In late December, the Trump transition team says that Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak exchanged a series of text messages and a phone call. On Christmas Day, December 25th, Flynn texted the Russian Ambassador, "I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I look forward to touching base with you and working with you and I wish you all the best." The Ambassador texted him back wishing him a Merry Christmas in return.

Then on December 28th, the Russian Ambassador texted Flynn again and said, "I'd like to give you a call, may I?" That phone call happened on December 29th, the day that the White House announced sanctions on Russia and ordered some 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country immediately.

Trump's transition team says the man did not discuss sanctions on Russia instead their conversation was focused on arranging a call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Trump after the inauguration. The White House says its reaction depends.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Just imagine why these kinds of interactions may take place, why the incoming national security adviser may have the need to contact the representative of a foreign government that's based here in Washington, D.C. It depends on what they discussed. It depends on what they said in terms of whether or not we would have significant objections about those conversations.

SCIUTTO: Flynn's ties to Russia have been scrutinized since the moment Trump tapped him to be his closest adviser on national security. Flynn was seated next to President Putin at a Russian media gala in December of 2015 and previously had a paid speaking gig with Russia today, the Kremlin's T.V. network though before he took on a formal campaign role.

Trump, again denied claims that Russia has compromising information on him and continued to accuse the intelligence chiefs of leaking the allegations. He tweeted, it was probably released by intelligence in quotes even knowing there is no proof and never will be.

A transition official tells CNN that there is not frequent contact between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. And this key detail, that there was no discussion of those new Obama administration sanctions on Russia in that December 29th phone call, the same day of course that the sanctions were being imposed. Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: CNN Contributor and "New York Post" Columnist Selena Zito joins us from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania via Skype. Selene, there is an avalanche of news coming from every direction this week. Some of it involving, of course, Donald Trump and the transition, some of it involving the Russia hacks, some of it involving the FBI and the FBI Director, James Comey.

[00:05:03] It can be hard to identify what actually matters and what will be forgotten in the next few weeks. So what have you learned over the last few days that to you really matters?

SELENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's interesting that you say that, right? Because I think what's happening to voters, voters that both supported Trump and supported Clinton is that they have completely turned off. These avalanche of information, some of it they don't know what to believe. They don't know if it's true, if it's propaganda, if it's the campaign is still going on.

I went out and talked to a lot of voters this week and traveled throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio and the one thing that they have repeatedly said was they just want this campaign to be over and they want the governing to begin. And they want, you know, they want sort of all this mess and all this noise and all this sensationalism and all this outrage to stop being sort of part of their daily lives. They think both parties are continuing the campaign in their own way and people are really fed up with it.

VANIER: All right, well, for instance, let's take the latest case in point. Does it bother you that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser for Donald Trump called the Russian Ambassador just around the time when the U.S. President Barack Obama was imposing sanctions on Russia? Is that something that matters and that is something of concern?

ZITO: Well, I mean, of course it matters but we have to also understand what the context of it was, or what it was about. You know, Flynn is known for two things within the military generals and men and women that are still in the military that I've talked to. He's very respected for his knowledge and understanding of ISIS and Syria and of all things Middle East. He's incredibly brilliant about it. But he's also known for being incredibly stubborn and doing things his own way. So, since we don't know the context of what he was, you know, having this discussion with about, it's hard to sort of form a strong opinion until all the facts are presented.

VANIER: Selena Zito, thanks very much. We look forward to speaking to you next time. Thanks a lot.

ZITO: Thanks so much for having me.

VANIER: Now, President-elect Trump is also speaking out about the United States' long standing One China policy. Under that policy, the U.S. has formal ties with China but not with Taiwan which Beijing that use as a break away province. But Trump told the "Wall Street Journal" everything, including One China is up for negotiation.

Our Steven Jang joins me now from Beijing. Steven, it really looks like Donald Trump is set on getting a better deal out of the relationship with China.

STEVEN JANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Cyril, that's what he things and what he hopes. At least on the issue of Taiwan, this is simply non-negotiable in the eyes of Beijing. That's because they consider this a core interest of their national interest and they've been saying all along that Taiwan, the issue of Taiwan is the cornerstone of this bilateral relationship between Beijing and Washington ever since, you know, Beijing and the Washington established diplomatic ties in 1979. This One China principle has been reiterated by both sides time and again and also been pledged by every president since Carter that the U.S. will stick to this policy.

That's why Mr. Trump may think this is something he could negotiate with China, probably with his business tycoon's acumen, but in the eyes of Beijing this is not something they want to talk about. And that is something they have been insisting in the past few days and weeks, Cyril.

VANIER: So what kind of reaction are we likely to see out of Beijing if he presses this?

JANG: You know, it's interesting, other than this issue, Beijing officially at least has been quite restrained and are measured and their response so far to everything he has been saying and tweeting. And you know, I've been going to the Foreign Ministry almost on a daily basis in the past few weeks asking them for reactions whenever Donald Trump tweets or says something.

They have been stressing this mutually beneficial nature of this relationship saying --

(Audio Gap)

-- in working together for the past four decades both in terms of trade, in terms of political issues and other cooperation internationally. This has been a win, win situation. So they say we want more cooperation, less confrontation.

And one thing they have been stressing is we don't pay too much attention to what people say but we pay attention to their policies. So they're trying to hint that until Donald Trump becomes the president, everything he says is not official policy. So they are still basically adopting a wait and see approach. But they are also interestingly, Cyril, very uncertain about how to deal with this new president.

[00:10:02] Privately, officials even ask me for advice about how they will have to deal with this new president who likes, apparently, conducting policy online. And I said to them, look, just follow him on twitter, read his tweets and have an answer prepared for reporters like us, Cyril.

VANIER: Steven Jang, all right. Thank you very much. No doubt we're going to continue to talk about this after Donald Trump is inaugurated. Thanks a lot. As U.S. President Barack Obama moves through his final days in office, Republicans and the U.S. House and Senate see to dismantle a landmark of his administration. They have voted to begin gutting the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare.

Here is CNN's Manu Raju with more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Concurrent resolution has agreed to.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT The house taking the first step to repeal ObamaCare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This law is collapsing while we speak.

RAJU: Congress approving a budget that will now give Republicans the authority to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act on a party-line vote. The move is intended to fulfill one of the main campaign promises of President-elect Donald Trump who wants to replace the law at the same time as repealing it.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: It will be essentially simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week but probably the same day, it could be the same hour. So we're going the do repeal and replace.

RAJU: But Trump's comments undercut the plans of GOP leaders who want to take their time developing a new health care law. House speaker Paul Ryan even said last month that a replacement would not be ready by the next football season.

At CNN's "Town Hall", a shift. Ryan now promises to move quickly.

PAUL RYAN, U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: So we want to advance repealing this law with its replacement at the same time along the lines of what I've just described. It's something definitely is a plan within the first 100 days to get moving on this legislation.

RAJU: But they are already running into problems. The party is divided over how to replace the law. And some influential voices are asking party leaders to hit the brakes.

CHARLIE DENT, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Yeah, I think the repeal plan needs to be fully developed and better articulated prior to moving forward. I have some reservations about moving as quickly as we are.

RAJU: Do you have concerns at all about the timetable then?

MIKE COFFMAN, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: I think it's going to be a very long process.

RAJU: You don't think it's going to happen right away?


Reporter: Some conservatives are demanding quick action on plans allowing individuals to buy insurance across state lines and to receive tax breaks for getting coverage.

THOMAS MASSIE, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Why not do replace and repeal? You know, we could do these things as we could be putting these things on the floor this week.

RAJU: Democrats are warning that the GOP will pay a political price for scrapping a law that helped ensure an additional 20 million people.

NANCY PELOSI, U.S. HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: What are they doing this to, overturning the Affordable Care Act, undermining the health security and financial stability of America's working families and de- funding Planned Parenthood? That's their manhood thing, you know?


VANIER: When we come back we'll tell you about Obama's parting vote of confidence to NATO and how Russia is responding to new American troops in Poland. Stay with us.



VANIER: In West Africa we're getting word that Ivory Coast's government has reach an agreement with mutinying soldiers. That's according to the defense ministry although CNN hasn't been able to confirm the troops accepted the deal. The agreement would end a dispute over bonus payments. Some soldiers say they were promised about $8,000 and a house for helping bring the current president to power after disputed elections in 2010.

Poland is set to formally welcome the biggest European deployment of U.S. troops in decades but not everyone is welcoming the gesture. Our Jonathan Mann has the details.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome to Poland. U.S. soldiers side by side with Polish troops at a ceremony Thursday. No challenge is too large to overcome. No distance is too far to cross when the need arises. These are just the first of approximately 4,000 U.S. forces to arrive, troops and tanks that began streaming into Poland this week in one of the largest deployments of American military forces in Europe since the Cold War. The U.S. soldiers will also be deployed on a rotational basis to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. All NATO states near or bordering Russia.

CAPTAIN JOEY GONZALES, U.S. 4TH INFANTRY SOLDIER: Our unit is here to enhance ties with our NATO allies and partners.

MANN: Russian officials have angrily branded the mission an aggressive western buildup and a security threat.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: (Through Translation) One can say that this is not just a deadlocked path but a path that provokes confrontation between our countries.

MANN: U.S. officials said the troop rotation has been in the works since last summer, aimed at reassuring U.S. allies in the region after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

EARNEST: This deployment is defensive in nature. It is intended entirely to shore up our defenses on the eastern flank. It is motivated at least in part by some of the destabilizing and escalatory actions that the Russian military has undertaken over the last year or so.

MANN: Now, a military movement to calm allies has ratcheted up tensions among old Cold War foes. Jonathan Mann, CNN.


VANIER: A Hungarian camera woman who was filmed tripping up refugees has been sentenced to three years probation. Petra Laszlo made international headlines when this footage surfaced in 2015.


VANIER: That's her. That's the moment right there. It shows her tripping a Syrian man carrying his child. This as they fled from police. It happened near the Hungarian/Serbian border.

Now, public outrage grew at that time and her T.V. station fired her. Laszlo heard her sentence in court on Thursday. And this happened just as Hungary announced new measures to crackdown on migrants. Prime Minister Viktor Orban swearing in a new team of border hunters to control the country's frontier.

Migrants also face the threat of bitter cold sweeping much of the continent. More than 1,000 men are sleeping in the open in Belgrade. The U.N. says at least five migrants have died in the first week of the new year because of the cold. UNICEF says Europe needs to do to protect migrants especially the most vulnerable.

SARAH CROWNS, UNICEF SPOKESPERSON: Right now, the weather has improved but it only takes one more snowstorm or another cold snap and we're going to see some children, you know, in a very dire situation. Children are particularly prone to respiratory illnesses at a time like this. We do not want to see this happen. It's about saving lives not about red tape and keeping to bureaucratic arrangements at the moment.


VANIER: We're joined but our meteorologist Allison Chinchar who's on set with us. So we've seen that these deadly -- these freezing temperatures have killed people since the beginning of the year. How is this going to develop?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We are looking at the next cold blast to start arriving mainly in the second half of the weekend and then it really ramps up next week. And that's a problem not just for the air temperatures but also the water temperatures.

Take a look at this video. Again this is coming out of Hungary. This is the Danube River, frozen.

Now, the unfortunate part of this, not to mention that it just causes havoc for a lot of the fish other creatures in there but it also disrupts a lot of the shipping that takes place along the Danube.

[00:20:06] Which if you are familiar, there are a lot of ships that go through there on a daily basis. And a lot of the ports have been entirely blocked off because of the ice floes. It becomes dangerous for the ships that travel through there. And we could be going to the another round of that as this next blast of cold air comes through.

Now, we had some snow in the portions of the U.K. That system now moving off towards the east and to force wind in eastern Europe and dropping dome pretty significant amounts of snow as it traverses east.

We are now talking huge amounts but again, you have to keep in mind of the last two weeks. A lot of these areas have already picked up significant amount of snow. So we'll just be adding to that in countries like Germany, Poland and Hungary as well.

The forecast -- we're looking at really widespread about 10 centimeters but there will be some areas that pick up at least 20 centimeters of snow on top, again of what we've already had. And then we talk about the next cold blast.

Again, look for those purple, pink colors in there. That really goes to show you how much we're going to drop off. For example, take a look at Warsaw, the average high this time of year is right around 1. We'll be there today. But then notice the temperatures really begin to plummet and unfortunately even going out six, seven, eight days in the future, that cold doesn't seem to go away any time in the near future. And that is unfortunate not just a lot of the homeless and a lot of the migrants but even for the villagers as well because you start to get power outages when you get the temperatures much colder than normal that lasts for that long.

So again, it becomes a huge concern for a lot of folks widespread. We're also keeping an eye on a very big ice storm. That is currently going to impact portions of the Central United States stretching from Texas all the way over towards Washington, D.C. We're talking not just a little bit of ice accumulation but very significant.

Widespread, about 1/2 up to 1 centimeter. But notice that blue color in there, over near Oklahoma City. We're talking 1 up to 1 1/2 centimeters of ice accumulation.

Now, and Cyril, with this you have the very shallow cold air that is overrun by the warmer air and that leads to a very bad setup. And we're not just talking, you know, the ice that accumulates here and there, patches of roads. We're talking widespread power outages, major delays and cancellations of the airports. And unfortunately, for a lot of those folks, major highways and interstates just entirely shut down. So again, going forward this is likely to last until Monday in the United States.

VANIER: All right, thank you very much, Allison Chinchar, from one of the CNN International Weather Center. We're going to keep -- continue throughout the day to keep an eye on both sides of the story, both sides of the Atlantic. Thank you very much.

Still ahead, when we come back, the Obama girls grew up in the White House with the whole world watching and now they are getting advice about moving from, guess who, another pair of presidential daughters.


VANIER: Welcome back. Malia and Sasha Obama are members of a very exclusive club, presidential daughters who grew up in the White House. And as they get ready to move out they're getting some advice from two other sisters who know what they're going through. Randi Kaye reports


JENNA BUSH, GEORGE W. BUSH'S DAUGHTER: Eight years ago on a cold November day we greeted you on the steps of the White House.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Barbara Bush on the TODAY show sharing the new letter she and her sister Jenna Bush have written to the Obama girls. A lot has changed in the eight years since the bush twins met Sasha and Malia. Back then the Obama girls were just seven and ten.

J. BUSH: The four of us wandered the majestic halls of the house you had no choice but to move in to.

[00:25:05] When you sled down the banister of the solarium just as we had done as a drill and again as 20-year-olds chasing our youth, your joy and laughter were contagious.

BARBARA BUSH, GEORGE W. BUSH'S DAUGHTER: In eight years you have done so much, seen so much. You stood at the gates of the Robben Island Cell where South African Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades. Your arms around your father.

KAYE: The Bush twins had also penned a letter to Sasha and Malia back in 2009 titled "Playing House in the White House." Then, 27, Jenna and Barbara bush offered this advice, "Surround yourself with loyal friends. They'll protect and calm you and join in on some of the fun and appreciate the history." And this, "Cherish your animals because sometimes you'll need the quiet comfort that only animals can provide." Their most important piece of advice years ago, "Our dad, like yours is a man of great integrity and love. Remember who your dad really is."

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER: AUTHOR, "FIRST WOMEN": It's really an exclusive club among presidential children and they do keep in touch. There's an empathy because they've all been through it. And no one knows what that's like to be in that kind public spotlight when you are so young.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KAYE: In their new letter, Jenna and Barbara Bush told Sasha and Malia how they watched them grow into impressive young women with grace and ease. They remarked till they were glad the Obama girls had each other just as the Bush twins did.

Their letter encouraged the Obama girls to hold on to the memories but also emboldened them to chart their own path.


B.BUSH: Explore your passions, learn who you are, make mistakes, you're allowed to. Continue to surround yourself with loyal friends who know you, adore you and will fiercely protect you.

J.BUSH: Take all you have seen, the people you have met, the lessons you have learned and you let those help guide you in making positive change.

KAYE: In closing a sense of solidarity.

B.BUSH: You have lived through the unbelievable pressure of the White House. You have listened to harsh criticism of your parents by people who have never met them.

J. BUSH: You stood by as your parents were reduced to headlines. Your parents who put your first and not only showed you but gave you the world.

B. BUSH: As always they will be rooting for you as you as you begin this next chapter.

J.BUSH: And so will we.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


VANIER: And that's a wrap. Thanks for watching "CNN Newsroom". I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment.