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Trump Suggests He's Open to Lifting Russia Sanctions; Senate Intel Committee to Probe Russia Hacking; Rep. Lewis: Trump is Not "A Legitimate President"; Poland Set to Formally Welcome Added U.S. Troops; Woman Found 18 Years After Being Kidnapped As Infant; 2 More Suspects Arrested After Istanbul Attack; Flint Homes Tainted by Lead to Get New Faucets; Republicans Vote to Gut ACA; Beijing: One China Policy is Not Negotiable; Fearing Russia, Baltic States Get U.S. Help; Bush Daughters Give Advance to Obama Girls. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired January 14, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:10] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Questioning the future of U.S. -Russia relations, which way will they go? Donald Trump suggesting he could lift the sanctions imposed on Moscow, well, maybe not immediately though . Also in just a few hours, U.S. Troops are set to formally be welcomed in Poland. A part of the biggest deployments of American troops in Europe in decade.

Plus, found eight -- after 18 years, a woman kidnapped as an infant is on her way back home. To tell you how police found her. Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts right now. It is 5:00 a. m. on the U.S. East coast. We are less than a week away now from the transition of power in the U.S.

That will make Donald Trump the nation's 45th president. But now, we're also, we are learning much more about his possible plans towards Russia. In an hour-long interview, Donald Trump suggested to the Wall Street Journal he is open to lifting sanctions on Russia, but he also said that he would keep those sanctions in place for at least a period of time. The U.S. placed those additional sanctions on just last month for alleged hacking during the U.S. Presidential Election.

Intelligence Agency say Russia ordered the hacks in order to help Donald Trump win the election. The Senate Intelligence committee plans not only looking to Russia's alleged meddling but also to investigate whether there were contacts between Moscow at political campaigns in the presidential election. CNN's Phil Mattingly has more for us.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There have been a lot of questions, not just on Capitol Hill, but across Washington. What's the next step in the wake of that explosive U.S. Intelligence Assessment that Russia and its intelligence services meddled in the U.S. Election? Well, now we have an answer or at least one version of the answer. The U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence, one of the most powerful committees on Capitol Hill will be holding a bipartisan investigation into the Russian intelligence activities.

And it's important the scope of this investigation. Because it's not narrow, it's not just looking into the U.S. Intelligence assessment, a declassified version. We have seen it's also delving deep into potential ties between Russian Intelligence Services and the campaigns. Specifically, while the committee isn't saying this, it's very clear the Trump campaign the President-elect's team will be under review for any potential contacts between them and Russians or Russian middlemen. Now, why does this matter?

Obviously, a powerful committee looking into the campaign could produce answers that we simply haven't gotten up to this point. Now, lawmakers that have been briefed over the course of the last 48 hours about the classified version of this report have repeatedly come out and say, there are more questions that need to be answered. Questions that weren't answer ready in that declassified report.

That could be what this investigation ends up bringing to the forefront. And why? This committee has real power. While they will be looking into the potential campaign activities, they will be holding hearings, they will also be interviewing key members of the campaigns of the incoming administration and the outgoing administration. If those interview requests are not complied with, this committee has subpoena power.

Again, a bipartisan committee with subpoena power to compel individuals to sit down for interviews. They will be talking to individuals from the Intelligence Committee. For people wondering what the next step is. Where this goes from here. This is an answer, and a potentially explosive and powerful one, depending on how this investigation is held. We will get answers to that soon, answers that just about everybody is looking for in the wake of the last couple week. Phil Mattingly, CNN, Capitol Hill.

HOWELL: Phil, thank you. Perhaps some of those answers will help to determine how Trump handles Russia as president in that Wall Street Journal article that I mentioned. Trump says that he wants flexibility. He said this, if you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody is doing some really great things as the President-elect Donald Trump?

Many in congress want the U.S. with its tough stance against Russia. However, Trump also says he is prepared to meet with the Russian President himself, Vladimir Putin. We get more now live in Moscow, CNN's Fred Pleitgen is following the story with us. Fred, thank you for being with us. Look, fair to say there's a mixed messages coming out of Washington. How is this being perceived there in Russia?

FRED PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's interesting. And certainly seem the Kremlin at this point is trying to do etching to make sure that the relations don't sour before Donald Trump takes office. It's been so interesting to see some of the reactions here to see the Russian government saying, look, we're going to wait and see what happens, once he takes office, we're going to wait and see what happens when he comes into office and certainly anything said before that is not something that we can control or something that we want to comment about.

Now, it was interesting, because they've heard obviously, Rex Tillerson at his confirmations hearings talking about all this. But they say, look, that's something that he's saying beforehand, and not necessarily something that's going to reflect on what he does when he actually takes office. George.

HOWELL: There are these sanctions that are in place. You say that Russia taking a wait and see approach here. But look, these sanctions, not just the ones that were levied because of the alleged hacking, also because of the annexation of Crimea. Russia is looking for a major policy shift here. How crippling, though, have those sanctions been for every day Russians there?

MATTINGLY: Uh-hmm. Well, they've been very crippling. You know, a lot of businesses have held -- have had a lot of problems. And if you look at every day things, you know, Russia was importing a lot of things from Europe before these sanction went into effect. Everything from German cars to Italian pasta and some case even milk and cheese products. So it's certainly put a lot of strain on a lot people were -- a lot of things aren't as available as they were before and a lot of things are a lot more expensive than they were before.

And at the same time of course, it's hurt Russian exports as well. So it's certainly had a crippling economic effect, it's had a financial effect, with a lot of banks being sanctioned as well with a lot of individuals who haven't had any possibilities to get back on the international financial markets. So a lot of people want the sanctions to go away. But at the same time, George, one of the things that hasn't happened is that certainly hasn't heard hurt the approval ratings of Vladimir Putin.

Most people here in Russia is still very much support his policies in Syria, support his policies in Ukraine as well. So it hasn't hurt him from that perspective. And so one of the things the Russians certainly want is they want the sanctions to go away but at the same, it really hasn't hurt the political class if you will here in this country. And it was interesting because there was a conference call earlier this week with Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Kremlin, where he said -- where he was asked, look, do the Americans need to get rid of the sanctions before you have talks and improving relations?

And he said absolutely not. He's said, they're willing to talk under circles. But one of the big beliefs here, George, is that if the Americans soften up a their stance on the sanctions, if a Trump administration were to want to get rid of some of the sanctions, that possibly European countries would follow suit as well, George.

HOWELL: That is the question we will see after January 20th. Fred Pleitgen live for us in Moscow. Fred, Thank you.

In the meantime, a member of the senate foreign relations committee is focusing in on Trump's pick for national security adviser saying Mike Flynn's call to Russia's ambassador to the U.S. is, "suspicious." That phone call happened the same day President Obama announced the Russian sanctions. Jim Scuitto has more on this story.


SCIUTTO: 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 Sergey 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 a 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 same day the White House announced sanctions on Russia and ordered some 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country immediately.

Trump's transition team says the men 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: You could imagine why these kinds of -- 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 he 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 right 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 TV network, but before taking 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 of course that those sanctions were being imposed. Jim Sciutto, CNN Washington.

HOWELL: Trump has left open the question of whether he will keep James Comey on as the FBI director. And now, Comey is facing renewed scrutiny this time by members of congress. Comey held a confidential briefing with House Lawmakers on Friday on Russia's alleged hacking in the presidential election. It did very little though to satisfy some of those democrats. Listen. MAXINE WALTERS, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: It's classified and we can't

tell you anything. All I can tell you is the FBI Director has no credibility.

HOWELL: The Justice Department's Inspector General in the meantime is investigating Comey's handling of the Clinton e-mail probe. Democrats are still furious over his decision to send a letter just before the November election alerting congress that he was renewing that investigation. The probe ultimately found Clinton did not act illegally. Let's bring in now CNN Politics Reporter Eugene Scott live via Skype with us from Washington.

Eugene, thanks for being with us again this hour. A lot of topics to talk about as it seems every day, it's almost episodic. Let's talk first of all talk about Trump and his response to the democrats over their frustrations with the FBI. Donald Trump tweeted this, "What are Hillary Clinton's people complaining about with respect to the FBI? Based on the information they had, she never should have been allowed to run."

Guilty as hell, he says, they were very nice to her. She lost because she campaigned in the wrong states. Eugene, it does seem that the President-elect is still focusing on the campaign.

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: He certainly is. But he's not focusing on two very important points. One, it's not just the democrats who are expressing frustration with the FBI and how they handled the 2016 election related to investigations into Hillary Clinton's e-mails as well as hacking from the Russian government. It's the republicans as well. And what the President-elect rarely mentions is that U.S. Intelligence Agencies discovered it wasn't just Hillary Clinton and the democratic national committee that were hacked, the republican national committee were hackled as well.

WikiLeaks just decided not to release those e-mails. And so he completely understands what his critics are frustrated with, it's doubtful that he will be able to address these issues in a sufficient way.

HOWELL: Let's talk now about Trump's cabinet picks. Many of them during the hearings. They've indicated that their views on Russia on trade on many topics, they see things differently than the person that they will soon follow as Commander in Chief. The President-elect had this to say though about these division that we're seeing among the ranks. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: We want them to be themselves. I told them, be yourselves, and say what you want to say. Don't worry about me. And I'm going to do the right thing. Whatever it is. I may be right. And they may be right. But I said, be yourselves, wouldn't you say, let them do it, I could have said do this, say that. I don't want that. I want them all to be themselves.

HOWELL: Donald Trump there saying that they may be right or he may be right. It seems, though, he is opened to that difference in opinion. The debate that he could have among these people that will be in his close circle.

SCOTT: Many of Trump's critics embrace diversity even in ideology. But I think many people on both sides would like to hear a clear vision, especially related to some of these issues that affecting the American people most. Yesterday or earlier this week should I say, we saw a Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson confess he and Donald Trump have not had very detailed conversations regarding global affairs.

Given what's happening right now in Russia, in Syria and in other parts of the world related to hacking and terrorism and other global issues such as trade, one would think that this is a conversation that the President-elect would have prioritized more by now.

HOWELL: Another topic that is delicate for Donald Trump, it's the question about whether he won that election fair and square or whether the alleged Russian meddling whether that helped him to win the election. It's a question that goes to the heart of the issue of legitimacy. Listen here to what Congressman John Lewis had to say about that very delicate issue for the President-elect to Meet the Press.

JOHN LEWIS, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: I don't see the President-elect Trump as a legitimate president.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?

LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they have destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

HOWELL: Eugene, the question here moving forward, how does this look? What signs can we see, signals can we get from this with democrats and their relationship with the republicans and the President-elect?

SCOTT: John Lewis is the third democratic lawmaker in the last month we could say he will be boycotting the inauguration and not just protest Donald Trump's policies, but the role of Russia in the 2016 election. I think for many of them, what they would like to see is Donald Trump address what happened in a way that suggests that he is deeply frustrated with Russia and he will do all that he can to prevent that government from getting involved if future election and not just the U.S. but allies as well.

Whether Donald Trump will actually do that, it's not really clear, especially since he has not really been as aggressive in pushing back on this as they would like.

HOWELL: CNN Politics Reporter, Eugene Scott live for us in Washington. Eugene, thank you.

SCOTT: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on Newsroom. President Obama's parting vote of confident to NATO. How Russia is responding to new American troops on the ground in Poland. Just ahead. And 18 years after this baby disappeared from a hospital, the woman

she thought was her mother charged with kidnapping. It is a remarkable story. We'll have it here as CNN Newsroom continues.


HOWELL: Turkish authorities arrested two Chinese nationals in connection to the New Year's Eve terrorist attack on an Istanbul nightclub. They are both accused of being members of a armed terror organizations. Police say that makes 35 people in total who are in custody now after the shooting. The attack left dozens of people dead. The gunman though -- the suspected gunman still has yet to be caught. The biggest deployment of American troops to Europe since the Cold War is set to happen in Poland in just about three hours from now.

Our Atika Shubert is following this story live in Zagan, Poland. It's good to have you with us, Atika. So, first of all, this is a move that has been made under the current president Barack Obama. It's described as defensive if nature to support NATO. Though Russia sees this very differently.

ATIKA SHUBERT, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, the timing of this is very interesting. This was agreed to last year. Eastern European allies like Poland said they need to see more of a military presence as a bulwark against Russian aggression. Many of the Eastern European Allies watched in horror as Russia conducted its not so covert war in Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea and that's why we are seeing this buildup of troops now.

But it's interesting that it's happening before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated. This may be a way for example to commit the United States to this policy in NATO. What we are looking at is four battalions and about a thousand soldiers each being moved in, as well as 2,000 -- more than 2000 pieces of military hardware including tanks and armored combat vehicles. It's all a part of the third armored brigade combat team from the 4th Infantry Division.

It's normally based out of Ft. Carson, Colorado. They will be by based here in Poland, not just here in Zagan but in other basis as well for the next nine months. Then it will be rotated out to other Eastern European countries such as -- such as Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria just to name a few. But you're absolutely right, Russia has already said to Kremlin's Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia sees this as a threat especially as it considers with a military buildup near its borders.

HOWELL: Atika, this concern, though, about whether these troops will stay or whether they will be asked to return, is that a big issue though with the incoming President-elect?

SHUBERT: Well, it is an issue. He clearly said he wants to improve relations with Russia. And the military buildup we see here is something that Russia is not happy with. It is a thorn in the side of their relationship. So the question is, how will this (INAUDIBLE) if Trump wants to pursue it begin? What about the troops here? Poland has made it clear that it is welcoming the troops, the welcoming ceremony we'll see in a few hours will have Polish Prime Ministers here and the Defense Minister.

And the Polish Foreign Minister already made the case to Trump adviser saying, yes, we understand the need for better relations with Russia, but it must not come at the cost of Poland.

HOWELL: Atika Shubert live for us in Poland. Atika, thank you so much for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

Now to China's inner Mongolia region. Temperatures there have plunged far below freezing. State TV reports the frigid conditions there have created a great deal of icy fog. Visibility has been reduced greatly there, you see. Temperatures dropped dramatically on Thursday and Friday. Let's get the latest on the deadly ice storm taking place in the United States. Allison Chinchar is here. Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN Reporter: From ice fog in China to potentially freezing fog in the United States, we have over 20 million people right now are under a dense fog advisory. The concern for the folks staying in Missouri and Illinois where we're also getting ready for an impactful ice storm that's approaching. Right now, we have over 40 million people under an ice storm warning, freezing rain advisory or winter weather advisory across the United States. Now, this is a very slow moving system.

So it's financial to take its time and that allows it to be able to dump pretty significant amounts of ice in some areas. We have shallow cold air that's coming from the north. But down to the south, where it's overrunning that cold air, it's very warm and very moist air. Which means if the precipitation falls, it's likely going to fall as rain and then it will freeze on contact in this section right here, again stretching from Texas all the way over to Washington, D.D. is where we have the potential to have some of that ice accumulation.

Now, the good news is, at least widespread, we are looking at the smaller totals. They only about a quarter of an inch or less. However with that said, we do have a huge swath out to the west stretching from Interstate 70 down to I-40. Especially right over Oklahoma where we could be looking at a potential, up to about three- quarters of an inch of ice. And again, this is huge because this not only causes travel problems, but also a widespread power outages as well.

On the other side of the Atlantic, we're also dealing with ice but a different kind. This ice flows that have kind of started to block portions of Danube River. This located right about Budapest, Hungary, you can see the Poland building into the background. Now, we've also had snow on the other side of this storm as well. Look at this, this is in the northern portion of Germany where tractor trailer slid off the road.

We've had intense amount of snow starting a couple of days ago in the U.K. cancelling about 80 flights out of Heathrow. Now that's (INAUDIBLE) reversing off towards the East and it is going to dump significant of snow mainly thought to the higher elevations, the more widespread snowfall accumulations, it could be right around the ten centimeter range. But again, we could be looking at 20 even 30 centimeters especially if you get up into some of those higher elevations.

Then, once that system makes its way through, we're going to be making way for our next for the cold blast of air that's going to come through. Unfortunately, for some of these areas, we could be looking at the cold to stick around for at least five to seven days. Take a look at Warsaw for example, average high this time of year, one-degree Celsius. Now, then as you go into the rest of the week, notice those temperatures drop.

And we could be talking for a lot of these areas, especially from say Germany over towards Poland and then down towards Albania and some of those other southern regions, we could be looking at the potential to drop five to 10 degrees Celsius below the average high temperature.

HOWELL: Wow. And when you consider there are so many people, migrants, people that, you know, are out in the cold, this is a dangerous situation.

CHINCHAR: Indeed, it is. Especially since it's going to be prolonged.

HOWELL: Allison, thank you so much.

CHINCHAR: Thank you.

HOWELL: A story now that we're following in Flint, Michigan, thousands of homes there will be getting new free faucets, replacing fixtures that produced tainted water. The state program allows residents them to swap out brass faucets which are linked to lead poisoning. Flint has suffered for years from the problem, cost- cutting measures in 2014 led to contamination with lead and other toxins.

The crisis prompted a criminal investigation and also led the charges against several officials there. This is CNN Newsroom. Still ahead. Would Donald Trump do enter the White House on January 20th? Republicans now taking aim at Obamacare. Looking at ways to dismantle a signature part of the outgoing president's legacy. We are live from Atlanta this hour. Broadcasting across the United States and around the world. This is CNN Newsroom.




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell, with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

(HEADLINES) HOWELL: As the U.S. president, Barack Obama, moves through his final

days in office, Republicans in the House and Senate seek to dismantle a landmark of his administration. They've voted to begin gutting the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. We get more now from CNN's Manu Raju.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The current resolution is agreed to.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The House taking the first step to repeal ObamaCare.

PAUL RYAN, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: 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.


RAJU: 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.

TRUMP: 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 to 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.

RYAN: So we want to advance repealing this law with its replacement at the same, along the lines of I -- what I just described as something definitely 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 of how to replace the law. And some influential voices are asking party leaders to hit the brakes.

CHARLIE DENT, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Yes. I think the repeal plan need to be fully, 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 time table then in.

MIKE COFFMAN, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: I -- it's going to be a very -- I think it's going to be a very long process. RAJU: You don't think it's going to happen right away? COFFMAN: No.

RAJU: 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 don't we do replace and repeal? You know, we can do these things as -- we could be putting those things on the floor this week.

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

NANCY PELOSI, U.S. HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: What are they doing in this bill? Overturning the Affordable Care Act, undermining the health security and financial stability of America's working families and defunding Planned Parenthood. That's their - that's their manhood thing.

RAJU (voice-over): Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


HOWELL: A lot of big changes as Donald Trump takes office after January 20th. One change could include the U.S.' decades-old One China policy. Under that policy, Washington has formal diplomatic ties with Beijing, but not with Taiwan.

But the president-elect told "The Wall Street Journal" that that is up for negotiation. We get more now from CNN's Steven Jiang in Beijing.


STEVEN JIANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If business tycoon Donald Trump thinks everything in the world is negotiable, he may be reminded soon as the next U.S. president that, at least in the eyes of the Beijing government, one issue is absolutely not negotiable. That is the One China policy.

Officials here have reminded him and his team time and again in the past few weeks that Taiwan --


JIANG: -- is China's core interest. And the One China principle is the cornerstone of the bilateral relationship between Beijing and Washington.

They like to say that every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter has committed to this policy and stuck to it. And they certainly hope the Trump White House would do the same instead of derailing four decades of development and achievements.

But Mr. Trump does have a point about the U.S. does sell billions of dollars of arms to Taiwan to allow it to defend itself against a potential Chinese attack. But it's exactly this kind of strategic ambiguity in the One China policy that's allowed Beijing, Washington, as well as Taipei to maintain relative peace and stability in the decades past.

So at least on this very sensitive issue what's being said matters as much as what's being done.

Now other issues Chinese officials have been quite restrained and measured in their response to Mr. Trump's remarks, including issues like trade, the South China Sea and the cyber security What they have been saying here is this relationship has so much going for it if more cooperation, less confrontation is the attitude both sides adopt

The also like to point out to the phone conversation Mr. Trump had with Chinese president Xi Jinping after Trump's election that both leader have said mutual respect is very important in dealing with each other.

One other thing they like to bring up is that Mr. Trump is not president yet. So what he has been saying so far is not official U.S. policy. And the Chinese government pays more attention to official policies instead of a leader's style and personalities.

But privately, many official have expressed to me that they're unsure about how to deal with this new U.S. president, who likes to conduct foreign policy online. Some have even asked of me for suggestions.

My response, "Follow him on Twitter. Read his tweets and have an answer ready for reporters like us." -- Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.


HOWELL: Good advice there, Steven, thank you.

China has issued a warning to the U.S. after its nominee for secretary of state suggested blocking access to the South China Sea. Our Brian Todd has this report for us.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They've staked a claim to thousands of acres of what were sandbars and reefs. They've used sophisticated equipment like this ships pumping sand through the thin tubes to create an islands. Then, they built airfields with towering radar stations, constructed ports, deployed weapons there even built barracks. China's military built up of this island in the South China Sea has angered the Obama administration. The U.S. has sent ships and planes very near the islands sometimes drawing Chinese warnings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the Chinese Navy. This is the Chinese Navy. Please go away quickly.

TODD: Now, a government-run Chinese newspaper is warning of a possible war with the U.S. over the manmade islands. It's purred by this comment from Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson at his confirmation hearing. REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: We're going to have to send China a clear signal that first the island building stops and second your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed.

TODD: The Chinese newspaper says, "Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, then trying to block China's access to the island would be foolish."

And Tillerson had better bone up on new nuclear strategies if he wants to force to a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories. Pentagon officials are calling on China to reduce tensions. How could the U.S. deny access those islands?

GREGORY POLING, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: You would want to star with neighbor blockade. That's would people would think, you know, give a missile crisis in the modern era. But there's a lot of space it cover. I would assume that you're talking about blocking access to the seven islands that China that occupies here on the Spratly out of its dozens.

You'd also have to deal with their air capabilities. This is not just a naval blockade. China has four different airstrips build on the largest of the islands out there. They have hanger space far full regimen of fighter air craft that each one of these, that's an awful lot of capability.

And finally, this is not without cost. These are not defenseless features. What you're looking at here are advance air defense and anti-missile systems. This is anti-aircraft gun.

TODD: Analysts are worried about escalation.

ROBERT DALY, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: The biggest fear is accidental conflict of accidental conflict. The South China Sea even under the best possible set of circumstances is going to get more crowded and more contentious. They're going to be more commercial ships in the area and they're going to more military assets.

TODD: A key questions in all of this, did Rex Tillerson speak directly for President-elect Trump when he said the U.S. should deny China access to that island?

I spoke to a Trump transition official who walked back slightly from Tillerson's comments. The official said denying access doesn't necessarily have to mean a naval blockade that there are other options including economic ones. When I pressed on what those might be, the --


TODD (voice-over): -- official said there are no details yet. But all of this still has to be worked out -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Brian Todd, thank you. Now to the search for a child abducted nearly two decades ago. That search that has finally come to an end. Kamiyah Mobley (ph) went missing from a Florida hospital shortly after she was born. Now police say that she has been identified as an 18-year-old woman in South Carolina.

The woman she thought was her mother has been arrested and also charged with kidnapping. Long-lost loved ones are overjoyed now that Kamiyah (ph) has been found.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just thank God because I prayed for this day. A lot of times you pray and pray and thinking things ain't going to happen. But, God, the minute it happened, so I prayed for this day. So I'm just so happy. And I'll be glad when she get here so we can celebrate. There is nothing I can do for her at a young age. But I can take it and move on from today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you going to do when you see her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm going to hug her. Hug her to death. I'm going to kiss...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hug, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a long time for we ain't never see her before.


HOWELL: That's very interesting. I just -- good to see the family reunited. Police say that Mobley (ph) was located after a series of tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

A quick break and then ahead, a show of strength for nervous allies. U.S. troops tell the Baltic States, we've got your back. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Welcome back.

U.S. troops are on a mission to reassure some nervous allies, the Baltic States --


HOWELL: -- are worried about what Russia might do next and uncertainty about how President-Elect Trump will deal with NATO, well, that isn't helping. Ivan Watson has this report for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): War games in the snowy fields of Eastern Europe as U.S. soldiers train in Latvia. Twenty-five years ago, this was part of the Soviet Union. Today Latvia is part of the European Union and also a U.S. military ally in NATO.

WATSON: These are live fire exercises. That's why I've got wear all this extra protective armor. Military commanders say they're trying to show that they're a force of deterrence and their number one potential threat: Latvia's much bigger neighbor to the east.

COL. GREGORY ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY: The origins were really a response to Russian activity in 2014, when the strategic situation changed.

WATSON (voice-over): He's talking about Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula after Russian forces drove Ukrainian troops out of this corner of Ukraine in 2014. Russia's land grab frightens people in former Soviet republics like Latvia, where there are still bitter memories after a half century of Soviet occupation.

JANIS GARISONS, LATVIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE: Our main aim is to protect our surrounding and I always think protect our statehood.

If Russia is so peaceful and regards us as neighbors, good neighbors why you should put more forces on your borders?

WATSON: But there are two sides to this tension. We traveled from Latvia across Lithuania to Kaliningrad. A Russian enclave in Europe that's cut off from mainland Russia. In soviet times, this was a heavily militarized place closed off from the outside world.

Kaliningrad was recently thrust back into the spotlight after Russia deployed nuclear capable missiles here. Russia's top diplomat defended the move arguing it's the U.S. that's threatening Russia.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, it's our territory. But the plans of the United States not only to, well, they quadrupled I think the money allocated to support military deployment in Eastern Europe. Then they moved NATO infrastructure next to our borders.

WATSON: Kaliningrad is still the headquarters of the Russian neighbor's Baltic fleet and Moscow's been flexing its own muscles performing military drills in the region. In 2014, western governments punished Russia's actions in Ukraine with economic sanctions. They've contributed to a broader economic crisis in Russia that's got everyone we talked to worried about the future.

"Of course, I feel bad when they always blame for Russia for everything that's gone wrong in the world," says Konstantin Smernov (ph).

"This confrontation," he tells me, "is not good for anyone."

Rival militaries maneuvering along opposite sides have been increasingly tense borders in a land that still bears scars from the last time armies fought here. The countryside around Kaliningrad is dotted with dozens of old German churches like this one. Abandoned and in ruins after the Soviet army invaded and conquered this land. Reminders of what happened the last time tensions spun out of control in this part of Europe -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Kaliningrad, Russia.


HOWELL: Ivan, thank you.

Still ahead here, the Obama girls grew up in the White House with the whole world watching. And now they're getting advice about moving on from another pair of presidential daughters.






HOWELL: Time to talk about Malia and Sasha Obama. They 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 are getting some advice from two other sisters, who know exactly what they are going through. Randi Kaye has this report.


BARBARA BUSH, GEORGE W. BUSH'S DAUGHTER (voice-over): Eight years ago, on a cold November day, we greeted you on the steps at the White House.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 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 first met Sasha and Malia. Back then, the Obama girls were just 7 and 10.

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

We slid down the banister of the solarium, just as we had done as a girl and again as 20-year olds chasing our youth. Your joy and laughter were contagious.

JENNA 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 (voice-over): 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.

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 how they were glad --


KAYE: -- 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 are allowed to. Continue to surround yourself with loyal friends who know you, adore you and will fiercely protect you.

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

KAYE (voice-over): In closing, a sense of solidarity.

J. 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 even met them.

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

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

B. BUSH: and so will we.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: They have, indeed, seen a great deal of history during their time in the White House. Again, the transition of power set to happen on January 20th.

We thank you for being with us for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For other viewers around the world, the "BEST OF QUEST" starts in a moment. Thank you for watching CNN, the world's news leader.