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Trump Comments Concern European Allies; Controversies Swirling Ahead Of Inauguration; Growing Number Of Democrats Boycotting Inauguration; Search For Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Suspended; Turkish Nightclub Attack Suspect Arrested; Wife Faces Obstruction Of Justice Charges; 8 Men Worth As Much As Half The World. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 17, 2017 - 01:30   ET


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, Donald Trump slams NATO, talks up Brexit and hints at easing Russian sanctions.

The former French Prime Minister called it a declaration of war on Europe.

Turkish police arrest a man suspected in a deadly nightclub attack not far from where the immediate assault took place.

And later, a new report says the world's eight richest men are worth as much as half of the rest of the people on the planet.

Hello everybody. Thanks for staying with us. I'm John Vause. We're into the second hour of NEWSROOM L.A.

A headline-grabbing feud with a civil rights icon, a growing number of democrats staying away from Friday's inauguration, and European leaders rattled and alarmed. It's a rocky start to the last few days before Donald Trump is sworn in as President of the United States.

We get more now from Senior White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: On this MLK Day, Donald Trump met behind closed doors with Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights icon.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, SON OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Certainly he said that that he is going to represent Americans. He said that over and over again.

ACOSTA: But it was only a brief reprieve from the controversies swirling around his inauguration. The incoming 45th President is slamming German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing Syrian refugees into her country.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have great respect for her. I felt she was a great, great leader. I think she made one very catastrophic mistake. And, that was taking all of these illegals -- you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody really knows where they come from. You'll find out.

ACOSTA: That drew this sharp response from Secretary of State John Kerry to CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

JOHN KERRY, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I thought, frankly it was inappropriate for a President-elect of the United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner. And he'll have to speak to that as of Friday. You know, he is responsible for that relationship.

ACOSTA: Trump appears to be placing Merkel in the same category as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: Well, I start off trusting both. But let's see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.

ACOSTA: Trump is once again signaling a new, softer policy on Russia. Hinting in a published interview that he wants to work out some sort of deal with Putin:

"Russia's hurting badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are going to benefit."

And, Trump sounds like he's not sold on the NATO alliance.

TRUMP: And, I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one, it was obsolete because it was, you know, designed many, many years ago. Number two, the countries weren't paying what they're supposed to pay.

ACOSTA: The president-elect is still fuming over the disclosure that U.S. intelligence officials briefed him on unsubstantiated allegations that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising information on him.

Trump is slapping back at outgoing CIA Director, John Brennan, who said the incoming the incoming president should treat Russia with caution.

Trump tweeted, "Oh, really, couldn't do much worse. Just look at Syria, (red lined), Crimea, Ukraine, and the build-up of Russian nukes. Not good. Was this the leaker of fake news?"

SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It was John Brennan, someone who the president-elect is supposed to be trusting that came out and attacked him on his breadth and depth of understanding of Russia, Butch, is unbelievable.

ACOSTA: Trump is again raising questions about how he will repeal and replace Obamacare telling the Washington Post, his plan is insurance for everybody. But the transition is offering few details.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president- elect made it very clear that the leadership in the congress that he wants to do repeal and replace simultaneously and we're working earnestly to do that. ACOSTA: Despite the firestorms whipped up by his Twitter tirades,

Trump is vowing to keep on tweeting.

TRUMP: I'd rather just let that build up and just keep it @realdonaldtrump, I swear. And, the tweeting, I thought I'd do less of it but I'm covered so dishonestly by the press, so dishonestly.

ACOSTA: And now, more than two dozen democratic members of congress have announced they will not be attending Donald Trump's inauguration in solidarity with democratic congressman, John Lewis. Trump, so far, has yet to comment on the democratic defections. Jim Acosta, CNN New York.


VAUSE: Dominic Thomas joins me now, who chairs the Department of French and Francophone studies at UCLA. Dominic thanks for being with us.

The German chancellor had a clipped, very blunt response to Donald Trump. Listen to this.


[01:04:55] ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Let me be very clear. My position on transatlantic issues is very well known. The president-elect has outlined his views once he's in office which isn't at this point in time. We will cooperate obviously with the new American administration and will then see what sort of accord we can forge between us.


VAUSE: Chancellor Merkel also went on to say we Europeans have our destiny in our own hands. It seems for the first time, the European leaders will have to learn to live without the backing of their strongest and oldest ally.

DOMINIC THOMAS, UCLA DEPARTMENT OF FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES: Right. And somewhat paradoxically, this could bring Europe closer together as European leaders have responded in a fairly unanimous way to this -- to the kinds of comments that were made today.

The European Union is extremely important, obviously, to them, especially as they head into elections this year. They want to continue to defend an organization that has struggled over the past six months, particularly since the Brexit vote. And, NATO is also extremely important to obviously, the 28 NATO members, many of whom are also members of the European Union.

And so, these kinds of comments that are designed to divide people, are actually I would say helping to bring people together with a common articulated response that underscores just how important Europe and a united Europe is.

VAUSE: This is the headline from the news web site, POLITICO just a few hours ago, "Trump to Europe: Drop dead." We also heard from the former French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, he is running for President of France in the election. He did not hold back either. Listen to this.


MANUEL VALLS, FORMER FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): It is a provocation. It is a declaration of war to Europe.


VAUSE: A declaration of war to Europe. Does this sum up essentially where things are now between, you know, the United States and most of Europe?

THOMAS: Well, I mean, we're looking at sort of a complicated sort of, you know, Cold War. You know, a freshening up, you know, of these -- a refreshing of this kind of relationships.

Manuel Valls is running, next week in the socialist primary, and most of the candidates in that particular socialist primary are speaking out and defending and underscoring why Europe is important to them.

What is important to ask, I think is to whom do these kinds of comments appeal? Donald Trump sees himself as a sort of non- establishment, marginal figure, and this kind of comments clearly appeal to far-right populist parties in Europe, whether it's in Germany, France or the Netherlands that are Euro-skeptics and NATO- skeptics. These are the only people who, thus far, have really embraced him as a new leader.

The leaders such as Merkel and Hollande have remained open to this kind of relationship but his comments are unfortunately helping these political parties and making it very difficult for these leaders to insist on just how important issues of sort of tolerance and understanding are to Europe. These are key values to this particular organization which much like NATO has secured peace in Europe since the end of the Second World War.

VAUSE: Europeans have dealt with U.S. presidents that they didn't particularly agree with or especially liked in the past. Just a short time ago, George W. Bush, not especially popular in Europe. If you go back even further, maybe Ronald Reagan, you know, not especially liked by many Europeans. But have they ever had to deal with anything like U.S. President-elect Donald Trump before?

THOMAS: No. I mean, I think this is really unique. We've enjoyed such close relationships across the Atlantic and calling an organization like NATO, obsolete. This is an organization that has adapted dramatically.

At one point in history, the Department of Defense in the United States was called the "War Department." These organizations have evolved. NATO has been dealing with the refugee crisis and articulated responses to the war on terror, coordinated activities in the Middle East. These are important organizations and the United States has been a key player in this.

The European Union essentially exists because of the European Recovery Plan, The Marshal Plan to which the United States contributed billions of dollars in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Europe, Western Europe has been extremely close to the United States. And this new alignment and the ambiguity over the question of the Russian Federation and Putin is extraordinarily disquieting to people in Europe, in particular those countries located in the eastern parts who have elected to be members of Europe or members of NATO and do not see themselves aligned with the Russian Federation.

VAUSE: OK. Dominic, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much. Dominic Thomas there with some insights into Donald Trump's impacts on Europe.

Joining me now here, Democratic Strategist, Dave Jacobson, and Republican Consultant, John Thomas. OK. Let's pick up on the issue with Russia because in that interview -- that joint interview, he went on to say that he could lift sanctions on Russia, and NATO was obsolete. You know, this is all music to the Kremlin's ears.

But go back three years ago he was a very different Donald Trump. He was asked on the FOX News Channel, what he thought about Mitt Romney. When Mitt Romney made that warning that Russia could be the biggest geopolitical threat the U.S. is facing. Listen to this.


[01:10:08] TRUMP: Mitt Romney was so right and nobody knew how right he was going to be. And you look at Obama's response and just take a look at what is going on. Syria was propped up by Russia. Syria is now back in their fold 100 percent and, you know, that whole deal is coming to an end because Russia's taken over, we're out.

So, a lot of things we could be doing economically to Russia. Russia is not strong economically and we could do a lot of different things to really do numbers on them if we wanted to.


VAUSE: So, Dave, how do you explain the two very different Donald Trumps?

DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's a classic case of a Trump playbook flip-flop. We saw it throughout the course of the campaign. Women should be punished for having abortions -- no, maybe they shouldn't, right?

I think here's the -- here's the issue, the core issue, is that Donald Trump has done more to court Vladimir Putin than the 74 million people who voted either for his opponent, Hillary Clinton or another candidate for president. And, I think it underscores a real challenge that he has moving forward as commander-in-chief.

And I think he is fanning the flames of this sort of divisions that we've seen throughout the course of his campaign and how he talks to other world leaders whether it's our adversaries or our allies across the globe. And I think increasingly, this is going the create bubbles and blisters within the Republican Party because you've got members of congress who continue to see Russia as an adversary and as enemy of the United States.

VAUSE: And John, Donald Trump in 2014 was much closer to, you know, the conventional republican, the John McCains, Lindsey Grahams. And, clearly the one though which he has not flip-flopped on throughout this entire election season was Russia.

And that's the -- which is a very different answer set, a very Donald Trump in this election campaign than a couple years ago.

JOHN THOMAS, REBUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Yes. It is, you know. But, Donald Trump also was a pro-choice, now he's pro-life. I mean, gasp which politician flip-flop to change their position --


VAUSE: He changed his position a lot in the campaign but he never changed it on Russia.

THOMAS: I think his philosophy is he just wants to leave all options open on the table. I think Mr. Thomas eloquently laid out what's going on in the UK. But then again, they did have the Brexit. You know, it's not a populist way of sweeping across not just across the United States, it's across the world.

JACOBSON: But doesn't it beg the question of like what Vladimir Putin or the Russians or Kremlins have on Donald Trump? Like he's going out and alienating himself among all of our allies across the globe, whether it's, you know, Mexico or Germany or NATO alliances. And -- but he does -- he consistently -- you're right, John. He consistently has hugged Vladimir Putin. It raises real questions that are ought to be asked about what his real relationship is with Russia.


THOMAS: I mean, I think we'll see as soon as he takes office.

VAUSE: We sure will, it's in four days, or less.

Another development which is, you know, for us in the media which is concerning, is that the possibility of reporters covering the Trump administration actually being evicted from the White House press room, and they've been there since 1901.

It's a very tiny room. It used to be a pool which, you know, was basically closed in and made into the press room. The concern here, though, Dave, is that this is a slippery slope.

JACOBSON: It's a slippery slope and it creates a buffer between the president and the press. And one of the fundamentals of our democracy is to have a powerful robust press that can ask the tough questions and be critical of those in power. And I think by moving them out of the White House, I think it's going to fan the existing flames that have been going on. And it's emblematic of what we saw in the Clinton administration 1993 -- I'm a big fan of George Stephanopoulos, but when he was communications director, he created a physical barrier between his staff and the press corps.

One of the things that David Gergen as senior adviser to the then President Bill Clinton, who came in, was charged with dealing -- was creating a better relationship with the press and the White House. And so, he moved that physical barrier. This is moving them out of the building. It's a whole other issue.

THOMAS: I think this story is getting misconstrued out of proportion. Reince Priebus went on "Meet the Press" on Sunday and said, "In fact, we're not eliminating anyone from the press corps. We just -- or the press room, we want to invite more people. We want to invite more news sources, more bloggers to cover it. And he said explicitly to Chuck Todd, he's not revoking any press passes.

VAUSE: Let me tell you why there's a concern with that. Because if you saw Donald Trump's news conference at Trump Tower, there are 300 reporters there, there were so many reporters there as opposed to the 45 that are normally cover the president that when Donald Trump didn't dodge or said something that wasn't accurate or maybe misleading, there was no one to follow it up. And he went from the CNN reporter -- well, he did go to CNN -- rather maybe go from an ABC reporter to a Breitbart reporter for a friendly question.

That's the concern that this room could be filled with hundreds of reporters and bloggers and commentators who are friendly to the administration.

THOMAS: Well, I mean, I think that the difference in a democratic administration, he has a whole press corps that's friendly to him, by and large where Donald Trump doesn't have that --


THOMAS: Well, a republican perspective is at least. And so, Donald Trump thinks he's got to bring in people that might give him a fair shake.

VAUSE: OK. Well, one of the issues that we have is Donald Trump and his Twitter account, he's into that Twitter feud with John Lewis, who, you know, is an icon of the civil rights movement. He had a meeting on Monday at Trump Tower with the son of Martin Luther King. And this is what Martin Luther King III said to reporters after he had that meeting with Donald Trump.


[01:15:02] KING: Things have been said on both sides in the heat of emotion. And at some point, this nation -- we've got to move forward. We can't stand -- I mean people are literally probably dying.

We need to be talking about how do we feed people, how do we clothe people, how do we create the best education system? That's what we need to be focused on.


VAUSE: It is time. I think everyone needs to move on and most people would agree with that. And that's up to democrats as well who should probably attend the inauguration.

JACOBSON: Well, but also at the same time, you've got Donald Trump who claims that he wants to unify the country, bring people together and move forward, and he is going scorched earth against John Lewis. And this issue isn't like confined to just John Lewis.

His campaign and his transition has largely been tone deaf to racial issues in this country. He continues to say that African-American, you know, areas, communities, are in flames, are you know, are failing neighborhoods --

VAUSE: -- Disasters.

JACOBSON: Right, precisely. I think it really underscores a real lack of understanding of the African-American community and the inconsistency that he has or the

inability he has to be a coalition builder, to bring people in and to solve these problems rather than just exacerbating them.

THOMAS: See, here's the problem. This should be bigger than the office holder. This should be about the office, and respect for our government and the institution.

The fact is, John Lewis, this isn't the first time he's boycotted an inauguration. He wouldn't go to George W. Bush's either. This is just a case where they are putting politics before respect for our government and that's disgusting, just like they were charging the republicans for being the party of no against Barack Obama.

What they're doing now is being the party of no against Donald Trump because it scores point, the ones who are not attending the inauguration are all in safe liberal districts where they're just going to get kudos from constituents.

VAUSE: OK. We'll leave it at that.


VAUSE: And, we're getting breaking news now. The CNN, the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been suspended after nearly three years. We'll have a live report after a short break.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Don Riddell with your CNN WORLD SPORT headlines.

We now know who will be replacing Nico Rosberg at Mercedes and partnering Lewis Hamilton for the2017 Formula 1 season. His name has been out there for weeks but on Monday, the Silver Arrows confirmed that the Finnish driver, Valtteri Bottas will be their new driver having successfully prized him away from the Williams team.

Bottas has shown some promise during his four years of racing for Williams. He was particularly good in 2014 when he had two second place finishes and came fourth in the Drivers' Championship.

More bad news for Rory McIlroy, today; he lost the South African Open in the playoff on Sunday. Now, he's been forced to pull out of the Abu Dhabi Championship with a rib injury. McIlroy, who's knocking on the door for the world's top ranking was concerned about his back and says he will begin a rehab program and will not play until he is fully recovered.

And finally on Monday, the Chicago Cubs went to the White House to celebrate their World Series championship with President Obama.

[01:20:01] This was the final team that will celebrate a championship while President Obama's in the Oval Office. The Cubs are from the president's home town. But, even though he is a diehard Chicago White Sox fan, the champs were invited in November after beating the Cleveland Indians in seven games to win their first World Series title since 1908.

That is a quick look at your world sports headlines. I'm Don Riddell.


VAUSE: The search in one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history has been suspended. We might never know exactly why Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared almost three years ago with 239 passengers and crew members on board.

Alexandra Field joins us now from Seoul, South Korea. So Alexandra, why now? What's behind the timing and the reason to end the search?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, John, officials from three countries came out together, united front saying that they were ending the search but that the decision wasn't made lightly or without sadness.

This is a timeline that had been laid out. There was 120,000 square kilometers search area, which they were committed to fully searching but they say that they have found no new evidence in searching that area that points to the specific location of the missing aircraft. And so, they have decided to suspend the search. It's a day that the families of the victims had anticipated but certainly it is one that they also dreaded.


FIELD: For nearly three years, Steven Wong has wondered what happened to his mother and the 238 others onboard MH370. Now, there's a chance he'll never know. Authorities from Australia, Malaysia, and China officially suspending the search for the missing plane.

STEVEN WONG, LOST MOTHER ON MH370: I feel really disappointed about the news. Since about three years ago, they are quite confident they are searching the right place.

FIELD: The flight left Kuala Lumpur just after 12:40 in the morning on March 8th, 2014. It was bound for Beijing but dropped off radar an hour after takeoff.

Satellite data led investigators to conclude the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean. Experts narrowed it down to a 120,000 square kilometers search zone, but an exhaustive and extensive effort found no sign of the aircraft.

Last summer, officials announced that without credible evidence the operation would be indefinitely suspended once the search zone had been completely scoured. And last month, an Australian government report said it's very likely search teams have been looking in the wrong place.

The report recommended that another 25,000 square kilometers northeast of the current zone also be searched. But Australia's transport minister said with no concrete proof that the plane is actually there, the search would not be expanded.

But parts of the plane have been found washed up on the beaches in East Africa. Three have been confirmed without a doubt, belonged to MH370. Investigators say six other pieces are likely to belong to the plane. For the families of those on board, it's even more reason to keep looking.

WONG: I just want them to keep on searching. Maybe they could just make a small break and recalculate about where exactly is the plane and where is the right place?

FIELD: Investigators also have a clearer picture of how the plane went down.

Australia's Transport Safety Bureau said in November its flight simulation showed MH370 spiraled in its final moments, descending at up to 25,000 feet per minute. But it still couldn't pinpoint where the plane's remains might be now.

For Steve Wong, the search's suspension comes at a particularly difficult time. Lunar New Year is at the end of the month. In China, it's traditionally a time for families to reunite.

WONG: The people who are living with you for more than 20 years, that leave suddenly, I will never accept, but I know that I cannot do a lot of things because I'm just a common people.

FIELD: Families that may never get closure. One of the biggest mysteries in aviation history, unsolved.


FIELD: That, of course, gripped the world's attention and held it for so long, three years now. But we do know the last search vessel has left that search area. The statement from officials announcing the suspension of the search went on to honor the lives of the victims to pay continued condolences to their family members. And we have learned from, several of the family members of the victims that Malaysia Airlines has been in touch with the families and that they do plan to answer questions from family members tomorrow. John?

VAUSE: OK. Alexandra, thank you. Alexandra Field, there with the breaking news, the search for MH370 has now been suspended.

[01:25:00] After more than two weeks of intensive searching, the Turkish police have arrested the man suspected of gunning down 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub. From Istanbul, we get details from Ian Lee.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, a nationwide manhunt is over. Closer to home than many thought, police caught the alleged gunman who carried out the deadly attack at the Reina nightclub on New Year's Eve.

Authorities found him after conducting an operation in the Esenyurt neighborhood of Istanbul, about 30 to 35 kilometers from the nightclub.

Along with the alleged gunman, police arrested four other people including three women and a Kyrgyz man according to state media. They are now at police headquarters in Istanbul's Fatih district. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 39 people. Monday night's arrest is good news for Turkey. Authorities feared the gunman might try to slip away into neighboring Syria. The manhunt lasted for over two weeks with hundreds of security personnel scouring the country.

Police rounded up dozens of alleged ISIS members who they say either knew or aided the gunman. A few days ago, police also detained two Chinese nationals they accuse of having links to the attack.

The owner of the Reina nightclub reacted to the arrest telling CNN, "I felt an immense wave of relief rush through me. I think a huge weight has been lifted off the shoulders of all the victims and their families just knowing that this man no longer is walking free." He went on to thank security forces and Turkish intelligence for apprehending the suspect and ending this ordeal, John.

VAUSE: Ian Lee, thank you. CNN Law Enforcement Contributor and retired FBI special agent, Steve Moore joins me now with more on this.

OK, Steve. So, it's not often they get these guys alive.


VAUSE: So, they've got him. He's obviously being questioned right now. Assuming he is the right guy, would he have a wealth of knowledge of future operation a little bit -- plans?

MOORE: This is a coup. Even if he doesn't know -- have knowledge of future events, he has knowledge of how this one went down. And he has $150,000 cash that had to have come from Islamic State. So, now, we will know when they finish interrogating him and trust me,

the Turks will get the information out of him. We will know how this entire scheme worked. It's a boon.

VAUSE: OK. So, they monitored his house for a couple days and it took about two weeks to track him down. Would they have learned a lot from who was coming, who was going? And why do you think they've moved in now? Was there a concern that something could have happen or they just (INAUDIBLE).

MOORE: They were watching him specifically to learn what was there. But there's always -- when you are doing this, there's always this nervousness about what happens if he goes out of pocket?

So they probably weighed -- they balanced whether or not they wanted to take that risk anymore and they were probably happy with who they got.

VAUSE: OK. Let's move on to the other being headlined in California.

The FBI have arrested the wife of Omar Mateen. He was the Orlando gay nightclub shooter, killed 49 people. The FBI have arrested his wife, Noor Salman.

She always said she had no idea what her husband was up to but the Orlando police chief told CNN a different story.


JOHN MINA, ORLANDO, FLORIDA POLICE CHIEF: There is no doubt in my mind based on the information that I knew and have received from the FBI over the past seven months that she knew, that she aided and that she could have prevented this tragedy.


VAUSE: And if you look at the charges, aiding and abetting. So, clearly the FBI believes that she had some kind of knowledge beforehand or during?

MOORE: I believe that they probably had information that she had knowledge beforehand. But they didn't charge her with material support which they could have if they could prove that she knew beforehand. They charged her with aiding and abetting material support. So they may just be splitting the baby. It's one thing to know it. It's another thing to prove it.

VAUSE: OK. One of the issues which is still unanswered with Omar Mateen is did he have help from anyone in the United States? Is it possible that his wife has that information, doesn't really know it and this arrest is trying to get that information or maybe to rattle her to make her give up all that she may know around her?

MOORE: When the FBI goes through the trouble of indicting you for this, they've given up on you giving them anymore information. However, it does give them access to a lot of things that of hers that they wouldn't have had access to, otherwise.

VAUSE: OK. This is -- we've seen this happen before. People, some have associated it with these terror attacks. Terror attacks happened in San Bernardino, I think it was a neighbor who was arrested for knowing what was going on.

So, clearly there is a situation with those around the people planning these plots that they are aware of what's going on.

MOORE: That's correct.

VAUSE: So basically, these arrests, these people are taken in, the charges they are facing are as serious as the actual terrorist attack itself?

MOORE: Yes. I mean you are if you aid and abet a terrorist attack, you are not going -- I mean you may not be eligible for the death penalty, you may. It depends on how they're going to finally charge and what they charge --

[01:30:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: So these arrests, these people are taken in. The charges they are facing are as serious as the initial terrorist attack itself?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, if you aid and abet a terrorist attack -- I mean, you may not be eligible for the death penalty, you may. It depends on how they're going to finally charge. And what they charge them with now may not necessarily be what the final charges will be.

VAUSE: Steve, good to talk to you.

MOORE: Thanks.

VAUSE: Thank you.

We'll take a break. Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., Oxfam's latest report finds the gap between the superrich and the poorest continues to widening. But why critics say the report is missing important details.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause, with the headlines this hour.


VAUSE: It's that time of year when the world's elite gather in the Swiss Alps and all this week talk about global challenges and how to solve them. On the sidelines, there will be a lot of deal making. It's called World Economic Forum but everyone refers to it as Davos, the resort town where it is held.


KLAUS SCHWAB, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: We meet here at the extraordinary moment of history. We are in the midst of a deep transformation, sometimes disruptive transformation of business models, of economies, of society, of politics.


VAUSE: And for the last few years, to coincide with the start of Davos, Oxfam has issued a report on the difference between the mega rich and the desperately poor. This year, the headlines is, "The eight richest men have the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the entire planet of 3.6 billion people."

The numbers are not disputed, but the aid group is facing criticism for focusing on inequality instead of poverty. It's being accused of demonizing wealth and capitalism.

Paul O'Brien, from Oxfam, joins us now from Washington, D.C.

Paul, the main criticism is they are not focusing on absolute poverty, which has been falling for some time, but looking at inequality and calling out the eight billionaires as being part of the problem.

PAUL O'BRIEN, V.P. FOR POLICY & CAMPAIGNS, OXFAM: Right. Well, it's not accusing the eight of being the problem but they are a symptom of the problem. When you work alongside people living in poverty and they have been stuck as their own economies have grown, a lot more resources but it's not going towards creating inclusive economies with health care and education you know you have a problem. These men have $426 billion. That is the same as 3.6 billion of the poorest people on the planet. There is something wrong with. That.

VAUSE: One critic, Mark Littlewood, with the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank, wrote this, "Once again, Oxfam have come out with a report that demonizes capitalism skimming over the fact that free markets have helped over 100 million people rise out of poverty in the last year alone."

What is your response to that?

O'BRIEN: First, we're not opposed to capitalism. We know that markets allow people to gain economic opportunity and lift themselves out of poverty. But are we doing enough considering the amount of economic growth we have and the wealth there is out there. Take for example the amount of money lost in tax avoidance. $100 billion to developing countries over the last year. That's enough to pay for a schoolteacher for every child who is not in school today. 126 million kids. It could save four million lives. We like growth. We embrace many of the principles of market capitalism but it should be regulated so everyone has a chance to lift themselves from poverty. VAUSE: Part of the argument in this report is with so much wealth

held by the top 1percent it is holding back the fight to end global poverty and again I want to read from Tim Warsaw at the Adam Smith Institute: "Wealth value is something created and some of it will stick to those doing the original creation and the rest of it goes out to the world to be enjoyed by the rest of us. The solution to poverty there be more rich people who have grown rich by creating value for the rest of us to consume." He goes on to say, "The world needs more rich people that they need to have more money."

Where do you stand on that?

O'BRIEN: We would like to see more wealth created but what we actually had over the last 25 years is that incomes for the poorest 50percent has remained essentially flat while the very wealthy have grown their wealth disproportionately. What we need is an economy that works for everyone. We're calling for a human economy.

VAUSE: I guess the argument against what you're putting out here from many of your critics is yes there is inequality but that doesn't affect the people at the bottom end of the social ladder. They are the ones who are benefitting from economic growth if you look at poverty it is falling quickly. That's all that matters providing their situation is improve as well, what's the problem?

O'BRIEN: What we can agree on is the measure of success here is what is the best thing for people on the wrong end of the poverty equation. For years, we have been pushing for more aid to get people to spend more charitable donations. And we think that's important, by the way. We need governments and individuals to help their fellow humans. But what we've come to realize is that the big money for development actually comes from inclusive economic growth in better regulated economies, both in countries like the United States where more and more people are being left behind but in many of the developing countries where you've actually seen a lot of economic growth but very little benefit for those living on the margins.

[01:40:29] VAUSE: Is there a problem here, though, that by singling out these eight billionaires -- and many of them give away a good deal of their money. Bill Gates is giving away everything he has, billions of dollars. It seems almost as if you are detracting from what they're doing.

O'BRIEN: We think Bill Gates is a very generous man. And we have no problem with the way he approaches his philanthropy. But since Bill Gates stopped working at Microsoft and started to try to give away his money, facing the regulations he faces his wealth has grown by 50 percent after he stopped working. He can't give away his money fast enough.

VAUSE: Yeah, it's an interesting problem for Bill Gates to have.

Paul, we appreciate you being with us and the argument you're making.

Thank you, sir.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

VAUSE: British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to deliver a clean- break speech on Brexit. She does not want the country half in and half out of the European Union. She will lay out a dozen priorities for the talks. You can watch the speech it at 11:45 in London and 7:45 in Hong Kong.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, thousands of Syrians have faced a horrific journey fleeing their homes. We have a CNN exclusive next. Our team goes inside Syria to speak with survivors.


[01:45:03] VAUSE: At least five people were killed and 15 wounded when gunfire broke out at a music festival in Mexico. Security guards tried to stop the gunman from entering the club and got in a shootout with him. One woman was trampled to death in the stampede.

Syrian opposition groups say they will attend a round of peace talks next week. The Syrian regime is in a stronger position after brutally retaking Aleppo last month. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee their homes.

And in a CNN exclusive from inside Syria, CNN senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, spoke with families still recovering from a traumatic escape.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Our car bumps through Syria's rugged hills towards a new refugee camp close to Turkey's border. My mind drifts back to nearly six years ago to the first camp we visited not far from here, and all the cycles of Syria's retched story.


We want to talk to those who evacuated eastern Aleppo during a cease- fire last month or as it was for them, a forced displacement after months under siege and relentless bombing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): All you hear are the planes, the strikes, the terror, the funerals. All you see is funerals.

DAMON: And one of those was for her husband, a farmer killed in a strike on his way to work seven months ago.

(on camera): The only thing she was able to bring with her, other than one change of clothing for the kids when they left, was a photograph of her husband, their father.

(voice-over): It's the most precious thing she has. She pulls out another picture, the youngest reaches for it. He likely won't remember his father's touch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Even now, we don't know if this is permanent. Maybe something worse than war will happen to us.

DAMON: The last days in Aleppo defied logic.

What more is there to say she asks us?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): They bombed us and in just three minutes, not three hours, they destroyed our whole neighborhood.

DAMON: The children don't know how to live. They only know how not to die or even wish for it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): He asks why are there so many strikes? He starts to cry. Sometimes he even says I want to die.

DAMON: They walked and walked. Twice the buildings they sheltered in were hit by air strikes. For four days, they lived in the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): I had to burn my children's clothes to make heat for them. I had two bags of clothes and I burned them because it was so cold.

DAMON: Like everyone we saw, they yearn for home, for that feeling of being safe and warm.

The images are not new. Not shocking. But then again, even when Syria shocks, what difference has it made?

Arwa Damon, CNN, Syria.




[01:52:19] VAUSE: It was bittersweet for U.S. President Barack Obama when he played host to the World Series champions from his hometown. He honored the Chicago Cubs to the White House. But Obama cheered for the White Sox, the other team. Mr. Obama poked fun at the Cubs for going more than a century without a championship saying it took long enough.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, listen, I made a lot of promises in 2008.


We've managed to fulfill a large number of them. But even I was not crazy enough --


-- to suggest that during these eight years we would see the cubs win the World Series.


OBAMA: But I did say that there has never been anything false about hope.


OBAMA: Hope.


OBAMA: The audacity of hope.


OBAMA: Yes, we can.




VAUSE: The Cubs offered Mr. Obama a midnight pardon to forgive him for supporting the White Sox.

There's a mystery on Capitol Hill. Days before Donald Trump's inauguration, the company name on portable toilets is being covered up, but why?

Jeanne Moos has the answer.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don's Johns. Such a catchy name for a Porta-Potty. Why is someone taking the "Don" out of johns by taping over the name? Is it to spare a certain president-elect from embarrassment from association.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does remind me of Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make America great again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump. Don's Johns. Was that set up that way, really?


MOOS: Not really. Don's Johns just happens to be the name of a company supplying 2,000 Porta-Potties for inauguration. When the blue tape started covering the name.


MOOS: The jokes started to flow. "Early editions of the Trump wall in D.C., smells like a cover up," sniffed one headline.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to insult up our president-elect, Donald.

MOOS (voice-over): To those who think Trump's people taped over the name. Wrong.

(voice-over): The agency that takes care of the national mall, the Architect of the Capitol, says it did it. The ACC is covering or removing signage on Porta-toilets to bring them into compliance with restrictions on advertising.

Though Don's Johns never had their name covered during previous inaugurations.

And Jean's Johns still have some of its signage up right next to taped-over Don's Johns.

The company would say it is very proud of the logo.

[01:55:12] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that's the name of the company they should be allowed to keep it.

MOOS: Some say trash the tape.

"I think we have a moral obligation to remove the tape from Don's Johns."

Posted another critic, "Move the tape and write 'the' on it as in The Donald."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's unnecessary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought he liked his name big.

MOOS: Talk about irregular this is not the type of movement the president wants to inspire.


Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: And there still will not be enough of them.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

Rosemary Church will pick up our coverage from the CNN Center after a short break.