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Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence; Trump's Talk Worries China, NATO Countries; Putin Dismisses Trump Dossier Claims As "Rubbish"; Senators Question Trump's Choice For Education Secy.; Dozens Killed When Nigerian Jet Bombs Wrong Target; Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence; Russian Border Town Not Worried About NATO; Turkish Lawmarkers Consider Expanding Presidential Powers; Moving Day Mayhem. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 18, 2017 - 02:30   ET


[02:00:12] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Chelsea Manning to go free after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence. President Obama made the call and it's causing outrage in Washington.

Putin backing Trump the Russian President publicly defends the incoming U.S. President. And he's using colorful language to do it.

And the Turkish President getting closer to claiming more power for his office.

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

U.S. President Barack Obama is causing some outrage in Washington right as he is about to leave office. He commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning formerly known as Bradley Manning, a former soldier convicted of leaking many U.S. secrets. Some lawmakers call Manning a traitor. But the White House says this was the right move.

CNN's Pamela Brown reports.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a shocking move, President Obama is allowing Chelsea Manning the army private convicted of stealing and leaking hundreds of thousand of documents and videos to be a free woman in May. The reaction on Capitol Hill and beyond has been swift.

TOM COLTON, U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN: For the President especially a President whose made so much recently about the danger that WikiLeaks is post to national security to commute private Manning's sentence, I think is very disappointing.

BROWN: In 2009, then known as Bradley Manning stole hundred of thousand of classified, insensitive military files as a 22-year-old army intelligence analyst. He then gave them to website WikiLeaks which published them causing massive ripple effect in the United States and around the world and putting WikiLeaks on the map for future leakers such as Edward Snowden. Manning's disclosure included videos of U.S. air strikes in Baghdad that launched worldwide discussions about their morality. The stolen files also included embarrassing diplomatic cables. Manning confided in an online associate about the disclosures who then alerted authorities in 2010.

During the court martial trial, prosecutors argued Manning was a traitor to the United States. But the defense said, Manning was a naive whistle blower, who wanted to shed light on human rights violations. Manning pleaded guilty and delivered an apology to the court before the sentencing. Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy but found guilty on 20 other counts including violations under the Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

The day after the sentencing, Manning announced she wanted to live life as a woman. And a year later, a judge granted Manning's request for a formal name change from Bradley to Chelsea. Behind bars, Manning was placed on suicide watch, after trying to kill herself twice in the last year.

Tonight, the White House is defending Manning's sentence commutation by drawing the distinction between Manning's case and Edward Snowden who remains an exile.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military, criminal justice process was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes. And she acknowledged wrongdoing. Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of a -- into the arms of an adversary and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.

BROWN: Over the years, Manning who was incarcerated at a men's military prison had petitioned unsuccessfully to be place in a civilian prison and to be given gender reassignment treatment. She will be released from prison, May 7th after serving seven years of her 35 year sentence.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: WikiLeaks is hailing the decision to commute Manning's sentence as a victory. And former national security contractor Edward Snowden tweeted his support saying this, "Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart. Thanks, Obama."

Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since 2013 after leaking state secrets. On Tuesday, Russia announced Snowden's asylum there will be extended for a couple of years.

Many U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are outraged by the Manning news. House Speaker Paul Ryan released this statement "President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won't be held accountable for their crimes." [02:05:04] Democratic Senator Robert Menendez also voiced his concerns.


ROBERT MENENDEZ, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: I have serious concerns about equivocating sentences when national security is at stake. What happened here is that literally hundreds of thousand of documents were released. It put national security at risk. It put individual operatives at risk. It put our national interests at risk with other countries.


CHURCH: And later this hour, we will speak to the general council for human rights watch, an organization that petitioned for Manning's sentence to be commuted. Hear her reaction to President Obama's decision. That's coming your way in just a moment.

Well China's President and a number of European leaders are raising concerns about Trump's foreign policy plans. The U.S. President-elect is once again questioning the need for NATO and threatening to get tough on trade. But one country's president is sticking by Trump.

CNN's Jim Sciutto reports.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissing allegations that the Kremlin has compromising personal and financial information on the President-elect.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): What do you think? We have special security services running after every American billionaire, of course not. It is complete nonsense. This is rubbish.

SCIUTTO: Even joking about of the more salacious and unsubstantiated details of such allegations which many news organizations including CNN have declined to report on in detail.

PUTIN, (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): It is hard to believe that he ran to a hotel to meet with our girls of a low social class although they are the best in the world.

SCIUTTO: And attacking those who prepared and published the dossier.

PUTIN, (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): People who order false information and spread this information against the elected president, who fabricate it and use it in a political fight, they are worse than prostitutes.

SCIUTTO: President Obama's spokesman took a parting shot in the final press briefing to note that Putin's comments, defending Trump's legitimacy, echoed those of the President-elect.

EARNEST: First of all, it seems like he got his copy of the talking points. Second --

SCIUTTO: From who?

EARNEST: Well I don't know. It certainly sound a lot like what the incoming administration's team is saying. But it is not the first time that the Russian president has called into question the veracity of the United States government.

SCIUTTO: Three days to his inauguration, the President-elect's rhetoric is unsettling U.S. allies and adversaries alike. China's President Xi Jinping apparently warning Mr. Trump.

XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT, (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.

SCIUTTO: This after Trump has repeatedly vowed to get tough with China on trade.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: They haven't played by the rules. And I know it's time that they're going to start. They're going to start. They've got to.

SCIUTTO: U.S. allies in Europe also pushing back, Germany expressing disbelief at Trump's dismissal of NATO as obsolete.

FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER, (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I just can't believe that an American administration would follow the thought process that Europe is not somehow important to the U.S. with a look at the history of the U.S., I just can't believe this.


CHURCH: Jim Sciutto reporting there. And he mentioned the Chinese President's comments on trade. We want to get more on that part of the story.

Matt Rivers joins us now live from Beijing. So, Matt, in the speech Mr. Xi gave at world economic forum he didn't mention Mr. Trump by name. But many believe he was speaking to him even lecturing him. The globalization shouldn't be blamed for the world's problems. Free trade should be encouraged. And, say no to protectionism. Is that a clear enough message?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it is. It has to be construed that way given what we have heard from the president-elect. I mean this is a man set to take office, who has been very much against some of the big free trade agreements that have really defined the global economy over the last 20 years like NAFTA for example. He has also been extremely critical of U.S. trade with China.

And so what you heard yesterday from the Chinese president was a full throated endorsement of open trade of free trade of economic globalization. This is a Chinese President who really came out quite strongly and that's something that is really benefited China over the last 30 years of the so-called Chinese economic miracle. It would not have been possible without a lack of protectionism throughout the world and very much a pro free trade stance.

[02:09:59] Now, it's also worth mentioning here that the Chinese President coming out like this has other motivations as well. China's economy is slowing down right now. That is just a fact. And while Chinese leaders say that they are just transitioning from a main manufacturing export base model to one that's more base on domestic consumption and services.

The fact is, China still makes a lot of stuff. And it still exports that stuff. And if it's harder to get those goods to other markets like the United States, because of protection of policies that could be put in place by the Trump administration, things like terrorist, that's not good for the Chinese economy. And what's not good for Chinese economy, is not good for the ruling party here, not good for the communist party and its chief, Xi Jinping.

So he has a very vested interest in seeing lots of other countries around the world sign up for this notion of free trade. Couple things at play here, yes he is in favor of free trade but he's also in favor of it because it's, done well by him.

CHURCH: Yeah, and Matt, Donald Trump has attacked China for what he calls unfair trade practices. He's threatened to apply heavy tariffs on Beijing. What did Xi Jinping have to stay about that? Given many analyst worry, this action could very well trigger a trade war?

RIVERS: And the fact that Xi Jinping brought up the words "Trade war" I think did surprise some people that he was so open about that. Saying that a trade war benefits no one and the China would not fire the first shot, if you will, in any trade war. And the other thing that he talked about was some of the things that Donald Trump has specifically accused China of doing.

So, for example, Trump regularly accuses China of devaluing its currency. Because by doing so, you make exports from China that much more competitive in an international market. President Xi said that in no point in the future would China consider artificially devaluing the U.N. in order to make exports more competitive internationally. That could easily be seen as direct response to some of the things that we have heard Mr. Trump say.

So, what you have heard from President Xi, is that China is a willing and an open partner ready to help lead the world when it comes to free trade abroad. But, it -- you can't help but think that this was a very much a direct response to some of the rhetoric that we have heard from the incoming administration.

CHURCH: We shall soon see if the message has been received. Many thanks to Matt Rivers joining us there live from Beijing just after 3:00 in the afternoon.

Joining me now is CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Kimberly Dozier, she is also Senior National Security Correspondent for the Daily Beast. Thank you so much for being with us.

So Kim, what's your feeling -- what's your reading of what Mr. Putin's comments as saying he is defending seemingly Trump and dismissing the information from the U.S. Intelligence briefings as we try to figure out this relationship between Trump and Putin.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIR ANALYST: Well, Putin is enjoying this Love Fest with the incoming Trump Administration. And probably enjoying the rising panic that you're seeing in the form of various administration officials making comments about Trump and Putin's relationship, and also by the Intelligence Community reporting both -- privately to reporters, and also, in public comments their rising concern about this relationship.

CHURCH: So, do you think Putin's comments and Trump's comments when viewed overall are a sign of better working relations between the U.S. and Russia? Or do you think it signals something else?

DOZIER: Look, the optimists will tell you that the U.S./Russia relationship needed to improve. It does need to be reset. As one western official told me, when the U.S. and Russia don't talk in a regular way, the wheels begin to fall off the cart of various different programs. So they say it's understandable that the Trump administration would want to put things back on the right track.

That said when you see some of the comments flying back and forth. The concern is in the U.S. Intelligence Community is that, the Russians have actually case officered Donald Trump. That's an expression meaning that they have won him over and basically have him eating out of their hand.

CHURCH: Let's listen for a moment to what the Director of the CIA, John Brennan had to say about Trump's stance towards Russia.


JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: I don't think he has a full in appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russians intentions, and actions that they are undertaking in many parts of the world. I think Mr. Trump has to understand that absolving Russia of various actions that has taken in the past number of years is a road that he -- I think needs to be very, very careful about moving down.


[02:15:06] CHURCH: And of course after that interview, we saw Trump tweet criticizing Brennan, even asking if Brennan had leaked information about Trump's intel briefings. So what do you make of this relationship between the CIA, Trump and Russia?

DOZIER: Well, the disturbing thing is, the CAI is the leading agency which will let Trump and his administration know if they see a rise in attempts of Russian influence of a more sinister nature. Something directed against Trump and his White House. But if the incoming president doesn't believe his intelligence officers then perhaps he won't respond and Moscow will be able to carry out, who knows what influence in the future.

What they're also trying to tell him is, yes we understand that you think recognizing Russian annexation of Crimea is a way to extend an olive branch to Moscow. But it is a dangerous signal to stand. They are saying that, our understanding of Vladamir Putin and Russia where at large is that they appreciate strength.

If you allow them to carry out an aggressive action like this, and then be rewarded for it. What you are going to see is more aggressive action in the future.

CHURCH: All right, we're watching this very closely, of course at CNN. Kimberly Dozier, thank you for joining us.

DOZIER: Thank you.

CHURCH: Approval ratings, usually a real time report card for U.S. Presidents, but not for Donald Trump. The president-elect doesn't seem to believe them. He will be sworn into office, of course, on Friday with the lowest approval rating in recent history, 40 percent. That's according to the latest CNN ORC Poll. And compare that to Barack Obama's 84 percent approval rating when he first took office.

Trump tweeted he is denial of these polls saying this, "The same people who did the phony Election Polls, and were so wrong are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before."

Well, Donald Trump's choice for Education Secretary got a grilling for -- from the U.S. Senate Democrat whose questioned her qualifications. They pressed Betsey DeVos at her confirmation hearing on possible conflicts of interest, such as her ties to education groups, at times the hearing got contentious.


BERNIE SANDERS, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: Do you think if you are not a multibillionaire, if you're family has not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party that you would be sitting here today?

BETSEY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY NOMINEE: Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think there would be that possibility. I have worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last almost 30 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like your views on the relative advantage of profit measuring of doing assessments and using them to measure proficiency, or to measure growth?

DEVOS: Well, thank you senator for that question. I think if I'm understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would correlate to competency and mastery. So that you -- each student is measured according to the advancement that they're making in each subject area --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's growth.

DEVOS: And that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not proficiency. So, in other words the growth they're making is in growth. That proficiency is --

DEVOS: -- if they have reach --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- in arbitrary standard --

DEVOS: -- have reached level that proficiency is that if they've reached a -- like third grade level for reading, et cetera. It --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I'm talking about the debate between proficiency and growth.

DEVOS: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What your thoughts are on that?

DEVOS: Well I was just asking to clarify then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well this is a subject that is -- has been debated in the education community for years. But it surprises me that you don't know this issue.


CHURCH: Well, at least to 52 Democratic Lawmakers are skipping Trump's inauguration. Fifty of them are boycotting. That's about a quarter of House Democrats. Many say, they are furious, Trump attacked Civil Rights Icon John Lewis after the congressman said Trump is not legitimate president.

Trump continued his feud with Lewis on Tuesday. And said he is OK with the boycott because it will free up seats.

We're going to take a very short break here. But still to come, the British Prime Minister laid out her plans for leaving the E.U. in her most specific terms yet. But even that isn't satisfying people looking for hard details.

[02:19:52] And the Nigerian Army says it was a mistake coming up. What happened to the helpless civilians at the refugee camp?


CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Well, British Prime Minister, Theresa May is laying out her vision for the U.K.'s eventual exit from the European Union. In what was billed as her biggest Brexit speech so far, may did not mince words saying, she wants a clean break from the E.U. She laid out a 12-point plan for the exit. But gave few details otherwise and she says there is a reason for that.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Those who urge us to reveal more, such as the blow by blow details of our negotiating strategy, the areas in which weave might compromise, the places where we think there are tradeoffs will not be acting in the national interest. Because this is not a game or a time for opposition for opposition's sake, it is a crucial and sensitive negotiation. That will define the interests and the success of our country for many years to come.


CHURCH: Negotiations on a new deal could not begin until Britain invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which sets the rules for E.U. membership. May says she plans to do that by the end of March.

Well, in the coming hours, a South Korean judge will decide with the Samsung's Vice Chairman should be arrested. Jae Y. Lee was mobbed by reporters Wednesday, when he arrived at the courthouse for a hearing. He is accused of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in the corruption scandal that led to the president's impeachment. Lee denies any wrongdoing.

The Nigerian military says it was targeting Boko Haram terrorists in the country's northeast. But instead, a fighter jet fired on a refugee camp, Tuesday. Doctors Without Borders says, 52 people were killed and another 120 were wounded. The group condemned the strike as shocking and unacceptable.

Farai Sevenzo is tracking developments and joins us now live from Nairobi.

So, Farai, 52 people killed, a 120 wounded. How does a mistake of this magnitude happened?

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Rosemary, I have to tell you that the Nigerian military have been raising their hands and admitting culpability from their set off since this tragedy happened. Basically the commander of operations in the northeast of Nigeria, Irabor say that they had heard a Boko Haram terrorists were moving again gathering in the area. They sent the coordinates. And their jets have the -- bombarded the area.

As you say, 52 people killed, 100 injured. And we are really expecting the death toll to rise. They are calling it a regrettable operation or mistake.

[02:25:01] CHURCH: And Farai, the Nigerian Government says that this strike was meant for Boko Haram as you say. So, where does this lead, the fight against these militants?

SEVENZO: I have to tell you, Rosemary, that, you know, we who are watching the developments between the fighters of the Nigerian Government and the Boko Haram Terrorists. I have seen an increase in operations by the Nigerian Militaries. Since President Buhari took over in May, 2015, from his feat as Goodluck Jonathan. He has really taken the fight to these terrorists.

Let's not forget what kind of terrorists they are. They are associated with Islamic State. They are -- have no qualms in sending children strapped with bombs into markets, into churches, into mosques. The entire area has been under the influence. And displacing nearly 4 million people, the area we were talking about in Iran. Had approximately 25,000 according to the Red Cross and even the volunteers from the Red Cross and the (inaudible) have also lost their employees.

CHURCH: All right Farai many thanks to you for bringing that live report. We will talk again next hour. I appreciate that. This time for a quick break.

State of America with Kate Bolduan is coming up next for our view within Asia. And the all of the outgoing commutes of a sentence for a former soldier, convicted of leaking U.S. secrets. While one organization says it was the right decision.

That is next. And Turkey's President stands to gain a lot more power. The vote parliament is preparing to take. We are back in a moment.


[02:30:13] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: And a warm welcome back to everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to check the headlines for you this hour.

Vladimir Putin is dismissing claims that Russian security services spied on Donald Trump. The Russian president says Trump ran a beauty pageant and socialized with the most beautiful women in the world. So, it's hard to believe he would meet with prostitutes.

At least 52 people are dead after a Nigerian fighter jet bombed a refugee camp. Doctors Without Borders said another 120 were wounded. The military claims the jet was trying to target Boko Haram terrorists but misfired. The Red Cross says six of its workers were killed.

A South Korean judge will decide in the coming hours whether Samsung Vice Chairman Jae Y. Lee should be arrested. He's accused of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in the corruption scandal that led to the president's impeachment. Lee denies any wrongdoing.

Well, just days before leaving office, U.S. President Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of a former soldier convicted of leaking U.S. secrets.

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, for giving 750,000 documents and videos to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is praising the move twitting this, "Victory, Obama commutes Chelsea Manning sentenced from 35 years to 7." Release date now, May 17th. But, many lawmakers are outraged saying Manning is a traitor.


TOM COTTON, U.S SENATE REPUBLICAN: Chelsea Manning pleaded guilty to a very serious crimes leaking highly classified information that put at risk the lives of our troops, our diplomats, our intelligence officers, allies who helped us around the word. This was grave harm to our national security. And, you know, Chelsea Manning is serving a sentence and should continue to serve that sentence.


CHURCH: The White House defended the decision Tuesday saying Manning has accepted responsibility and expressed remorse.

Let's talk more about this with Dinah Pokempner. She is general council for Human Rights Watch which wrote a letter to President Obama asking to commute Manning's sentence.

Thanks so much for being with us. Good to talk with you. So, first, could you explain to us why Human Rights Watch advocated for Manning and your response of course to the outcome?

DINAH POKEMPNER, GENERAL COUNSEL, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Well, we're delighted by the outcome. And the reason is that Chelsea Manning is serving the longest sentence of any government leaker today by orders of magnitude. Her sentence was enormous, unexpected. And we believe imposed to make an example out or rather than in true consideration of what punishment was merited on the charges.

We're also delighted because she didn't have a chance to defend herself under the charges laid against her. The Espionage Act doesn't allow you to argue. Well, what I did was really for the public good. It only cares about whether you disclose classified information. There are also good humanitarian reasons for -- to be happy.

Chelsea as most people know is transgender. She has not received appropriate treatment and support for gender dysphoria. She has been suicidal. She has been inappropriately kept in solitary which aggravates all of this distress and suffering. So, the commutation of the sentence could really be a life saving measure in this case, another reason to be very glad.

CHURCH: All right. Even so though, some U.S. senators are not happy with President Obama's decision. Let's just take a listen.


JOE MANCHIN, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: You have this treason espionage driven 35 years.

BILL CASSIDY, U.S. SENATE REPUBLICAN: As a traitor. And I'm disappointed.


CHURCH: So, we heard there from a Democrat and Republican using words like treason and traitor. Many critics suggesting Manning should serve out her term like any one else who's convicted of a crime and sentenced. What would you say to those critics?

POKEMPNER: The problem is, is that Manning leaked information that nobody really knows if it caused the U.S. any serious harm. And the reason no one knows is because the government never had to argue about a trial. It never had to show any harm at all.

[02:35:10] In fact, there's no evidence that anyone actually was hurt by these revelations. No doubt some diplomatic damage was caused. Some people had to be moved. But, no one was killed. CHURCH: Let's remind people about what kind of information was leaked. Are we going to play a part of a video where a U.S. helicopter shot a group of people during the Iraq war, killing two Reuters journalists as well as wounding two children.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Firing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me know when you've got them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Light them all up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those are two traffic to --


UNINDITIFIED MALE: Keep shooting. Keep shooting. Keep shooting.


CHURCH: Important to note that video contradicted early reports from the U.S. military that civilians were killed in a combat situation. And later, after the release of this video, the Pentagon argued that the journalist cameras could be mistaken for weapons.

Dinah, do you believe that Manning's actions exposing a situation like this outweighs any harm that Manning's leaks caused.

POKEMPNER: It's very difficult for us to look at the whole case because of course Manning leaked a lot more than just that video. But there is no doubt that that video and many other documents that manning leaked, exposed information that the American public has a right to know.

CHURCH: It is worth noting that Manning downloaded the largest leak in U.S. history of secret information on to a fake Lady Gaga C.D. She reportedly told a friend who later reported Manning to authorities. Here's what Manning said. And I'm quoting here, "Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available in searchable format to the public. Everywhere there's a U.S. post, there's a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed, worldwide. Anarchy in CSV format, it's beautiful and horrifying."

So, Dinah, its sound like she knew what she was doing and knew it could cause anarchy. Some critic this information refueling the Arab Spring with many critics suggesting Manning deserved to serve out that full sentence. But then other suggests 35 years as you have mentioned was too long for what she did. Do you think the length of her sentence and the fact that she apologized for what she did may have helped bring about this pardon?

POKEMPNER: I think so. That was in fact some of the factors that were mentioned by the White House. So, we're very glad that at least this small correction to President Obama's pretty tough record on leakers and whistle blowers has been made. I should add that Obama still leaves office with a record of more leak prosecutions than all prior presidents combined.

CHURCH: What is your stance on Edward Snowden? The White House says despite more than a million people signing a petition for Obama to pardon Snowden. He hasn't submitted paperwork seeking clemency, why is that do you think?

POKEMPNER: Snowden doesn't have to submit paperwork. Clemency is for people who have already been tried and sentenced. Pardons can be granted to anyone even people who haven't committed crimes.

All kinds of people have been pardoned even before they were charged. We know that Snowden has been indicted under the Espionage Act. It's perfectly appropriate for Obama to pardon him.

CHURCH: All right. Dinah Pokempner, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

POKEMPNER: Thank you.

CHURCH: And Chelsea Manning received just one of more than 200 commutations and pardons granted by President Obama on Tuesday. Others include General James Cartwright who had pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators, as well as former baseball hall of famer Willie McCovey and Ian Schrager the owner of the legendary 70s club, Studio 54. Both convicted of tax evasion.

Now, many of those offered clemency were nonviolent drug offenders. And nearly, 1600 people have had this sentence reduced or eliminated by Mr. Obama since he took office. And that's more than any other U.S. president. But, he's not done yet. More grants of clemency are expected to be issued on Thursday.

[02:40:10] Donald Trump has NATO leaders worried about the future of the military alliance. Just ahead, we will cross the border into Russia to see why people there are not that concerned. And it's an issue that sent Turkish lawmakers brawling.

The latest action on proposed constitutional reforms. Back in a moment with all those details.


CHURCH: It's just becoming easier to get a peek into the secret world of spies. The CIA has put nearly 13 million pages of declassified documents on line. The paper shed some light on the agency's activities from its inception in 1947 right through the 1990s.

Now, some of the material includes information related to the Vietnam- Korean and Cold Wars, even info on UFOs. In the past, these documents were acceptable only from terminals at the National Archives in Maryland.

European leaders are expressing their concern after Donald Trump said he thinks NATO is obsolete. But the people in one Russian town just across the border say they're not too concerned about the military alliance.

CNN's Clarissa Ward reports.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're here in the city of Pskov which is just a stones throw away from the border with the European Union. And as NATO builds up its presence across Eastern Europe and across the Baltic States, people here in this ancient fortress city say that they're actually not too worried about it. Because Russia is also building up its presence along the border and holding its own military exercises.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I think our city is well protected. After all we have so many divisions and troops here. We are one of the most advanced powers in the military stance. So, we shouldn't be afraid.

[02:45:11] WARD: It's not the fear of a military escalation that preoccupies people here most. Life in Pskov is tough. The average wage is just over $330 a month compared to $1,100 in Moscow. The young people are leaving. The population is dwindling and alcoholism is rampant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): People don't buy new clothes anymore. They buy less food because they only have enough money to pay the bills and for the basics.

WARD: Well, most people here say that they're not interested in politics. They are waiting and watching to see whether things might change under President Donald Trump. Trump has called NATO obsolete. And he said that he may consider lifting sanctions against Russia. That has a lot of European leaders feeling very anxious. But to most people here, its music to their ears.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Pskov, Russia.


CHURCH: Turkey's president is moving a step closer to expanded powers. A parliament is considering constitutional changes that would replace the current parliamentary system with a presidential system. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is poised to become the sole executive authority in Turkey.

Ian Lee joined us now from Istanbul with the details. So, Ian, this is an issue that has caused a great deal of tension in the Turkish parliament. And in just a few hours, the debate will get under way. So, how likely is it that all of these constitutional changes will pass? IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, so, much tension that parliamentarians have actually fought in parliament. So, you can just see from that, how tense this is. But, to give you the numbers of what they need. So, so far, to have this constitutional go -- constitutional changes go to a nationwide referendum. They need 330 votes in parliament to have it win outright and become law.

Instantly, they need 367 votes in parliaments. Well the number of votes that this is expected to get lies somewhere in between with the two political parties, the AKP and the MHP supporting a half about 356 in total. So, it's likely that this will have to go to a nationwide constitutional referendum some time in the spring.

CHURCH: So, given that, what is the feeling on the street? Do the Turkish people want to see their president more empowered?

LEE: Well, this is a country deeply divided. The ruling AKP party is -- it has a slim majority. So, when you talk to people on the streets, they are either for it or against it. But, the people who are against it, the critics say that this issue is gutting the checks and balances of the political system here where the president is just going to have too much power over -- executive power, but also power over parliament, over the judiciary. And they say that this will lead to more authoritarian rule. But the people who support it those in the AK party say that this will give greater voice to the people, that these are elected officials, the president elected officials. He is going to appoint people and they will be accountable to him.

So, they say that this brings greater democracy. And they argue that this doesn't gut the checks and balances. So, this is quite divided and it will be up to the people. It seems like Rosemary to determine if it will go through.

CHURCH: All right. And Ian, we'll be watching that debate. Once it happens, joining us there live from Istanbul where it is nearly 11:00 in the morning. Many thanks.

[02:49:03] Well, Friday is a big and hectic day, surprise, surprise, for the incoming and outgoing U.S. president. Up next, see what's involved in changing residents at the White House.


CHURCH: All right. There's some important facts there on what will happen Friday. But inauguration day also means the Obamas move out of the White House and the Trumps move in. And the outgoing first family seems to be getting ahead start. On Tuesday, we spotted movers taking boxes into the house they're leasing in Washington. Old daughter Sasha finishes high school. Getting things done early is probably a good thing and inaugural moving day is mayhem. Randi Kaye shows us just how it all gets done in so little time.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's organized chaos inside the White House on inauguration day. By 10:45 a.m., the Obamas will likely leave the White House for good, giving the chief usher and his staff just six hours to get the 132-room mansion ready for the new administration. Former White House Chief Usher Gary Walters helped coordinate the moves of five Presidents including Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43.

GARY WALTERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF USHER: So choreograph. It's like a ballet.

KAYE: The Chief Usher has a swat team of about 90 staffers but every second counts. By the time Donald and Melania Trump return from the inaugural parade, the White House has to feel like home.

WALTERS: Their clothes are in their closets. Their personal effects are in the bathroom. Their favorite foods are in the kitchen. We break the staff down almost minute to minute on their activities.

KAYE: Florists, art curators, carpenters all pitch in.

With only three small elevators in the White House residence getting one president out and the other in is never easy. Depending on how much Donald Trump is planning to redecorate, walls need to be painted, carpet change, paintings hanged, books set on shelves. The staff eats at scheduled time so the work never stops.

[02:55:10] The chief usher usually work closely with the first lady. Walters helped Hillary Clinton choose wallpaper and Laura Bush pick out China. But even a dance as well choreographed as this one isn't always perfect.

In 1993, Walters lost his voice and had to write all directions on a notepad. When Bill Clinton arrived he welcomed him with a whisper. That same year, Mrs. Clinton's inaugural ball gown disappeared during the move.

WALTERS: There was a rather frightful time for about 15 minutes until we located the dress.

KAYE: And on inauguration day in 1989, Bush 41s granddaughters surprised the White House staff by showing up 2.5 hours early in the middle of the move. This year, if all goes smoothly, the Trumps will never know of chaos that preceded their arrival at the White House. The chief usher will meet Donald Trump at the door and offer a simple greeting "Welcome Mr. President to your new home."

Randi Kaye, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: And it seems Mr. Obama is getting a little nostalgic about his inauguration. He shared this photo from his first inaugural ball back in 2009. He tweeted, "To celebrate Mrs. Obama's 53rd birthday on Tuesday". And he wrote, "To the girl from the south side, who took on a role she didn't ask for and made it her own. Happy birthday Michelle. I love you."

And Mr. Obama will hold his last news conference as president on Wednesday. You can watch it right here on CNN, our special coverage begins at 2:00 in Washington. That's 7:00 p.m. in London, 11:00 p.m. in Abu Dhabi.

I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back in just a moment with another hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Please don't leave.