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Trump Blasts Australia's PM over Refugees; U.S. Condemns Iranian Ballistic Missile Test; Protest at UC-Berkeley over Breitbart Editor's Speech; Mattis Making First Trip as U.S. Defense Secretary; Pro-Russian Separatists Hope Trump Will Bring Peace; The Long and Not So Short of Trump Ties. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 2, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:49] ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome to our viewers right around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Vause in Los Angeles.

We begin with that breaking news U.S. President Donald Trump berating the Australian prime minister on the same day his National Security Advisor issues a blunt warning to Iran.

Standing by in Canberra is 7 Australia reporter Tim Lester. He has details on that hostile conversation between President Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. CNN military analyst Lieutenant Rick Francona will have more on the Trump administration's blunt warning to Iran. And joining me here in Los Angeles talk radio host Mo Kelly, and Republican consultant John Thomas.

SOARES: And also with the U.S. Defense Secretary on his first overseas trip, CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul for us. And Matt Rivers is standing by along China's border with North Korea.

VAUSE: We'll start with that extraordinary phone call between the U.S. President and the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Sources telling CNN the conversation became heated with President Trump upset over a one-off deal negotiated during the Obama administration which would see more than a thousand asylum seekers transferred to the U.S.

The refugees are currently held in Australia's remote detention centers in Manus Island and Nauru. Many are from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, countries on Trump's travel ban.

Mr. Trump, according to sources repeatedly called it a bad deal saying one of the refugees would be the next Boston bomber and then the call was abruptly ended. A short time ago, President Trump tweeted this. "Do you believe it? The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia? Why? I will study this dumb deal."

To Parliament House in Canberra now and 7 Australia reporter, Tim Lester. And Tim what has been the reaction there not just from the Prime Minister but also from ordinary Australians?

TIM LESTER, 7 AUSTRALIA REPORTER: Well, there's a deal of shock because John, diplomatic relations between Australia and the United States have never been carried on this way in living memory. And it suggests a changed dynamic for Australia in relations with its most important, certainly its most important security partner.

It's also, of course, like the rest of the world getting to know how relations will be done with Donald Trump but that tweet you mentioned is especially damaging. Just a couple of hours ago, our Prime Minister was telling us no, I have a guarantee from the President of the United States that the refugee deal will proceed.

Well, we now know, at least on Twitter that the U.S. President says it's under scrutiny and might not proceed.

VAUSE: Tim -- the tone and the hostility from the U.S. President is especially remarkable given the close relationship between the United States and Australia -- one of its oldest allies.

LESTER: This underlines the surprise here. Certainly our strategic and military closeness can't be underestimated -- one of the five -- security, intelligence cooperators in the five countries with the U.S. that exchange intelligence. We are enmeshed in military terms deeply. We fought alongside the U.S. in the wars since the First World War and perhaps its best and most reliable military allies since the Second.

So you can imagine the Australian Prime Minister would be completely bemused by this. Diplomatic analysts here are saying that this beckons a re-think of the relationship -- not a downgrade or anything of that kind -- as much as just having to think more independently and take a new, less reliant U.S. approach to our global relations.

VAUSE: Yes. There was a lot of talk before this phone conversation that these two leaders would actually have a strong relationship. They are both conservative. Malcolm Turnbull is a wealthy, self-made businessman. They have a lot in common and they would work well together. Clearly that might not be the case.

Perhaps that was a little bit of a once likely in terms of Prime Minister Turnbull's background. Yes, he is certainly a self-made businessman. So they share an understanding of business and commerce.

But at the same time, Prime Minister Turnbull is still a (inaudible) liberal and reasonably moderate and he's a quite urbane, softly-spoken man.

[00:05:06] The Trump approach, you would think would be quite challenging for him. And I think it does pick a wry smile at a lot of -- pick up a wry smile for a lot of Australians to think how a person like Malcolm Turnbull would cope with a phone call like the one the "Washington Post" has described.

VAUSE: Ok. Tim -- thank you very much for being with us. Tim Lester there in Parliament House in Canberra.

Well with me here in Los Angeles, for more on this, talk radio host Mo Kelly and Republican consultant John Thomas.

Ok, we have a crisis with Australia now. Here's more of our reporting on the phone call with the Australian Prime Minister. "His interactions are naive", this is from a source, "in that he keeps suggesting that we will have the best relationship ever with a broad departure of countries but there is no substance to back it up when he encounters a policy challenge like with Turnbull he responds with a tantrum."

Mo -- does any of this surprise you?

MO KELLY, TALK RADIO HOST: It doesn't surprise me. We've discussed this. His temperament for the better part of the year or so, his decisions are either going to create concern or they're going to create confidence.

And this is Australia. We're not talking about Iran. We're not talking about someone that we don't have a long historical relationship with. If you can't get along with our friends, how are you going to create these coalitions that you're going to need to keep this world order and this world peace, if necessary?

VAUSE: And John -- this also seemed to be very so Donald Trump. It was transactional. He was like this is a bad deal, I don't like it. There is no sort of regard, if you like, for the history between these two countries. And also having a fight with Australia while there is still not a bad word for Russia?

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Yes. No, it is fascinating that he -- I suspect Russia, once Tillerson gets embedded and sorts it out -- will be next on the list.

But here's how Donald Trump approaches things. It is very transactional and what over the last eight years really are irrelevant as Donald Trump sees it, if he has a refugee ban and no one is going to force Donald Trump to do something he doesn't want to do just because past history was different.

VAUSE: Or just because you are locked into a legal arrangement?

THOMAS: Well, Donald Trump -- everything is up for negotiation, according to Donald Trump. But you look at places like Israel. They couldn't be more thrilled with Donald Trump because our interests align currently with Israel. I think it's just going to be a case by case basis. I'm sure we will continue to get along with Australia just not on this issue.

VAUSE: Ok. We also have details from a source about a phone call between Mr. Trump and the President of Mexico. This was on Friday. The U.S. President saying you have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to help with that big league but they have to be knocked out and you have not done a good job of knocking them out.

So Mo, again, what sounds like a contentious phone call with the leader of a country which was meant to be a very close ally? KELLY: Well, I don't know if you can be transactional with foreign policy. There needs to be some sort of a schematic of how he wants to get from A to Z and knowing that everything he does along the way will have repercussions everywhere else along the way.

I don't know if you can have the fights with the leaders on an individual basis, on an individual issue basis and say well, we may not get along with Australia on this one or we may not get along with Mexico on this one but also showing utter contempt in the expression of it. Those will have consequences after this transaction.

VAUSE: And that's the point. I mean these relationships are taken as a whole. You can't take the bits that you like and throw away the bits that you don't when it comes to foreign diplomacy.

THOMAS: Sure. Now, I would look at the 2016 primary process that was as brutal as it could possibly be but they moved past it once they were not directly foes and now Ted Cruz is a big Trump ally. Trump understands how to heal relationships but he also understands how to be firm.

And I think look, it's a dramatically different course -- I'm not going to disagree -- than Obama and even George Bush, who tried to get along and take their lumps. Trump is not willing to do that.

VAUSE: Ok. Stay with us because earlier on Monday, there President's National Security Advisor made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room. He delivered a blunt warning to Iran over its most recent test of a ballistic missile which the U.S. says violates a U.N. Security Council resolution.


MIKE FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: President Trump has severely criticized the various agreements reached between Iran and the Obama administration as well as the United Nations as being weak and ineffective. Instead of being thankful to the United States in these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.


VAUSE: CNN's military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona joins us now. So Colonel, the big question is what does "officially on notice" actually mean? It sounds like a threat.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It sounds like a threat. I don't know what -- I really don't know it means. But I understand, you know, Mr. Trump is not a fan of the Iran deal and that's what this goes to. And you remember that General Flynn was the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency while all of these agreements were being negotiated under the Obama administration. So he doesn't like them either.

[00:10:02] And when he puts the Iranians on notice, he's primarily talking about these ballistic missile tests. These ballistic missile tests were illegal under the old U.N. Resolution -- I think it was 1929 in 2010.

The words were Iran shall not develop ballistic missiles. That was changed as part of the Iran deal. A Russian initiative to change the words and Secretary Kerry -- Secretary of State John Kerry at the time agreed to the change where it says Iran is called upon not to develop ballistic missiles. It's that wording that the Iranians took full advantage of.

And, you know, the Iranians looked at the nuclear deal as a real victory in their foreign policy. President Obama looked at it as a victory in our foreign policy. And he was hoping that that would rehabilitate the Iranians, change their behavior on the world stage. It did not.

The Iranian became emboldened. I think the General was right there. So I think they're trying to walk back some of Iran's behavior. How they do that, I don't know. So we'll find out soon what "put on notice" means.

VAUSE: Well, apparently there's been no change in the U.S. military stance in the region, no additional deployments. The General's statement came while the Defense Secretary was actually in the air traveling on his official trip overseas. Do you read anything into that?

FRANCONA: No, not really. There is enough force structure there already in the Persian Gulf and in the surrounding area to do what we need to do. It's just a matter of giving the orders to do that.

If you look at some of the things that have happened in the Persian Gulf over the past couple of years, the Iranians are becoming much more aggressive for harassing U.S. naval vessels as they transit the Strait of Hormuz.

We also see a lot of operations in the Red Sea. You know, we've got U.S. Navy vessels there. They've come under fire from units based in Yemen. And we believe those to be Iranian-sponsored Houthi units.

So I think we're telling the Iranians we're not going to put up with that and if we see any more actions in the Red Sea I think you'll see a district military response. The Persian Gulf we've got to tread a lot more lightly there.

VAUSE: Ok. Colonel -- thank you very much. Colonel Francona there with some analysis. Back to our panel now -- Mo Kelly and John Thomas.

John -- many though are seeing these comments by General Flynn as either a hollow threat or an intent to go to war.

THOMAS: So here's the challenge the Trump administration has is they're coming off the last eight years where a country like Iran could literally walk all over the administration knowing there were no consequences.

The Trump administration is basically like a stepparent coming in where the parents let the kids do anything they want. And now the Trump administration has to retrain these countries to say we are not going to allow you to get away with these actions. So they have to walk a line.

VAUSE: Ok. Retrain the region -- I understand that but, you know, I guess the point is, it's still not really clear what official notice means. This is Philip Mudd, our counterterror analyst, saw it earlier on CNN.


PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERROR ANALYST: I mean I can't figure out what he's talking about. This is like a line out of the greatest movie ever "Caddy Shack" Iran is now on double secret probation.


VAUSE: Philip later apologized. The line is actually from "Animal House". But the point is Mo, no one really knows what's going on. No one knows where they stand.

KELLY: And this has to do with what I would say the lack of wisdom in how they implement their foreign policy. You could have waited until Rex Tillerson was in place and then read up and then you could have doled out this foreign policy in a slow coherent fashion. This goes back to Mexico. This goes back to Iran. This goes back to Australia.

But instead we have the executive orders with immigration and you have all this disarray as opposed to seamlessly doling out this policy which makes sense to everyone and also provides a unified front from the Trump administration but it seems like Trump is going it alone.

This president is not trying to use anyone in his administration other than Steve Bannon because we know how the National Security Council has changed while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is now optional in the meeting as opposed to mandatory.

THOMAS: President Trump doesn't want anything to be perceived as weakness. And so I'm sure Rex Tillerson will be involved from this point forward. But didn't want to wait one second to be perceived weak in this --

VAUSE: Ok. You know, it's one thing to lash out at Meryl Streep, at "Saturday Night Live", at CNN. But John -- what happens the next time Iran tests another missile? What's the reaction then?

THOMAS: Well, at some point, you just kind of have tough talk, you have to take action. And I'm sure that's what the Trump administration is gauging.

KELLY: You're going to draw the red line the first two weeks in office? It doesn't leave you a lot of room to maneuver or negotiate after that.

THOMAS: Well, but you also have to treat people how they treat you and what to expect from you. So you can't let them walk all over you in the first week.

VAUSE: Ok. General Flynn talked about Iran feeling emboldened instead of grateful that they had this nuclear deal. Brad Rhodes foreign policy adviser to President Obama, he tweeted this out. "The agreement wasn't meant to make Iran thankful to the U.S. It was intended to peacefully roll back Iran's nuclear program, which it did."

Mo -- that really says a lot about the difference between these two administrations.

KELLY: Yes. I have to wonder so if we start here, where do we go? So if Iran tests another ballistic missile does that mean we go to war? Is that where we really are at this point two weeks into this administration? That would scare the hell out of me.

[00:15:07] Let me put it another way. At what point should I, as an American citizen, become concerned with the direction of this foreign policy?

THOMAS: The problem is our back's against the wall over the last eight years. Trump was handed a raw deal and now he's trying to unravel it.

VAUSE: Ok. We'll leave it there.

Mo and John, also Rick Francona and Tim Lester, who joined us earlier -- thanks to all of you.

SOARES: Now, the new U.S. Defense Secretary is expected in Asia soon. Just ahead -- what to expect with James Mattis' first official overseas trip.

Plus a speech by a right wing commentator is cancelled as violent protests erupt at a university in California. We have the details coming up from both those stories right here on CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Just coming up to 18 minutes past 9:00 here in Los Angeles.

And violent protests have erupted at the University of California in Berkeley forcing the cancelation of a speech by a right-wing commentator, Milo Yiannopoulos.

SOARES: Some of the demonstrators set fires, you can see there, destroyed property and were seen throwing fireworks at police in an effort to create chaos. Yiannopoulos spoke to Fox News a short time ago. Take a listen to what he said.


MILO YIANNOPOULOS, BREITBART: We knew there would be protests from the social media activity (inaudible) the police. I had a pretty good sense of when things are going to get a bit rowdy. We knew that UC Berkeley was going to be a problem not least because they have a big free speech problem obviously. It's a liberal campus. They hate any libertarians or conservatives who dare to express (inaudible) on their campuses. They particularly don't like me.

And so this evening we got into the building, started preparing for the show and people started arriving in black clothes and masks. They were clearly carrying concealed weapons and things. And then stuff started being hurled at the building. There were rocks being thrown, various other things being thrown at the building. Eventually the ground floor was breached and I was evacuated.


VAUSE: Kyung Lah joins us now from the site of the protests. And Kyung -- I guess the worst of the protests are now over?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It appears to be so. But I want to point out what you are looking at behind me. Police officers here, these are campus police officers, university officers -- they're turning around and they're finally leaving. They have essentially cleared all the protesters out of the university and -- looks like it's over at least this part of it.

But what is concerning here still in this city, John, is that some of the hard-core protesters, the ones that were dressed in black, that did have with their faces covered. They have moved to another part of the city that right now they are still just sort of walking around. We don't have a good number on exactly how many of them there are. But there's a good number of them still walking through the streets.

[00:20:05] Earlier -- just a short time ago, they were seen breaking some windows of a bank and trying to set fire to something in the street. So there is still a group walking through the streets. But something that the students -- that a lot of students have stopped me to say is they don't believe that those are Berkeley students -- that those are Cal students.

A lot of the students we have spoken with say they are actually disappointed to see what happened -- that there was violence; that their student union windows were smashed in; that people were throwing things and rocks at the police; that this is not what they wanted to happen.

Many of them say they are pleased, though, that Yiannopoulos did not get a chance to speak but they didn't want it to happen this way. So the end result is he was not able to speak but there was an enormous amount of surprising violence when some of these protesters started to smash the windows and set fire to some objects here on the campus -- John.

VAUSE: So much for free speech. Kyung -- thank you. Kyung Lah there with the very latest on those protests.

SOARES: Well as we mentioned early in the show U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis just arrived in South Korea, his first official trip overseas as U.S. Defense chief. Mattis wants to reassure South Koreans of U.S. commitment to their security especially in light of what the Pentagon calls evolving North Korean threat.

Mattis is expected to push ahead with deployment of controversial missile defense system known as THAD from South Korea and then he heads, we know, to Japan.

Let's get more on this. CNN's Matt Rivers is in Dandong, in China on the border with North Korea; and Paula Hancocks joins us from Seoul in South Korea.

And Paula -- I want to begin with you if I may. Ahead of the Defense Secretary's trip we know that he spoke to his South Korean counterpart. What was said during that conversation that may help us shed some light on this trip and indeed on the deployment of THAD?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa -- he certainly assuaged some fears that the South Korean officials had saying that obviously they were 100 percent behind South Korea. We have also had comments since he's touched down here in South Korea where he said the most important thing he has to do on this trip is to listen and to understand.

Now, what Secretary Mattis points out he came to South Korea back in 1972 as an officer. He said it's been a while since he last came here, but he is not new to this situation.

He said he wants to come here, talk to, obviously the U.S. military here, the South Korean officials, find out what the problem is, what is needed and then he will give more information.

He was asked though, about North Korea and about the THAD missile defense system and he did say North Korea has often acted in a provocative way and it's hard to anticipate what they do, specifying that the reason they need THAD missile defense system in this country is because of those provocations from North Korea. But at this point he has had a very measured start to the visit saying he is here to listen and understand -- Isa.

SOARES: Paula -- stay with us. I want to bring Matt Rivers in. So as you heard there, Matt -- and you will be listening to what is being said. You are along China's border with North Korea. So I want to get both views from there.

On the North Korea front, how severe is the threat from across the border?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it depends on who you are talking to in terms of deploying THAD. On the U.S. side, on the South Korea side at least in the high levels of government there you hear a pretty consistent view that the North Korean nuclear threat merits the deployment of that system in order to safeguard U.S. interests and the South Koreans.

But from China's point of view here on this side of the North Korea- China border in Dandong, what you hear from China is that deploying THAD would only make the situation worse. That it's only going to provoke further the Kim Jong-Un regime and only make the situation that much more untenable.

However, it's not as if the Chinese don't recognize that there is a threat in North Korea. In fact, they routinely condemn what is going on in North Korea and they actually helped draft two different rounds of sanctions in the United Nations Security Council last year.

So they are doing something to be sure. That said, critics will tell you that China isn't actually enforcing those sanctions the way they should and that they could certainly be doing more because of the economic leverage they hold over North Korea.

So everyone, Isa, really agrees that there is a threat. They differ though on how best to deal with it.

SOARES: And Paula -- I believe I think it's fair to say that during the campaign for the U.S. presidency, Donald Trump kind of raised eyebrows across the Asia-Pacific region by suggesting that both Seoul and Tokyo should pay more for their own defense and should develop their own nuclear weapons.

How concerned are Asian allies about President Trump's America First policy? Is there a fair of U.S. disengagement from those you have been speaking to?

[00:25:08] HANCOCKS: Well, certainly when those comments were made during the campaign that there was a potential to pull U.S. troops out if South Korea and Japan didn't pay more. Potentially those two countries could get their own nuclear weapons.

I mean there was more than raised eyebrows here, Isa -- there was shock. People were horrified that a presidential candidate was suggesting this. We have seen a different tact though since he has become president. We've heard in that phone call that he had with the acting president Hwang Kyo Ahn here in South Korea that he said there was an ironclad commitment to defend South Korea, talking about how North Korea was the most concerning issue.

And I think that's really calmed a lot of the fears. And the fact that Secretary Mattis is here first, his very first overseas trip is to South Korea, underpins the importance of that alliance and also, of course, the fact that the U.S. administration is taking the North Korean threat very seriously -- Isa.

SOARES: Paula Hancocks there for us in Seoul, South Korea and Matt Rivers in Dandong in China on the border with North Korea. Thank you to you both.

VAUSE: And a short break.

When we come back, more reports of casualties in eastern Ukraine as the international community clamors to reinforce a fragile cease fire.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. SOARES: And I'm Isa Soares in London. And we bring you up to date in

the main news headlines we're following for you this hour.

VAUSE: Mr. Trump reportedly had a heated phone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over the weekend.

[00:30:00] Sources say the President objected to an agreement for the U.S. to receive more than a thousand refugees. One source says Mr. Trump ended the call abruptly.

SOARES: The White House is putting Iran on notice over its recent ballistic missile test. National Security adviser Michael Flynn says Iran violated the U.N. resolution banning test of missiles that could deliver nuclear weapons. Iran says the test was only for defensive purposes.

VAUSE: U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has just arrived in South Korea on his first overseas trip since confirmation. His stops in South Korea and Japan underscore the importance the U.S. puts on its Asian allies. Mattis is expected to assure both countries the U.S. remains committed to their security.

SOARES: For the first time in about 20 years, Israel will build a completely new settlement in the West Bank. The announcement comes just after the government said it will build thousands of new homes in existing settlements. Meanwhile, Israel has been evacuating settlers from the illegal Amona outpost. Some left peacefully while others clashed with police.

VAUSE: Ukrainian officials say the recent and surging violence in the eastern part of the country has left 13 people dead since Sunday. Pro-Russian separatists are reporting casualties as well. Two dead civilians and five more wounded. CNN cannot independently verify either report.

SOARES: But the violence is leading the head of NATO to call on Russia to help establish peace. Jens Stoltenberg said the Kremlin should use its influence over pro-Russian separatists to stop the fighting. But our Nick Paton Walsh paid a visit to eastern Ukraine last week and he found a very different source of hope.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's grim here in the twilight of Europe's forgotten war. Not much has changed the daily dusk artillery shootouts here for months. But oddly it is the new Trump era that have put hopes up in this Russian-backed separatist area.

(On camera): President Trump's first day in the office and it's the question of should there be sanctions still against Russian. They were put in place because of this war in Eastern Ukraine. The world may has taken it out of its attention but it is still, this night, ongoing.

(Voice-over): There is meant to be a cease-fire. They never know who's firing at who. But they say they do get hit here and blamed the help America gave Ukraine when it said Russia invaded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): Obama was to blame for this war. He sponsored with arms and this is why they bomb us.

WALSH: Closer relations with Russia or even sanctions being dropped for the right deal, Trump said it and it was heard even around these empty shelves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): I think they will befriend Russia and change. We don't have Russian forces here. Just locals who've lost people in the war and fight. With Trump it could be better.

WALSH: We head to the front. Snipers, they say and holes in the ground from recent shelling. Even in the dank smoke they can feel the somersaulting world order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Trump is far and I am here.

WALSH (on camera): It's impossible Trump might recognize this as part of Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): It would be good if he did. Time will tell, people change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): If he does what he said then our life will be easier, make Ukraine make peace in reality, not on paper.

WALSH (voice-over): Even there's a little advice from their top spokesman.

EDUARD BASURIN, SPOKESMAN, DONETSK PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC (Through Translator): I have only one thing to suggest, that he listens to himself and not his aides. He will answer for the country and his aides may pursue the agendas of those who put them in place. He should listen to himself and his family.

WALSH: Cross over the lines through the checkpoint queues and drudgery you feel how poor Ukraine is in a war with its so much richer neighbor.

Tatiana moved here right on the Ukrainian front line a year ago and has her own take on Trump.

TATIANA, RESIDENT (Through Translator): He looks like an improviser. He says what he thinks. He doesn't make things look pretty. Just says what he thinks.

WALSH: Next door is a mine field and just back from the front line there are views to show us, a small base where we can see America's limited assistance here.

(On camera): A unit receiving training and assistance from American forces. And they must be asking themselves now if that evaporates under President Trump. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Regardless of American

politics we will continue to fight for our homeland and for the return of our land that enemy occupiers have tried to steal and make part of another country.

WALSH (voice-over): Once they were falling over themselves for Western help. But now, two years and two American presidents on, there is an anger here. And perhaps ever more, a resignation they will have to fight this alone.

[00:35:04] Nick Paton Walsh, Avtivka, Eastern Ukraine.


VAUSE: Former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty joins us now for more.

So, Jill, there seems to be two narratives here. Either the Russians are testing this new administration to see what they can get away with or the Ukrainians are playing up the violence as a reason to keep the sanctions on Russia. So where does it stand?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, where it stands is that this is very serious violence. Number one, you had 17,000 people affected in that area where Nick was. 2500 of them estimated are children. And so this is a serious issue.

Now the fighting has been going on since 2014. So unfortunately it has not been in the headlines but it -- recently. But now you have this real challenge because you have Donald Trump intimating or indicating that perhaps he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia, sanctions that were imposed specifically because of Russia's actions in Ukraine and in Crimea. And then President Poroshenko of Ukraine looking at the situation and saying, how could you possibly even think of lifting sanctions at this point?

So the political significance of this is -- is very high. And the question will be how will the United States -- one of the big questions will be how will the United States respond? So far there's nothing directly coming from President Trump.

VAUSE: Yes. In fact, with that in mind, the response we had on Wednesday from the White House is telling. Here's what an official statement which came from the State Department, said, in part, "To avert a larger humanitarian crisis, we call for immediate sustained ceasefire and full and unfettered access for OSCE monitors. We also reaffirm U.S. support for full implementation of the Minsk agreement."

It seems fairly boilerplate, but there was no mention of Russia. And there are reports that administration officials even questioned why the Minsk peace agreement needed to be mentioned. So this is a significant departure from the Obama administration.

DOUGHERTY: It is. But the plot thickens because, you know, if you look -- and I have it right here. There's a statement from the U.S. mission to OSCE, which does very much mention Russia. In fact it says, "Russia and the separatists initiated the violence in Avtivka. We call on Russia to stop the violence, honor the ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons, et cetera." So you actually do have a contradiction between both of those statements, or at least you'd have to say a different focus of both of those.

The -- the one that criticizes Russia would be of course much more similar to what the Obama administration did. And now the State Department statement appears to be what the Trump administration is doing which is not specifically calling out Russia.

VAUSE: OK. Jill, thank you for being with us. Jill Dougherty with some analysis and insight. We appreciate it.

SOARES: Now it seems the Obamas have quickly adjusted to life outside the White House. Up next, what they've been up to and who they've been hanging with.

VAUSE: Plus the merciless mocking of Trump's choice of ties.


[00:40:27] SOARES: Now former U.S. president Barack Obama seems to be doing a good job of ignoring the political turmoil in Washington these days. He has been hanging out in the Caribbean with Richard Branson. You can see there. The Obama have been spending time in the British Virgin Islands. British media captured him with the billionaire on Branson's private island.

VAUSE: Looks pretty good.

While Americans are divided on President Trump's policies, there is one thing most fashion experts can agree on -- his ties are too long.

Here's Jeanne Moss.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Jon Stewart came out flinging his endless red tie you didn't have to be a fashionista to know who he was mocking.

JON STEWART: Super long tie. Dead animal on head. Boom.

MOOS: Even on dress-your-best inaugural day, there was no tie when it came to whose tie was longer and when the wind blew there it was, tape. The second time Donald Trump had been caught with his tape showing. Inspiring tweets like "Ran over to Macy's to pick up a Trump brand tie clip." And this, "Scotch Tape is Great Again hat to go with his tie."

(On camera): The fashion police want the president to say so long to ties that are so long.

(Voice-over): Business Insider" called the length sad. Crimes against crevats, screamed the headline. "The CVS receipt of ties" compared his neckwear to the victoriously long drug store receipts. "If Trump's tie were any lower it would be his approval rating," tweeted Seth Meyers' show. But why oh, why does a man with his own line of ties wear them so long?

Celebrity stylish Philip Bloch has a theory.

PHILIP BLOCH, CELEBRITY STYLIST: As a stylist, I believe he is thinking he is hiding his gut. I think he thinks it is creating an elongating sensation which it sort of does because your eye goes to the long red lines that again is pointing down where don't want to go.

MOOS: The rule is that the end of your tie is supposed to hit right at the middle of your belt. The tie should not touch the chair when you sit. "GQ" suggests that the president swap this monstrosity for a skinnier tie. "I dress myself greatly" reads this New Yorker cartoon. But maybe regular guys like that this president is no fashion plate. He's a plate held together with Scotch tape.

BLOCH: But we actually have things called tie clips for that and they actually have them at the White House. They sell them.

MOOS: No point at hitting below the belt like the president's ties do.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


SOARES: Seems a bit of a maverick when it comes to style and fashion.

Now the superstar singer Beyonce is having some sweet dreams these days. She announced on Wednesday by Instagram she's pregnant with twins. And this is what she said. We have been blessed two times over. She thanked her fans for the well-wishes. Beyonce and her husband rapper Jay-Z have one other child together, 5-year-old Blue Ivy. We wish her of course all the best of luck.

And that does it for this hour for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares in London.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause in Los Angeles. Stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is up next and then we'll be back with another hour of news from around the world. You're watching CNN.