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U.S. Has Strong Message for North Korea; China's Strained Relationship with North Korea; Japan, South Korea React to North Korean Missile Launches; FBI Asks for Public Rejection of Trump's Wiretapping Claim; Trump to Issue New Travel Ban; New York Governor Shows Support for Jewish Community; India Reacts to Shooting of U.S. Sikh; Trump Accuses Obama of Ordering Wiretap; Russian View on Expanding Russia Investigation; Putin May Be Changing Tone Towards New Trump Administration; Fight for Mosul Displaces Thousands; Potential Severe Weather for Central U.S.. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 6, 2017 - 02:00   ET




[02:00:46] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell, live CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR: And Hannah Vaughan Jones, live in London. Thanks for joining us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

HOWELL: 2:00 a.m. on the U.S. east coast. North Korea has fired off a round of four ballistic missiles. The United States has a strong message in response to the North Korea. It reads, "The United States strongly condemns the DPRK's missile launches. We remain prepared and will take steps to increase our readiness to defend ourselves and our allies from attack and are prepared to use our full range of capabilities at our disposal against this grows threat."


HOWELL: Joining me to talk more about this is CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She has been following this story for us.

Thanks for being us with.

Let's talk about this. Given the strong statement we heard from the United States, there are several things at play here. One of them, the U.S. and South Korea engaged in joint military drills. To the north, China's National People's Congress is taking place. There is a lot happening at a very delicate time, Elise.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I think the U.S. and allies, especially South Korea, expected that had North Korea would do something in response to these annual drills between the U.S. and South Korea. These are some of the largest annual drills. North Korea always warns against them. Even though the U.S. and South Korea maintain it's not, they do expect some provocation around the times of the missile -- of the joint exercises.

HOWELL: I want to talk more about what's happening in China right now. You remember back on the campaign trail President Trump said that China could do more about the North Korean issue, the threats coming from North Korea. Giving it is happening at that time they are having the National People's Congress, give us a sense of the optics.

LABOTT: Well, I mean, I think the optics are more right now about these joint exercises. But certainly, while the Chinese are having important meetings, it brings North Korea to the top of the national security conversation there. I think the U.S. and President Trump has really, you know, made an effort of trying to talk to the Chinese to say, listen, you have to become part of the solution here. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made this one of his priorities, to get China do to more, to put pressure on North Korea as North Korea's only ally and benefactor. He has been putting pressure on the Chinese after his meeting with the foreign minister at the G20 in Berlin a couple of weeks ago. You saw the Chinese cut off imports from North Korea. Obviously, there is a lot more the Chinese can do. It's certainly not enough for the U.S. But I think the pressure will slowly begin to grow on China to do more to bring North Korea to the table.

HOWELL: It is good to get the reporting and perspective for you.

Elise Labott, CNN's global affairs correspondent, thank you so much for joining us on the line.

LABOTT: My pleasure.


VAUGHAN JONES: CNN is covering in this story with our correspondents around the world. Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul, South Korea, and Will Ripley is standing by in Tokyo, Japan.

Paula, first. As North Korea's closest neighbor in the south, what kind of reaction are we getting from Seoul? And what's in South Korea's arsenal to counter the threat from the northern neighbor?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hannah we have had strong condemnation from the South Koreans. They had National Security Council early this morning. The acting president also said that the consequences of a nuclear armed North Korean regime would be appalling beyond imagination. The military said they flew 1000 kilometers. But also, potentially, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they went about 260 kilometers into the air. That range is far more significant, telling us it was likely to be an intermediate missile.

At this point, there are plans to put the THAAD missile defense system into South Korea. The U.S. and South Korea have signed off on it. They bought the land. They are in the process of bringing that to South Korea, something they said will be able to protect South Korea more from North Korea's the missile threat. But it is something many are not happy about -- Hannah?

[02:05:44] VAUGHAN JONES: Will Ripley, live in Tokyo.

Will, these missile tests, they landed in the Sea of Japan. From Japan's perspective, is there a sense a line has been crossed or has any such line long been breached?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, a line is crossed in the sense the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking in Tokyo in the last few hours called it an even more severe threat than what Japan has seen in the past. These missiles, and they believe whether they are missiles that have been tested before, they are essentially within striking distance. All of japan, more than 50,000 troops are based here. More than 20 million people in the Tokyo metropolitan area. And these landed in the waters reportedly less than 100 miles off of the Japanese coast. So Japan is obviously concerned about the physical threat of missiles raining down. There are missile defense systems in place to try to shoot them down, but they are alarmed at the progress that North Korea appears to be making here.

VAUGHAN JONES: Paula, the United States has put out a very strongly worded statement against these tests, talking about the growing threat of North Korea. I'm wondering if we should read anything into that. Is it an acknowledgement of Pyongyang's ambition and capability?

HANCOCKS: Well, certainly, the new administration appears to be well aware that Pyongyang is getting better. The more it tests these missiles, the better their capability is. It is really clear some of these tests, including one just a few weeks ago, was an improvement. It was a solid fuel rocket with a liquid fuel launch, which means it's more mobile. It can be launched from a mobile launcher. It is quicker and far more difficult to track. Certainly, there are improvements that are happening. You heard the North Korean leader in his new year's address saying he is close to test launching an ICBM, and intercontinental ballistic missile, which could hit mainland United States. So The United States is very well aware that this is exactly what North Korea wants. It wants to be able to hit mainland United States with a nuclear tipped warhead. It has been very clear about that and it is making progress -- Hannah?

VAUGHAN JONES: And, Will, you spent lot of time in North Korea reporting on the situation there. I'm wondering what kind of reception these particular tests will have there in the wider country.

RIPLEY: I was there after the missile test that Paula just mentioned, the first missile test of the Trump administration. As soon as we walked into our hotel, the only thing playing on the evening news were picture of Kim Jong-Un standing in front of this missile launcher. This allows him to project strength internally to his own people. The North Koreans have been told through state controlled propaganda they are under imminent threat of invasion from the United States. Even though they go with food, regular electricity, they are told they have to tighten their belts to protect their national sovereignty. Critics of the North Korean government say this is just a ploy to stay in power, like his father and grandfather before him. So the propaganda, they call it a huge triumph. They'll show pictures of the missile. They'll say North Korea is standing strong and defending itself against the number-one enemy, the United States and its allies.

Interestingly, Hannah, I have also been here during missile test failures. They are never acknowledged or reported and nobody ever knows it happened, because the country is closed off from the outside world. There is no Internet or phone calls outside, and just a little bit of media, but it certainly doesn't get to the majority of 24 million people who live there.

VAUGHAN JONES: I imagine these four tests will be reported on North Korean state television this evening.

Thanks to both of you for reporting. Paula Hancocks in Seoul, and Will Ripley in Tokyo, thank you.

The FBI is calling on the U.S. Justice Department to publicly reject Donald Trump's accusations about wiretapping. He is accusing former President Barack Obama Saturday of ordering the wiretaps at Trump Tower last year. President Trump offered no evidence and he is asking Congress to investigate.

CNN Shimon Prokupecz has more now.


[02:10:23] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN PRODUCER: The FBI yesterday asked the Department of Justice to refute the allegations by Donald Trump that the Obama administration wiretapped his phone in October during the campaign. We learned that some time over the weekend, the FBI reached out to the Department of Justice to try to work something out, to try to ask them if there was a way they could refute these stories. The FBI was very concerned about the allegations being not true and the climate it could create and the feeling that somehow the FBI was somehow involved in this. The director asked that the Department of Justice refute these. So far, the Department of Justice has not done so. We asked him for comment tonight. They have not responded to our requests for comment. And we are basically now waiting to see what happens going forward. And also politically what this means for the FBI director and Trump and how Trump will react to the idea that the chief law enforcement officer of the country, of the United States, would refute, would basically say these allegations that you're making are not true.


VAUGHAN JONES: Shimon Prokupecz reporting there.

The former assistant director of the FBI spoke with CNN's Pamela Brown and senior political analyst, David Gergen. Tom Fuentes says the FBI's request itself is a rejection of President Trump's claim.


TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: As far as I can tell, it is unprecedented. But what seems to be a request of the Department of Justice has actually knocked down stories. It doesn't matter now if the Department of Justice concurs or not. I'm not sure who would.


HOWELL: That's a take from Tom Fuentes.

Joining us now from Birmingham, England, is Scott Lucas. He is a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham and the founder and editor of E.A. World View.

Scott, a pleasure to have you with us this hour.

Let's talk about the president and the claims he was wiretapped by Barack Obama. He offered no evidence, at least publicly, to back it up and is now calling on legislators to investigate.

SCOTT LUCAS, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM & FOUNDER & EDITOR, E.A. WORLD VIEW: Well, not only the president but his aids are calling on Congress to investigate. Let's be honest, they are trying to go divert from the core story, which is the ongoing investigation of whether they had or still have links with Russia. Now, Trump himself simply was motivated by anger. He was in Florida on Saturday morning, upset Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the investigation when he hears this report from "Breitbart News," former edited by his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, that, you know, Obama has this supposedly deep state that was investigating Trump and continues to try to undermine him. He simply hit the keyboard. What happens is interesting. His officials simply double down on this yesterday by saying, no, no, no, let's take the heat out of this. They said, now Congress should focus on the Obama people rather than focusing on Trump/Russia links.

HOWELL: You suggest a pivot in the sense that it has been put back on legislators to dig deeper in the investigation they are already looking into Russia. Russia an issue that won't go away it seems. We saw the president's attorney general recuse himself from any investigations related to the Russia matter just last week, when it came to light he did in fact have meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States. And now the FBI is asking his department to knock down the claims. Scott, this all seems a bit convoluted.

LUCAS: Let's reduce it to the fact we've got a serious split now. What you have on the one hand are most of the agencies of the U.S. government who think there is a serious issue here to be investigated about Russian links. We have many within the agencies who, let's be honest, are leaking information to the media because of their, let's say, skepticism of President Trump himself. Now, on the other hand you've got the Trump loyalists, of course, in the White House, officials like Jeff Sessions. So the reason why justice may not be coming right now is because, while Justice Department officials may fully agree with the FBI about this wiretapping diversion, Jeff Sessions is unlikely to authorize a statement which will appear to damage the president.

HOWELL: We have a report coming up focusing on the travel ban. I would like to get your perspective on it. This is a very important week for the president. That ban, from people coming from certain Muslim-majority nations, is due any time in the coming hours. The last attempt got held up in the courts. Explain the pressure on this administration to get this the second time around.

[02:15:19] LUCAS: Well, there are two levels of pressure that were on the administration. One is it's just the legal pressure. You can't simply yell national security and rush through an executive order, which is what Trump and Steve Bannon tried to do. There is an easy out for administration which is to say that people who are applying for visa from these seven countries cannot pursue that. But what we are seeing is that the White House -- let's call them the firebreathers, the diehards -- are holding out against that. That raises the second problem. The public rejection, widespread public rejection of this ban seen through protests and town hall meetings since then, has been significant. So are Trump and Bannon really saying we are not only going to pursue this legal course of action but we are going to risk alienating millions of people. And are we going to risk damaging America's image throughout the world by presenting this revised Muslim ban. Until we see the details, we don't know how far they'll compromise but, right now, it appears this is an ongoing showdown.

HOWELL: It could come through any time in the next few hours. We'll continue to follow this story.

Scott Lucas, thank you for context.

LUCAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: More now on the president's executive order, this travel ban.

CNN's Ryan Nobles reports President Trump's team hopes it be clear the hurdles that stall the first.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The newly revised executive order revealing who can and cannot get into the United States could come as soon as Monday. It is expected to be more finally tuned than the original with the goal of avoiding legal hurdles like the first travel ban currently being held up in federal court.

The new executive order is expected to exclude legal permanent residents and those holding visas and also expected to exclude launch that prioritizes refuge claims of certain religious minorities.

This new executive order was expected to come out last week but after the president's successful joint address to Congress, the White House decided to separate the announcement from the speech to give the executive order its own moment.

What isn't clear what happens to the old executive order. It's possible it could be outright revoked. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the two orders could continue on a dual track. Up until the last minute, they are making tweaks to the order. Sources say there is a debate among Trump advisors about whether or not Iraq should be removed from the list of travel of Muslim-majority countries from which travel will be cut off.

One thing that will be dramatically different will be the implementation of the order. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the new policy will be phased in opposed to being immediately put into place. Immigration advocates are already staffing airports around the country prepared to help those that may get caught up in the bans once implemented.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.


VAUGHAN JONES: Stay with us here on CNN NEWSROOM, where, in London, it's 20 past 7:00 in the morning.

Still to come, New York's governor has been in Israel following a rash of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. We'll have the details on that just ahead.

HOWELL: Plus, India is reacting to a shooting of a U.S. Sikh. Why it's being investigated as a hate crime, as CNN NEWSROOM continues.




[02:22:29] VAUGHAN JONES: The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is showing his support for America's Jewish community with a visit to Israel over the weekend. During the past few weeks, Jewish cemeteries in the U.S. have been vandalized and more than 100 Jewish community centers and schools across the United States have received threats. Mr. Cuomo says hatred cannot be tolerated.

Our Oren Liebermann spoke with the governor during his trip.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (VO: Governor Andrew Cuomo laying a wreath at the Israeli Holocaust Museum. The lessons of the past especially relevant today.

More than 100 bomb threats calling in to Jewish community centers across the United States. Jewish cemeteries vandalized, headstones turn over. New York has not been immune. Late last week, more than a dozen headstones were toppled in a Jewish cemetery in Rochester. It's being investigated as a hate crime.

ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: When you start demonizing differences, it's a social cancer because now the body is feeding on itself. And it has to be addressed forcefully, in my opinion, and immediately. Zero tolerance for racism, for discrimination.

LIEBERMANN: Israel politicians have watched the surge in anti-Semitic acts from afar taking to Israeli TV and social media to speak out against anti-Semitism in the United States.

Many in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government stayed quiet until after President Donald Trump condemned anti-Semitism most recently in a speech before Congress.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.


LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu, who was quick to invite European Jews to come to Israel after attacks in Paris, has not once been critical of Trump or even voiced his concern, even as Trump's adviser, Steve Bannon, faces repeated accusations of anti-Semitism.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: There is no greater supporter of the Jewish or the Jewish state than President Donald Trump. I think we should put that to rest.

LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu has urged caution. And he expressed optimism with the Trump administration. It's the first time Netanyahu has ever worked with a Republican president, and opportunity too great for Netanyahu to risk, even if it means overlooking criticism President's Trump faces in his mishandling in a wave of anti-Semitism.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.


HOWELL: Oren Liebermann, thank you.

Here in the U.S., police are investigating another violent incident as a possible hate crime. A gunman said, "Go back to your country," then shot a Sikh man outside his home in Seattle, Washington, on Friday. The victim is a U.S. citizen originally from India. He is recovering from his injuries and police are hunting for his attacker.

CNN's New Delhi bureau chief, Ravi Agrawal, is covering this story for us and joins us live.'

Ravi, good to have you.

What more are you hearing there in reaction from India?

[02:25:28] RAVI AGRAWAL, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: George, the reaction is, oh, no, not again. This did happen just a week ago, where two Indian engineers were at a bar in Kansas and an American questioned them about their immigration status and ended up shooting them, saying, "Get out of my country." Those two engineers -- one killed and the other shot and has recovered -- they were immigrants on H1B work visas. But this latest case in Washington, the person shot was an American citizen, which, if anything, it makes it all the more galling that he was told to get out of the country when he has already taken the oath of allegiance and America is his country. Really, here in India, all of these cases are beginning to mount and

beginning to add fears about how safe Indians can be in the United States. Indians have a long association with the United States. A lot of migration from here to there, and the other way around, a lot of tourism. About 166,000 Indian students study in the United States and many more Indians work there. So here in New Delhi, you find a number of Delhiites who know someone in America or have family in America. So this hits close to home.

At the highest levels, India's foreign minister has tweeted about this. And she spoke with the victim's father. She is concerned. Indian officials were in the United States last week to meet with White House officials about immigration and their concerns as well. This is an issue being taken very seriously here in India, even though the victim of the Washington shooting was an American citizen, but his Indian origin is a matter of concern here.

HOWELL: Ravi, as you point out, he was allegedly told to get out of this country. In fact, it is his country.

Ravi Agrawal, live for us in New Delhi. Thank you for the reporting.

Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, President Trump returns to Washington after making explosive allegations. We'll look at the legal aspects of his unsubstantiated wiretapping claims.

VAUGHAN JONES: Also coming up this hour, Russia's enthusiasm for President Donald Trump seems to be cooling off. Our report, live from Moscow, just ahead.


[02:30:49] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. And it's good to have you with us. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta

HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones, live in London.

We will update you now on the top stories we're following this hour.


HOWELL: In another of our top story this is hour, the FBI is calling on the Justice Department to publicly reject Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claims that his phones were wiretapped last year on orders of former President Barack Obama. Mr. Trump made the allegation again without offering any evidence and is now asking for a congressional investigation.

Mr. Obama's former director of National Intelligence flatly denied the charge. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES CLAPPER: FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president- elect at the time, as a candidate, or against his campaign. I can't speak for other Title III-authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity.

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: I was just going to say, if the FBI, for instance, had a FISA court order of some sort for surveillance, would that be information you would know or would not know?


TODD: You would be told this?

CLAPPER: I would know that.

TODD: If there was a FISA court order --


TODD: -- or something like this.

CLAPPER: Something like this, absolutely.

TODD: And at this point, you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?

CLAPPER: I can deny it.

TODD: There is no FISA court order?

CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.

TODD: Of anything at Trump Tower?



HOWELL: I spoke with CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson, about where the FBI request goes from here.


HOWELL: Let's talk about this from a legal perspective. The nation's top attorney recused himself from any investigations that deal with Russia. Now the FBI asking that department to knock down claims from the president of the United States. From a legal point of view, first, how does it work, and who leads now?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What will happen is this. There has been an accusation that Obama had, in fact, ordered, or did order wiretapping as to Trump. The point is the president doesn't have the unilateral authority to order such wiretapping. It would come from the FBI. The FBI would have to apply for a warrant with a federal judge, and a federal judge would have to determine that there is probable cause that believe something is amiss. In the evet that happens, a federal judge issues the warrant. At this point, I think you're going to see Congress investigate everything, including what, if anything, happened concerning Trump's campaign and Russia, and what, if anything, the Obama administration did concerning that. Did they intervene in any way? I think you'll see Congress, in coming months and weeks, looking at this issue very closely.

HOWELL: Joey, legally, look, when you're in a courtroom, you deal with a world of facts. There is evidence to back up the facts in court. There is an allegation that was floated on Twitter without any sort of evidence to support it by the president of the United States. Your take on that?

[02:35:05] JACKSON: I think it's very dangerous. That is, listen, we all can make accusations. The president has his views, Congress people can have their views, and you, as an anchor, Georgia, can have your views, and myself, as an analyst, can have mine.


HOWELL: I keep those views out with the news, because it's just our job to report, but, yeah, good point.

JACKSON: Exactly. So the final analysis is what factually is correct. It will be up to, I believe, the Congress, when they make the determination and otherwise investigate to find out what happened. But think about this. When you have the FBI director who is in fact in charge of those investigations saying this didn't happen, it leads do you believe that we what Trump said isn't factually accurate. If anybody would know if there was an underlying investigation or a warrant that was apply for it, it would be the FBI. So ultimately, it just, the tweet in and of itself, raises many concerns.

HOWELL: CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson, for us. Joey, we always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you, George.


VAUGHAN JONES: Donald Trump's wiretapping claim will expand the congressional investigation of Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election.

CNN's Frederick Pleitgen joins me live from Moscow.

Good to see you, Fred.

So much for the era of improved relations between the U.S. and Russia. I'm wondering what the view is now from Moscow in terms of any kind of future collaboration, cooperation with Washington.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, there certainly is a certain degree of disappointment here in Moscow at the first couple of weeks, couple of months of the Trump administration. Many thought relations between the U.S. and Russia could move forward very quickly for a certain period of time but, in the past couple of days, you've had several Russia officials come out and say, look, we think some of this could take longer than we actually thought. There was the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who came out over the weekend and said, at this point in time, it doesn't appear as though, for instance, the lifting of sanctions is something that could be on the table any time soon. It's interesting to see how there are some Russians who are a bit disappointed at the president himself, at Donald Trump, but there are also many of those in high positions here in Russia who say, look, they don't believe it is the president's fault. There is, for instance, Dimitry Kelioff (ph), one of the main pundits here, who came out and said, look, at this point in time, it is almost a toxic issue for Donald Trump to be speaking about Russia. He said that, quote, "Trump had been pinned down by the establishment" to a point where it was almost impossible for him to speak about Russia without it being a controversy. Then this morning, you had Alexi Pushkov (ph), who is a senior lawmaker, he went out on Twitter and he said what's going on currently in America, speaking around the whole controversy around the Russian ambassador in some of those meetings, he is saying that is something that does not make America shine.

So There is a certain degree of ds appointment. But at the same time, you don't see it pinned on the personality of President Trump himself just yet -- Hannah?

VAUGHAN JONES: Yes. Disappointment and confusion, as well.

I wonder if there is any glee about what's going on as the Kremlin watch the events unfold. I guess it's hard to know how to work with a man who is as unpredictable as President Trump.

PLEITGEN: Well, yeah, I think that's absolutely the case. At this point in time, and you hear that in comments from Russia officials. They still have what they call a wait-and-see attitude. Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Vladimir Putin, last week, said, at this point and time, we don't see cooperation moving forward but we are still full of patience waiting to see whether or not that will happen. The question is it going to happen in certain areas and not in others? The Trump administration and the Russian administration have said they believe there are topics where there could potentially be cooperation. The conflict in Syria being one of them. But are certain other areas where the two sides are very much at loggerheads and very much apart.

The big problem at this point in time, and you hear that a lot in Russian media, is the fact that no one really knows what to expect from the Trump administration. At this point, it is very difficult to see whether or not there is any sort of policy, especially with all of the issues surrounding all of these sidebar things going on, like, for instance, those problems with the Russian ambassador, with those meetings, and the fact the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has had to step down, and Jeff Sessions, for his part, had to recuse himself from any investigations. All of this is stopping any sort of fundamental policy change from moving forward -- Hannah? [02:39:52] VAUGHAN JONES: Fred Pleitgen reporting live from a rather

smoggy looking Moscow at the moment. Just coming up to 20 to 11:00 local time for you, Fred. Appreciate it. Thank you.

HOWELL: And as to the question of how this story is playing out across Russia, the Russian media is dialing back it coverage of the Trump White House. As Fred pointed out, the view from the Kremlin is less than euphoric.

Our Nic Robertson reports the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, also may be changing his tone towards the new administration in Washington, D.C.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNTIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Around the U.S. election, Donald Trump fever hit Moscow. Dolls with his likeness on sale in the shadow of the Kremlin. And plenty of face time in Russian media.

DMITRY TRENNAN (ph), VETERAN COMMENTATOR: He ordered state-controlled media, particularly the TV in Russia, to be more friendly towards the Trump administration.

ROBERTSON: Veteran commentator, Dmitry Trennan (ph), says Trump's popularity in Moscow was overdone.

TRENNAN (ph): I think there was a lot of hype in the U.S. about the bromance. I don't where people got that from.

ROBERTSON: If there was a bromance, the last 40 days have cooled the ardor.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love to negotiate and do it really well, and all that stuff, but it's possible I won't be able to get along with Putin.

ROBERTSON: Then came the tumult over who in the Trump camp met the Russian ambassador, and wide media vandalism, say officials in Moscow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop spreading lies and false news.

ROBERTSON: And some hardline comments by U.S. officials on Russia's seizure of Crimea and its meddling in Ukraine.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia.

ROBERTSON (on camera): A quick scan of the newspapers here reveals less Trump and a lot more Putin. It reflects frustrations at the Kremlin of what officials describe as an emotionally discharged atmosphere in Washington and mixed signals from the new administration.

(voice-over): But also full of questions. The increase President Trump wants in U.S. defense spending, $54 billion, that is as much as the entire Russian defense budget.

Moscow also wants an understanding over Syria but doesn't know what it's going to get.

Some expect old rivalries to win out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The difference is between vested interests in Moscow and Washington are too important, especially the military industrial complexes on both sides.

ROBERTSON: Maybe expectations were too high.

TRENNAN (ph): What Russia wanted from the U.S., ideally, would have amounted to a foreign policy revolution in the U.S., something not to be had.

ROBERTSON: The history of the relationship has always been one of twists and turns, but the view from Moscow looks less than euphoric.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Moscow.


VAUGHAN JONES: Thanks to Nic Robertson.

Coming up, Iraqi troops are now pushing deeper into western Mosul and it is forcing many civilians out of that city on a grueling journey for freedom. All of that still to come on CNN NEWSROOM.


[02:46:33] VAUGHAN JONES: Iraqi forces are pushing into the heart of western Mosul in their fight against ISIS. The fierce battle forced thousands of people to flee the city. Overall, the International Organization for Migrant says more than 206,000 Iraqis are currently displace by the battle for the city of Mosul.

Our Ben Wedeman has more now on the struggles these people face.



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNTIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the few possessions they could carry and a white flag they trekked towards safety. Yet another group of west Mosul residents flee the fighting that engulfed their neighborhood.

"Battles, bombardment and mortars," says Ahmed, explaining why they left. He said they survived on just bread and water for the last month.



WEDEMAN: At the first main Iraqi check point, they board army trucks.

(on camera): The United Nations expects as many as 250,000 people to flee Mosul as this battle continues.

(voice-over): As they leave, they pass the symbols and slogans of the so-called Islamic State.


WEDEMAN: Down the road, at the main assembly point, truck after truck arrives with the weary and the shell-shocked. Children scared and disoriented in the confusion.


WEDEMAN: Others need help every step of the way.


WEDEMAN: While soldiers search for the parents of lost children.

"We left at night at 2:00," says Mohammad, adding that ISIS snipers fired at his family as they left.


WEDEMAN: Wary of ISIS infiltrators, Iraqi troops quickly separate the men and boys from the women and girls, first frisking them, then checking identity cards against a database of ISIS members and sympathizers.


WEDEMAN: This brigadier general of the Iraqi counterterrorism servicey says every day they weed out five or six ISIS suspects.

Isha Sahan (ph) says ISIS held her and her family as human shields. She wants revenge.

"10, 10 of my uncles, they killed" she tells me. "If I catch one of those rats, I will kill them with my own hands and drink their blood."


WEDEMAN: Volunteers from southern Iraq dish up plates of rice and beans, the first hot meal for many in weeks.


WEDEMAN: The U.N. warned this battle could be a humanitarian disaster.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, southern Mosul.





[02:53:19] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. There is potential for severe weather in the central part of the United States.

Our Meteorologist Karen Maginnis is here to tell us about.

Some really rough storms.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, we are expecting the prime setup for severe weather typically what we see this time of year, springtime and we start to see enough moisture in place. It will feel like wintertime back across northern Rockies and portions of the interior west. Out ahead of it the warm moist air is pulling the gulf moisture upwards. You get that air masses. As a result, temperatures behind the front can be 30s and we watched temperatures out ahead of it they will be in the 70s and 80s in some cases. In areas down into Texas, we have about 16 million people just kind of starring down. It is a slight risk of severe weather. Wait until you see that orange- shaded area. That's the enhanced risk. It is from Springfield into Little Rock, Arkansas. What can they expect? It might be an isolated tornado. Might could see high winds, also potential for large sized hail. Large isn't in the thick of tornado season. We go back to January, 20 fatalities during the month of January. Most of those in south Georgia from an outbreak of tornado activity. We go towards April, May and June, the peak months of tornado season. We are sliding towards April and we have seen a sudden shift as far as temperatures running about 5 to 10 degrees above where they should be for time of year. This is the water vapor image. A plum of moisture across the interior west, ushering in mild air. Also from Kansas City into Des Moines, into St. Louis, Chicago, these temperatures are 5 to 10 degrees above where they should be. Chicago has had a very interesting winter. Some areas like around Boston have seen more snowfall than even Chicago has seen. All right. We zoom in across portions of the northern Rockies. A little bit of snowfall. Salt Lake City could see a few inches of snowfall there as well. There is rainfall already being detected in the forecast coming up for Dallas and into Little Rock. Look at those temperatures, Little Rock, 71, Dallas 80, Boston 39. We go back a couple of days ago, the temperatures were only in the teens. It was some of the coldest we have seen all year. Incredible. They have a wide temperature change coming up over the next few days. Fascinating to look at.

[02:56:10] HOWELL: Wow.

Karen, thank you.

Thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell, in Atlanta.

VAUGHAN JONES: I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones for you, live in London.

We are back for another hour of CNN NEWSROOM after this short break. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)