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Trump Tweet Says He Fired Flynn for Lying to FBI; Michael Flynn's Relationship with Donald Trump; Christmas Markets Open Despite Terrorism Fears; Irish Border Becomes a Sticking Point in Brexit Negotiations; U.S. Announcement on Jerusalem May Spark Protests; Sexual Misconduct Allegations in Alabama Special Election Affecting Women Voters; Syrian Activist Used Cloth to Write Prisoners' Names; Meghan Market's U.S. Roots; Aired 5-6a ET

Aired December 3, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:10] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A new tweet from the U.S. president Donald Trump raises serious questions about his fired national security adviser Michael Flynn. Also, questions about the future border between Northern Ireland and the republic threaten to bring Brexit talks to a stalemate. Plus this --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Allegations would come out 40 years later after a man has run for office six to eight times.


HOWELL: We check in on a highly polarized Alabama Senate race where the Republican candidate there Roy Moore is denying charges of sexual misconduct.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. The CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

It's 5:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. Around the world, a good day to you. A tweet from the U.S. president's personal Twitter account raises a stubborn and haunting question. What did the president know and when did he know it? The focus is on his fired national security adviser Michael Flynn and the tweet reads as follows. Quote, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

If true, this tweet is explosive. It means Mr. Trump knew that Michael Flynn had broken the law when he asked the then FBI director James Comey in February to drop the investigation into Flynn.

Here is what President Trump had to say.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion. There's been absolutely -- there has been absolutely no collusion. So we're very happy. And frankly last night was one of the big nights.


TRUMP: We'll see what happens. Thank you, all very much. Thank you very much. Thank you.


HOWELL: And on top of that, there is more. New information that contradicts the White House claims that Flynn was acting alone when he spoke with the then Russian ambassador to the United States.

Our Boris Sanchez explains it all.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Russia investigation and the dismissal of former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely the last thing that the White House wanted to be talking about just hours after their first major legislative victory in passing tax reform. But with a swift tweet, the president has raised serious questions about what he knew and when he knew it.

In this tweet, the president suggests that part of the reason that he fired Michael Flynn as national security adviser was because he knew that he had lied to the FBI. That raises serious questions possibly about obstruction of justice, if after all the president as has been reported asked former FBI director James Comey to get rid of the investigation into Michael Flynn.

Further, it also raises questions about the White House's efforts to distance themselves from Michael Flynn. At first on Friday calling him a former Obama administration official and also making the case that President Obama approved of Michael Flynn's conversations with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, to discuss sanctions.

The reaction from Democrats was swift, including this tweet from Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He responded to the president's initial tweet writing, quote, "If that is true, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn? Why did you fail to act until his lies were publicly exposed? Why did you pressure Director Comey to let this go?"

The White House has a series of questions before them, clearly something that is not likely going to go away anytime soon. Specifically because now there is a new "New York Times" report that indicates that several key figures within the Trump transition and within the administration were briefed on Michael Flynn's conversations with Sergey Kislyak before and after their meeting and so this investigation likely will explore where that goes.

And as more information continues to leak out during this investigation, it really hangs a cloud over this White House as they continue moving forward with their legislative agenda. Boris Sanchez, CNN, in New York.


HOWELL: All right. Boris, thank you.

As for the White House, saying journalists are just reading too much into the president's tweet on Flynn. John Dowd, an attorney with Mr. Trump's private legal team, tells CNN this. "The tweet was a paraphrase of Ty Cobb's statement yesterday, I refer you to Comey's testimony before Congress about FBI view of Flynn's answer," end quote.

[05:05:04] Ty Cobb is special counsel for the White House. His statement on Friday after Flynn pleaded guilty did not mention lying to the FBI as a factor in Flynn's firing.

Joining me now to talk more about this is CNN legal analyst Areva Martin.

Areva, it's good to have you with us this hour. Let's talk about the president's latest tweet. What do you make of it?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, George, you know, the tweet is really interesting because the tweet suggests that Donald Trump knew that Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI. And it raises the question as to if he knew that at the time that he asked James Comey to let Flynn go.

Was he intentionally trying to obstruct justice? That's a big issue in this Robert Mueller investigation. What did Trump know, when did he know it, and why didn't he act on it earlier? But you know, something interesting that's happened over the course of, you know, the last 12 to 14 hours and that's the White House is now trying to distance Donald Trump from his own tweet. They're suggesting that he didn't write the tweet, but that it was written by his personal attorney and that personal attorney is now somehow apologizing for the tweet.

So it's all very interesting, but clearly it's going to catch the attention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

HOWELL: It is very interesting. It's important also to note CNN cannot back or confirm that reporting at this point, but certainly does raise a lot of questions about the nature of that tweet.

Areva, let's talk about that because obstruction of justice, the president, the White House saying there is no obstruction. They say that the Flynn case specifically relates to Michael Flynn, but the question here as the specter of obstruction of justice comes into focus, what are the legal ramifications?

MARTIN: Well, you know, the White House has been trying to put the most positive spin on everything that has been happening with respect to the special counsel. Even going as far as to suggest that the entire investigation will be wrapped up by the end of the year. But that seems to be a very naive perspective on the part of the president and the White House.

What we know about the guilty plea that Flynn entered into is that that wouldn't happen unless he had some very, very vital information to give to the special prosecutor in exchange for him getting what essentially is a slap on the wrist.

We know that Flynn was facing a plethora of charges. And only to be charged with lying to the FBI really suggests that he in his cooperation with the special counsel is giving information about Donald Trump's inner circle.

Now we don't know if he has given information pertaining to Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, Jr. or the president himself, but it surely looks like Robert Mueller is getting closer to Donald Trump and his inner circle with this recent plea deal by Flynn.

HOWELL: All right. Areva, let's talk about what we do know at this point. The timeline of events, we do know now that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI in January. He was subsequently fired in February and a day after he was fired, the president tells James Comey to drop the investigation.

Just given that timeline of events, Areva, what does it tell you?

MARTIN: Very troubling timeline, very troubling for the White House, and we know that Special Counsel Mueller is looking at this. And obstruction of justice has always been on the table. Ever since Donald Trump went on national television, talking to NBC where he basically said he fired James Comey because of the Russian investigation.

Now we know Trump's story about why he fired Comey has changed multiple times. But it doesn't look good for the White House, for us now to see this tweet, where he's admitting that he knew that Flynn lied to the FBI and to know that he also asked James Comey shortly thereafter to lay off Michael Flynn. So why would the president ask the FBI director to lay off Michael Flynn? That is a really big question.

HOWELL: Areva Martin, thank you so much for your perspective.

MARTIN: Thank you.

HOWELL: During the 2016 presidential election, Michael Flynn stood alongside the U.S. president as one of his most loyal strident supporters. Loyalty very important to this president.

Our Tom Foreman takes a look at their history together.


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The next president of the United States, right here.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the campaign trail, Michael Flynn seemed a true fan of Donald Trump and the admiration mutual as the candidate courted votes from the military community.

TRUMP: We have tremendous military support, unbelievable military support. And having, as you know, General Flynn here and having so many of the generals at our side. In fact, we have -- where is General Flynn? He's around here someplace.

FOREMAN: Flynn was once a member of Barack Obama's team and a top military intelligence officer. Then he fell out of favor. He was fired. And by the summer of 2015, he had done an odd about-face and began talking to Republican candidates.

[05:10:09] And when he met Donald Trump, "I knew he was going to be president of the United States."

FLYNN: For Donald J. Trump to be the next president of the United States.

FOREMAN: Flynn began advising the campaign in early 2016. By the time of the Republican Convention that summer, he was leading the chants against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

FLYNN: Lock her up, that's right.

CROWD: Lock her up. Lock her up.

FLYNN: If I did a tenth -- a tenth -- of what she did, I would be in jail today.

FOREMAN: On Twitter, Trump praised Flynn's book on "How to Defeat Radical Islam." And 10 days after winning the election in November, he chose Flynn as his national security adviser. Flynn took the job in January after the inauguration.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Yes, General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.

FOREMAN: Then it all unraveled. Flynn admitted he misled the Trump team about his Russian communications.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: At some point, that trust eroded to a point where the president did not feel comfortable.

FOREMAN: Still, even as Flynn was given the boot and the Russia investigation swirled, the president seemed reluctant to let him go.

TRUMP: When I looked at the information, I said, I don't think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right.

FOREMAN: None of this proves the president was tied in any way to any secretive or nefarious dealings with the Russians but it does show he and Michael Flynn were close no matter how much the White House may now try to deny it.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: All right. A lot to talk about, especially related to this tweet and let's break it all down with James Davis. James is the Dean of the School of Economics and Political Science at the University of St. Gallon joining us now live.

It's good to have you with us at this hour, James.


HOWELL: Let's talk about this tweet at face value. It raises more questions about what the president knew and when he knew it. Looking at that tweet, what is your take on it?

DAVIS: I mean, it is clear that this administration and the White House is in disarray. The president has been trying to distract our attention through a variety of measures, he's tried to focus this as a question of whether there was collusion, but it's clear that the issue that we need to be focused on is whether or not there was obstruction of justice. And given that there are allegations of obstruction of justice, it's very surprising that the White House would come out with this tweet that suggests that the president knew that General Flynn lied to the FBI before he asked Director Comey to go easy on him.

HOWELL: The White House has described General Flynn as someone who acted alone, despite the fact that he was one of the president's most vocal supporters, as you just saw in Tom Foreman's piece. But this reporting that's coming from "The New York Times" contradicts that. It shows Flynn was in fact in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador. Your thoughts.

DAVIS: Yes, I mean, I think we've seen from the developments thus far that the advisers around the candidate, when Trump was still candidate, were in close touch with each other. There was a lot of coordination between KT McFarland, who subsequently became the deputy to General Flynn in the National Security Council. There was coordination with Jared Kushner, there was coordination with Donald Jr.

We've seen this over and over again. So I think it's highly unlikely that General Flynn was some kind of a loose cannon out there conducting discussions with the Russian ambassador and other figures, discussing travel plans of people to Russia. I think it's highly unlikely that this was something he was doing all on his own and I think that's exactly what the special counsel is going to be zeroing in on.

HOWELL: I want to push deeper on that as part of that "New York Times" reporting, let's talk about the e-mail from KT McFarland, again a top transition official, talking about sanctions by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling. She wrote the following, I'll read it to you, that the sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, quote, "which has thrown the U.S. election to him," end quote. Now whether that's a belief that she held or whether she simply felt

that that would be how Democrats would portray it, you know, that's unclear. But given what we know from that information, coming from that e-mail, what does it say to you? What questions does it raise?

DAVIS: Well, it says to me that in the transition period, the Trump team was already planning a strategy that would reach out to Russia, try and backpedal on the Obama administration's efforts to punish the Russians for what we already knew was an effort to interfere in the American election and that just raises the question, why?

[05:15:11] Why is the Trump campaign in the transition period so eager to dismiss the charges of Russian campaign manipulation? Is this just because they had some larger geopolitical goals or is this because that was a topic that they just weren't interested in having anybody pursue?

HOWELL: James Davis, we appreciate your time and perspective today. Thank you.

DAVIS: Thank you, George.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, Brexit negotiations are hung up right now on the issue of the Irish border. And the wrong move on this issue could put the British prime minister's job in jeopardy.

Plus, Christmas markets in Germany are open for business. And after last year's terror attack, many Germans are questioning safety.


HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

Yemen's former president is offering to open talks with Saudi Arabia. Ali Abdullah Saleh says that if the Saudi-led coalition stops dropping bombs on rebel bases, and if it allows food and supplies into that country, he'd then be open to turning the page in that ongoing dispute, that ongoing war in Yemen.

But Saleh's own allies, Houthi rebels, disagree. They're rejecting the possibility of talks with the Saudis. The latest sign of splintering rebel factions in a conflict that's killed thousands of civilians.

Pope Francis is defending why he did not publicly use the word Rohingya during his visit to Myanmar. The Pope says that he wanted to give dialogue -- to keep the dialogue open with the country's political and military leaders. Myanmar does not recognize the Muslim minority and the country's military has been accused of ethnic cleansing. The Pope did, though, call the Rohingya by their name when he met with refugees across the border in Bangladesh.

The question in Germany many are asking, is it safe to celebrate Christmas? That's the question -- that question is being raised as traditionally open air -- open holiday markets are concerned about violence there. Just Friday, police diffused an explosive device found near a market in Potsdam. A year ago a truck drove into a crowd of people in Berlin. Many Germans are worried that something similar could happen again.

[05:20:05] Robyn Curnow has this report for us.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Defiant and determined, Germans rolled out and honored holiday tradition this week. The opening of Christmas markets across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We can't go around being frightened of everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have to orient ourselves around the fact that we live our lives as normal.

CURNOW: But it is not really normal. There is heightened security. A stepped-up police presence. And large concrete barriers.

The memory of last December is still fresh in the minds of many here. That's when authorities say a 24-year-old Tunisian man plowed a truck into a Berlin market killing 12.

MICHAEL MUELLER, BERLIN MAYOR (through translator): We know what happen and it moves us. But we also agreed just as strongly that we live together and that what makes the city is its openness and freedom, tolerance. And we will not let that be taken from us or broken.

CURNOW: A spirit that's seen the Berlin market transformed into children paradise. And a holiday reveler's dream. And the shoppers and tourists are honoring that German tradition by flocking to the markets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The Berliners are in good form and they carry on anyway, right? What else can one do?

CURNOW: This market decided to have a little fun with the concrete security barriers, wrapped as Christmas gifts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It makes it less scary for the children. They see them as presents. And if they were just concrete blocks sitting there they would maybe ask themselves questions.

CURNOW: In Berlin one of the highlights of the market opening ceremony was a tribute to those who perished in last December's attack. A bed of roses to celebrate the lives of the 12 victims.

MUELLER (through translator): And this is the other thing which I have consciously taken notice of. That the Berliners and the many guests of this city, despite the shock and dismay, maybe even because of this have developed a brave defiance.

CURNOW: A brave defiance that is spurring on a cherished tradition.

Robyn Curnow, CNN.


HOWELL: Robyn, thank you.

The divorce deal between the UK and EU means that a land border will emerge between Northern Ireland, which is governed by Britain, and the Republic of Ireland, an independent country which is staying in the EU. The nature of that border is particularly of note to Northern Ireland's Catholic minority. Many of whom identify as Irish. And the issue is complicated by the fact that the British Prime Minister Theresa May depends upon the support of Northern Ireland unionists to remain in government.

Nic Robertson was in Dublin when the EU Council president Donald Tusk visited on Friday.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, it was an indication of just how important this meeting was that Donald Tusk, European Council president, stopped on the way back from Africa.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, saying that while the British government has made good progress on two of the three key issues, that on the key issue for the Irish government, that is the border with Northern Ireland, they still have concerns that they don't want the progress that was made since the Good Friday agreement 20 years ago that ended the violence in the north of Ireland that they don't want the progress, the economic progress from then rolled back.


LEO VARADKAR, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: The United Kingdom is our friend and our neighbor. And we want to work with the United Kingdom now. Similarly we want to see relations on this island continue to develop peacefully and respectfully. And I know the Prime Minister May shares that commitment.

But our government's approach and the negotiations must take account of the complexities presented by their decision to leave the union.

I want to make progress. But I also need to be clear, the EU 27 can't declare sufficient progress without firm and acceptable commitments on the border. And that's a position that is shared across the political spectrum in Ireland.


ROBERTSON: Very clearly the Irish prime minister saying the onus on the British government to make more progress, he couldn't have found any better support coming from Donald Tusk, joking in Irish, saying there is strength in unity.

There's no difference at the moment between the European Union's position and the Irish government's position.


DONALD TUSK, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Let me say very clearly if the UK offer is unacceptable for Ireland, it will also be unacceptable for the EU. I realize that for some British politicians this may be hard to understand, but such is the logic behind the fact that Ireland is the EU member, why the UK is leaving.


ROBERTSON: And all of that ratchets up the pressure on British Prime Minister Theresa May. She meets on Monday with Jean-Claude Junker, the European commission president. She's hoping there to hear that Britain has done enough to convince the European Union that it can move on to the future relationship.

[05:25:04] At the moment, however, it seems as Donald Tusk says that the power of the European Union at moment runs through Dublin.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Dublin, Ireland.


HOWELL: All right. Nic, thank you so much.

Still ahead here, a U.S. announcement on its embassy in Israel may lead to violence. A live report from Jerusalem ahead.

Plus the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, it remains close even as one candidate faces serious misconduct allegations but some women are sticking with him. We'll explain that story ahead.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM simulcast on CNN USA here in the states, CNN International worldwide this hour. Stay with us.


HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for being with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.

This hour, a tweet from the U.S. president Donald Trump says that he fired Michael Flynn as national security adviser in part because Flynn lied to the FBI. If true it means Mr. Trump knew that Flynn had broken the law before asking the then FBI director James Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, raises the question what did the president know and when did he know it?

Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh says that if Saudi Arabia -- if Saudi led coalition, rather, stops bombing rebel bases, he'd then be open to talks. But Saleh's own allies Houthi rebels disagree, they're rejecting the possibility of talks with the Saudis. It is the latest sign of splintering rebel factions in a war that's killed thousands of civilians. [05:30:02] The United States says it will no longer take part in the

Global Compact on Migration. That's a U.N. effort to address the worldwide migrant crisis. The U.S. says the compact conflicts with President Trump's immigration refugee policies. The agency says tens of millions of people have been displaced in the past few years alone.

Officials say the U.S. State Department is bracing for potential protests. This if it's announced that the United States embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That could come as early as Tuesday. Officials say President Trump might announce the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

It's a big story we're following and CNN's Ian Lee is live following that story in Jerusalem.

Good to have you on the show this hour, Ian. How would this work? Physically, how would it work to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, there is a couple of theories of how they would possibly do this. One is pretty simple, you just take the sign off the building in Tel Aviv, and you put it on one of the two consulates here in Jerusalem, the United States has one consulate, that's in west Jerusalem and another consulate that's in east Jerusalem. The belief is that this embassy would be in west Jerusalem.

The other way they could do this is there is a plot of land that the United States has been leasing from the Israeli government at about a dollar a year. This is a plot of land that they say could be the future home of a U.S. embassy. So it really depends on how quickly they want to make that transition if they in fact decide that they do want to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, George.

HOWELL: And what is the overall reaction you're hearing about this? Because certainly the divisions here and the separation, very important.

LEE: You know, I went down on to the street to ask people what they thought about it. We went to this neighborhood, (INAUDIBLE), and this is a neighborhood that is mixed. It has Palestinians, Israelis, living side by side. A bit of a rarity in Jerusalem. And when you speak with the Palestinians, they say that they're against it. Obviously they do not want the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

When speaking with the Israelis, you know, with the vast majority of Israeli society does view that this is a good move. Moving it from -- to Jerusalem, they support that, although there were some Israelis we spoke with who said that they -- they're pretty happy where it is in Tel Aviv.

Now you get into the political realm, you speak with Palestinian officials, they're obviously against this as well. They say it legitimizes the illegal occupation of east Jerusalem. That's what one Palestinian official told us. Now when you look at the Israeli government, and that government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they would enthusiastically support Israel or the United States moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

So really this is an issue that really gets to the core of the conflict here, the status of Jerusalem was supposed to, and this is supposed to be determined through negotiations -- George.

HOWELL: Ian Lee, live for us in Jerusalem, a big story, we'll stay on top of it with you. Thank you.

The U.S. Senate race in the U.S. state of Alabama is less than two weeks away and it's likely to be a very close race. The Republican candidate Roy Moore vows to stay in the race despite accusations of sexual harassment and assault against him.

Look at the latest poll numbers here from the "Washington Post." It shows him 3 percentage points behind his Democratic opponent Doug Jones, well within the margin of error. But what about the people who are supporting him, women supporters?

CNN's Alexander Marquardt has this look.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If there is any middle ground left in this race, anyone who still on the fence, it is quickly disappearing in the wake of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore particularly it seems among women.

Kim Dowdle is a lifelong Republican who has never voted for a Democrat. Now she is not just voting for one, but actively campaigning against the Republican.

KIM DOWDLE, REPUBLICAN NOW SUPPORTING DOUG JONES: I never questioned the allegations.

MARQUARDT (on camera): When you heard them, you knew right away they were truth?

DOWDLE: Yes. I figured, yes, because it is hard for a woman to say that. It is hard anywhere in the country but especially in the south.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Dowdle says she was raped when she was 16. So when the allegations came out, she couldn't bring herself to keep supporting Moore.

DOWDLE: And that surprise me. I was very big and I like the guy going against the grain. I really like the guys who go against the grain, but there is a limit. And when you abuse your power in the way that he abused his power, you cannot continue to support that.

MARQUARDT: Now as she goes door to door with her signs, Doug Jones is hoping there are many more Kim Dowdles out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conservative voices. [05:35:08] MARQUARDT: He seized on the allegations, putting out an ad

quoting President Trump's daughter, Ivanka, saying there is a special place in hell for people who prey on children.

Moore has denied the allegations calling them absolutely false and dirty politics. President Trump himself is standing by the former judge and so are many, if not most of his female supporters.

Cindy Skanda just moved to Birmingham. And for her, like so many of Moore supporters, allegations with no hard evidence are not enough.

CINDY SKANDA, ROY MOORE SUPPORTER: I'm just really suspect that these allegations would come out 40 years later after the man has run for office 68 times. So I would not call it a conspiracy. It just made me -- makes me question.

MARQUARDT (on camera): Was there ever a moment when you question your support for Roy Moore?

SKANDA: No. No. I am very much align with his values and his principles and his some policies that he talks about. A secure border, lower government, the repeal of Obamacare.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): The Moore campaign has put its female supporters front and center. His own ad and on the campaign trail, including Anne Eubank who told it was a different time when these allegations took place. And even if they are true, there are bigger priorities.

ANNE EUBANK, ROY MOORE SUPPORTER: Roy Moore we know will stand on conservative principles and Doug Jones is a far left liberal Democrat who will vote like the Democrats tell him to vote and we do not want that.

MARQUARDT: Alex Marquardt, CNN, Birmingham, Alabama.


HOWELL: Alex Marquardt, thanks for the report.

In Syria, many detainees do not survive government prisons. So an activist smuggled pieces of cloth with the names of his fellow cell mates written in blood. The story next.


[05:40:16] HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM.

The documentary, "Syria's Disappeared: The Case Against Assad," tells the horrors and incredibly courageous stories of survival of former Syrian detainees. It features Mansour al-Omari, a detainee who smuggled pieces of cloth out with the names of his fellow cellmates written in their own blood and rust, written so their families would know where their loved ones were.

Now those pieces of cloth are being featured in an exhibit in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. My colleague Christi Paul spoke with Mansour al-Omari and the documentary-maker Sara Afshar.


MANSOUR AL-OMARI, FORMER SYRIAN DETAINEE: Those pieces of shirts, when I was, like, getting their names and writing those names, I wasn't thinking of later that it will be displayed in the Holocaust Museum and people will see it. At that time I was thinking to keep the names so I can later contact the families and let them know because the government is denying that they these detainees.

What it means is really emotional for me and overwhelming because it is for me I took this story from underground in Damascus. There is a city under Damascus that's disappeared. And I took those names and the story from that place, from darkness, from secrecy, to the Holocaust Museum, to the land of free, so people can see it.

So I took it to publicity. And this is -- and for me, it was like a promise I made to my colleagues in the cell. When I was being called out from that cell, I remember they were around me and hugging me, crying, some of them were asking me, please don't forget us and try to help us, try to let the world know what we are suffering. They believed that the world knew their conditions, the world would act, would not just stand still and look at what's happening underground.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Sara, hearing that from him, what are you hoping people take away from this exhibit?

SARA AFSHAR, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Well, I really hope that this is a chance for people to bear witness to what is happening in Syria. There are tens of thousands of these detainees still there. You know, as we're having this conversation now people are in these essentially torture chambers. You know, people are being tortured, they're dying. So I hope that the people who come to the exhibition will bear witness to that, by seeing these pieces of cloth that have the names of detainees written in their own blood on the cloth.

And that they'll become active on this issue. We need people to raise their voices about this issue. This issue is being swept under the carpet in the political talks. It's not being discussed and it's a vital issue for Syrians.

PAUL: And Mansour, the people whose names are on that cloth, and I want to stress they are people, they're not facts or numbers or figures, they're people. Do you know where any of them are today?

AL-OMARI: Actually I smuggled the names four years ago. And since then I'm trying to follow their news. I know only the fate of 11 of them, 11 out of 82 people that I know their fate from the news about where they are. Four of them are dead. The rest are either released or sent to other prisons to open business like prisons.

We -- I don't know anything about almost 70 people from this list who are still now as we speak disappeared and many of them are like dying every day because of the conditions. It's very inhuman conditions in the cell underground.

PAUL: And, Sara, I mean, you've dedicated so much time to this with your documentary. What changes have you seen in Syria if any because of that documentary?

AFSHAR: I mean, unfortunately, you know, we haven't seen any changes. And we continue to call for independent monitors to go inside these detention facilities. We continue to call for information for the families of the disappeared.

You know, I've met families who have had no news of their loved ones for five or six years. If you can imagine what that is like, waking up every morning and not knowing what has happened to your loved one. And we call for the arbitrarily detained to be released. The talks are happening now, they're restarting on Monday in Geneva. And this needs to be on the agenda and it isn't at the moment.

PAUL: Mansour, what do you want people to know when they look at these pieces of cloth and when they hear your story, what do you want them to know about Syria, today?

[05:45:02] AL-OMARI: Well, first thing I want people to know first, those names, many of them are still alive now, underground. And I really want people to know that because we make and save lives. It takes more interest from the governments, from the United Nations, from organizations, to work, to act, to save lives. We can sell lives. I'm telling you, these are the facts. I know where they are. And they are dying every day. They are just innocent people.


HOWELL: Names written in blood and rust so their loved ones can know where they are.

This is NEWSROOM. We'll be right back after the break.


HOWELL: The Mount Agung volcano, Indonesia is warning residents in Bali to be on alert. For weeks this has been actively erupting, sending ash clouds, sending steam and debris into the sky. Authorities say it is still threatening a major eruption. Around 100,000 people have evacuated from the nearby villages in the immediate danger zone. And the lingering ash clouds around that international airport there causing concern, frustrations with travelers.

[05:50:08] Derek Van Dam here, and, Derek, clearly the airport and the planes are not going to take off.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and there is a reason for that as well because ash clouds and jet engines do not go well together. They do not mix. In fact, it has the threat of bringing down an entire jet airplane.

We'll get into the science behind that. But right now, the Bali volcano, Mount Agung, continues to spew this thick plume of steam and gas. In fact flights from Bali to Australia have been canceled by Qantas, Virgin Airlines and Jet Star. That stranded over 2,000 people on the island. There are still flights going to and from Denpasar. But just not from Australia. And that is all thanks to the steering winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere.

Here is the science behind why jet engines and volcanic ash don't mix. When we get that plume of steam and volcanic ash getting sucked into the turbines of the jet engine, the ash cloud actually melts inside of the jet engine and then eventually it can refreeze and harden on the turbines, causing them to seize and ultimately having a jet engine failure. Not something you want when you're flying 30,000, 35,000 feet in the air, right?

OK, so let's talk about the current status of Mount Agung. The threat level has been raised from 3 to 4, which is the highest alert level. There is a 10-kilometer radius right around Mount Agung where this evacuation has taken place. And the threat level again there is at its highest level that they have according to experts there.

Now the wind field across this area actually being influenced by a tropical system, just to the south of Indonesia. And that, of course, will influence which way the ash plume starts to spread. And we have been talking about this for several weeks now. There are several different types of eruptions that have taken place, but what people and residents are concerned about and tourists who are stranded is a major eruption, which all signs point as still a likely possibility.

I want to talk about something quickly else happening on -- in the world of weather and science as well. Check out the moon tonight. We have a super moon. One of three that will be happening over the next two months. And what is a super moon? Well, the moon appears 7 percent larger and 16 percent brighter. And pretty interesting because one will happen tonight and then another on the 1st and 31st of January.

HOWELL: All right. Derek, we'll look out for it. Thanks.

All right. This past week, Meghan Markle made her first official appearance as Prince Harry's fiancee. It's the first of many public engagements that she'll make once married. But Markle is no stranger to the spotlight.

Stephanie Elam takes a look at her journey from Hollywood to now British royalty.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The spotlight on Meghan Markle was already hot. Now it's intense after her engagement to Prince Harry.

MEGHAN MARKLE, AMERICAN ACTRESS: As a matter of fact, I could barely let you finish proposing. I said, can I say yes now?

PRINCE HARRY, PRINCE OF WALES: She didn't even let me finish. ELAM: But Markle, a Hollywood native, is no stranger to attention.

MARKLE: Why would you do something like that in the first place?

ELAM: A regular on USA network series "Suits," she grew up around television. Her father worked on the hit TV show, "Married With Children." Markle often visited the set telling "Esquire" it was, quote, "a really funny and perverse place for a little girl in a Catholic school uniform to grow up."

The all-girl school behind that uniform is Immaculate Heart nestled on the Hollywood hillside.

(On camera): How many of you plan on getting up in the middle of the night in May to watch the wedding? What do you think?



ELAM (voice-over): The students here are thrilled that one of their own is now making her mark internationally.

BECKY DOYLE, IMMACULATE HEART SENIOR: It's just super cool that she came from here like L.A. and just spread out all over the place. And, you know, who doesn't love a good love story?

MARIA POLIA, IMMACULATE HEART TEACHER: My first reaction was he is so fortunate to have found her.

ELAM: Markle's former teachers say she was a standout on stage and in the classroom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A person like that who isn't just beautiful and smart and an actress but has this depth. That's what Prince Harry saw in her.

ELAM: At an early age Markle yearned to help others. She volunteered on L.A. Skid Row. At just 13 scared but determined, she turned to a teacher for advice on how to do it. Markle said in "Harper's Bazaar," quote, "I remember one of my mentors, Mrs. Maria Polia, told me that life is about putting other's need above your own fears. That has always stayed with me."

POLIA: And that has helped her is -- to do the great things that she has been doing and will continue to do. It's immensely humbling but it also demonstrates the kind of heart that she has.

[05:55:02] ELAM: After high school, Markle left L.A. for Northwestern University outside Chicago.

HARVEY YOUNG, CHAIR, NORTHWESTERN THEATER DEPARTMENT: There is a presence, you know, that makes you aware of this person as being smart, intelligent, hardworking, destined to succeed.

ELAM: Professor Harvey Young recalls Markle embracing her biracial roots. Speaking openly during his class on Contemporary Black Theater in 2003.

YOUNG: And that stands out. You know, the fact that she's a person who was willing to reflect upon her experiences and to share that perspective of the life that she lived.

ELAM: After graduating, Markle remained focused on human rights and women's rights.

MARKLE: This has to change.

ELAM: A topic she addressed before the United Nations in 2015.

MARKLE: Women need a seat at the table. They need an invitation to be seated there. And in some cases where this isn't available, well then, you know what, then they need to create their own table.

ELAM: Philanthropy is one thing the royal couple says drew them together. Now they shared the scrutiny of a worldwide press.

Harry chastising British tabloids for racially charged headlines about where Markle grew up. In reality, this is Markle's family home. In a desired historically black neighborhood in L.A.

(On camera): What do you guys want to see the most?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her personality.


ELAM (voice-over): The hometown excitement of a local girl turned star now getting the royal treatment.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.


HOWELL: That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. "NEW DAY" is next for viewers in the United States. And for viewers around the world, our special program, "Global Warning, Arctic Melt," is next.

You're watching CNN, the world's newsroom.