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California Wildfires; Australian Arrested, Accused of Being North Korean Agent; Russia Investigation; ANC Leaders Want Zuma to Go; Las Vegas Shooting Survivors Still Looking for Answers. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired December 17, 2017 - 04:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): More evacuations in Southern California as the deadly fire eats up more ground. We'll be speaking to a firefighter on what they're up against.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The Trump transition team accusing special counsel Robert Mueller of getting thousands of sensitive e-mails without proper authorization. Mueller's office responds.

VANIER (voice-over): And the future of South Africa could be decided this weekend as the ruling party chooses its next leader.

ALLEN (voice-over): Those are among our stories the next two hours. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER (voice-over): And I'm Cyril Vanier from CNN Headquarters here in Atlanta.


VANIER: Southern California firefighters are battling the third largest wildfire in the state's history. The Thomas Fire has burned close to 110,000 hectares northwest of Los Angeles. That's almost 270,000 acres.

ALLEN: It has also led to the deaths of at least two people, including a firefighter who was killed Thursday. High winds have fueled these flames and thousands of residents have fled their homes, thousands more now. CNN's Miguel Marquez has more from the front lines of the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This Thomas fire is the fire that just will not quit. I want to show you what's happening in the hills just above Santa Barbara. We'll turn the light off so you can get a better sense of what's happening here.

You can see those fires burning up in the hills, the foothills just over Santa Barbara and Montecito. Firefighters have been working this area for over a week. The winds, they were not cooperating with them at first. They were blowing it toward the ocean, they had those Santa Ana winds blowing that hot, dry wind toward the ocean, blowing the fire along with it.

Then they had a let up for a couple of days during the week and they were able to light some backfires, do some burnout operations and get rid of some of that undergrowth. But then those Santa Ana winds came back. And that's what they're dealing with right now, winds topping out at 20, perhaps 30 miles per hour though, I will tell you, we were up in those hills earlier, not even that high.

And where they are very steep and where you have ravines, those winds can get whipping 30, 40 miles per hour, that we felt, very tough winds. Right now, this is the thing that they're dealing with, no winds whatsoever.

But if they can make it through tonight and through the winds, then they believe that they will be on -- be able to get on top of this Thomas fire and finally put it out -- Miguel Marquez, CNN, Santa Barbara, California.



ALLEN: We'll talk more about it on the phone now. I'm joined by Captain Lucas Spelman (ph). He's a public information officer with CAL FIRE.

Capt. Spelman (ph), we know you're really busy. Thank you for talking with us. Just talk more to us about why this particular fire in this place, where it is, is so difficult to fight.

CAPT. LUCAS SPELMAN (PH), CAL FIRE: Well, a lot of the five-year drought was a little bit overcome in some of the areas throughout California. But as you can see, the fires throughout the summer have succumbed to those dry conditions again.

But the Santa Barbara area never recovered from the drought and is still really close to the drought, didn't get very much rain throughout the winter months. And so this is just a carry -- this just carries on for another six years.

We have lots of fires every single day throughout the Southern California area, up to several hundred actually. But you add some winds like we've had and you can see that, at some points, firefighters can only be defensive. They can't even attack the fire to the front because it is moving so quickly.

ALLEN: What can you tell us about the evacuations in this area?

How many more people have been told they have to leave?

SPELMAN (PH): Well, we don't have an exact number of that. We probably have that in the morning time. But we do have Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpentaria all in the foothills there as that fire is heading down toward those areas.

We saw some pictures, I think, you guys had shown earlier today about the fire coming down in those areas. You can imagine how many people will be affected in those towns.

ALLEN: Right, you were saying, too, earlier that we're looking at some video right now of it coming over a ridge and it is just too dangerous to put firefighters in front of the western edge.

SPELMAN (PH): Yes. In some situations it's all -- it all depends where they're at. There are places we can make stands. But under heavy vegetation and those gusts up to 50, 60 miles an hour, it's very dangerous for everybody.

And so we have to be tactically correct and we might bump down several areas and try to do burning operations to burn some of that fuel up to stop it. But as the fire is just going and we're bump-and-running as we call it, as we with go and, say, go from house to house and save each house and move to the next one, that's when it gets very dangerous.

And that's how the fire will progress throughout areas that are up in the hills, where houses aren't particularly in a town but they're in little pockets. And those are the houses that are really hard to save in that situation.

ALLEN: Absolutely. Yes, I can understand that, 8,400 firefighters, doing just incredible work out there, day in and day out. There was the loss of a firefighter this week and I understand that his memorial is today.

How are teams on the ground dealing with that?

SPELMAN (PH): Well, it is really a -- devastating to any of us. And actually, myself, I leave today, I'll be dealing with some of the procession tomorrow and the next day. And so I have a very heavy heart and really the hardest part is just dealing with the families afterwards.

You can imagine, everybody's mind is on Christmas and their own families. And just to think that Cory (ph) actually has a little baby daughter and his wife is pregnant and it just puts things into perspective for all of us, that we need to get home safe.

ALLEN: Yes, certainly does. Well, we know it will be a tough time for you. You'll be there. And so many of his other colleagues and firefighters from around the country no doubt. So we wish all the other ones there on the front lines some safe days as they continue to do this very hard work. Thank you very much, Captain Lucas Spelman (ph) for us.

SPELMAN (PH): Thanks, Natalie.

VANIER: The police in Australia have arrested a man accused of working as an agent for North Korea. Federal police say the 59-year old of Korean descent helped sell North Korean missile technology on the international black market. He's the first person arrested under Australia's new Weapons of Mass Destruction Act.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The IP (ph) conducted search warrant activity in Eastwood and we subsequently arrested a 59-year-old male person who is appearing before Perimeter Bail Court (ph) very shortly. We allege that male person was living in Australia to conduct illicit trade deals --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- on behalf of North Korea. This is a breach of both United Nations and Australian economic sanctions against North Korea.

Now we'll be looking at this man who is a nationalized Australian, acted as an economic agent of North Korea and conducted prohibited financial activities, such as facilitating exports from North Korea in violation of both domestic and international sanctions.

We also uncovered allegations related to breaches of the Commonwealth Weapons of Mass Destruction Act. We'll be alleging in court this man was brokering the style of missile componentry and technical expertise from North Korea to other international entities.

We believe this man participated in discussions about the sale of missile componentry from North Korea to other entities abroad as another attempt to try and raise revenue for the government in North Korea.


ALLEN: Well, an interesting report coming out about the relationship between President Trump and China. Already tense relations between the U.S. and China may be getting worse.

According to the "Financial Times," on Monday, President Donald Trump will label Beijing an adversary engaged in economic aggression against the U.S. Mr. Trump is apparently frustrated that his personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping has not led to a more balanced trade relationship or significant progress in reining in North Korea.

VANIER: When we come back after this short break, special counsel Robert Mueller is again under fire by the Trump White House.

ALLEN: This time, it is about e-mails the White House claims Mueller shouldn't have. Well, the special counsel's office has responded with a rare public denial. We'll have that for you as we push on here on CNN NEWSROOM.



[04:15:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)

ALLEN: In Pakistan, at least seven people are dead, dozens injured, after two suicide bombers attacked a church. An ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan is claiming responsibility. It happened in the city of Quetta. The church was packed with more than 400 worshipers during Sunday service, just a week, of course, before Christmas.

VANIER: One attacker detonated his vest and a security guard shot the other one at the gate before he could blow himself up. Police say the civilians were killed during the blast and the intense firefight that followed.

Let's turn now to the ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling. The main issue at this moment is thousands of e-mails from the Trump transition team that ended up with special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators.

ALLEN: A lawyer for the transition complained to two congressional committees that Mueller's team should not have the documents, saying they were handed over to the special counsel without permission.

VANIER: But Mueller's office, in a rare public statement, says this is not true. Here is the quote.

"When we have obtained e-mails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation, we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process."

ALLEN: For more on all of this, let's go to CNN's Boris Sanchez at the White House.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This story just adds another layer on what has been a barrage of attacks on the special counsel from Republicans, some Republicans who are making the case that Robert Mueller should resign.

After news broke several days ago that there had been messages exchanged between top FBI officials back in 2016, during the campaign, that were critical of then candidate Donald Trump, Republicans made the case that two -- those two officials that had since been on the special counsel team had tainted the investigation, so to speak.

One of those officials actually left the special counsel before the text messages were revealed. One of them was reassigned shortly after those messages came to light.

But, again, many Republicans are making the case that the messages reveal partisanship within the investigation and they've argued that Robert Mueller should resign.

Democrats, in response, have made the case that the special counsel is not partisan, that it remains politically independent, though they are speculating that the president is now planning to fire Robert Mueller.

Two Democrats, both on the House Intelligence Committee, made the case this weekend that that was the case. First Adam Schiff, who was on Twitter, saying that he believed that the firing of Robert Mueller would happen before the end of the year.

The other, Jackie Speier, also made the case to a San Francisco TV station that Robert Mueller's firing was imminent.

CNN reached out to White House attorney, Ty Cobb, for a statement on these remarks and he gave us a statement, writing, in part, quote, "As the White House has consistently said for months, there is no consideration of firing the special counsel."

So you have the White House denying that there is any kind of plan to remove Robert Mueller as the head of the special counsel; you have some Democrats that are saying that that is the case, that his firing is imminent.

And then you have certain Republicans that are saying that the special counsel is tainted and that Robert Mueller should indeed resign. A complicated situation and one that likely will receive greater focus because, as early as this week, you have a White House legal team meeting with Robert Mueller, one on one, potentially to discuss the next steps in this investigation -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


ALLEN: Well, let's talk more about it. Joining us from the U.K., Scott Lucas, professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham and the founder and editor of "EA World View."

Scott, thank you for joining us.

VANIER: Scott, the Trump transition team says that Mueller's investigators are making extensive use of e-mails that they shouldn't have got in the first place, another attack, as Boris was telling us on the Russian investigators.

Do you think this one is warranted?

SCOTT LUCAS, UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM: No. The very sort of loophole that the Trump transition team --


LUCAS: -- is trying to argue is that it is a private organization, Trump for America, and that private communications are not subject to the Mueller mandate, which is to review, of course, the Trump e-mails, those of his advisers, et cetera.

But legal analysts and, indeed, scholars like Preet Bharara, the former New York attorney or special attorney for New York, has said this is just a bit of smoke. Mueller is operating within his mandate. I think there is a bigger story here, a much bigger story and that is

they received tens of thousands of e-mails from the Government Services Administration, these are from 12 accounts apparently, including the account of Jared Kushner and other high-level Trump people.

They have been going over those e-mails all autumn and the White House didn't know apparently that Mueller's team had them. That means that when Kushner and others were questioned this autumn, they would have gone into that questioning, not being aware of all of the information that their interrogators, the investigators, would have had.

That's why the White House is extremely alarmed by the latest revelations and, of course, that is why they're trying even harder to undermine Mueller, to discredit him. In other words, Trump may not be able to politically fire him, because that would be suicide. But if everyone believes that Mueller is tainted, maybe this will all go away.

ALLEN: Right. It is hard to paint Mueller as tainted because his integrity has been spotless, up until this, always in his career. But as you say, it would be political suicide if he went around Mueller or perhaps dismissed Mueller.

Let's look at that question because according to a congresswoman, and we quote her, that she says this is a rumor she heard in D.C., that perhaps Trump might try to dismiss Mueller. Let's listen to what she had to say and then I'll get your thoughts.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: The rumor on the Hill, when I left yesterday, was that the president was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week and, on December 22nd, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller.


ALLEN: So there you have it. And, Scott, you said that would be political suicide.

Is that really a possibility at this point?

LUCAS: Well, with Donald Trump, anything is possible. I think what you heard from Jackie Speier and from Adam Schiff, these ranking Democrats, is, one, a genuine expression of concern and, two, it is a warning to Trump. Don't do this. Don't bring on the constitutional crisis by trying this Friday to get rid of Mueller and to make this all go away over the holidays.

This would be the biggest showdown in American political history since Richard Nixon tried to do the same thing over Watergate, by firing the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox.

With each revelation of how close Mueller is getting to Trump and his inner circle --- and I think he's very close -- the likelihood increases. But, again, I tell you, I think Donald Trump brings the whole White House crashing down if he does this. I don't think even a lot of Republicans can defend him blocking the investigation by firing Mueller.

VANIER: Well, actually, listen to this, listen to what some conservatives have been saying over the last week and especially this one. This is from FOX News. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump won in spite of the Republican establishment being against him, the Democrats being against him, the elite media against him and the FBI and the Justice Department were against him.

And still he prevailed, still the American people said we don't care about -- we're making that guy our next president, we're putting him in the Oval Office.

To me, that's the real story here. In spite of all that, he still won because the American people were so fed up with this kind of baloney, they wanted someone else in that place who could shake things up.


VANIER: So look, this is a recurring theme in conservative circles, that ultimately none of this matters because, politically, Donald Trump has won and will win again by doing exactly what he's doing.

Do you think that politically they're right?

LUCAS: Look, you know, Donald Trump winning a majority of the electoral college, if not the popular vote, does not mean that he can operate outside the law, does not mean, if there was collusion with Russia, that this can be justified. And that's what the investigation is focusing on.

But let's go wider with this. What FOX is trying to do -- and I've watched their coverage intensively over recent days -- is they're using their hosts and their guests to say there is an attempted coup against Trump.

Now realize how serious that is because you're not only discrediting Mueller, you're saying that the FBI is discredited. You're saying the Justice Department, if not the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is discredited.

You're saying that all government agencies are part of a deep state. That is what I mean, that FOX and the Trump team, their strategy now is to actually bring on the political crisis to try to avoid paying the price over the Russia --


LUCAS: -- collusion, if it occurred. That's how far they're willing to go. So I do treat this very seriously. I just do wonder whether Trump can take that final step of firing

Mueller. If he does fire Mueller, expect some conservative Republicans to rally around him, expect FOX News, expect an outlet like Breitbart, to go 100 percent on basically the smear campaign against Mueller and against other government officials.

Will it work?

I don't know. But, folks, you all better batten the hatches down, because it will get ugly.

ALLEN: Right. And the interesting thing is, our president seems to take his cues from his favorite network, FOX News, and then instigate policy as a result.

LUCAS: Yes, it is basically creating this feedback. And that is if FOX News goes out and says it, then the White House and the president can go out and say, look, this was reported as news, we're just telling you what is happening.

Of course, if other channels, let's say like CNN, report a true story, then, of course, you are fake news. That's the way that this division has been running for months, ever since the inauguration.

It is part of a very polarized American society in that people have sort of gone into camps as to where they get their, quote, "news" from. What we have to hope at the end of the day is that the political and legal facts can be established.

Where it is quite clear, if Donald Trump did not collude with Russia, fine. That we have to accept.

But if he and his team created a crime, obstruction of justice, or a political offense in trying to block the investigation or, indeed, working with the Russians, that, too, has to be acknowledged. Otherwise, what you're ripping up here is not fake news or real news, you're actually ripping up the American Constitution and the legal process.

ALLEN: Yes, I don't like the words "constitutional crisis." Those aren't fun words to say whatsoever. We can only hope that credibility and integrity will prevail here. Scott Lucas, Scott, thank you for your time.

And coming up, South Africa's ruling party is set to vote on a new leader who could replace embattled president Jacob Zuma and perhaps send the country, many hope, in a whole new direction.

VANIER: Plus many people look up to their president. But in Russia, Vladimir Putin's popularity is downright super. We'll tell you why after the break.





VANIER: Good to have you back with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. Here are the top stories.


VANIER: Monday is International Migrants Day, a reminder that migrants still face horribly unsafe conditions as they try to reach Europe. On Friday, more than 150 African migrants, including 42 children, were rescued from a small boat off the coast of Libya.

The European Union is struggling to shut down this smuggling route that brings thousands of people from Libya into the E.U. each year.

ALLEN: On Saturday, hundreds of people across France marched to bring attention to the immigrants' plight, calling on authorities to allow migrants to enter France from Italy.

Peru's president insists he will not resign after lawmakers voted Friday to begin impeaching him. President Pedro Pablo Kucyznski is accused of accepting more than $4 million in bribes from a Brazilian construction company.

Kucyznski says he's innocent and plans to ask the attorney general's office to publicly disclose his finances. Peruvian lawmakers expect to hear from him on Thursday.

South Africa's future hangs in the balance as delegates at the African National Congress face a crucial decision.

VANIER: They're choosing the ruling party's new leader. That person will likely succeed embattled president Jacob Zuma. His government has been mired in corruption scandals. The outcome of the ANC's election this week will likely determine the country's next leader.

Journalist and talk show host Redi Tlhabi joins me now from Johannesburg.

Redi, great to have you back on the show. We're going to move on to the new faces, who may or may not become new ANC leaders at the end of the weekend. But first tell me about turning the page of Jacob Zuma, the current South African president, and his speech.

He seemed to blame everyone but himself for the state that the country is in right now.

REDI TLHABI, JOURNALIST: You hit the nail on the head, Cyril. I just sat there watching and listening to Jacob Zuma. He doesn't surprise me anymore. But I just thought even at this hour, when he's lost every court battle, when the evidence of his corruption and what we term "state catcher" (ph) in South Africa, he's still standing there, blaming the media, blaming non-government organizations, blaming dark imperialist forces, conspiracy theories. It is actually exasperating.

But I can tell you right now that the Jacob Zuma years have battered the soul of South Africa -- Cyril.

VANIER: OK. So what will happen over the next 24 hours?

You have got two main faces going into this, vying for leadership of the ANC, which of course is South Africa's ruling party. You have got Cyril Ramaphosa and you've got Mr. Zuma's ex-wife. So paint the picture for us.

TLHABI: All right. So you got these two colossal figures. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, yes, she was married to Jacob Zuma but she has earned her stripes as a politician --


TLHABI: -- in her own right, she's a medical doctor, she's got rich history in the ANC movement, the anti-apartheid struggle, was a student leader and has been a senior cabinet minister during the Mandela years and (INAUDIBLE) years and now Jacob Zuma (INAUDIBLE).

Don't forget, she was also the head of the African Union. However, she is known to not have a strong economic vision. And also, Cyril, if it is true that you judge a person by the company they keep, then Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is in trouble because the people who have alleged the complaints have been fighting all sorts of corruption allegations, fraud allegations and they're basically loud noisemakers with very little substance.

So many people don't trust her from that perspective. Secondly, remember Jacob Zuma is facing corruption charges. Many people believe that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will not sit back and watch the father of her children be prosecuted.

So and she's the preferred candidate of Jacob Zuma, which raises more suspicions. Then you have Cyril Ramaphosa, who was Nelson Mandela's choice as successor back in 1999. He is wealthy, a billionaire, went into business after politics; didn't work for him. He served as Jacob Zuma's deputy president.

I think that sometimes he doesn't have a backbone but generally the consensus is that Cyril Ramaphosa is the man who will team up, he speaks the language of investors, the language of business, so let's see what he has to offer.

Somebody has to win at the end of this conference. They're not perfect candidates but it seems that Cyril Ramaphosa is one preferred by business and a lot of progressive South Africans.

VANIER: You said he's seen as the man who might clean up. Corruption has been one of the huge issues, casting such a cloud over South African politics for not one but both of Mr. Zuma's terms.

Is there either of those candidates who is really somebody who could bring South Africa to another place, a country where there is just less corruption and government works better?

TLHABI: I do think that Cyril Ramaphosa has spoken the anti- corruption language. But many of us do criticize him and say that a lot of the corruption happened under his watch. He was the deputy president. So he can't just rise up and pretend that he didn't see.

But you've got to start somewhere. He doesn't have a corruption scandal. He has not benefited unduly from state coffers, he's made a lot of money in business, that's true, so the hope and the expectation is that he will fight corruption.

However, Cyril, there's something very important that you shouldn't forget. Those who have stolen from the state, including President Jacob Zuma, where is the accountability? The ANC is known for just, you know, just starting a new chapter and not prosecuting its comrades.

I suspect that even if Cyril Ramaphosa takes over and speaks the anti- corruption language, we're going to see very little accountability because the ANC is notorious for closing ranks and just starting afresh, as if there is no stench that needs to be dealt with. So I don't see any successful prosecutions in the near future.

VANIER: Redi Tlhabi, coming to us from Johannesburg, thank you very much. We'll keep a close eye on what happens at the ANC party Congress this Sunday. Thank you.

ALLEN: Another country is looking for perhaps a new leader -- or not. We're talking about Russia. The election there set for March 18th. While it is some time away now, the far and away front-runner, no shocker here, President Vladimir Putin.

VANIER: Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

No, it's Super Putin.

Clare Sebastian takes us to a museum that turns the president into a superhero. Take a look at this.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Half man, half superhero: this is apparently how Russians see their president. In the new exhibition in Moscow called "Super Putin," artists were commissioned to depictive him in various (inaudible).

A strong man, a softer side. Museum owner Alexander (ph) (INAUDIBLE) is a former provincial mayor known for eccentric, often anti-Kremlin stunts, including an unsuccessful attempt to run for president in 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are representing the view of the majority of people who vote for Putin. They truly believe that he's a superhero and without him Russia will fall apart. America or Ukraine will attack us nothing will be left of the country.

SEBASTIAN: Russians are used to seeing a muscular Vladimir Putin, but this goes further than that. This three bust and the colors of the Russian flag, the message here is that Putin is Russia and Russia is Putin.

And that is likely to be the case for another six years. Putin has just announced he's running for a fourth time as Russia's president, a fact, says journalist Miguel Fishman (ph), that will cement his place as Russia's sole sovereign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This campaigns specifically about that it fixes Putin's standing as totally unaccountable --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Russian parallel, someone half human.

SEBASTIAN: At the exhibition we find (INAUDIBLE) and (INAUDIBLE). At 20 years old, they can't remember life without Putin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without him it would be like being without hands, I can't imagine anyone else in his place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's some kind of superman for us. I think he's inspired our generation.

SEBASTIAN: Despite the prospect of new sanctions, a Winter Olympics ban and an economy that is barely growing, two Russian polling agencies have Putin's approval rating at more than 80 percent, a president whose true superpower is his public image -- Clare Sebastian, CNN, Moscow.


ALLEN: I think that museum is just fitting for us (INAUDIBLE).

VANIER: It's quite something. We don't know the dates for the exhibition. We'll pass them on.

After the break, a mother rises above the hate and anger. Coming up, you'll hear from the mother of Heather Heyer, who lost her life during a hate rally. Her advice to the U.S. president -- coming up.

ALLEN: Yes, we'll see what she has to say.

Plus the search for answers after the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. The survivors tell CNN they're being kept in the dark.




VANIER: It's been four months since Heather Heyer was killed near a white supremacist rally in the U.S. state of Virginia. The 32-year- old was killed when a car plowed through a crowd of counterprotesters.

Heyer's mother has been vocal about keeping her daughter's legacy alive. Susan Bro tells CNN that unlike those who killed her daughter, she will not live with hate and anger.


SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: I can't live in anger. It is not a sustainable emotion. It does come over me at times. I'm not going to deny that. But I can't -- I can't live in hate, I can't live in anger.


VANIER: Now President Donald Trump was criticized for not immediately condemning the hate groups at the rally. Susan Bro has been vocal about that as well. Here is her advice to him.


BRO: Stop tweeting. Think before you speak. And only tell the truth. And I think if you'll just settle into those things, everything will take care of itself.


VANIER: It has been more than two months since the Las Vegas concert attack that claimed 58 lives.

ALLEN: Victims tell CNN they're still waiting for investigators to answer their questions about how the shooting could have been prevented. CNN's Sara Sidner spoke with some of them, who are still piecing together their lives.


HARRY ROMERO, LAS VEGAS MASSACRE SURVIVOR: My foot was literally just dangling.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Harry Romero shows us his wounded leg, now full of metal. Inside, a steel plate, next to the bullet that nearly killed him, one of more than a thousand rounds fired during the Las Vegas massacre.

ROMERO: Came in here, came out here and then hit me here.

SIDNER (voice-over): The bullet sliced into Harry as he laid on top of his wife, Claudia, protecting her from the aerial assault.

CLAUDIA ROMERO, LAS VEGAS MASSACRE SURVIVOR: The first night we were both really, really bad.

SIDNER (voice-over): Since that night, Claudia can't stop reliving the nightmare. She saw too many bodies and too much blood.

CLAUDIA ROMERO: These nightmares, I feel like he's going to come back and just start shooting again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the nighttime is terrifying to me.

SIDNER (voice-over): Sisters Kendra and Jasara still stay up all night, too afraid to sleep until daylight. They, too, faced the barrage of bullets at the Vegas concert, Jasara was hit twice.

JASARA REQUEJO, LAS VEGAS MASSACRE SHOOTING VICTIM: I decided after about three rounds that I wasn't going to bleed to death on the ground. So I yelled that I was going to run. And I needed my sister to get up and run with me.

SIDNER (voice-over): Kendra phoned her 14-year-old daughter, thinking, at that moment, she was going to die.

KENDRA HOBBS, LAS VEGAS MASSACRE SHOOTING VICTIM: I said I love you. And she said, wait, Mom, wait. And I was, like, no, I need you to know I love you and, every decision you make in life, you're going to be OK and I support you.

SIDNER (voice-over): These are just four of 500 victims, living shattered lives after the deadliest mass shooting in modern history. And they want answers from investigators.

CLAUDIA ROMERO: We're in the dark, like the people that were there and that went through this, like they haven't heard anything.

SIDNER (voice-over): Authorities have largely gone silent on the case, refusing to answer questions, except for a couple of local interviews like this one in November with CNN affiliate KLAS. Here, Sheriff Joe Lombardo hinted at what might be the shooter's motive.

JOE LOMBARDO, LAS VEGAS SHERIFF: Since 2015, September of 2015, he's lost a significant amount of wealth. And I think that might have a determining factor on his -- what he determined to do.

SIDNER (voice-over): Investigators will say little else. Media outlets, including CNN, are fighting in court for the release of public records that could shed light on the case. Law enforcement wants them held back until its official report is complete but they won't say when that may come.

REQUEJO: I want to help somebody else. And to be silent and not say anything, it is just not fair.

SIDNER (voice-over): The FBI has asked for patience. Meantime, the shooter's brain is currently being examined by a neurologist at Stanford University. USC neurologist Jeff Victoroff is familiar with procedure and says the neurologist will be looking closely at 10 areas that control morality.

JEFF VICTOROFF, NEUROLOGIST: If you have damage in one of those critical areas of the brain, it may disrupt the circuits that are required to hold us together and allow us to perform the way society expects us to perform. SIDNER (voice-over): The victims we spoke with didn't care why the shooter did it. But they do care about how it could have been prevented if it can save others from living the same nightmare.

REQUEJO: Any little information that they can give us would just help with healing.

SIDNER: If you want to get some idea of just how long these reports take, you can take a look at the FBI and what happened in Sandy Hook, where 20 first graders and six teachers were killed.

That report came out about five years after the incident. We just received the report in October of this year. It was 1,500 pages and highly redacted. But in this case, we may get some new information in the coming weeks -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.







ALLEN: In fire-stricken Southern California, firefighters are checking in on about 100 animals they rescued a few days ago.

VANIER: The animals were stranded as the deadly Thomas wildfire crept up on their pens. Joe Buttitta from our affiliate in California has more on this.


JOE BUTTITTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Talk about lucky ducks. And chickens and roosters. We met these guys and geese and goats as well earlier this week. Santa Barbara County fire captain Dave Zaniboni and I stumbled upon them while in Toro Canyon checking out the damage in the Thomas Fire.

After a few days went by, we were wondering how our new friends were doing. It turns out they had no food and little water. And then we met firefighter, Jay Walter.

JAY WALTER, FIREFIGHTER: Came very close, actually, caught part of the enclosure here on fire.

BUTTITTA (voice-over): Walter and his crew were the first ones up in Toro Canyon as the Thomas Fire ripped through. This is video from his truck dashcam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) in front of you. Better get back in behind them and you got a structure there to protect. WALTER: Pretty intense here the other night.

BUTTITTA (voice-over): Not only did they save all these animals, all but one home was saved. Days later, he couldn't help but think about the animals left behind.

WALTER: Went into Carpentaria a little bit ago to the feed store and bought some feed for the chickens and some pellets for the goats and brought a bunch of water up the hill to make sure that the animals have water and are looked after until their owners can get back here.

BUTTITTA (voice-over): Even though they had food and water, we all thought maybe this isn't the best place for them to stay. Santa Barbara County Fire made a call to Animal Services and they came up. Then came the hard part, rounding up --


BUTTITTA (voice-over): -- about 100 birds, so we called in some help. More than a dozen firefighters showed up. And you think fighting fires is hard, try catching a chicken. In 20 minutes, we caught maybe 15 birds and it was time for plan B.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) I think we're going to shelter the chickens and ducks in place. And we're going to take the goats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think plan B was the best plan.

BUTTITTA (voice-over): Feed the birds, give them water, take the goats to Earl Warren Showgrounds, where they can get checked out by vets and get some R&R.


ALLEN: Sounds good. I had chickens, you cannot catch them.

All right. Well, photogenic animals were celebrated in a global competition at the Annual Comedy Wildlife Photography competition featuring the mischievous life of animals, like this overjoyed sea otter.

VANIER: And he was almost as happy, but not quite, as these monkeys, appearing somehow to escape on a motorbike.

ALLEN: But even their grins were no match for this shark. There it is. Who was sporting a very wide smile, like coming to get you.

There were only five official champions across categories selected from more than 3,500 entries from 85 countries.

This disgruntled owl you're about to see was the overall winner, struggling to keep a grip, as his friends ignore him.

A little mouse won the "on the land" category, in the middle of what looks to be like a good laugh. VANIER: Another category called the undersea category, it went to this picture entitled, "Slap." I guess you can see why. Taken on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. And some honorable mentions, this guy surprised with a grass mustache, and these mud skippers, who seem to be singing their hearts out.

A picture also of a shocked elephant seal, our favorite, maybe because of the title, the aptly named "WTF."


ALLEN: That's a good one.

VANIER: Your favorite.

ALLEN: Yes. Right.

We have another hour of news just ahead. Top stories coming up, so please stay with us. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. CNN NEWSROOM continues right after this.