Return to Transcripts main page


California Wildfires; Russia Investigation; Australian Arrested, Accused of Being North Korean Agent; Far Right Party in Austria's New Government; ANC Leaders Want Zuma to Go; Omarosa's Departure Sparks Strong Reaction; Museum Portrays Vladimir Putin as Superhero; Bitcoin Frenzy Sweeps South Korea. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired December 17, 2017 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Firefighters struggle to contain one of the worst wildfires in California's history and authorities order more evacuations.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The Trump transition team (INAUDIBLE) special counsel Robert Mueller of obtaining thousands of sensitive e-mails without proper authorization. We'll have Mueller's response.

ALLEN (voice-over): Australian authorities arrest a man for allegedly helping North Korea evade economic sanctions.

These stories and much more ahead this hour. Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. We're live in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

I'm Cyril Vanier. Thanks for joining us.


VANIER: The Thomas fire has made California history and not in a good way. It is now their third largest wildfire on record. Look at this. The bad news: it's only 40 percent contained. It continues to burn northwest of Los Angeles.

ALLEN: Doesn't that cloud of smoke say it all?

VANIER: You can see it from space.

ALLEN: It's unbelievable. Fire crews are scrambling to get it under control. It's been burning for almost two weeks. You can see how many people are on the task here. This video has triggered thousands of evacuations; 12,000 more people evacuated their homes Saturday in Santa Barbara. It has also led to the death of at least two people, a firefighter died battling the flames on Thursday.

The high winds are a major problem for trying to control this one.

VANIER: CNN's Miguel Marquez has more on all of this from 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: A deadly landslide in Southern Chile (INAUDIBLE) a small remote village is buried in mud. At least five people died.

VANIER: Rescue crews in Villa Santa Lucia (ph) are trying to find 15 people who are still missing. The area has had unusually heavy rain, more than 11 cms, so about 4 inches fell in just 24 hours.

Relations between the U.S. and China are already tense. They could be getting worse. According to the "Financial Times" on Monday, President Trump will label Beijing an adversary engaged in economic aggression against the U.S.

ALLEN: Mr. Trump is believed to be 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.

Now we look at the ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling and there are developments this weekend. The main issue at the moment is thousands of e-mails from the Trump transition team that ended up with special counsel Robert Mueller.

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

ALLEN: But Mueller's office, in a rare public statement, says that's not true.

They issued this, "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."

VANIER: The content of these emails could be crucial when White House lawyers meet soon with Mueller and his investigators.

Let's get the latest now. CNN's Boris Sanchez from the White House for us.


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 --


SANCHEZ: -- one on one, potentially to discuss the next steps in this investigation -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.


ALLEN: Yes, a lot to talk about. Amy Greene is a researcher of American political science and a professor at Sciences PO in Paris.

Amy, thanks for talking with us. A lot of twists and turns leading up to the holidays here in this.

First of all, the Trump administration trying to undermine the Mueller investigation, understandably. He's been wanting this to go away.

But what do you make of the e-mail situation and trying to say that Mr. Mueller got these illegally?

But Mr. Mueller apparently says that's not the truth and he has a trove of e-mails.

AMY GREENE, AUTHOR: Right, yes. That's a great point, Natalie, that there's one more step it seems like, to be one more step in this chain of events that the Trump administration is sort of laying down. Perhaps to start preparing the American public for the question of firing Mueller or to prepare to see how the public would react to that.

It's not just the Trump administration as your reporter aptly mentioned. It's also leading Republicans. We talked with Senator (INAUDIBLE) remarked in this sense. So really the question is, to what extent do people (INAUDIBLE) or knowing that it's a prosecutor nominated by the Republicans, (INAUDIBLE) Republican, one of the most respected people in Washington over the past several decades.

Clearly it's perfectly legitimate to conduct this investigation and it's somebody who has been extraordinarily efficient in his job and extraordinarily discreet and quite serious and almost irreproachable if you will.

So, yes, you see a succession of events of leading Republicans and the Trump administration perhaps trying to prepare the American public for a firing. It's interesting when you listen Ty Cobb's statement, the president

has of course no intention of firing the special prosecutor (sic). Of course you have this data. On the other hand, it's interesting when you consider that, that the administration through Ty Cobb and others has been saying that this will be wrapped up by the end of the year anyway. So it's obviously impossible to think that Mueller would have finished his investigation by the end of the year just in a couple of weeks.

So the question now becomes effectively that, when they understand that the investigation will be done by the end of the year, do they actually mean firing the special prosecutor (sic), which of course would be a very dangerous precedent (INAUDIBLE)?

VANIER: Amy, I want to read a tweet for you. This one is by Congressman Eric Swalwell and he really doesn't buy the criticisms put forward by the attorneys for the Trump transition.

It says this, "Private documents on a U.S. government public e-mail system?. What are they afraid was found?

This is another attempt to discredit Mueller as his Trump-Russia probe tightens."

So he just doesn't buy this. He just says they're just -- it's just a smokescreen.

What do you think?

GREENE: Yes, it seems like it's a distraction. It's a really interesting tweet. It's an interesting point. There could be, you know, the furor around this, the hubbub could simply be an indication the Trump administration, including Trump himself, are feeling more and more backed into a corner, that they sense that the Mueller report will be quite damming, if you will, of the activity.

They might not have any extent of -- they might not have a prior knowledge as to what Mueller has at this point but of course they could also be launching this public campaign against Mueller but not only as a signal to the American public as a sort of sounding board, but also as an alert to other members, who have been in the Trump orbit, saying, essentially, watch out, don't cooperate, this is going to be wrapped up anyway.

I think all of this is a distraction. Of course, Mueller, in a rare public statement, pushed back very strongly in order to assert the fact there's nothing illegal about this and that he obtained or his office obtained the permission of all of the people involved.

So, again, I think you are going toward a distraction that is proving perhaps more and more that you have a presidential administration that is increasingly worried about the information that Mueller is accumulating against them.

ALLEN: Right. But they also seemed relieved this week that he has wrapped up his interviews without requesting an interview with President Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, that they see that as a positive sign.

So you would think, at this point, if there's nothing to hide here, why not wait it out and see where this goes, instead of blowing it up?

What advantage could that be for this president?

GREENE: Well, for this president, it goes along with this general sort of framing of the president of, especially with his base, as somebody under attack, as someone who's trying to shake up the system and who is constantly persecuted by various entrenched interests.

So this could be in the wake of the Moore defeat, for example, an attempt of the president just simply to rally the energy and the attention of his base, to maintain his position as someone who is unnecessarily under attack by invested interests of establishment Washington. There could be a number of reasons for the distraction.

And of course, heading into next week, you have the big tax vote that is most likely to --


GREENE: -- end up as a law on the president's desk for Christmas. So it's a great question.

Why distract now when the president seems to have other things going his way, including the absence of an interview request, as you rightly mentioned, Natalie.

ALLEN: And it looks like he is going to get a tax cut plan as well as an early Christmas gift. Amy, we appreciate it. Amy Greene, researcher for American political science joining us from Paris, thanks, Amy.

GREENE: Thank you so much.

VANIER: We are going take a short break. When we come back, Australian police say a man living in Sydney was a missile and weapons broker to the North Korean regime. We'll have details on the surprising arrest.

ALLEN: Plus, it's not bullets or bombs that are killing people, especially children, in Yemen. It's the lack of the most basic necessities. They are right there but the people just can't get to them. We'll tell you about that in a heartwrenching story.




ALLEN: In Pakistan, at least seven people are dead, dozens injured, after two suicide bombers attacked a church. An ISIS affiliate is claiming responsibility. It happened in the city of Quetta. The church was packed with more than 400 worshippers during Sunday's service. Of course, this is one week 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.

And police in Australia have arrested a man accused of working as an agent for North Korea.

ALLEN: Federal police say the Sydney man helped sell North Korean missile technology on the international black market. He is the first person arrested under Australia's new Weapons of Mass Destruction Act.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The AP 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 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 --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- 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.


VANIER: Austria's immigration rules and policies may soon get a lot tougher with its far right Freedom Party entering the government next week under a coalition deal. The populist party will take control of the defense ministry, interior ministry and foreign ministry as part of an agreement with the conservative People's Party. Its leader, Sebastian Kurz, will be the new chancellor of Austria. And the Freedom Party's Heinz Christian Strache will be his deputy.


HEINZ CHRISTIAN STRACHE, DESIGNATED AUSTRIAN VICE-CHANCELLOR (through translator): We stand by the European Union and we stand by Europe's plan for peace. We have seen one or other positions developing and different positions which we will naturally value and also look for partners here and there. That is a part of the democratic gain and reality.

SEBASTIAN KURZ, DESIGNATED AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): We have a good, strong team. Concerning my part of the team, half of it will be women and two-thirds of the team are experts who will bring a lot of knowledge to the political leadership. And regarding Mr. Strache's (INAUDIBLE), his suggestions have been discussed here.


VANIER: Monday is International Migrants Day. And that serves as a reminder that migrants still face horribly unsafe conditions as they try to reach Europe.

ALLEN: On Friday, more than 150 African migrants, including 42 children, were rescued from a small boat off the coast of Libya, a very familiar scene there. The European Union is struggling to shut down the smuggling route that brings thousands of people from Libya into Europe each year.

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

ALLEN: Iran accuses the U.S. of covering up covert action in Yemen's civil war. The comments come in response to U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, presenting what she says is proof Iran is arming rebels in Yemen.

VANIER: That proof: an Iranian ballistic missile fired at Saudi Arabia. Haley says the missile behind her is that very missile. And Iran's Foreign Minister is calling these accusations baseless and says it's the U.S. that is actually committing war crimes in the region.

While the countries are lobbing accusations back and forth, people in Yemen are dying.

ALLEN: It's not just from the battles but also from the lack of the basic necessities they need to live. Clarissa Ward shows us the human toll of Yemen's civil war.



In the north, airstrikes pound Iran-backed rebel strongholds. Among their recent targets, the presidential palace in the capitol, Sanaa. In the south, the streets are run by a patchwork of militias.


WARD: It's unclear who is actually in control. Some are loyal to their sponsors in Saudi Arabia and the gulf, others to extremist groups, all vying for control of Aiden's port and precious oil resources.

Life here is dangerous and chaotic, but surprisingly, it's not the bombs and the bullets that are killing the most people. It's the humanitarian crisis that is growing by the day as Yemen edges closer to becoming a failed state.

Outside the hospital, medical waste festers in the hot noon sun. Al Qaeda graffiti still daubs the walls.

Inside, the situation is hardly better. The hospital is in desperate need of everything from ventilators to basic antibiotics.


WARD: Dr. Natala Harichi (ph) started working here 24 years ago.

HARICHI (PH): This is the worst institution now.

WARD (on camera): Because of the war?

HARICHI (PH): Because of the war, yes. We are trying. Our doctors are trying. But this is what is in our hands.

WARD: Three-year-old Huthan (ph) has been sick with a serious lung infection for weeks.

When did you come to the hospital?

His mother, Jamal (ph), only brought him to the hospital three days ago. She says the journey from her village was too far and too expensive.

"Life is hard since the war. Disease has spread," she tells me. "He's my only child."


WARD: Chicago Pediatrician John Kaher (ph) is here to try to help, a rare visitor from the outside world.

On this day, he's visiting the neonatal ward.

KAHER (PH): Where's the soap?

WARD (voice-over): There is no soap. Just bottled --


WARD (voice-over): -- water.

KAHER (PH): So in addition to being preemie, these babies are jaundiced. So they are going to get phototherapy.

WARD: The newborns have to share an incubator, increasing their risk of infection.

Doctors and nurses are also in short supply, leaving mothers to step in and lend a hand.

KAHER (PH): At this point in time, even if we got more beds here to fill the numbers of patients, we don't have the staff.

WARD: When you look at doctors like Dr. Natala (ph), who could be overseas, are you impressed?

KAHER (PH): I'm not just impressed, I'm inspired by them.

This is a passion for them. The doctors in these hospitals, those are the real heroes.

WARD (voice-over): Heroes armed with little more than determination and resilience.

WARD: What goes through your mind when you see a child die because you don't have the right equipment to care for that child?

HARICHI (PH): I can't speak, I'm a mother, I am a mom, I have three kids. But this is what's in our hands. This is our facilities. We are daily speaking, but no one heard us.

WARD (voice-over): A cry for help but, for Huthan (ph), it is too late. He dies the day after our visit. Another death that could have been prevented in Yemen's forgotten war -- Clarissa Ward, CNN.






VANIER: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier.

And I'm Natalie Allen. Here are the top stories.


ALLEN: The massive Thomas fire is still burning in Southern California. It is the third largest wildfire in the state's history and it's destroyed hundreds of homes.

VANIER: The flames gutted an apartment in the city of Ventura. Some residents lost everything and barely made it out alive. Here is more from CNN affiliate KEYT.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm thinking that's my patio right there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Patricia Ride (ph) returned to the spot where she lived for the last 17 years until the flames of the Thomas fire took that away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the first time we have actually been allowed to drive up. And we actually walked around the back. And it's just -- there's nothing there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At midnight, I wake up with him, with the flashlight in my face. And I looked out my window and there was flames that were like 100 feet all around us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Apartment manager at Harbor View Villas in Ventura said many of her residents were sleeping when the fire approached. She tried to wake them up while officials alarmed everyone to get out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was once a paradise was like a war zone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was the scariest thing I've ever been through in my entire life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Half of the 90-unit complex is destroyed; 65 residents are now without a home, including Patricia, who woke up to her son-in-law pounding on the door to get out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't take any, my wallet, any personal things. Basically I left with the clothes on my back. If I had been thinking, I would have got in my car and followed him. But of course I wasn't thinking. So my car was there. And I didn't have rental insurance when I moved in here. It wasn't something that you had to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Many residents living here didn't have renters insurance. But Jeanette (ph) says despite the huge loss, there's more to be grateful for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so grateful that none of my residents were injured. All of them were able to get out in time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost a place that I desperately loved living. I loved living here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The apartment complex is giving back to their tenants. They will be holding a party at the Discovery in Ventura on Sunday with a theme, new beginnings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enjoy the day and celebrate their life, that we made it out OK.


ALLEN: 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 --


ALLEN: -- 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Absolutely; 8,400 firefighters still working on this Thomas fire. Again, Capt. Lucas Spelman talking with us there.

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. And that person will likely succeed the heavily criticized 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. David McKenzie is in Johannesburg following this.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president, Jacob Zuma opened this conference in Johannesburg. Despite facing allegations of corruption, he didn't shoulder responsibility openly. He put the blame on the ruling ANC on the media, big business, on the courts and even those within his own party. He said he'll let bygones be bygones.

Felt I should be talked to, to step down. And I want to say to you all here that I bear no grass. You are my comrades.

Many here want to see the back of president Zuma.

Jacob Zuma is an outgoing president. His baggage is packed. For me, it does not affect people trying to find another leader here. The hope is oppression of a leader, leadership. It becomes a problem.

Recover from allegations of corruption.

It's difficult to recover. The ANC should be able, out of this conference to send a strong signal, on members and other world. We are able to deal with this.

5,000 delegates will be choosing the next few days, the next leader of the ANC. Their choice could be critical for the future of more than 50 million South Africans -- David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


ALLEN: Her official role in the Trump White House was to reach out to the African American community. But coming up here, Omarosa's critics say she did more harm than good.

VANIER: Plus when it comes to bitcoin, South Korea is on another level. The virtual currency is so popular there that it has authorities worried. Stay with us.





VANIER: Welcome back.

Political drama in the U.S. after another high-profile adviser leaves the White House.

ALLEN: Omarosa Manigault-Newman has resigned. Her departure reportedly had all the drama you would expect from, well, a reality show where she first appeared. Here's Randi Kaye with the story.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At the White House, Omarosa Manigault-Newman's job was to reach out to African Americans, improve relations and get their support for the President's agenda. But if you listen to the reaction to her work and her, you might think she did more harm than good.

SUNNY HOSTIN, "THE VIEW": Truth be told, she's a pariah in the African American community. She's always sort of been the villain and her job as a director of outreach in the African American community was almost a slap in the face of the African American community.

KAYE (voice over): On "The View," co-host Whoopi Goldberg piled on.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, "THE VIEW": I hope you that you find your people because maybe they're looking for you.


GOLDBERG: She's just been so nasty to so many women.

HOSTIN: Everyone.

GOLDBERG: And so many women of color.


GOLDBERG: You know, so many women of color.

KAYE (voice over): Women like radio and talk show host Wendy Williams.



MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: It looks like you had a nose job.



No, I mean, I just looked at before and after.

WILLIAMS: Honey...

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Before and after. Before and after pictures.

WILLIAMS: But if I can suggest, because the only thing that I've had done to my face is a little Botox, I would suggest to you some Restylane. The lines stay.


WILLIAMS: They say black don't crack. She's cracking.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: And I would suggest --

WILLIAMS: Thank you so much.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: -- and I would suggest a wig that doesn't sit off my head three inches. That would be my suggestion.

KAYE (voice over): After she took the White House job, Spike Lee had an especially strong reaction, slamming her on Instagram, posting this picture of her wearing a clown nose.

And despite all her claims she supported President Trump only to help the black community

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: I will never forget the people who turned their backs on me when all I was trying to do was help the black community. It's been so incredibly hard.

KAYE (on camera): Omarosa Manigault-Newman was also known for hostile exchanges with the community, including one at a gathering for the National Association of Black Journalists earlier this year.



MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Ask your question --

GORDON: Here we go. MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: -- but don't lecture me.

GORDON: Here we go. I'll...

KAYE (voice over): As for her assertion that she saw things in the White House that made her upset...

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable --


MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: -- that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I --

KAYE (voice over): -- at least one late critic simply had enough.

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": Oh, when she says her people, does she mean reality show stars?


NOAH: Because she was not fighting for black people in the White House. My people. Slow down, Omarosa Park, slow down. You can't you roll hard with President Trump for a year and then come back to the neighborhood like, hey, that was really weird, right?


NOAH: Anyone else noticed that?

Was it just me?


Oh, and if you're wondering whether black people were buying it, just ask Robin Roberts.


KAYE (voice over): Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


ALLEN: Bye, Omarosa -- for now.


ALLEN: With the first round of Russia's presidential elections set for March 18th, while the election is a few months away, the far-and- away front-runner is, ta-da-da, drum roll, President Vladimir Putin.

VANIER: Not exactly a surprise. But now there's actually a museum that portrays him as a superhero. Clare Sebastian went there.


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 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 image -- Clare Sebastian, CNN, Moscow.


ALLEN: As you were saying, that music is perfect for the story.



VANIER: I love the finishing shot of this report.

Coming up, after the break, when it comes to bitcoin, South Korea is just on a whole different level.

ALLEN: They have gone cuckoo over it. The virtual currency is so popular there it has authorities worried about the effect it is having on the youth. Our Paula Newton will have the story for us.





ALLEN: All right. Going to buy me some bitcoin for Christmas this year. It's all the rage. It has no central bank, no major regulators.

VANIER: Yet bitcoin's popularity in value is surging as more people worldwide take a risk and buy into this virtual currency. Our Paula Newton reports on how the craze is sweeping South Korea.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I didn't really realize how much ahead of the curve they are here in South Korea when it comes to bitcoin and other virtual currencies. But for a few reasons, it's also beginning to worry the government. Take a listen.

Bitcoin may be a virtual currency. But here in South Korea the kimchi premium is all too real. So, this is kimchi, spicy fermented cabbage, just a staple side dish here.

So what's the kimchi premium?

Bitcoin is in such high demand on Korean one exchanges, traders says South Korean convey a 15 to 25 percent premium on global prices just to get a piece of it.

KIM DUYOUNG, MANAGER, COINPLUG: They see it as gambling in some ways, they try to earn more money by using exchanges.

NEWTON: So to understand the bitcoin frenzy South Korea is as good a place to start a penny. Virtual currencies might be a fringe play elsewhere, in South Korea their mainstream.

At least a million people buy it, trade it, cash it in its everyday banking and investing for everyday people non-more enthusiastic than college students like Isaac Chung.

He's in between classes right now checking his virtual currency portfolio. He's made thousands of dollars already.

ISAAC CHUNG, BITCOIN INVESTOR: It's like the stock market but it's like 10 times, a 100 times faster.

NEWTON: Is it more addictive? CHUNG: Definitely like the emotions related to this it's more like inflated than like what you get in like a normal stock market because it's on like 24 seven. You have to be constantly on the rate of what's going on.

NEWTON: How popular is it on campus right now.

CHUNG: The speculative frenzy is pretty huge right now. The bitcoin price is this right now, the bitcoin prices is that right now.

NEWTON: Bitcoin prices they're so excessively tracked here. Bitcoin exchanges like Bitthumb have open storefronts and customer service base to make trading in virtual money much easier.

Three of top 15 virtual currency exchanges are located here and on any given say --


NEWTON: -- South Korea accounts for more than one-fifth of all time bitcoin trades done around the world.

The government says it worries that virtual currencies are corrupting the country's use. With so many small investors all in there could be a crash out.

So just like the Kimchi this is made in Korea problem. The government is already working to ban new virtual currencies, ban the sale of bitcoin futures contracts and other derivatives and maybe in future taxing virtual currency transaction and profit.

And there are other uniquely made in Korea problems. South Korean government fears virtual currencies are arming North Korea with new financial weapons making it easier to hack or launder money. And it warns North Korean hackers will aggressively target virtual currency exchanges in the year to come.

All good reasons to keep a keen eye on Korean exchanges as virtual currency goes from market niche to market obsession.

And getting back to that North Korea problem, you know, the issue here is also that they're mining bitcoin and virtual currencies and that's also giving them a leg up when other countries are trying to impose financial sanctions on them.

I want to point out that while we were shooting the kimchi segment in the restaurant that even the manager in the restaurant said he was invested in bitcoin. So when we say it's everywhere, it's everywhere.


ALLEN: Paula for us, thank you.

VANIER: That's it, I'm buying some bitcoin.

ALLEN: Yes, get me some, too. Put it in my stocking, whatever it is. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: I'm Cyril Vanier. For U.S. viewers, "NEW DAY" is next; for everyone else the headlines after a break. Stay with us.