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Trump Starts 2018 With Flurry of Angry Tweets; Donald Trump Claims Credit For Renewed Dialogue Between North And South Korea. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 4, 2018 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Explosive stories of life inside the U.S. president's inner circle prompt a blistering breakout letter from Trump to his former chief strategist. But is everything in the book true?

Three calls in 24 hours, the phonelines are open between North Korea and its southern Neighbor. We are live in Soule.

Plus, the best country in the world for gender equality just raised the six. Iceland already required that women get equal pay. But now, employees have to prove it as well.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. And this is CNN Newsroom.

It has been a fiery start to 2018 for Donald Trump. He hasn't had any public events, but he's been very active in Twitter. The U.S. president lashed out at Pakistan over its handling of terrorism.

North Korea and its nuclear ambitions and the Palestinians who he says have abandoned the peace process. And now, we have a pretty good idea why. More than a dozen sources tell CNN the president is angry that they Russia investigation has not wrapped up. Here is CNN's Dana Bash.

DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He's legal team was trying to manage the president, keep him calm for months by assuring him that the probe would be over soon. They said that at public, they said that in private. Well, here we are and here he is beginning 2018, and it's not over by a longshot. And in fact, the president was actually hoping his lawyers could convince Robert Mueller to announce that he is in the clear, and that has not happened.

CHURCH: And now, a new book is throwing more fuel on the fire, it sides Former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, painting a very unflattering picture of the Trump campaign and White House. And Michael Wolff quoted Trump Confidant, Tom Barracks, saying, "Mr. Trump is not only crazy, he's stupid." Barracks adamantly denies saying that. We get more now from CCN's Jim Acosta.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The gloves inside Trump world are off and the fists are flying between the president and his Former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon. An excerpt from a new book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff published by New York Magazine and also obtained by The Guardian, Bannon purportedly weighs in Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting last year with Russians offering dirt on Hilary Clinton that included Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Bannon told the author, "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous or unpatriotic of bad expletive, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately." Bannon speculates that the special counsel's office is focusing on money laundering, claiming that federal investigators have a path to Trump that goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, "It's as plain as a hair on your face." Adding, they're going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV, that's a departure from what Bannon told 60 Minutes months ago.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: It's a total and complete farce. Russian collusion is a farce.


ACOSTA: In a statement, the president questions Bannon's sanity, saying, "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence of to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books. Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It's the only thing he does well."

Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders piled offering the president's reaction.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think furious, disgusted would probably certainly fit when you make such outrageous claims and completely false claims against the president, his administration, and his family.



ACOSTA: Writing in New York Magazine, Wolff explains Mr. Trump and his team were shocked they won on election night and that the candidate's wife, Melania, was distraught.

Don Jr. told his friend that his father or DJT as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears and not of joy. The first lady's office slammed that account saying in a statement, "The book is clearly going to be sold in the bargain fiction section."

The book about the Trump White House illustrates how the feud Between the president and Bannon has escalated since the former chief strategist was fired last summer.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like Mr. Bannon, he's a friend of mine, but Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries."


ACOSTA: Even Don Jr. is weighing in tweeting, "Wow, just look at the comment section on Breitbart. Wow. When Bannon has lost Breitbart, he's left with, um, nothing."

The drama detailed in the book has somehow overshadowed a stunning tweet from the president on North Korea, who said, "North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un just stated that the nuclear button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works." Former vice president Joe Biden told CNN, "That kind of rhetoric is reckless."


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, the only war that's worse than one that's intended is one that's unintended. This is not game, this is not about his, you know, "Can I puff my chest out?"


ACOSTA: As for North Korea, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said it's a quote, "Fact that the president's nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong-un's. But the fact is U.S. officials have said for years there is no actual nuclear button that launches the nation's nuclear arsenal."

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: And it's worth pointing out, many people are asking questions about author Michael Wolff's sourcing for his book. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had this response.


SANDERS: So far from what I can tell of the roughly just over a dozen interactions that he had with officials at the White House, I think close to 95% were all done so at the request of Mr. Bannon.


CHURCH: Meanwhile, the president's attorney says he has sent a cease and desist letter to the former chief strategist over all of the critical comments released Wednesday.

Larry Sabato joins us now via Skype from Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Larry, always great to have you on the show. Good to see you.


CHURCH: Well, the book "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff has set off some fire and fury of its own at the White House. What's your reading of this sudden end to the bromance between President Trump and Steve Bannon?

SABATO: It's significant because Steve Bannon, as unusual as he is, knows an awful lot despite what Donald Trump is saying now. He was involved in many of the key meetings in the later stages of the campaign and then, of course, for months was in the Trump White House as Trump and his associates tried to organize that administration. So he knows lot.

And for a while, Donald Trump was doing everything he could to keep him happy, even as he fired him. But obviously that's fallen apart and I expect we'll hear lot more from Steve Bannon.

CHURCH: I would say so. And of course the book contains extraordinary excerpts, including Steve Bannon apparently calling Don Jr.'s meeting last year with the Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton treasonous and unpatriotic. That's not what he was saying just a short time ago. I want to just listen to what Steve Bannon had to say when he first left the White House in September. Let's bring that up.


BANNON: Donald Trump's a fighter, great counter puncher, great counter puncher. He's a fighter. Yes. I'm going to be his wingman outside for the entire time, to protect --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you'll not be attaching Donald Trump in your role?

BANNON: No. Our purpose is to support Donald Trump.



CHURCH: His wingman, his ally. Why the sudden departure from his original interpretation of that meeting between Don Jr. and the Russians, and why has he suddenly turned on the Trump family after saying he would be an ally?

SABATO: If you look at Steve Bannon's history, you'll see that he's very good at evening the score. It may not be fare, he may not always be right, but he is very good at evening the score. And he's going to even some scores, not just with President Trump but with Don Jr. and other Trump family members in the White House. He lost the internal battle. That's one reason why he had to leave. Well, when you add to that the fact that Steve Bannon was pushing the

extremist candidate, Roy Moore, in Alabama, who unbelievably managed to lose a Senate seat as the Republican nominee in heavily Republican Alabama, you can see why Bannon and Trump have split. They simply aren't on the same wavelength anymore, and it will be Trump who pays the price.

CHURCH: And what did you make of the excerpts that indicated that Donald Trump was just as surprised as everyone else when he won the election and that his wife, Melania, was distraught? Does that change the way maybe his base look at him?

SABATO: I doubt anything will affect the base. All Trump has to say, and he's already said it, is that this is fake news, he's calling the book fake news. And the White House is absolutely disputing that any of them thought that Trump had any chance of losing. I personally know that that is false.

Even on election day, and lots of people and the news media know it too because they were talking to people in the Trump headquarters. They had no idea they were going to win. And to some degree, Trump was hoping just to do relatively well so that he could take that victory and capitalize on it in his business interests.

CHURCH: Interesting how that all turned out. And just -- I just want to read another excerpt from Michael Wolff's book where he says this, "Trump could not really converse, not in the sense of sharing information or of a balanced back and forth conversation. He neither particularly listened to what was said to him nor particularly considered what he said in response. He demanded you pay him attention, then decided you were weak for groveling." Larry, that's talking about the leader of the free world, damning words. What's your reaction?

SABATO: Yes. Aren't those wonderful characteristics of the most powerful person in the world? Not. This is frightening. And it explains if we needed further explanation, some of these tweets, the irresponsible tweets to the North Korean dictator, he's a horrible human being. No one doubts that. But you don't want to prod someone who does have access to nuclear weapons.

Now, the United States probably wouldn't suffer but although our troops in South Korea would. But the -- all of our allies in Asia would bear some of the horrible consequences of any nuclear conflagration there. So I think that is of great concern that Donald Trump has the kind of personality that produces these conflicts, conflicts that could lead to war.

CHURCH: Larry Sabato, sobering remarks there. Many thanks to you for joining us with your perspective and analysis.

SABATO: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: The hotline phones in the demilitarized zone may be only meters apart, but the reopened line of communication suggests an important move between the two Koreas. South Korea says the North called on the hotline three times in less than a day checking technical issues. Now, Paula Hancocks joins us from Seoul with the very latest on this.

Paula, how significant and unusual is this increased communication between North and South Korea, and what has been said so far in those calls made on this newly opened direct hotline?


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Rosemary, it's not unusual for North and South Korea to be talking through these communication channels, certainly not historically. But it's been since February 2016 that the North Koreans simply haven't been picking up the phone, they haven't been answering when the south Korean officers have been phoning twice a day, 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., we understand.

So, it's a very important step that they're now responding or in fact, they're actually making the phone calls. We know there was one yesterday which lasted 20 minutes. We don't have much detail about what was talked about apart from both sides identifying themselves. We do know from the South Korean side the PyeongChang Winter Olympics has not been mentioned in that phone call. They didn't talk about when future talks should be. They said it was more of a technical issue, ironing out any hiccups that there may be.

And then, of course, there was that second phone call yesterday where the North Koreans said, "Let's call it a day," letting the South Koreans know that was it for the day and then one this morning as well. But even this morning, local time, the North Koreans, when asked if there was anything to report, said, "No," and then hung up.

So, it's incremental steps at this point, almost baby steps. But the fact that the two are communicating is significant. So, the next step now will be they will actually physically meet, it's just when and where. The South Koreans have made their suggestion of next Tuesday at the DMZ. We have to wait and see whether the North will actually accept that or make a counter offer.


CHURCH: Yes. Interesting moves nonetheless. Paula Hancocks, bringing us up to date live there from Seoul and South Korea where it is nearly 4:15 in the afternoon. Many thanks.

Let's take a short break here. But still to come, it has been a tumultuous week in Iran, but the country's revolutionary guard says the anti-government unrest is over. Where the country goes from here. We'll take a look.

Plus, the latest Middle East salvo from U.S. President Donald Trump as Palestinians mothers say, "Why punish our children?"


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard says the anti-government protests that have shaken the country for the last week have ended. He said the protesters' defeat is definite, an apparent warning against further demonstrations.

On Wednesday, government supporters turned out at rallies in several cities, including a funeral for a member of the Revolutionary Guard, one of at least 21 people killed in the unrest.


Well, joining me now, Senior International Correspondent, Arwa Damon and Iran expert, Adnan Tabatabai. Thank you to both of you.

Arwa, let's go to you first. And as we mentioned there, the head Iran's Revolutionary Guard says the anti-government protests have ended. Is that the case or is that wishful thinking on the part of Iranian regime?

ARWA DAMON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it might be a bit premature, and I think we really need to focus on what's going to be happening on Friday, especially after prayers because that is usually when we tend to see the largest numbers of people taking to the streets when there are these kinds of anti-government demonstrations going on.

And let's also bear in mind that the underlying issues that started all of this, that is, the economic grievances, the widespread corruption, the fact that people have arguably, to a certain degree, reached a breaking point when it comes to certain realities that they see and the fact that money is not trickling down to the lower echelons of society. These are all still very real grievances that are not going to just go away on their own.

So, yes, to a certain degree perhaps. The numbers that we're seeing have begun to decrease, but that does not necessarily mean that this, nor does it mean that people's anger and frustration has been alleviated.

CHURCH: And, Arwa, what is likely to happen to any protesters that dare to take to the streets again?

DAMON: Well, if we look at what has happened since these protests began, as you were saying there, you know, over 20 people have been killed, hundreds have been detained. This is a government that is well-known for its heavy hand when it comes to voices of dissent. And we have seen not just peaceful demonstrations but riots breaking out as well. The government has warned against that on numerous occasions.

And when you hear -- rarely do we hear directly from the demonstrators, but when you do hear from them, they are very quick to talk about the severe dangers that they are facing, the fact that they know that every single time they take to the streets, they do risk arrest. So, and the Iranian government isn't giving any indication at this stage that it's going to change its posture, especially when it comes to what it describes as being, you know, individuals that are trying to incite or promote violence.

So, and most certainly, when it comes to trying to raise your voice against the government, something that brings great risks for the individuals that do, in fact, dare to do so.

CHURCH: Many thanks to our Arwa Damon, bringing in that live report from Istanbul. We will chat with you again next hour.

I want to turn now to our guest, Adnan Tabatabai. As we heard, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard is insisting that anti-government protest have ended. Although, he actually said the protesters' defeat is definite. What does that mean exactly?

ADNAN TABATABAI, IRAN EXPERT: It mainly means that the government or, let's say, the security apparatus does no longer view this as a challenge or as a security challenge, but nothing more. It can still mean that here and there we will continue to see clashes or demonstrations.

I think what we have been still seeing last night and the day before is that you see gatherings here and there that, unfortunately, turned violent very fast. And it's difficult to say who started the violence, the demonstrators or the police. But we are not at the point yet where everything is calm.

CHURCH: And as we heard from our Arwa Damon, she said, of course, we will know by Friday for Friday prayers whether protesters dare to get back on the streets. We know that food prices have just spiked. In some instances, foods have increased by 50%, giving people even more reason for discontent. But is the situation so bad that people would risk their lives?


TABATABAI: I'm skeptical about this. I think what has been important is that there need it to be the expression of the frustration in terms of demonstrations, they were also instigated by some political opponents of Hassan Rouhani from the political level because we have to keep in mind that discontent over the economic situation is nothing new. We have seen this throughout Rouhani's presidency and even before. But at times, this comes up and it is also only a matter of time until we see such protests again. These are cycles of protests of those who feel economically neglected.

CHURCH: And, of course, that is what sparks all of this. Does the more moderate President Rouhani plan to do anything to help alleviate the economic pain so many Iranians are experiencing right now? He did allude to it some days ago.

TABATABAI: Yes. I mean, he better does. I think the problem that we have been seeing in Iran and that goes far beyond the Islamic Republic's history, this goes actually over the past decades, we have never seen a government Iran that takes seriously the grievances of the economically disenfranchised throughout our society.

Mr. Rouhani, at least, and that's a step forward compared to 2009, has acknowledged the grievances, has spoken about them quite concretely. The question will now be, is he going to be able to introduce policies that will alleviate these grievances? And as I think is important to note, currently, there is a discussion about the state budget for Iran's next year. And into that discussion, I think these protests will feed.

CHURCH: And, of course, we mentioned the increase in food prices. The unemployment is high. Just how bad are circumstances for some of these people?

TABATABAI: Well, I think the grievances are real. And if we think about youth unemployment being somewhere between 20-something percent, some say even around 40%, underemployment is also an issue of women on the one hand of academics, on the other hand, the low purchasing power, these are real problems, and the government needs to go -- or the political establishment needs to go beyond (inaudible) but finds sustainable solutions to all of this.

CHURCH: Tabatabai, thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

TABATABAI: My pleasure.

CHURCH: Well, Palestinians are angry that U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and they're fed up with what they see as a shifting U.S. strategy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Oren Liebermann reports from Jerusalem.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Palestinians reacted furiously to President Donald Trump's threat on social media to cut foreign aid. A spokesman for Palestinian and authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Jerusalem is "not for sale" while other Palestinian leaders said they will not be blackmailed.

The Palestinians see this as a pattern of the U.S. under Trump shifting its position on the conflict to align with the Israelis, a process they say has dramatically increased in recent weeks with Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last month and now, this threat of cutting foreign aid.

The U.S. provided more than $600 million for the Palestinians in 2016, and yet one senior Palestinian official made it clear that Palestinians have to choose between the money, hundreds of millions of dollars, and Jerusalem, they will always choose Jerusalem.

Not surprisingly, many Israeli leaders hailed Trump's threat, saying it would show the Palestinians that if they reject negotiations, the offers get worse, not better. Israel's right-wing education minister said Trump's helps destroy what he calls the "fantasy" for Palestinians state.

So what's the next move here? Well, the Israelis are in a very comfortable position with Trump right now. Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders have meetings in the next few days and weeks to plan their next step. What they've made clear is they refuse to work with Trump on his peace plan, and they're looking to other countries and international forums. Oren Liebermann, CNN, jerusalem.

CHURCH: North Korea's rhetoric toward the United States has not changed, but Kim Jong-un's overtures to South Korea have. A closer look at his recent diplomatic moves.

Plus, we will speak to a women's right activist in Iceland where the push for gender pay equality just got a big boost. We'll have that for you in just a moment.


CHURCH: A warm welcome back to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you on the main stories we're following this hour. A monster winter storm is expected to wreak havoc on parts of the eastern U.S. into the Canadian Maritimes this week. It's threatening hurricane-force wind gusts in a region already crippled by dangerously cold temperatures. More than 2,700 U.S. flights in the coming day are already canceled, and at least 12 deaths have been linked to the frigid weather in the U.S. so far.

U.S. President Donald Trump shut down his voter fraud commission on Wednesday. He set it up last May after claiming without evidence that massive voter fraud had cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election. He won the presidency because he had more votes in the electoral college than Hillary Clinton. The White House blamed various states for refusing to take part in the commission.

Donald Trump is firing back at his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, after some unflattering quotes in a new book. Bannon calls the Trump campaign's 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer "treasonous and unpatriotic." President Trump says Steve Bannon has lost his mind.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is suing the U.S. justice department and special counsel in the Russia probe, Robert Mueller. Manafort alleges they overstepped their bounds and the charges against him have nothing to do with the 2016 campaign. Manafort was indicted on money laundering and other charges. He pleaded not guilty.


A justice department spokesman calls the suit frivolous. And it's that very Russian investigation that is apparently to blame for President Trump's Twitter tantrum in the first few days of 2018. The founders of Fusion GPS the firm behind the infamous Russia dossier on Mr. Trump demanding their testimony before Congress be made public. And Democrats are showing no sign of giving in to Republican demands to end their congressional investigations.


SEN. MARK WARNER, (D) VIRGINIA: You've got on one hand the president's top political adviser basically saying the president's family were almost traitorous. You've got his indicted campaign manager trying to sue the FBI and you've got a document that was produced by known British secret service agent in effect the people who provided that document GPS Fusion saying there's much more to see in terms of financial ties. I think this is why we've got to finish our investigation. Bob Mueller is going to finish his investigation.


CHURCH: In the new book fire and fury Steve Bannon calls the Trump campaign's contact with Russian intermediaries treasonous. That and references to money laundering are likely to open new pubs in the Russia probe.


JOHNNY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: If there was any crime I don't think it was treason which has a sort of military component. But it certainly I think clearly was inappropriate. And whether it was part of a conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws or aiding and abetting hacking these are the legal crimes that I think Mueller will be examining and clearly, Bannon thinks there is perhaps financial crimes to investigate as well.


CHURCH: There's been no direct response from North Korea on President Trump's tweet about the size and power of his nuclear button. Instead, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un is focused on diplomacy, reopening the communication hotline with South Korea. He's shown a willingness to hold talks and send a delegation to next month's winter Olympics. Joining us now from Seoul is Duyeon Kim. She is a visiting Senior Fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum. Thank you so much for being with us. Why do you think North Korea has not responded yet to the Twitter taunt from U.S. President Donald Trump that his nuclear button is bigger and more powerful than Kim Jong-un's?

DUYEON KIM, CNN SENIOR FELLOW: Well, that's anybody's guess. Perhaps Kim Jong-un doesn't think that he needs to respond to him. Maybe he thinks that President Trump's tweet was a childish act. I mean we just don't know. But what we do know is that Kim Jong-un has expressed his willingness to engage in dialogue with South Korea. He's expressed his desire and his willingness to improve intra-Korean relations. And so those are his marching orders for his country now and that's why we have seen in the past couple of days ever since his New Year's address seen these contacts, see the hotline restored. Even though we haven't reportedly heard much substance behind those few phone calls that they've had but we can expect in the days to come to some sort of movement more contacts perhaps. We'll have to see what types of discussions they have at what level in the North Korean hierarchy and also in South Korean government which - at what level the officials do meet and what the agenda will be.

I mean, of course, Kim Jong-un has said that he would like to discuss with his South Korean counterparts possible North Korean participation in the Olympics. He hasn't set it in stone. He just expressed his willingness but we can expect North Korea to gauge and see and in these future talks with the south to see what they can get out of participating in the Olympics, what they can get out of -- from South Korea, what concessions they can get from South Korea including halting U.S./South Korean military exercises including aid and money or assistance in kind. And the north will also want to use the Olympics -- they have a bigger objective for the Olympics. Not just -- it's not just about intra-Korean relations but it's a stage, an international platform that the north can use to raise its profile and standing in the world. The north will want to try to convince the international community that it is a peaceful, strong and peaceful, good, normal state and that its nuclear weapons are only for defensive purposes.

CHURCH: And of course this is very unusual -- this reaching out, this Olive branch being offered by Kim Jong-un isn't it?

[02:35:07] Showing the importance of the Olympic games and the participation of North Korea. What's the strategy here though? What where we are seeing this blatant ignoring of this taunt which is unusual for Kim Jong-un and then this push for diplomacy with the south? Is there an effort to freeze out the United States? So what sort of role would it leave the U.S. in the end?

KIM: Sure. And so that would perhaps be North Korea's strategy to eventually try to lure South Korea towards the north bring South Korea into the North Korean orbit and away from the U.S. In a way in which the south would have to give the north concessions at the risk of potentially causing tensions in the U.S./South Korean alliance. And that's basically what the north wants to drive that wedge. And so the north has been dangling bait in front of the south. Kim Jong-un New Year's speech, he revived the nationalistic appeals, nationalistic meaning a one-Korea heritage, one race. And this type of talk, this concept of a one-Korean heritage and the two Koreas working together that kind of talk actually resonates in many parts of the South Korean society especially among the progressives who are in power right now. And so that's one of North Korea's strategy going forward.

CHURCH: Duyeon Kim, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your analysis. We appreciate it.

KIM: Thank you.

CHURCH: All right. Let's take a short break. Still to come laws requiring equal pay for women have been on the books for decades. Now Iceland is ordering companies to pay off will face big fines. We will take a closer look after this short break.




CHURCH: The battle for women's rights scored a huge victory in Iceland this week. A new law there mandates that women receive the same pay as men when doing the same job. Equal pay laws have been on the books for decades and more than a year ago, thousands staged this giant rally in Iceland's capital over the issue. But now companies with at least 25 employees in the island nation must prove that everyone is paid equally. This is a big deal. The world economic forum says making women's pay equal to men is healthy for economies. By one estimate it would grow the gross domestic product in the United States by $1.75 trillion.

[02:40:00] The impact on other countries' economies could also be dramatic. Amazing numbers there. So Women's Right Activist Brynhildur Heithar- Og Omarsdottir joins us now from the Atlantic capital. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: It's, of course, worth pointing out that it is actually illegal to pay women less than men in many countries. So what makes this so significant in Iceland?

OMARSDOTTIR: Well, we had tried everything just like in many countries of the world are paying -- as you said paying women less than men has been illegal. In our case since 1961 but nothing we tried, you know, legislation didn't work. Education didn't work. So we decided that we wanted to go the route of the bureaucracy. So what happened was that the labor unions, the employees' federations and the government they sat down and then created a new equal pay management system called the equal pay standard. And it's basically a bureaucratic tool to whereby accountants actually go into the books of companies to make sure that men and women are being paid equally. And the standard has actually been in use in Iceland since 2012. In many companies that already undergone the standard voluntarily and received certification but what happened last year in 2017, the government proposed the law which was passed by parliament mandating little companies with 25 or more employees actually utilized the standard and then recertify every three years continually proving that they're actually paying equal wages.

CHURCH: Interesting. And how is that going to work?

OMARSDOTTIR: And the companies which are --

CHURCH: But how is that -- how is that going to work exactly? And what's to stop a company saying -- well, the reason we're paying this man a little more is he does a better job than this woman, how do you prove that that job is slightly different to the one on the book?

OMARSDOTTIR: Well, the equal pay management system actually places -- it actually gives the guidelines to its values on jobs to a company. And I'm actually not an accountant myself so I don't actually know how the equal management system works. But from what I've heard and from people I've spoken with, the companies that have undergone the standards are very happy with it.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean that's the problem though now isn't it? Because as we've pointed out, it is illegal to pay them unequally but a lot of the companies might say and have said well they have different types of jobs or they're doing a different level or different standard of job. So why --

OMARSDOTTIR: Right. Well look --

CHURCH: If I -- I just want to ask you this. Why are women paid less than men in most countries in the world despite of being illegal?

OMARSDOTTIR: We live in a society where women's work is valued less than men's work and that's a very sad fact. And we as a society in Iceland, we have made a declaration basically saying that you know what? We actually place company's for example safety restrictions, we place the onus on companies to prove they have a safe working environment. And they're now making a commitment saying that, you know, what we value gender equality and we want the places on companies that they practice gender equality for real.

CHURCH: Right. Thank you s much for joining us. And let's hope that other countries follow suit. Many thanks.

OMARSDOTTIR: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. World sport is up next. And we'll be back at the top of the hour with more world news. You're watching CNN.


[02:45:24] KATE RILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ANCHOR: Welcome along to WORLD SPORT. I'm Kate Riley at CNN Center. We're going to start with the London derby in English Premier League on Wednesday. Arsenal at home to Chelsea this time and a win for the Blue. I mean, made actually overtake Manchester United into second place.

Well, this match was definitely high tempo, seven minutes left, in this one, Chelsea, with a quick counter-attack. They went ahead with what looked to be the winner thanks to Marcos Alonzo. But there would be late, late drama at the Emirate Stadium as Hector Bellerin caught the equalizer and rescued a point for the north London on 2-2 in the end.

While -- well, here's a look at the table for you, of the Blues failing to hold on to their lead, which means that they don't overtake Manchester United, in the end, Arsenal in sixth. Meanwhile, the gap at the top you can see between City and United, 15 points there.

But football also are often viewed as leading perfect lives but on Wednesday, we told the Manchester City captain speak about his personal trouble for his family face of late. City maybe top of the league but David Silva has been away for five of the team's last six games for personal reasons. Taking to Twitter, the mid fill that thanked well wishes saying, quote, I want to share with you the birth of my son, Mateo, who was born extremely pre-term and his fighting day by day with the help of the medical team.

Silva was back in the starting lineup for Tuesday night, 3-1 victory over Watford, and of course, we wish David and his family all the best at this difficult time.

The Winter Olympics in South Korea's Pyeongchang, begin next month, and a moment the participation of their neighbors, North Korea remains uncertain. According to the IOC and Pyeongchang organizers, North Korea has been invited. On Wednesday, the North Koreans reopened the border hotline to discuss sending a delegation to the games, which could be a step closer to attending.

There are reports that North Korea could receive Olympic spots as wild cards. The two Koreas may march under a single flag at the opening ceremony at from February 9th. As it is, the wait continues.

Well, two North Korean athletes have qualified for the games next month. The figure skaters Tae-ok Ryom and Ju-sik Kim, were due to compete, but the North Korean Olympic committee missed the deadline to confirm whether they'd be there or not. That said, they can still take, part if the international Olympic committee give them an invitation.

There isn't lawful lawsuit public knowledge about this pair. Tae-ok, has reportedly said she finds competing outside North Korea very difficult because of large crowds. It's understood that the two of them have skated for round two years together. They train in Pyongyang and also, had a stint in Montreal last summer.

Now, if they do compete, it will be historic. The history books show that North Korea are often absent from the Winter Games. They were absent from the last event in Sochi and the odd boycott isn't beneath them either. They joined the Soviet boycott of the summer games in '94, and they skipped the next one in Seoul as well.

All in all, North Korea, has won a total of 56 medals, including two gold medals at Rio 2016 and its slim pickings at the Winter Games. Just two medals in speed skating and 64 and 92.

Coming up on the show, we're about to see the very best when it comes to the slopes. How one American Winter Olympian could well be the best yet, that story next.


[02:51:10] RILEY: We're back at this, but the Japanese tennis star, Kei Nishikori, with not be at this year's Australian Open. He's the latest star to fight up to the outcoming tournament in Melbourne due to injury.

The former U.S. Open finalist had already withdraw from the season -- I think, tournament in Brisbane due to an ongoing injury to his right wrist. And now will not take part on the first major of the edge, Nishikori was the first man from Japan to reach a major final when he did that back in the U.S. open in 2014.

We're on to the NBA now, where it was one of the highest profile traders of the NBA's offseason, when Kyrie Irving wanted away from the Cavs to join the Celtics, and to fellow point guard Isaiah Thomas moved in the opposite direction but injury has stopped the two time All-Star from making his debut for Cleveland until Tuesday night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the land, number 3, Isaiah Thomas!

RILEY: Can it get on him well, after an emotional departure from the Celtics and after missing the first 36 games, would you believe that (INAUDIBLE) with the hip injury. It was a big night for Thomas. He debuted in Cleveland with 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting in just 19 minutes of play. NBA fans finally catching a glimpse of just how good LeBron James, his team may be. Isaiah said it was almost like starting over.

ISAIAH THOMAS, GUARD, CLEAVELAND CAVALIERS: It felt like I was a rookie all over again. I haven't played in so long. But, I mean, my teammates give me the utmost confidence. They want me to be who I am. They want me to be aggressive in score and make plays so. The easy thing is going out there and doing it.

LEBRON JAMES, FORWARD, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: One thing I knew that it was going to happen for sure is when he was coming in. You know, and I knew that these fans are going to give him the ovation that he's been waiting on, that he deserve.

RILEY: As we mentioned earlier, the Winter Olympics are just around the corner and here in America, they're very excited about the skiing sensation Mikaela Shiffrin. She's going for gold in PyeongChang and a legend of the sport is backing her all the way. The young American is currently leading the overall world cup standings and not only that, but she had an excellent performance on Wednesday in Zagreb in the women's world cup slalom as well.

That is now her seventh victory in 14 starts this season alone. Bode Miller is the most decorated U.S. Olympic skier with six medals and is backing Shiffrin all the way.

BODE MILLER, SKI RACER, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Mikaela is a favorite of mine all the time. I think she is maybe the best skier I've ever seen, male or female, she's -- you know, so balanced, dynamic, intense, and focused. So, for me, I think she's got a chance, in any event, she skis in. I would say, it's likely she wins two golds. I would say outside shot of five medals, and I think probably at her best, maybe three or four of them are gold.


RILEY: And Shiffrin isn't the only one in Croatia. This week, the slalom racing is arguably the most technical, as you saw there, the best of these technicians are in action at the wild cup in Zagreb, this week. And the host of all, alpine show, Christina Macfarlane, has been asking a two-time Olympian, what it takes to master the slalom.


CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN INTERNATIONAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Slalom skiing is like a dance on snow that requires a perfect balance between rhythm, speed, and technique. The shortest discipline in alpine skiing has the highest number of gates, which means lightning-fast turns. It's not something that can typically be learned in one afternoon, but I'm ready to take on the challenge.

So, today I'm going to attempt to ski slalom like the world cup pros. So, I have all the gear and no idea. I'm going to need someone to show me how.

OK, Killian, you are the man, the guy I need to help me ski slalom. Tell me, what three things do I need to know?

[02:55:06] KILLIAN: First of all, you start turning before the gate. It's too late at the gate. Second thing is you have to be really close to the gate.


KILLIAN: Which the top guys are literally -- there's no space between the boot and the gate.


KILLIAN: And the third thing is that we have a really good position. You know, bend your knees, your arms need to be forward.


KILLIAN: Yes, and then flex your abs. So, I can resisted on you.

MACFARLANE, All right. Can't promise anything, but let's give it a go.

Kilian, first run, what do you think?

KILLIAN: Not bad for a first-timer. The only thing you need to do is, it to start the turn a little earlier, and then you need to do the cross lock so you get closer to the gate.

MACFARLANE: OK, that is actually hitting the gate with my hand, right? Let's have another go.

OK. Whoa!

KILLIAN: Yay. That was really good, especially on the bottom, you got really close to that gate. There was like this much space.

MACFARLANE: Yes, I was trying to hit those gates and I kept feeling like they're going to hit me in the face or something. But it was fun actually.

KILLIAN: Yes, it was really, really good for a first-timer.




MACFARLANE: What do you think? KILLIAN: You're a natural.

MACFARLANE: Well, the one thing I've learned is that you can't be afraid of the gate, you have to attack, right?

KILLIAN: That's true, you have to attack and push.

MACFARLANE: So, what do you think? Am I going to make the G.V. team?

KILLIAN: Let's not get carried away here. You're not quite Olympian yet. All you need is practice, practice, practice.

MACFARLANE: But in my case, practice doesn't make perfect.

I'm dead. I'm not cut out for this. Whew.


RILEY: (INAUDIBLE) Thanks so much for watching, that's it for us. Stay with CNN, the news is next.