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U.S. Backs Israel in Standoff with Iran and Syria; Oxfam Denies Cover-up in Prostitution Scandal; President Expresses Sympathy for Ex- Staffers Accused of Assault; Korean Diplomacy; Thousands Gather in Italy for Anti-Fascism Rally; Day 2 Action Underway at Winter Games. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired February 11, 2018 - 05:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A show of military force. Israel responding with a series of airstrikes after one of its fighter jets is downed.

Plus, a British aid agency denies it covered up accusations of sexual misconduct by its staffers in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

And the United States takes home the first gold medal of the Winter Olympics.

We are live at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta and we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: 5:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast and we're tracking developments in the Middle East of a simmering standoff between Israel, Syria and Iran. The United States says it's deeply concerned but Israel has the right to defend itself.

All of this comes after Israel says it launched strikes into Syria against Iranian targets there. The wave of attacks come after an Israeli warplane crashed after being hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

It was taking part in a raid inside Syria, after an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace. The prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu had this message to say on Saturday. Listen.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Israel holds Iran and its Syrian hosts responsible for today's aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: A lot to talk about here. We're covering this across the region with our correspondents. CNN's Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem and our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, live in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Oren, the responses we're hearing from the United States, Russia, Israel and others about where things stand and where things could go.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems the rhetoric is still flying. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu just put out another statement from the weekly cabinet meeting, once again essentially reiterating that Israel is willing to strike Iran if it feels like it's violating one of its red lines, either getting too close to Israeli airspace or in this case, Israel accusing Iran of flying a drone into Israeli airspace.

The rhetoric still flying. As for the fighter jets, the drones and the anti-aircraft missiles, that, at least as of right now, seems to have quieted down. The level of military tension seems to have peaked about Saturday afternoon. That was after Israel's retaliatory strike against a dozen targets in Syria, some of which were Iranian. some of which were Syrian.

Now the question of where things go from here. The two players we were looking at, regional players, are the Americans and the Russians. The Americans put out a short statement, and this is no surprise, firmly siding with the Israelis, saying Israel has a right to defend itself.

The Russians, however, took a much more even-handed approach against both Israel and Iran. Russia remains an ally of both and has leverage over both. And when Russian says de-escalate the situation and don't let it get any worse from here or any more tense from here, that means something to both Israel and Iran.

And it seems from that point on, from roughly yesterday afternoon, we haven't seen a continuation of the escalation in military tensions.

So where things go, it's still relatively early. It's less than 36 hours after this all began early Saturday morning here. So the situation remains tense. But in terms of the military tension, that could be starting to ebb here -- George.

HOWELL: All right. The response there from the United States, from Russia and from Israel.

Let's bring in our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman.

Ben, what are you hearing regarding responses as well?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we're seeing, we're hearing from Iran, from Syria, from Hezbollah, is the belief that the downing of this Israeli F-16 yesterday morning is a game changer.

It is the first time since perhaps as far back as the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon that an Arab military force has been able to bring down an Israeli plane. So that is significant in itself.

Now where it goes from here is not at all clear. Israel, since the beginning of the Syrian civil war back in 2011, has launched well over 100 strikes on targets within Syria. Israeli officials normally claiming that the purpose of those strikes was to stop the shipment of advanced weapons systems from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Now what's also significant about this is that it is the first time that Israel has targeted Iranian forces within Syria itself. And you have to see that within the broader context of this big rivalry between the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf --


WEDEMAN: -- States on the one hand, against Iran, against Syria and Hezbollah on the other.

Now as Oren was pointing out, the Russians are sort of playing in the middle here. Two months ago, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu did go to Moscow. He's in regular contact with the Russians, who do seem to have more strings to pull in this conflict than the Americans, who don't really have any friends in Damascus.

They certainly don't have any friends in Tehran. They have a very rocky relationship with the Turks. And really their only friend at the moment is Israel. And it's clearly not going to be a passive player in this current situation.

So as Oren mentioned, it does appear that the tensions have been reduced but there is an underlying conflict here that has yet to play out -- George.

HOWELL: We'll see how it plays out, gentlemen. Thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

Now let's get some context with Fawaz Gerges. Fawaz is the chair of contemporary Middle East studies at the London School of Economics, live in our London bureau this hour.

Thank you so much for being with us, Fawaz. Let's talk about what we're seeing here, two longtime rivals drawing a line in the sand.

Where do you estimate this goes from here?

FAWAZ GERGES, DIR. MIDDLE EAST CENTER, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: I think, George, neither side, neither Israel nor Iran would like all- out war. They have made it very clear that they're not very interested in really expanding the rivalry in Syria and Lebanon.

The fact is what you have now is both sides are walking a tight rope. They're trying to establish a position of dominance and superiority but, at the same time, they are very worried about any kind of expansion of that conflict because this means both sides will lose.

The reality is what you have now is that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has emerged as the power broker. The U.S. is nowhere to be seen. It has a very weak hand.

The reality is, I mean, think about it, George, after the downing of the Israeli fighter jet yesterday and the Israeli attacks, basically it was Netanyahu talking to President Putin and the Iranians talking to the Russians. The U.S. was nowhere to be seen.

And this tells you a great deal. What's happening is that Russia now is the most important and powerful player in Syria; the U.S. has a very incoherent strategy. President Trump has marginalized American policy and strategy in the area.

In fact, most of the regional powers, you have Iran, you have Turkey, everyone is coordinating with Russia as opposed to really trying to coordinate with the United States.

HOWELL: Fawaz, let's give a little context there. In recent months, over the last several years, quite frankly, looking at how the United States' position has changed in the region, many were upset with the change the United States made, with calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

How is that playing into all of this?

GERGES: Very badly. In fact -- yes. What I'm trying to say is that, I mean, President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has really basically been met with a major opposition throughout the region, with the exception, of course, of Israel.

And really this has turned the U.S. position, this has made the U.S. position very difficult. And it undermined American credibility in the region. Even American allies in the region are trying to keep a particular distance from the U.S. position. So this is on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

On Syria, the U.S. really has a very weak hand. Russia has invested major strategic capital. I mean, in his latest strategy on Syria, President Trump and his secretary of state have basically announced major goals, goals that have turned Turkey -- I mean, imagine, Turkey is a full member of NATO and a strategic ally of the United States.

Turkey now opposes the American presence in Syria because Turkey perceives the United States to be helping the Kurds, who are basically seen as intrinsic enemies of Turkey.

All in all, the U.S. position is in a terrible shape, not only in Syria and the region itself, and the U.S. really has very few parts to play in the region.

HOWELL: Fawaz Gerges, thank you so much for your time and your perspective on all of this. A lot to talk about. And I'm sure we'll be talking in the days ahead as we continue to --


HOWELL: -- watch this conflict play out. Thank you. Syria and Israel will likely be on the agenda as the top U.S. diplomat kicks off a Middle East trip.

The secretary of state Rex Tillerson is set to arrive in Cairo, Egypt, in the coming hours. He'll meet with the Egyptian president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, and other officials there. Tillerson may raise U.S. concerns about human rights abuses and ensuring free and fair elections in Egypt.

Iranian state media say that millions of people across the country are coming together, rallying, to mark the 39th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. That's when the government of the U.S.-backed shah was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had returned from exile, became head of the new Islamic republic.

Earlier, the president of that nation, Hassan Rouhani, spoke to the crowds in Tehran. He said the celebrations were a testament to national unity against the quote, "subversive plots of the United States."

But keep in mind just weeks ago, anti-government protests rocked that country.

The aid agency, Oxfam, it is denying that it covered up allegations that some of its senior employees paid for sex in Haiti. Now this apparently happened shortly after that earthquake that took place there in 2010.

An investigation by "The Times" newspaper of London says a confidential Oxfam report found, quote, "children may have been among those sexually exploited by aid workers." Now keep in mind, CNN has not independently reviewed that report and the aid agency says sexual allegations involving minors were never proven.


MARK GOLDRING, OXFAM CEO: Well, I think at the time Oxfam took serious and immediate action and it was open, Oxfam was actually pro- active in going to the British public, the Department for International Development and the Charity Commission, to explain that there had been serious misconduct and we'd taken action.

What Oxfam didn't do was describe the detailed nature of the offenses, which included the use of prostitution.


HOWELL: Let's bring in CNN's Erin McLaughlin, following the story.

Erin, it goes back to that age-old question, which is worse, the alleged crime or the alleged cover-up?

Tell us, what are we hearing from Oxfam about all of this?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, I think it's first important to remind our viewers what Haiti was like in the wake of that devastating 2010 earthquake. Hundreds of thousands of people had died; 1.5 million people displaced. It was a truly desperate situation for that country.

Now allegations of sexual misconduct by the very people that were supposed to be helping them, allegations of a cover-up by one of the main aid organizations, Oxfam, on the ground there. This is all just coming to light now due to an investigation by the "London Times."

The "London Times" managed to get access to an internal Oxfam report that detailed Oxfam's own investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct by seven of its employees, allegations that they had hired female prostitutes for sex; not able to rule out that investigation that some of those women had, in fact, been minors.

Now, at the time, as you heard the CEO there say, they did disclose to the public that an investigation into employee misconduct was underway.

But they're coming under criticism now for not disclosing to Haitian authorities, not disclosing to the public, not disclosing to their trustees the nature of those allegations, the exact nature of that misconduct. And now we are hearing from some of the trustees in court, including the U.K.'s Department for International Development.

They released a statement of their own saying, quote, "We often work with organizations in chaotic and difficult circumstances. If wrongdoing, abuse, fraud or criminal activity occur, we need to know about it immediately in full.

"The way this appalling abuse of vulnerable people was dealt with raises serious questions that Oxfam must answer."

It also says that it's reviewing its current work with the aid organization.

We also heard from the Haiti's ambassador to the United Kingdom express his outrage. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is clear it's a cover-up case. The fact that those folks were allowed to leave the country without any punishment, without even informing really the Haitian authorities about that, it was a cover-up.

And now, the fact that they did such a crime or there was such a cover-up, now we are wondering how many of those cases are still being happening in Haiti.



MCLAUGHLIN: Now seven Oxfam employees were dismissed or their resignations accepted as a result of Oxfam's own internal investigation. But the "London Times" also reporting that some of those employees

went on to continue to work for other aid organizations in other countries, those other aid organizations not knowing what had happened in Haiti, not knowing about that Oxfam investigation.

Oxfam releasing a statement about that, saying that they had not provided those employees with references but acknowledging that they could have done more to prevent those employees from being able to work in the aid sector -- George.

HOWELL: And those employees could have gotten references from other people, not the official Oxfam reference but, you know, references from others to go on to other aid organizations. A serious report there, Erin, thank you for explaining the details. And we'll, of course, stay in touch with you on it.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still ahead, the U.S. president seems to dismiss accusations of domestic violence against two former White House staffers, well, as mere allegations. We'll have that story ahead for you.

Plus the diplomatic charm offensive, is Kim Jong-un's sister thawing the chill between North and South Korea?

We'll take a look.




HOWELL: We're following the story of emergency rescue operations underway in the Grand Canyon. This after a fatal crash of a sightseeing helicopter there. At least three of the seven people on board are confirmed killed.

Officials say the area is extremely rugged there. Plus, poor weather conditions and darkness are slowing the rescue efforts. The helicopter went down in an area known as the Quartermaster Canyon.

We're also following the domestic abuse allegations against former aide Rob Porter. The White House and a group of Democratic senators demanding to know how long the White House officials knew about that. Keep in mind, Porter resigned last week when the accusations came to light.

Sources tell CNN the information was known inside the West Wing for months. But the U.S. president, Donald Trump, on Saturday, suggested in a tweet that the turmoil was a mere allegation.


HOWELL: That doesn't square with the testimony of Porter's first wife, Colbie Holderness. She released this photo, showing a black eye that she says she received from her husband in 2005. We get the very latest now from CNN's Ryan Nobles.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The White House dealing with yet another public relations crisis; this time involving two now former staffers who are pushing back against claims of domestic violence.

One of those staffers, Rob Porter, the former staff secretary, a very important job in this White House, resigned earlier this week.

And then, on Friday, it was David Sorensen, a speech writer who said that he approached White House officials, knowing that he had similar accusations against him, and tendered his resignation so he wouldn't be a distraction to the administration.

And the president himself, seeming to defend both of these men without mentioning them by name in a tweet sent Saturday morning.

He said, quote, "People's lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true or false, some are old, some are new, there's no recovery for someone falsely accused. Life and career gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?"

The president not mentioning the victims in this case and there's not a whole lot of clarity yet as to when the White House learned about these accusations, particularly with Rob Porter, and why it took so long to address them and waiting until media reports surfaced before taking formal action.

Now as the White House is dealing with this particular piece of controversy, they're also dealing with the fallout from a decision by the administration not to release that Democratic memo that was a response to a Republican memo having to do with the FISA court and the way the FISA court conducts itself.

And the president weighing in on that, as well, in a tweet, saying, quote, "The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo, which they knew, because of sources and methods and more, would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for a lack of transparency. Told them to redo and send back in its proper form."

Of course, the president seems very concerned about how the Department of Justice and FBI have viewed this Democratic memo. He didn't seem to share those same concerns for the Republican memo which he allowed to go forward with no redactions, despite the fact that the DOJ and FBI did not want the memo to come out at all.

Now what Democrats are concerned about is that they agree that redactions are probably necessary for this particular document. But they're worried those redactions may be politically motivated as opposed to protecting confidential information.

So at this point, it is a waiting game. The memo is back in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee, where they will address some of these concerns. We're not sure if and when the memo will ever come out.

But, the White House says they are inclined to release that memo as long as their concerns are addressed -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, at the White House.


HOWELL: Thanks, Ryan, for laying it all out there for us. And let's talk about this now with Amy Greene. Amy is a researcher of U.S. political science and a professor at Sciences Po in Paris.

It's good to have you with us, Amy, to talk about what Ryan first laid out, the president's defense and sympathy, quite frankly, for two men who recently left the White House. Let's talk about the optics that play out here, given that the president himself also faces a host of allegations against him.

AMY GREENE, SCIENCES PO: Yes, thanks very much for having me, George.

Yes, I mean the president, you know, clearly hasn't demonstrated a lot of respect for women since taking office, didn't take anything away from the Women's March.

Obviously his election went forward, despite the fact that he made comments on the "Access Hollywood" tape. He's been accused himself by dozens of women.

So, of course, the president would support -- it's logical in a way that he would support the two men involved, because to do anything, to make any gesture in the sense of believing the women would be to shine a light on his own indiscretions and the accusations against him that have so far remained unresolved.

So it's not surprising in a way that the president, who legislatively and politically hasn't shown a lot of respect to women, you know, across the board, who systematically sided with Bill O'Reilly, people like Roy Moore, themselves in the face of accusations of sexual impropriety, wouldn't do anything different in this case.

Again, all of this goes to shine a light on his own past about this and the fact that there are dozens of accusations against the President of the United States.

HOWELL: And the White House handling it, quite frankly, as a PR crisis right now. Let's also talk about the other story in play, this Democratic memo, the president sent it back to the Intelligence Committee, Amy.

Do you think this ever sees the light of day?

And if it does, how important is that?

GREENE: It's interesting, because people who have seen the memo say that essentially it does highlight true, substantive problems. It demonstrates the validity of --


GREENE: -- the dossier in question.

The difficulty of this, when you look at it, you just feel a sense of waste, the fact that the judiciary's recommendations -- I'm sorry; I should say the FBI and the Justice Department's recommendations have been flouted systematically.

And so you see the notion of this memo, first the Nunes memo, it's a political issue at this point.

So the question of, you know, intelligence has been moved to the second position over, you know, the president's own political objectives and his obsession with trying to demonstrate that there was no collusion. And that necessarily the investigators are the problem or that his political rivals are the problem.

And so we have the Democratic memo in play, you know, there's a strong call for it to be released. The reticence of the president to do so demonstrates a political bias in that regard.

But, once again, I think that, you know, the problem of politicizing an investigation isn't out of line with what we've seen from the president this far.

But it is unfortunate that it goes against the recommendations of the experts around him, who have a better and, frankly, more nuanced sense of the potential repercussions of releasing first the Nunes memo and then, of course, now the Democratic rebuttal memo.

But again, this is a political operation that goes towards this president's seemingly, you know, deep-rooted obsession with doing anything possible to frame the truth in order to fit his own image of what he wants to portray, the truth becoming secondary to the way that facts are being portrayed, frankly.

HOWELL: Amy Greene, giving us context live from Paris. Amy, thank you for your time today.

GREENE: Thank you, George.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, she could be North Korea's secret weapon, the sister of the leader there, Kim Jong-un, is a hit in South Korea. When we come back, we'll tell you what she's doing this hour there: Olympic diplomacy. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Coast to coast across the United States and live around the world this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.


HOWELL: The U.S. vice president is back in Washington, D.C., this day after his trip to the Olympic Games in South Korea. Aboard Air Force Two, he said there is, quote, "no daylight between the United States and its allies in their stance against North Korea."

While at the Olympics, Mr. Pence met with the presidents of South Korea and Japan. He said the countries need to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear weapons program.

South Korea's president discussed his meeting with the North Korean officials with Pence. The vice president reiterated the need for a strong stance against North Korea.

If diplomatic dance were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong- un's younger sister would be favored to win a gold. Kim Yo-jong met with a number of South Korean officials and even the unified hockey team.

She's not only a powerful member of the North Korean hierarchy but is also seen as a way to disprove the stereotype of North Koreans being cold and militarist.

There has been plenty of diplomatic gamesmanship going on around these Olympics. And our Paula Hancocks has been following it all there, live at the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Paula, from what you've seen, who's winning the optics war here?

Is it North Korea?

South Korea?

The United States?

Who's in play?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, you can certainly say that North Korea has come out of this fairly well. When you consider the optics, you consider the symbolic photos that we're seeing of handshakes between the president of South Korea and Kim Yo-jong.

You can see right now, there's a performance going on by the North Korean arts troupe in Seoul, where the South Korean president is sitting next to Kim Jong-un's sister, enjoying the performance.

And there was a women's ice hockey team last night, a joint North- South Korean team that was playing and you had, once again, the North Korean VIP delegation in the crowd with the South Korean president.

So certainly I think, when you talk about optics, North Korea is coming out of it extremely well. There was much made of the fact that U.S. vice president Mike Pence was in the same box as Kim Jong-un's sister. There was no acknowledgment between either of them. A senior administration official also confirming that that was on

purpose that Mr. Pence did not want to acknowledge either Kim Jong- nam, the ceremonial head of state, or the North Korean leader's sister.

Also saying that the vice president feels it's important to continue with the sanctions and pressure when it comes to North Korea, trying to stop their nuclear and missile program.

But really those kind of comments are a million miles away from what we're seeing here in South Korea, at the Olympics and now in Seoul, this charm offensive by North Korea and also that invitation for the South Korean president to go up north, to go to Pyongyang and meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

So we're seeing two very different sides here. The South Korean approach to what is happening at this point, which is opening its arms to North Korea and this delegation, and then the United States' approach, which is to ignore the delegation and to continue to stress that sanctions --


HANCOCKS: -- and pressure is the way to go forward -- George.

HOWELL: Paula, thank you for the reporting. And, of course, we'll stay in touch with you there.

Let's get some context now on this with Jean Lee, Jean is a journalist and global fellow at The Wilson Center, joining us live this hour from Seoul, South Korea.

It's good to have you there. The first question I'd like to ask is about the overall sentiment, the feeling there across South Korea, because, again, what we're seeing here, this sense of hope that seems to be expressed, seeing Kim Yo-jong, seeing this North Korean delegation at these Olympic Games but it is also sparking protests.

What is the overall feeling, given that this president of South Korea is focused on engagement with North Korea?

Is there a trust gap?

JEAN LEE, JOURNALIST: There is a certain amount of fascination with Kim yo-jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong-un, because, remember, we so rarely get to see members of the Kim family. This is really her big first international appearance.

And so much of the appearances in North Korea are managed, right, they're stage managed. Here we have her appearing live. So South Koreans are certainly fascinated by that.

But, I should note that all of this may look to you from the outside like this great moment of hope and peace and promise. But for South Koreans, it's much more complicated. They've been through this before. They also know that it can go wrong very quickly. And so I think that people have mixed feelings and I do, as well, as

somebody who has lived here for the better part of a decade. Although we all want peace, nobody here on this peninsula wants another war, we're also very skeptical.

We know how the North Koreans operate. And we know that it's going to be very tricky in the weeks and months ahead.

HOWELL: Hmm. We heard from the U.S. vice president Mike Pence. He said there is no daylight between the United States and South Korea. But clearly, two very different approaches here.

We're seeing the South Korean President Moon focus on engagement. We're seeing Vice President Pence say that, you know, the focus is to freeze, you know, to isolate North Korea.

Is it true that we're seeing no daylight between these two allies?

LEE: Well, the fact that he came says something, I think he did what he needed to do, which was to attend these Winter Games in a show of support, not only for Team USA but also for South Korea.

But he also made it clear he had another objective and that was to urge the world not to be taken in by this recent and very sudden charm offensive by North Korea and to remind the world that North Korea has waged some serious destruction and some alleged human rights abuses in recent years.

So he did make some very pointed visits to draw attention to that. But as you say, he also had to show that, despite these two very different approaches on North Korea, that he and President Moon are on familiar footing.

So there was definitely a show at that hockey game, of them sitting side by side, chatting. And as we heard, the briefing to reporters on his way back to the U.S., that there is no daylight, because, frankly, North Korea likes to play a game of divide and conquer. That is what they're doing right now, by trying to get South Korea on its side.

But what the allies here need to do, not just the U.S. and South Korea, what they need to do is show that they remain unified in this campaign of maximum pressure, to use diplomacy, to try to get North Korea to back down from these nuclear provocations.

HOWELL: Jean, I pose to you the same question I just posed a moment ago to our Paula Hancocks.

The question of who is winning the optics here, is it North Korea, South Korea or the United States, given what we've seen there so far?

LEE: I have to say, I think the North Koreans are the master of optics. They're skilled at propaganda. So I think they're the ones who are benefiting from this most. It's already been splashed all over their state media. And I can tell you that this will be, these images will be shown throughout North Korea for years and years to come. And so they are already the ones, the leader of North Korea is

benefiting from this by showing that he is a statesman and not only a military strategist.

HOWELL: Jean Lee, thank you so much for taking time to give your perspective on this, live in Seoul, South Korea.

LEE: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead, a sheriff in Tennessee suggested that he preferred his officers shoot and kill the suspect of a car chase rather than damage the official car. We'll have that story for you.

Plus the athlete -- this athlete didn't let these very cold temperatures in PyeongChang stop him, giving the U.S. its first gold medal of the games. We're live at the Winter Olympics -- ahead. You'll want to stick around for it.





HOWELL: In the U.S. state of Ohio, a community is mourning the loss of two police officers, ambushed and killed on Saturday. They were responding to a suspected domestic abuse situation. Authorities say a caller dialed emergency services and then hung up. The two officers came under fire as they entered the apartment.

A male suspect was wounded and is now hospitalized. The community's police chief praised the fallen officers as true American heroes, who gave their lives in the protection of others.

A sheriff in the U.S. state of Tennessee is being sued after he ordered his deputies to take out a man during a car chase. That man was unarmed and he was killed. The sheriff was caught on tape, suggesting he gave the order to shoot so that the patrol cars wouldn't get damaged. Details now from Kaylee Hartung.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told them, I said, take him out.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Damn, I don't give a (INAUDIBLE) what's on that. I've heard --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- shots fired. HARTUNG (voice-over): -- unknowingly captured on a bodycam, thrown in the back seat of a squad car...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said, we'll ram him. I said, don't ram him, shoot him.

(INAUDIBLE) tear my cars up.

HARTUNG (voice-over): -- suggest a Tennessee sheriff preferred his officers shoot and kill a suspect in a low-speed car chase rather than damage their official vehicles.

Last April, officers attempted to pull over a 33-year-old white male, Michael Dial. They suspected him of driving with a suspended license. Dashcam video shows patrol cars using pit maneuvers to try to ram Dial's pickup truck and trailer off the road.

But Dial doesn't stop and the chase continues. Then this order comes from 59, the White County sheriff, through the dispatcher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So 59, take him out by any means necessary, including deadly force.

HARTUNG (voice-over): Barely a minute after that --


HARTUNG (voice-over): -- order was given, shots were fired. Dial died of a gunshot wound to the head. He was unarmed. Dial's widow is now suing the sheriff and the two men who fired their weapons, saying they used excessive force. This audio recording key to her case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they don't think I'll give them an order to kill that (INAUDIBLE).

HARTUNG (voice-over): The sheriff was not involved in the chase but suggested to his deputy that he would have enjoyed it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love this (INAUDIBLE), I tell you what, I thrive on it.

HARTUNG (voice-over): Citing the pending lawsuit, the sheriff's department has no comment. But here's what the sheriff says after the shooting, captured on that hidden bodycam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I gave the order to take him out because he's going to kill somebody if we have to. And so I'm telling you, you are saying that this is a hell of a pursuit. I mean they -- he meant to kill some people.

HARTUNG (voice-over): The district attorney ruled the shooting justified. And Sheriff Odie Shoop (ph) continues to lead his division -- Kaylee Hartung, CNN, Atlanta.



Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam has been getting in the Olympic spirit. He hit the slopes to learn from an Olympic snowboarder. You'll want to stick around for this report. Stay with us.





HOWELL: In South Korea the Olympic Games are in full swing. Six medal events are scheduled for Sunday. The Netherlands just won the gold for men's speed skating, giving them the lead in the medal count with two golds, two silver and one bronze. CNN "WORLD SPORT" Amanda Davies joins now from PyeongChang, South Korea -- Amanda.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, George. I spoke a little bit too soon. The snow has stopped already. But there has been no danger of forgetting that you're at a Winter Olympics here in PyeongChang on Sunday because we've had some snow but some seriously brutal cold winds.

Not that there was anything distracting the biggest names in men's speed skating. As you alluded to, Sven Kramer. He won gold in the 5000 meters, setting three new records along the way. He broke the Olympic record over the distance, became the first man to win eight Olympic speed skating medals and the only one to win Olympic gold in the same event three times.

At the other end of the Olympic experience spectrum, though, the USA has a new superstar on the snowboard, 17-year-old Red Gerard, competing in his first Olympic Games has admitted he can't believe he claimed the gold in the slopestyle.

He beat off some really stiff competition from the Canadian pair of Max Parrot, who took silver, and the comeback king Mark McMorris, who took bronze. McMorris really does have one of the game's truly inspirational stories.

He fought back from a near fatal accident last March, where he feared he wouldn't survive whilst he was waiting for the helicopter to lift him off the mountain to take his place on the podium.

And their performances were all the more impressive, given the brutal winds that we've experienced today. The ladies' snowboard slopestyle qualification was canceled. And so, too, one of the blue ribbon events of the games, the men's downhill. The course is a good deal higher than where our studio is here.

And the high winds on the slopes forced organizers to reschedule just hours before its start. And that's really, really tough on the skiers, who woke up for what for many of them will have been the biggest day of their sporting careers.

But those on the alpine circuit, the favorites, are really used to it. Norway's Keitel Yens (ph) tweeted, saying, "Downhill canceled due to strong winds. It's imperative with fair conditions and I applaud the decision. Thanks FIS Alpine @Olympics."

The downhill will now take place on Thursday. And there was a good lesson in never giving up. In the men's skiathlon, Norway's Simen Hegstad Krueger made an incredible fight back from last place, all the way to the front to win gold.

The 24-year old was at the back of the field, he had to replace his poles after colliding with two other athletes in a very congested start. But he took the lead in the penultimate lap and raced clear to head up a Norway one, two, three -- back to you, George.

HOWELL: All right, Amanda, thank you so much. We'll stay in touch.

With more than 100 events scheduled, this is the largest Winter Games in history. But there are some lesser known sports that can get overlooked, like snowboard cross. Our Derek Van Dam takes a look at that sport and even got some lessons from a medal-winning pro. Let's watch.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We are in the presence of greatness here.

I am totally intimidated just to be standing next to you.

This is Erin Simmons, an Olympian from Steamboat Springs. Erin competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics, world championships and multiple X Games as a snowboard cross athlete. She's even taken home some hardware.


VAN DAM: OK, and any medals?

SIMMONS: Three silver medals.

VAN DAM: Where are those now?

SIMMONS: Almost gold. They're in a little case at home.

VAN DAM (voice-over): Turin, Italy, was the first time that snowboard cross was introduced to the Olympics.

SIMMONS: It was the inaugural year for snowboard cross, super fun.

VAN DAM (voice-over): The sport involves up to six athletes racing down a narrow, undulating course with the objective to reach the finish line first. Of course, it's a lot harder than she makes it look.

VAN DAM: Can you give me a couple tips and inside info?

SIMMONS: Mainly stay low, controlled, you know, parallel with your board.

We're checking out every feature, what we feel might be the best line, coming in to it, going off of it, connecting to the next feature. You basically are trying to absorb stuff and pump down the other side.

You want to land about here.

VAN DAM (voice-over): With Olympian training and 20 years experience under my belt, it was time to find out if I had what it takes to be a snowboard cross athlete.

SIMMONS: One, two, three, go.

There you go, nice.


SIMMONS: Up. Stay on top. Come down.

VAN DAM: Whoo!




SIMMONS: You did it.


VAN DAM (voice-over): I think I'll leave this one to the pros.


HOWELL: Thank you so much for being with us. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is ahead. Thank you for watching CNN, the world's news leader.