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CNN International: General Election Voting Under Way in United Kingdom; White Island Recovery Mission to be Attempted Friday; Citizenship Amendment Bill Sparks Protests in India; House Panel Debates Trump Impeachment Articles Before Vote. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 12, 2019 - 14:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN HOST: And we will get back to our continuing coverage, of course, of the impeachment process, and what is already under way involving U.S. President Donald Trump. And we will get back to it as soon as the House Judiciary Committee reconvenes.

I'm Paula Newton with you, here from New York. We want to take a look, though, at some of the day's other big stories.

Who can forget the U.K. is voting in its third general election in less than five years, at a time of year when elections are rarely held. Matthew Chance joins us now from London. Matthew, they're rarely held because it puts people in a bad mood. They would rather just hunker down for Christmas.

Now, I'm going to let you off the hook here. I know that there isn't much you can say legally, but of course the voting has begun and polls have been open for quite some time, but still have a few more hours to go.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, they've been open for 12 hours. They close in about three hours from now, and that's when we'll get the first exit polls, one can really discuss the sort of -- you know, the meaty stuff about, you know, which way the political pendulum may have swung.

But until then, you know, there are these very tight reporting restrictions imposed in Britain on Election Day. So for instance, we can't talk about political parties, about their policies, we can't talk about which party we think might be doing better than any other party.

The voters also have very tight restrictions that they have to adhere to. They're not allowed, for instance, to take selfies. I was reading this earlier -- take selfies inside the polling booth, they can't do that.

And also, they are not allowed to disclose to anyone else how somebody else voted. You can to anyone how you voted, but it's a criminal offense in Britain to tell -- to say how somebody else voted, punishable by 5,000 pounds' fine, which is about $8,000, or six months' imprisonment. So you have to be really careful what you say. What I can tell you is that the main political party leaders have cast

their vote. Boris Johnson, the leader of the Conservative Party, of course he visited a polling station in central London. Apparently he took his dog Dilyn with him when he voted.

The Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, posed for pictures as he went to vote in his constituency in North London. Nicola Sturgeon, who's the head of the Scottish National Party, she voted in Glasgow; so did Jo Swinson who also voted in Scotland, the head of the Liberal Democrats.

As I say, three hours to go for this election, 650 constituencies in the country, just over 3,000 candidates standing for election. Those exit polls will be out in three hours, until we'll be able to discuss, you know, what will happen in Britain at that time. But not before.

NEWTON: Yes, yes. All-important elections. My question had been, what was the name of the dog? Who didn't look like he was really following the route that he should have. I noticed the prime minister had to pull him over a little bit.

I will say that in these restrictions, a lot of countries have kind of lightened these restrictions because in the age of the internet. Not so in Britain. So, Matthew, we'll leave it there save for one question. Some people had questions about the weather, and that that would affect turnout. From what I saw, it didn't look too bad.

CHANCE: Actually, it's been -- it's been raining, really, quite hard here in London and I understand elsewhere in the country, it's been raining as well. Traditionally, turnout averages in Britain at about just over 72 percent for these kinds of elections. I think that's a figure I've heard earlier. But anyway, we'll see what -- whether the weather or not affects this, it's not clear at this point.

NEWTON: OK, good stuff, Matthew. We'll talk to you in a few hours. Appreciate it.

Now, we want you to stay with CNN, of course, for the latest on that crucial U.K. election. Matthew was just talking about those exit polls. We will have full coverage as those polls close. That starts about 10:00 p.m. London time.

The New Zealand military has announced it will in fact try to land Friday on the island where a deadly volcano erupted. This is the view from the mainland. The military will attempt to recover the bodies of eight victims who of course, unfortunately, are presumed dead.

Our Will Ripley spoke with a pilot who risked his life to go on what's being called a rogue rescue.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're about to get our first up-close look at White Island, the active volcano that erupted on Monday, killing a number of people. Many of them are still missing on the island right now. And this helicopter is flown by pilots who actually went to the island

after the eruption. It was called the rogue rescue. They didn't have permission, they didn't have authorization but they went to the island anyway, risking their lives in dangerous conditions. And they saved lives that day.

RIPLEY: If you guys hadn't gone out there, what do you think would have happened?

MARK LAW, HELICOPTER PILOT: Oh, none of them would have lived.

RIPLEY: They would have all died?

LAW: Yes, yes. I'm confident about that.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Mark Law was the lead pilot on that dangerous rescue mission to White Island, just moments after Monday's eruption, flying over the volcanic crater, ash still billowing. He saw people desperately in need of help.

LAW: The people who were there were horrendously burned. Their face was all covered in dust, and their mouths were just full of dirt. You could just tell they were in incredible pain.


RIPLEY: This is going to be a really powerful moment for us because it's the first time we actually see White Island up-close since this horrific tragedy. And to know that there are still people who are there and the conditions are too dangerous to go and retrieve their bodies, don't really know what to expect.

RIPLEY (voice-over): My first thought as we approach White Island? How striking, how beautiful. Soon, I remember all the people lying there, somewhere beneath that billowing plume of white smoke, rescuers still unable to reach their bodies. It's heartbreaking.

LAW: It's got him (ph). We were going back to get the folks that had passed, and we could have done it, we wouldn't have to, you know, wait and worry and wonder. Yes, just got them (ph).

RIPLEY: That's got to be frustrating.

LAW: It's really frustrating.

RIPLEY: You want to get back out there?

LAW: Yes. Yes, we do.

RIPLEY (voice-over): But will they ever be able to go back? Should they go back? This area's livelihood depends on White Island tourism. Thousands visit each year, around a century without a single death. That doesn't change what happened, doesn't change the fact that so many people will never go home.

RIPLEY: There is a plan in place to try to recover the bodies of those people -- at least eight people -- believed to still be there on White Island. The New Zealand defense force has a naval frigate just offshore, and they're going to send in special operations in the early morning hours to try and bring those people back home.

They know the locations of six bodies, but they don't know where the other ones are. And it's not even a sure thing that this is going to happen. A lot of factors need to come together, here, for this to work. The weather has to be right, the geothermal activity needs to be at a safe enough level.

And I can tell you, not just from the sky but even here on the ground, we saw that huge plume billowing from the crater, at times very large during the day. And we'll have to see, when the day breaks, if they're going to be able to undertake this very delicate, very dangerous operation to try to bring those remains back and bring closure to the families here who so desperately need it.

Will Ripley, CNN, Whakatane, New Zealand.


NEWTON: OK. Next here on CNN NEWSROOM, Israeli lawmakers haven't been able to form a governing coalition. So now, there will be a third election in less than a year. That leaves Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again fighting to stay in power.

And Myanmar's de facto leader is defending her country against genocide charges. Will the world court accept Aung San Suu Kyi's argument? We'll take a look at both sides.



NEWTON: I'm Paula Newton and you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. We are waiting, as you can see there, for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to resume debate on impeachment. Those are live pictures of the room there, and we will bring you that hearing again as soon as it resumes.

But in the meantime, Indian troops have been sent to the northeastern state of Assam. Protests broke out there after Parliament passed a very controversial citizenship amendment bill. Now, the measure fast- tracks citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants from three neighboring countries.

CNN's Vedika Sud has the details.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN PRODUCER: The citizenship amendment bill passed amid protests in the Indian parliament, Wednesday. The bill fast-tracked citizenship for non-Muslim minorities who have fled religious persecution in neighboring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Now, these immigrants will be granted citizenship in India only if they move to the country before the year 2050 (ph). Reservations have been voiced by opposition parties of the exclusion of Muslims from the bill, which is seen as part of a pattern of anti-Muslim discrimination by Prime Minister Modi's Hindu nationalist government.

The main opposition Congress (ph) party has accused the government of discriminating against Muslims and violating the right to equality, which is an integral part of India's constitution.

A Muslim political party has already challenged the bill in the country's supreme court after massive protests in the northeastern states of Assam and Tripura. The army was called out in Assam's capital city of Guwahati. Also paramilitary forces have been deployed in Tripura.

The protestors claim an influx of immigrants into their states will threaten the indigenous communities both economically and culturally. The prime minister, Thursday, attempted to allay fears over the contentious bill. He said the citizenship bill will not affect people who are already Indian citizens, irrespective of their religion.

The president is expected to sign the bill into law within days. Vedika Sud in New Delhi.


NEWTON: And to Israel now, where voters are really hoping the third time will be the charm. The country will hold an unprecedented third national election in less than a year after the Knesset failed to agree on a politician who could get the support of more than half of parliament. CNN's Oren Liebermann has the latest from Jerusalem.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, Israel's political system definitely qualifies. For the third time in 12 months, Israelis will be voting in national elections, trying to lead a country out of political deadlock. It's election deja vu: the same candidates, the same issues and possibly similar results.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu versus his now-familiar foe, former military chief of staff Benny Gantz. Netanyahu has now failed to put together a government twice. He'll be indicted for bribery and fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases, but it's done little to shake his support, the 70-year-old leader casting the indictments as a media-driven attempted coup to topple him. A rival within his own party has emerged to challenge him, but Netanyahu remains the face of Israel's right wing.

Gantz's Blue and White party emerged from the last elections with the most seats, but he was also unable to form a government. And no other politician emerged who could garner the necessary support to lead.

Netanyahu's election strategy until recently was largely based on President Donald Trump. But as Netanyahu failed two straight times to pull out a victory, Trump was no longer the gift that kept on giving. The leader, facing indictment, could no longer rely on the leader facing impeachment.

Israel hasn't had a properly functioning government since Christmas Eve of last year, and there's no promise a third election will change anything. Israel remains stuck in political nowhere. Is this the middle of nowhere or nearing the end?


LIEBERMANN: Well, we began talking about the possibility of a third election the day after the second election, back in September. And we have already begun discussing the possibility of a fourth election later next year. In fact, one member of Knesset suggesting setting the date for it right now if nothing changes in the political deadlock that has now gripped Israel for a year.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.


NEWTON: Polls are open in Africa's largest country as Algeria chooses a new president. Now, as of 3:00 p.m. local time, turnout was just 20 percent. Huge crowds of protestors clashed with police in the capital on Wednesday, demanding the vote be cancelled. Now, they say the election won't be fair as long as the military and the old guard of politicians are involved.

Russian state media report the country's only aircraft carrier, a warship called Admiral Kuznetsov, caught fire during repair work. Now, TASS reports one person is considered missing and six are injured. Diesel fuel is burning and firefighters are using foam to try and get it under control.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has delivered closing arguments and asked that the U.N.'s top court at the Hague drop genocide charges. She denies her country committed genocide against Rohingya Muslims.

Earlier, at the U.N.'s top court at the Hague, a lawyer blasted Suu Kyi for remaining silent over a U.N. investigation that found genocide had indeed occurred. Simon Cullen has more.


SIMON CULLEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the third and final day of hearings at the International Court of Justice where Myanmar is facing accusations of genocide against the Rohingya. Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is in the Hague, leading her country's defense of the charges that have been brought by the African nation of Gambia on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Her country's military is accused of raping, murdering and torturing Rohingya Muslims, forcing more than 700,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh since 2017.

Suu Kyi has described the Gambias' (ph) case as incomplete and misleading, adding that if Myanmar's military -- officially known as the Tatmadaw -- had been involved in war crimes, then those responsible would be prosecuted.

But in court on Thursday, Gambia's lead lawyer argued Myanmar could not be trusted to hold its own soldiers to account.

PAUL REICHLER, LEAD LAWYER FOR GAMBIA: How could anyone possibly expect the Tatmadaw to hold itself accountable for genocidal acts against the Rohingya when six of its top generals have all been accused of genocide by the U.N. fact-finding mission and recommended for criminal prosecution?

CULLEN: Myanmar has repeatedly denied or downplayed the charges and has previously described the Rohingya as terrorists. At this stage, Gambia is only seeking provisional measures to prevent any further action against the Rohingya by Myanmar's military until the case is finished.

But beyond that, the International Court of Justice has authorized a prosecutor to open an investigation into allegations of war crimes. But such a process, if it proceeds to a full trial, would likely take years. And even then, there's no way for the court to legally enforce its ruling.

Simon Cullen, CNN, London.


NEWTON: OK, more news still to come here on CNN Newsroom: a Twitter spat between the most powerful man on earth and "Time Magazine"'s Person of the Year.



NEWTON: Now to the horrific case of 39 Vietnamese nationals who died while being smuggled into Britain illegally. A court Friday -- a court has set a date for Friday for the truck driver, Maurice Robinson. He's one of six people arrested so far.

The gruesome incident exposed a shadowy world of human trafficking that stretches right across the globe. We get more now from CNN's Scott McLean.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In October, the world heard news of a horrifying scene, 39 people found dead in the back of a truck. For the victims inside, it was the end of a long journey that they would not live to see. But many others are still willing to make that trip.

"HANNAH," VIETNAMESE TRAFFICKING VICTIM (through translator): I feel very scared because that might have been me.

MCLEAN (voice-over): In Northern England, we met two Vietnamese women we're calling Hannah and Michelle, who separately have made this dangerous trek themselves. For Hannah, it wasn't by choice. She says she was sold by an abusive uncle and taken to China, where three men forced her into prostitution.

Months later, she was handed a Chinese passport and boarded a flight to a place she was told was Hungary. From there, a white man loaded her into a trailer with another woman. She fell asleep only to wake up somewhere in England, where she managed to escape from the back of the truck.

MCLEAN: Did you feel like you were treated as a human?

"HANNAH" (through translator): They wanted me to work so they could get their money. That's all.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Debt that the trafficker said her uncle owed them.

MCLEAN: Did you feel safe?

"HANNAH" (through translator): I was very scared then. Right now, I'm still scared. I'm scared that one day, the Chinese men will catch me. Or that if they see my uncle, he will sell me away again.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Hannah has since found safety at a shelter supported by the Salvation Army.

Michelle came to the U.K. for another reason. She says her family was the victim of religious persecution at home. Her grandmother had to sell land to pay for the journey.

"MICHELLE," VIETNAMESE TRAFFICKING VICTIM (through translator): I follow traditional Buddhism, and it's not allowed in Vietnam. And therefore I was beaten up. I'm very scared because my father, my grandfather, my uncles and my grandmother have died from being beaten up.

MCLEAN (voice-over): She says a smuggler took her to China, gave her a Chinese passport and together, they boarded a flight to Paris. A day later, she climbed into the cab of a truck that was loaded onto a ferry sailing across the English Channel.

The driver was white and her Asian smuggler never left her side. She's not sure how they avoided passport checks.

"MICHELLE" (through translator): I only know that I was transported in a boat and across the Channel, and nothing else.

MCLEAN: Both journeys trace a well-established route from Vietnam through China to Europe and then by truck to the U.K., involving both Asian and European smugglers. Almost all of it is fueled by organized crime, sometimes even rival groups working together.

ALAN MCQUILLAN, FORMER BELFAST DETECTIVE: Money makes for strange bedfellows, but it's about the (ph) two companies, really (ph), that he (ph) regarded in exactly the same way, they regard themselves as a business. The biggest barrier, in the end, is usually getting them across the Channel and actually into the U.K.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Former Belfast Detective Alan McQuillan says cutting off the flow of illegal entries is a massive challenge for police. Some European ports have sophisticated technology to detect stowaways; others have much less stringent checks.


Even retracing the route and the people involved is near impossible. Most people, like Hannah and Michelle, never actually learn the true identities of their smugglers or traffickers. Plus, there's a bigger problem: police budgets are dwarfed by revenues from organized crime.

MCQUILLAN: The police were facing an uphill battle from the very start.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Hasn't stopped Hannah from praying for justice.

"HANNAH (through translator): I just want those people arrested soon so they can't put other people in the same situation as me.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Scott McLean, CNN, London.


NEWTON: OK, time for a quick look at those markets right now. I can tell you the Dow is solidly higher. It -- President Trump had tweeted that he was very close to a deal with China. A new tariff deadline, though, is still looming for this weekend.

I will tell you, the Dow is off its record highs along with both the NASDAQ and the S&P, as you say. All three had been in record territory, but there is now skepticism as to whether or not any kind of a substantive deal is very close. We will continue to watch that for you.

Starbucks is also rallying, boosted by an upgrade from J.P.Morgan on an upbeat sales outlook in both China and the United States.

Just a day after becoming the biggest and most profitable publicly listed company in the world, Aramco has set a new record yet again. Shares of the Saudi oil company hit the $2 trillion mark in its second day of trading on the Riyadh Stock Exchange. It's the most valuable company in the world by far now. Aramco shares closed at 36.8 riyals. That's a little over 4.5 percent from Wednesday's close.

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to one again mock climate activist Greta Thunberg. But she hit right back. President Trump tweeted that the 16-year-old has anger management issues, adding that she should chill and watch a movie with a friend.

Thunberg, who has just been named "Time Magazine" Person of the Year, slapped back with this tweet. It now reads -- this is her bio now -- read, "A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend." Perhaps another comeback would have just been, "OK, boomer." It's a favorite in my house.

Now, remember, stay with CNN for the latest on that crucial all- important vote in the U.K. We'll have special coverage as the polls close. That starts just at about 10:00 p.m. London time.


I'm Paula Newton in New York. We're going to take a quick break now and then we will have more news, including the latest on the impeachment debate of U.S. President Donald Trump.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Members of the House Judiciary Committee having just voted or starting to return to the hearing room right now. They're going to continue debating the two articles of impeachment against President Trump, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

John King, let me start with you. How good a case do you think Democrats have made for these two articles of impeachment? Have they made the case? I'm not saying you have to agree with it or not, but to a skeptical independent that the president abused his power and that he has obstructed Congress by not cooperating with the investigators.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you have tracked along through the intelligence committee hearings, and the public testimony, and then the articles of impeachment now and here, I would answer yes, that does not mean it's impeachable. That's a separate argument and you have to be a member of the House and that's your vote. You get to vote that.

Have the Democrats made the case that the president used his official powers, withheld a white House meeting and withheld military aid in exchange for a political favors that benefited him personally that had zip to do with national security? Yes, they have.

Have they made a case that they have issued, if you accept Congress as a coequal branch of government, that they issued subpoenas in a constitutional obligation or responsibility of the House impeachment and the president said no, absolutely no, didn't give them witnesses, yes, that's all well documents. Those facts are actually not in dispute.

The question is, can they make the argument, especially with an election 11 months from now that the president should be removed for this? So the factual argument of the Democrats is a pretty solid case.

The political arguments should a president be removed, that is why I think we have seen a stagnation of public opinion that makes it hard for the Democrats. Now they believe they have -- the Democrats who say we have to do this, we must do this, we don't care about the politics, that's one thing.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a solid case for people who are really interested in learning the actual facts. And --

TAPPER: And have the time to do so.

BASH: One have the time. But are not interested in hearing what they want to hear which is the problem, increasing problem with our country and with society and with the, you know, the media and we can talk about this for 50 years about the -- how things have changed.

But it is played out in such a stark way during this whole process. That what John just described about what the Democrats are presenting in a world of -- where people are open to hearing arguments that don't comport with how they want things to go, meaning Republicans don't want this president to be impeached or don't want to hear that the president did anything wrong and that is the core issue.

They are -- they are talking past each other and the people out there who could be persuaded are not persuadable because they don't want to listen or they're listening to people and media outlets telling them things that they want to hear.

TAPPER: Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, Democrat of New York, just walked back into the hearing room. So we're expecting him to gavel it back into proceedings any minute.

But Laura Coates, let me ask you the same question. How solid a case do you think the Democrats have made not just to people who are paying attention to every word, not just to people who are political junkies or invested one way or another in the outcome?

But just to the average American out there, how much do you think they are hearing what happened and actually are upset by it?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: With respect to the second article of impeachment, they received nothing in return for congressional subpoenas. That is clear. You can check in for one half a second and that's very clear to the American people. Whether you think that's enough to impeach is a different story.


On the first part, it takes a little bit more of an intellectual exercise and also requires you on abuse of power look at context. And I think you have a losing argument trying to persuade the American public if this is a -- the straw that broke the camel's back argument.

Because the American people want to know in an election year why this instance, why now, and relying on context requires you do what? Go back to the Mueller probe which did not have the benefit of witnesses like a Ambassador Yovanovitch or a Dr. Fiona Hill or Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Vindman who were able to give a face to the actual allegations there. All they had was Robert Mueller who, without a doubt, did not prevent -- present the most exciting energetic charismatic of cases. And so when you have that, I think you have whereas as the American public about -- well, what would be the motivation for members of Congress to say it's okay for the president of the United States to ignore subpoenas? If the president of the United States is the head of the very branch of government whose job it is to exercise and enforce the laws. That's the real clear issue.

To me, it is never been about whether the case has been made. It's about whether or not Congress is allowing people to believe this is the time now.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I'm not a believer that the Mueller -- incorporating Mueller in the articles or arguing it more would have actually changed the public view. Because if you look at change in polling, it all shifted around the time of when we saw the whistleblower report, when we saw the transcript, and that was talked about, it was very simple.

And actually, 70 percent of the public in many polls thinks that the president did something wrong. It doesn't mean they think he should be removed and impeached, but they don't like what they see and the Democrats are looking at the --

TAPPER: Nadler is reconvening. Let's listen in.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): -- continue that consideration now. And I now -- for what purpose does Mr. Buck seek recognition?