North Korea Warns U.S. Over Vicious Sanctions; May Announces Mid-January Vote On Brexit Plan; Reports Show Russia’s Push To Help
<Show: CNN NEWSROOM>
<Date: December 18, 2018>
<Head: North Korea Warns U.S. Over Vicious Sanctions; May Announces
Mid-January Vote On Brexit Plan; Reports Show Russia’s Push To Help
Trump, Russia Stepped Up Efforts After Election; Yemeni Mother
Prevented From Seeing Dying Son; Russia Versus Rap Music; De Niro
Speaks Out On His Feud With Trump; More Tough Times for Theresa May;
Trump and Giuliani on the Offensive; Goldman Sachs Charged in 1MDB
Corruption Probe; Rights Group Calls on China to Release Christians;
Three-Year-Old Girl Allegedly Raped in Delhi. Aired 3-4a ET - Part 1>
<Sect: News; International>
[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another challenge for Theresa May. Her opponents try to question her leadership again as she moves even closer to a final Brexit vote. Plus --
WATT: Russia cracks down on rap. We will tell you why President Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem to be a fan of the music. And more and more elderly South Koreans are finding themselves behind bars. We’ll tell you the reason why. Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I’m Nick Watt and this is CNN Newsroom.
Britain’s parliament appears hopelessly deadlocked over the prime minister’s Brexit deal, but Theresa May is not backing down. She announced plans to bring her agreement back to parliament for a vote in mid-January. She pledged to gain more assurances from the European Union before that vote, hoping to satisfy her many opponents, and she is refusing to give in to growing calls for a second Brexit referendum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver. Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last. And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATT: Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called the vote delay a cynical ploy to run down the clock to the March 29 exit day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEREMY CORBYN, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: It is very bad, unacceptable, that we should be waiting almost a month before we have a meaningful vote on a crucial issue facing the future of this country.
The prime minister has obdurately refused to ensure a vote took place on the date she agreed, she refuses to allow a vote to take place this week and is now, I assume, thinking the vote will be on the 14th of January, almost a month away. This is unacceptable in any way whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATT: Corbyn called for a symbolic no-confidence vote. The prime minister of Downing Street called this move a political stunt.
Matthew Doyle was the political director for former Prime Minister Tony Blair and is now a communications consultant. He joins us now live from London. Matthew, is this going to work for Theresa May? Is she going to get this through parliament?
MATTHEW DOYLE, FORMER POLITICAL DIRECTOR FOR PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: No, she isn’t. There is no way that she is going to get sufficient reassurances from Brussels to win over some of the skeptics in her party. So what she has done by delaying the vote is bought some time, but she is still going to end up in the same place that she would have done if she had the vote a week ago.
WATT: I mean, it seems like she is sort of praying for a Christmas miracle and as you say just postponing the inevitable. But I -- I would love to know if you can see a way out of this. I cannot for the life of me see how this is going to end which is partly what makes this so fascinating but also so troubling for her. I mean, what is going to happen here in your view?
DOYLE: Well, you’re absolutely right. The basic problem at the moment is that there isn’t a majority within the U.K. parliament for any of the different options that are being floated. We know there’s no majority for her deal. We know that parliament won’t allow no deal to happen.
And there are various other options that are being floated but none of which command the confidence of members of parliament. That’s why you’ve seen in recent weeks talk of a second referendum increasing in the way that it has.
WATT: I mean, that’s it, she can’t get this deal through parliament, Jeremy Corbyn can’t get a no-confidence vote in the government through parliament. So, as your old boss has been saying, you know, this referendum perhaps is the only way out. I mean, Theresa May would never sanction that, would she?
DOYLE: No, she won’t, but there’s a point at which the reality of the power of parliament will come forward and will take the decision out of her hands, because if her deal goes down which it will in January, then we’ve got to do something to avoid crashing out with no deal and all the disastrous consequences that would have.
And that’s why I think momentum is moving towards saying, well, look, if we as the politicians can’t unbreak the deadlock, then what we need to do is go back to the public and get them to say, OK, we know you voted to leave in 2016, this is what leaving looks like, is this still what you want to go ahead with and do or not?
[03:05:12] And that is the point at which we can hopefully break the current deadlock.
WATT: Is that practically feasible? I mean, let’s say we have this vote middle of January. I mean, the last referendum took what, 15 weeks or something to get the wording together. I mean, we’re running out of time before March 29 for a referendum, a second referendum to actually happen.
DOYLE: Yes. I have no doubt that the European Union would extend the Article 50 timetable if they thought there was going to be a fundamental change through another referendum or for that matter through a general election, although I think that is a less likely outcome of the current impasse.
Because at the end of the day, the European Union leaders have made clear, they would rather (INAUDIBLE) European Union. So if they think there is a genuine chance that a second referendum can ensure that we remain in the European Union, then they would go for that.
WATT: I mean, let’s say it is unlikely, but let’s say there is an election and the Labour Party wins and Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister, what does he do? Because, I mean, his views on Brexit are nuanced.
DOYLE: That is a very polite way of putting it, to say that they are nuanced. Look, there is a challenge here within the Labour Party that they have managed to avoid partly because of the chaos within the current government and that is there are divisions in the Labour Party on this issue as well.
The party membership through the party conference have been absolutely clear that they want just to support a second referendum. But Jeremy himself personally has always been, let’s put it politely, ambiguous at best at that as an option, and he going to have to decide which of those, which side of this argument he is going to fall down on.
For sure there were Labour voters who voted ‘leave’ in the referendum, but there were way more Labour voters who voted ‘remain’ in the referendum in 2016, and so it is important not to forget their views as well.
WATT: Am I right in thinking that you believe that a referendum is probably the most likely outcome at this point?
DOYLE: Yes, I do. I mean, it has taken me a while to get to this view because I was always sceptical that parliament would pick that option. But I think now if you look at the numbers and if you look at what is happening, then the reality is, it is the only way that you can see a path out of this deadlock because as I say, none of the other options command a majority within the House of Commons.
And so what parliament has to do is win an argument with the public to say, look, we are not ignoring your views from 2016, what we simply doing is saying, given everything that you now know, can we just confirm that this is a decision that you want to go ahead with?
And at that point, then people will be able to say “yes” or “no.” And if my side, if you like, if the remaining side loses the vote again, well at that point, we have to say fair enough, we’re definitely leaving. But if people turn around and say, you know what, actually, on balance, maybe this isn’t the right thing to do after all, well then we have a whole load of new options.
WATT: Matthew Doyle in London, thank you very much for your time on picking this very, very complex situation over there.
DOYLE: You’re welcome. Thank you.
WATT: With the Russia investigation moving closer to the Oval Office, U.S. President Donald Trump and his outside lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, are on the attack, specifically against anyone cooperating with federal investigators. Jim Acosta reports now from Washington.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The president’s legal team isn’t exactly spreading yuletide cheer when asked whether Mr. Trump will sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: They’re a joke. Over my dead body, but, you know, I could be dead.
ACOSTA (voice over): The president’s outside attorney, Rudy Giuliani, suggested without any evidence that Muller’s investigators are now digging deeper into Mr. Trump’s past business dealings, complaining the Russia probe is now out of control.
GIULIANI: This is a witch hunt. They are going back now, they’re going back to 1982, 1983. They’re going through business records. My goodness. They went from collusion to obstruction. No evidence. Now campaign finance.
ACOSTA (voice over): Giuliani is speaking out of both sides of his mouth when asked whether one of the president’s associates, Roger Stone, gave Mr. Trump advance warning that WikiLeaks was about to dump damaging information about Hillary Clinton during the campaign. Giuliani said no, but added it wouldn’t be a crime either way.
GIULIANI: Not at all. I don’t believe so. Again, if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads-up about WikiLeaks’ leaks, that’s not a crime.
[03:10:02] It would be like giving him a heads-up that the Times is going to print something. The crime -- this is why this thing is so weird, strange. The crime is conspiracy to hack. Collusion is not a crime. It doesn’t exist.
ACOSTA (voice over): Giuliani also seems to offer a new detail about the Trump Tower Moscow project. The president’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the project, admitting discussions about the proposal lasted until June 2016. But Giuliani suggested that Mr. Trump may have had discussions which went on longer than that.
GIULIANI: According to the answer that he gave, it would have covered all the way up to November of 2016. He said he had conversations. The president didn’t hide this.
ACOSTA (voice over): While Giuliani hit the Sunday talk shows, the president worked over Cohen on Twitter, tweeting his one time fixer only became a rat after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable and unheard of until the witch hunt was illegally started. They broke into an attorney’s office.
But that’s not true. Cohen later said the federal investigators were courteous and professional. House Democrats are eager to hear more of Cohen’s story when they take control of Congress next year.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I’m hoping that Mr. Cohen will come before the Congress where he can tell the American public exactly what he has been saying to Mueller and others without interfering with the Mueller investigation.
ACOSTA (voice over): The president spent much of the weekend airing his grievances about the Russia probe, blaming it all on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, tweeting, Jeff Sessions should be ashamed of himself for allowing this total hoax to get started in the first place.
With president staying behind closed doors, acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was one of several administration officials stopping by the White House, from outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke who is suddenly leaving the Trump team to incoming chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who has some explaining to do after this video surfaced from just before the 2016 election.
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump, but I’m doing so as enthusiastically as I can, given the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad.
ACOSTA (voice over): The president hasn’t lashed out at Mulvaney but he did vent his frustrations on Saturday Night Live, tweeting, the show is nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?
That may have something to do with the SNL’s sketch (ph), showing what life would be like if Mr. Trump had never been elected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would never flip on you, you’re my best friend.
ACOSTA: The president’s outside attorney, Rudy Giuliani, also seems to be conceding that Mr. Trump did not initially tell the truth when he said he didn’t know about the payments made to his alleged mistresses before the 2016 election. The president, Giuliani pointed out, was not under oath when he denied knowledge of those payments to reporters.
So as far as the president’s legal team is concerned, it is just fine for the president to change his story as long as it’s to the media.
Jim Acosta, CNN, White House.
WATT: It turns out Russian internet trolls were not just trying to get Donald Trump elected. Two new reports commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee show widespread efforts to create political, religious, and racial division across the U.S. All the major social media platforms were utilized. One report says companies including Facebook and Twitter may have provided only the bare minimum of information when investigators asked what was going on.
Now to Malaysia, and one of the biggest financial scandals in history. More than four billion dollars in stolen funds. Malaysia has filed criminal charges against the U.S. investment firm Goldman Sachs and an international playboy is expected of laundering large sums of the money. CNN’s Richard Quest joins us.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: Now, you would be forgiven for not having kept tracked of the scandal 1MDB. So, consider this your crash course in what may be the biggest financial scam in history. 1MDB was basically Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. And the goal here was to raise money for the nation. Energy, tourism, doing good.
Instead, police say government officials, particularly the prime minister, Najib Razak, used it as their own personal piggy bank, taking the money themselves. We’re not talking one or two dollars here, not even hundreds of millions. We’re talking of two billion dollars, possibly more, siphoned off. The former prime minister, Najib Razak, is amongst those who have also been charged. He pleads not guilty.
Now, it is not just government that is also. Investors like Jho Low allegedly used the funds money as his own slush fund for lavish spending on yachts, parties, buildings and the like. Now, he is believed to be in China in hiding. He says he is innocent. This is where Goldman Sachs comes in, because Goldman was the bank that did the bond issuances for 1MDB. Goldman raised the money for the fund.
[03:15:01] Malaysia now says Goldman was part of the problem, ignoring the obvious that the money was going elsewhere. According to those charged, Goldman not only misled investors as to where the money was going, but also that they were part of the scheme that diverted two billion of what they raised. Goldman Sachs says the charges are misdirected.
(END VIDEOTAPE) WATT: CNN’s Ivan Watson joins us now live from Hong Kong. Ivan, Najib Razak, the former prime minister has been arrested, as Richard just said. Jho Low, the play boy, now on the run. But this latest development with Goldman Sachs, this takes 1MDB to whole other level, right?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does. These are very serious charges that one of Wall Street’s biggest banks now faces.
What the attorney general in Malaysia is arguing, Nick, is that Goldman Sachs and these four individuals, Jho Low who you saw in Richard’s explainer there as well as two former Goldman Sachs bankers and a fourth individual who is general consul (ph) for 1MDB, that they are facing criminal charges for diverting more than $2 billion worth -- more than $2 billion from three bond issuances that took place in 2012 and 2013, accusing all of these individuals and Goldman Sachs of bribing Malaysian officials, and then subsequently Goldman Sachs charging Malaysia some $600 million in fees for organizing the bond issuances which the attorney general says was very much above regular market prices.
Goldman Sachs argues that it is innocent here and issued a statement to CNN saying “we believe these charges are misdirected and we will vigorously defend them and look forward to the opportunity to present our case.” And it says it is cooperating with authorities in the scandal.
The Malaysian authorities are demanding fines of around $3.3 billion or more for this scandal and jail sentences of up to 10 years for everybody involved.
Despite the denial, the chief banker who was involved with this for Goldman Sachs, Tim Leissner, last November, he pled guilty on two criminal counts to the U.S. Justice Department for his role in corruption and fraud in this case. His deputy, Roger Ng, is also facing charges not only in Malaysia but also with the Justice Department.
The problems just keep getting bigger. There are reports that a number of American regulatory bodies, the Federal Reserve, the Security Exchange Commission are investigating Goldman Sachs right now and it is also fighting a lawsuit with the sovereign investment fund in Abu Dhabi in a New York state court about misappropriation of some of these funds.
It all adds up to what has been a rather difficult month and a half for Goldman Sachs’ share prices which have plunged more than 25 percent in value from November 1st until this week. Nick?
WATT: Ivan, we have seen money from this fund allegedly used to finance Hollywood movies, to buy a hotel in Beverley Hills, to buy a super yacht. How is all of this going down with the people of Malaysia? This sovereign wealth fund was supposed to be for the country. What’s the public reaction to all this? WATSON: I’ve advised some of our viewers to go to CNN.com and watch -- look at this report about how Jho Low, the Malaysian financier who is at the heart of this scandal, how he has become a punchline in this holiday season and there are things like gift bags and all sorts of jokes about how he allegedly stole all this government money.
The former prime minister, this scandal had brought down a former prime minister, Najib Razak, who is facing charges on dozens of corruption charges and is expected in court in February. You’re looking at pictures of $250 million yacht that Jho Low purchased in 2014, part of an incredible laundry list of assets that the U.S. government have tried to seize as they have led this investigation.
It includes a penthouse apartment in the Time Warner building in New York, properties in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles, several penthouses in New York, paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, and the property rights to a number of Hollywood films he said to have financed such as -- ironically “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Dumb and Dumber Two,” perhaps also ironically.
[03:20:02] And also a transparent piano gifted to the Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr. Hollywood couldn’t write this kind of stuff. Nick?
WATT: Truly stunning story. Ivan Watson in Hong Kong, thank you very much for your time.
Coming up on CNN Newsroom, a prominent pastor is among the dozens of Christians recently imprisoned by China. We will explain why the Chinese government sees them as a threat.
And six years after a brutal gang rape led to massive protest in India, another alleged attack. This one involves a 3-year-old girl, sparking anger, horror, and calls for change.
WATT: Human Rights Watch is calling on China to release dozens of Christians including a prominent pastor and let them resume their worship. Members of the independent Early Rain Covenant Church were taken into police custody last week. Alexandra Field has an update from Hong Kong.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wang Yi is the pastor of the Early Rain Church, an underground church in southwestern China. While it may be an unregistered church, its prominent pastor hasn’t tried to hide his views. He leads fiery sermons and he has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, the Communist Party, Xi Jinping, and the country’s increasingly strict policies targeting religious practice.
It is legal to practice five religions in China but that is subject to Communist Party rules and surveillance. Wang’s arrest along with a hundred of his parishioners is seen as another sign of a crackdown on religion in China. Through a U.S. based NGO, Wang issued a statement calling the crackdown a “greatly wicked unlawful action.”
He faces allegation of inciting subversion of state power, a crime that carries up to 15 years in prison. The arrest followed demolitions of unregistered churches, crosses being removed from buildings, and a ban on selling bibles on the internet in China.
Human rights activists are slamming this as just the latest sign of a crackdown and religious persecution. China is already accused of human rights abuses against hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the western part of the country. There, China says, these actions are meant at combating violent extremism.
The targeting of religious groups in China though is widely viewed as part of the Communist Party’s efforts to strengthen its control and power all across society, in this case by combating threats that religious perceive to pose (ph) like providing a means for people to organize.
[03:25:05] WATT: China officially an atheist state has an uneasy relationship with religion. Buddhists, (INAUDIBLE), Muslims, Catholics and Protestants are allowed to worship and belonged to officially sanctioned religious organizations, but they are all closely monitored and heavily regulated.
The Early Rain Covenant Church is one of many underground Christian churches that occasionally come under crackdowns like this. The Chinese government has also imposed increasing pressure on the Muslims. Uyghur in western Xinjiang in recent years, they are subject to mass surveillance and thousands are reportedly held in detention camps.
The Vatican and China have long been at odds over who is the head of the church in China. They recently agreed that the Vatican would have a say in the naming of bishops in the country.
In an unusual show of patriotism, the Shaolin Temple, the home of Zen Buddhism in China and famous for Kung Fu practicing monks, they raised the Chinese flag for the first time this year. The monastery is more than 1500 years old.
And now to India, where sexual violence is once more in the headlines, once more forcing national self-reflection. A 40-year-old man is accused of raping a girl who was just three years old. The alleged assault happened exactly six years after a brutal gang rape on a bus shocked the world. New Delhi bureau chief Nikhil Kumar is covering the story.
NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEWS DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: A 3-year-old girl is recovering in hospital in New Delhi after being attacked Sunday in what the head of a local women’s body has alleged was a case of rape. Now, police are still investigating what happened. They have arrested the man accused of attacking the girl. This case was highlighted by the head of the Delhi Commission for Women, a statutory body here responsible for promoting women’s safety in the Indian capital. The police say they’re still waiting for the results of medical tests to determine whether or not this is a case of rape. They haven’t released any further information.
But the girl, they tell CNN, is in stable condition. The head of the women’s commission tweeted that neighbors caught the 40-year-old alleged to have perpetrated the attack and severely beat him. As that investigation unfolds, the case has revived memories of the 2012 gang rape and killing of a paramedical student right here in Delhi.
That crime occurred exactly six years ago this Sunday when this latest attack is alleged to have taken place. The 2012 case shook India and turned the spotlight on the country’s problem with sexual violence. It generated international coverage as people around the world put pressure on India’s leaders to act.
Thousands came out on the streets and new laws were put in place to ensure the safety of India’s women and girls. But the horror stories, they still keep coming. In April this year, Indians once again took to the streets, some of the largest mass protests over the issue since 2012.
The protests were prompted by series of high-profile rape cases including one involving an 8-year-old which is why as police investigate what happened in the case of the 3-year-old who is now in hospital, many are once again asking when will this stop.
Nikhil Kumar, CNN, New Delhi.
WATT: And the number of rape-related cases in India has spiked in recent years. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, it was a 12 percent rise in rape cases from about 34,000 in 2015 to nearly 39,000 in 2016. On average, that is more than 100 reported cases of rape every day.
But the conviction rate for rape in India remains low. In 2016, just 25 percent of rape cases ended with a conviction. Again, according to the Crime Records Bureau. And of those, nearly 95 percent of the cases, the offender was known to the victim, either a family member or a neighbor.
And thousands of protesters in Hungary say they’ve had enough, accusing the government of ramming through legislation they call a slave law. We will explain just ahead.
Plus, heartache and outrage in California. Why a family says the Trump administration is stopping a mother from seeing her dying child.
[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, I’m Nick Watt. Let’s update you on our top stories this hour. North Korea is lashing out over new U.S. sanction saying they could block the path to denuclearization forever, and it is accusing the U.S. State Department of harming relations ever since the Trump-Kim summit back in June. U.S. officials have said that the White House is planning for a possible second summit with Kim Jong-un early next year.
British Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced she will bring her Brexit deal back for a vote in Parliament in mid-January. She is rejecting growing calls to hold a second referendum. The leader of the opposition Labor Party called for a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister, but Downing Street says, it won’t allow time for debate on what it calls a stunt.
And Russian trolls used every social media platform available to support Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election on Twitter, posting 10 million tweets. Two new reports commissioned by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee show the groups tried to suppress the African-American vote and tried to discredit Hillary Clinton.
We are going to delve into this real deeper with Richard Johnson, who is a lecturer in U.S. Politics and International Relations at Lancaster University in England. Richard, I mean, OK, a huge volume of tweets, 10 million tweets, 116,000 Instagram posts was it -- but what about the level of sophistication? Was this a sophisticated operation in your view?