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Russian PM: Syrian Army Stops Military Action In Aleppo; Civilians Flee Fighting In Battle For Aleppo; U.K. Spy Chief Makes Rare Public Speech At MI6 HQ; Trump Picks Climate Change Denier To Lead EPA; Trump Tweets Attack On Carrier Union Boss; Le Pen Takes Hardline Stance On Immigrants' Education; Downing Street Rebukes Johnson For Criticizing Saudis; Philippine President Describes Call With Trump. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 8, 2016 - 15:00   ET




HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. We are live at CNN London. Thanks for being with us on this Thursday.


And we begin this hour once again with the battle for Aleppo where there may be some fresh hope for some civilians trapped inside. Russia's foreign

minister says the Syrian Army have now stopped all military action in the city to focus on evacuating residents.

Before we get live to Fred Pleitgen who is in Aleppo, let's take a look at how his story on how some desperate people are still fleeing for their



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the rebels increasingly lose their grip on Aleppo, Syrian Armed Forces

continue to pound the besieged areas, many killed and wounded in the crossfire.

We came to this frontline crossing just as a man was being evacuated claiming he was shot by rebels as he tried to flee. They shot me as I was

running out, he says, they didn't allow anyone to get out. They said are you going to the regime areas?

The opposition strongly denies its fighters would harm civilians, but the rebels do acknowledge they won't be able to hold out in Aleppo much longer

and that realization is leading to an avalanche of people trying to flee the rebel districts.

Syrian troops throwing some bread, but not nearly enough to quell the hunger the many who have been starving for months.

(on camera): The Syrian military has made major advances once again in the past 24 hours and we can see that as the army moves forward more and more

people are coming out of those former besieged areas.

(voice-over): Many of those fleeing, families with small children, struggling to carry a few belongings they were able to take. Many

overpowered by emotions. Some with barely enough strength to walk. Others too frail to walk at all.

The Syrian Army has amassed a massive force at this frontline. A local commander with a clear message to the rebels. Look at the scene he says,

these are your families, surrender yourselves and drop your arms, come back to the country and hopefully your leadership will forgive you.

But for now the fight goes on. This family, one of the many to cross into government-controlled territory now in safety but still in agony.

Things used to be good, this elderly woman said, my God act out revenge on those who brought us these difficult circumstances and may God protect us.

And so they walk on, weak and traumatized moving into an uncertain future.


GORANI: Let's get more on the situation on the ground, CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins me now on the phone from Aleppo at this hour. So Fred, the Russian

foreign minister says the army has now halted military action in the city. What are you seeing and hearing right now?

PLEITGEN (via telephone): It is certainly a lot more quiet than it was throughout the better part of the day and also the better part of the past

couple of days. There are still some mortars or what we believe are mortars that are being fired, but one of them clearly coming from

government territory.

We were very close to the site where it was apparently launched. We also hearing jets in the sky. We've heard a campaign of possible airstrikes.

So it is a lot more quiet. It's hard to say that the fight is completely seized.

But certainly it does appear as though there is a lot more calm than we have seen over the past couple of days, really the entire day, you would

hear a lot of shelling, and you would hear jets constantly in the sky and very massive explosion. That currently didn't happen.

[15:05:09]GORANI: And is the sense perhaps that the Syrian military is allowing for the evacuation of civilians in order for essentially to

restart the campaign and really even redouble its area of bombardments against the rebels that have remained in those areas?

PLEITGEN: It is clear what they will do. I mean, this commander that I've spoken to early today, he said look, rebels have an option. They are

either going to lay down their weapons and (inaudible) Aleppo or they will continue to face the dark spot that's going on at the moment.

But you will see more people in the past days that are absolutely trying to get out (inaudible), of course many times, and it is dangerous for them to

get out. So we will wait to see whether or not if there is halt in the fighting and if that will actually hold.

Because there were a lot of people that we saw who came out, and one man said he came out, a mortar exploded close to him and he had a head wound.

And (inaudible) people there felt that the circumstances in Aleppo is unbearable. They needed to come out to save themselves and to save their


GORANI: Where are they going? Are they going to Western Aleppo? Outside of Aleppo? Do they have to worry for safety after all some may have

sympathies with the rebels or the opposition?

PLEITGEN: Well, there are some that are worried about their safety. We haven't seen the Syrian soldiers mistreating any of these people, but then

again most of the folks that we saw were elderly women and children. We didn't really see any fighting aged men coming out of those neighborhoods

who would be treated differently.

It is interesting when you ask where these people are taken to because there are some who just go to relatives in Western Aleppo. They come out

and they basically go where ever they want.

Some board busses and they take several of the centers for displaced people. There was one that we were at today, there is one in a place

called (inaudible), which is right near the Aleppo airport. That is two very large facilities.

They are really very makeshifts. They are factories that aren't being used. It is still very, very cold. And they are trying to provide for the

people there, but certainly they're not well equipped enough to provide the folks there comfort.

Because right now it is really harsh and cold here. (Inaudible) very difficult circumstances, but they do have a roof over their heads, but

those are the places mostly where people come out of these areas where they can immediately go to and try to get help.

GORANI: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thanks very much. He is reporting from Aleppo. A city that the Russian foreign minister has said will experience

a halt in the military campaign to allow for the evacuation of civilians.

What happens after that evacuation is complete might in fact end up with renewed conflict to secure more of those rebel held areas. We will

continue to follow that story.

Speaking of the Assad regime and its Russian ally, the head of the U.K. spy agency says that they're trying to wipe out opposition in Aleppo, Syria at

any price.

Alex Younger talked about the dire situation there during a speech at the agency's headquarters today. It's extremely rare to hear from the head of

MI-6. Our Max Foster was there -- Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Hala, it is was an unprecedented move to invite a small group of journalists into MI-6 Headquarters behind

me to listen to the chief of the organization talking about a range of threats in a public speech. That was what's interesting about it and he

outlined a range of threats, and the top of his list were Iraq and Syria.


ALEX YOUNGER, CHIEF OF U.K. SECRET INTELLIGENCE SERVICE: In Aleppo, Russia and the Syria regime seek to make a desert and call it piece. The human

tragedy is heartbreaking.


FOSTER: By labelling anyone who opposed the Syrian regime as terrorist would perhaps alienate those who could stand up against extremists in the

future and he said that would be a threat to international security.

On other issues, he touched on the political repercussions around the world, for example, Britain's decision to leave the European Union and

Donald Trump election to the White House.

Some concern has been expressed in the U.K. media that that would damage cooperation between security services around the world and thus affect the

level of security in Europe and perhaps in the United States as well. He didn't seem too concerned about that level of cooperation continuing though

into the future.


YOUNGER: I'm often asked what effect the big political changes of 2016, Brexit and the U.S. election result will have on these relationships.

[15:10:05]My answer is that I will aim for and I expect continuity. These relationships are long lasting and the personal bonds between us are



FOSTER: Of course, no conversation about MI6 will be complete without a mention of James Bond and the chief of MI6 was not necessarily convinced

that that was all good news for the organization.

Yes, it raises profile, but James Bond would have to change his ways, he said, if he wanted to be hired to the organization today. They're looking

for a diverse workforce that reflects the British population and can blend into covert operations abroad -- Hala.

GORANI: Thank you, Max Foster.

Now to the United States, the President-elect Donald Trump is on the road this afternoon. He is stopping in Ohio to meet privately with the victims

of recent attacks at Ohio State University. Authorities say 11 people were injured by a student who rammed his car into a crowd and then brandished a

knife. The attacker was shot dead by police.

Later Trump goes to Iowa for another stop on his "Thank You" tour of key states that helped him win the White House. He'll be joined by his pick

for ambassador to China, the Iowa governor, Terry Branstad.

A fight is brewing meantime over another Trump administration pick. Critics say his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency amounts

to the fox guarding the hen house. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has sued the agency.

He was named the head multiple times and calls himself a leading advocate against the EPA's, quote, "activist agenda." Sunlen Serfaty has more on

that and other key appointments.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONENT (voice-over): President-elect Donald Trump naming two more hardliners to his cabinet elevating a climate change

denier and fierce EPA critic, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the agency.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: There were a number of qualified applicants for that particular position that the President-elect

interviewed and he settled on Attorney General Pruitt.

SERFATY: A signal the Trump administration is intent on reversing President Obama's move to curve climate change. Trump also tapping another

general to his cabinet, Retired General John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security proving questions about the militarization of his


Kelly, a decorated four-star Marine general retired earlier this year as commander of the U.S. Southern Command. He is also a gold star father

whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Tonight Trump will introduce Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as ambassador to China at his third stop on his "Thank You" tour in Des Moines. Branstad's

longtime friendship with the Chinese president could help reassure the country that the president-elect is interested in maintaining its

relationship with Beijing.

Trump also mixing business and entertainment, nominating former wrestling executive, Linda McMahon, to head the Small Business Administration.

All of this as Trump is readying to announce his choice for secretary of state which could come next week. Trump insisting a former adversary, Mitt

Romney, still has a chance at the post.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT (via telephone): It's not about revenge, it's about what is good for the country.

SERFATY: But Trump's administration moves are being overshadowed by another feud, the president-elect lashing out again on Twitter against the

Carrier union leader, Chuck Jones, after he called into question Trump's math over how many jobs the deal he brokered with Carrier actually saved.

Jones appearing on CNN last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five hundred and fifty were still going to lose their jobs.

SERFATY: Trump tweeting minutes later that Jones had done a terrible job and blaming job losses on Jones, quote, "If United Steelworkers 1999 was

any good, it would have kept those jobs in Indiana." Jones then calling into Anderson Cooper "360" to respond directly to Trump's attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (via telephone): It's because of corporate greed and unfair trade they want to move the jobs out of the country. If he wants to

blame me, so be it, but I look at him and how many billions of dollars he spent on his hotels and casinos trying to keep labor unions out.


GORANI: Thousands of Twitter users are now rallying around that union boss after his tangle with Trump. They're posting their support under the


We'll talk about all this with CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin. First, I want to bring our viewers up-to-date with the latest appointment. We've

just learned, Andy Puzder, named as labor secretary. Now he's a CEO of the fast food chain, Hardees. Is this a significant appointment and if so in

what way?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we are still processing this very latest news. It is a long line of billionaires and corporate leaders

that the Trump administration has decided to put in. But it is not expected to face the same controversy as EPA Director Pruitt or some of the

others that we've mentioned previously.

[15:15:06]GORANI: And Scott Pruitt, by the way, Democrats are saying they're going to fight it, but do they even have the numbers on Capitol


ROGIN: You know, well, Democrats have to choose carefully which nominees they decide to fight in the Senate confirmation process. They have to pick

one or two. I think Pruitt is a prime candidate. We have seen some Democratic senators including Senator Schatz from Hawaii say that he wants

to make an issue out of this.

Another one that might come up for a challenge is Jeff Sessions for attorney general and another one that might come up for a challenge is

Health and Human Services nominee, Representative Tom Price.

GORANI: Is it a simple majority, the confirmation for cabinet positions?

ROGIN: Yes, they will need -- it will be 52-48. It will be a simple majority in the end, an up or down vote, and they need a couple of

Republicans to stop any of these nominees. There is also an opportunity for Democrats to stop them in their various committees because each nominee

first is to be approved by a committee. That would take more than one Republican to switch sides and vote to oppose Trump's nominee in order for

that nominee to be stopped in its tracks.

GORANI: What we are learning from CNN reporting is that his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, we understand according to sources

will play roles in Washington, D.C. That Ivanka perhaps might even play the role of a surrogate first lady. Are we any clearer about how his

eldest daughter and her husband will be part of this administration?

ROGIN: You know, due to nepotism laws, they're not allowed to have aide positions in the administration. What the transition people have been

talking about are unpaid advisory position. It is sort of a gray area.

We're still waiting to hear what the president-elect plans to do in terms of separating himself from his businesses. He promised to make a speech on

that next week.

The earlier reporting said that he will turn over most of his business operations to his two sons, but not necessarily his stake in the business.

As for Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, they're expected to move to Washington, but we have very little information about exactly what they

will be doing in their businesses or for the U.S. government.

GORANI: All right, what about Melania? She is not moving to Washington right away, right?

ROGIN: Not this year. What they've said is that they want their 10-year- old son, Baron, to finish the school year in New York. They will be staying in Trump Tower. That seems to indicate that next year that she

will be moving to Washington, but they have not said one way or another.

GORANI: All right, we are going to have to wait and see and we'll be discussing, by the way, some of these important appointments a little bit

later in the program including James Mattis for secretary of defense. Thanks very much, Josh Rogin for joining us from Washington.

Still to come tonight, a hardline stance on immigrant education by the woman hoping to become France's next president. Hear what Marine Le Pen

have to say.

And he is well-known for speaking his mind, now Boris Johnson's comments on Saudi Arabia have received a rebuke from his own government this time. The

full story, next.



GORANI: In France, Marine Le Pen is taking a new hardline stance on immigration. The far right leader will contest the country's presidential

election next year says that children of illegal immigrants should be refused the free education even though it's compulsory, by the way, if

you're under 16. And that she believes that move would discourage immigration.


MARINE LE PEN, FRENCH NATIONAL FRONT LEADER (through translator): I consider that the free and compulsory schooling of children of illegal

parents is an encouragement for the arrival of immigration which must be stopped.

I am thinking about the implementation of a waiting period before foreigners who come to work in our country and excess the number of public

services or social protection.

I find this legitimate as our social protection system and public services are now overloaded, overwhelmed and consequently, I intend to think of

solutions in French, which are those applied in many other countries without this provoking the slightest challenge.


GORANI: All right, there you have it, surrounded by a scrum of journalists and her security there on a public appearance. Britain's top diplomat is

notorious for speaking his mind, and now he is using some anti-diplomatic language to describe Saudi Arabia.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described the country of British ally as quote, "Puppeteering and playing proxy wars." He also accused Iran of the

same. Listen to Boris Johnson.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: That is why you have international -- you've got the Saudis, Iran, everyone moving in and

puppeteering and playing proxy wars and it's a tragedy to watch it. We need some way of encouraging visionary leadership in that area. People who

can tell a story that brings people together from different factions and different religious groups into one nation.


GORANI: All right, are Johnson's comments part of essentially a new type of diplo-speak, one that he would share in this case with the U.S.

President-elect Donald Trump?

Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, joins me now live. He's in Amsterdam. So I wonder, what are the consequences of making

statements like this? We're used to them from Donald Trump and now we're hearing them from Boris Johnson?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Prime Minister Theresa May's office didn't really seemed to take it as a sort of Trumpism

speaking truth. Number ten pretty much put Boris Johnson down really saying that what he said did not reflect the views of the government. That

these were his own private opinions and it comes at a very embarrassing time.

(Inaudible) Boris Johnson about himself to get to Saudi Arabia. He is also speaking essentially as Theresa May comes back from a trip to the gulf

where she had dinner with the Saudi king and she praised him for reforms in the country, praised him for his leadership as she was there in the Middle

East helping drum up much needed business for Britain.

Britain sells billions of dollars' worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, other countries in the Middle East, and that will even more vital to Britain in

the future once Britain goes through Brexit, leaves the European Union.

So what a foreign minister said at least to the ears of number ten doesn't sound as if it is something that will be let go as a Trumpism rather as a

mistake -- Hala.

GORANI: Right. So perhaps it is not a similar situation as we are seeing in the United States, but I wonder, though, Theresa May, the U.K. prime

minister, currently in a tough negotiating position regarding Brexit, can she afford to keep Boris Johnson as foreign secretary?

ROBERTSON: You know, a lot of people wondered when she appointed Boris Johnson, he has been so prone to making gaffes always, with sort of

rambunctious and sort of muddled his way out of it, but he is much more in the public spotlight here.

To the point of Brexit, I mean, when Donald Trump was elected, he accused other European foreign ministers of winging, a win-drama about Trump and

refused to go to a foreign minister's dinner after the election to talk about this issue.

And then on top of that a few days later that a meeting with an E.U. foreign ministers said that the European Union should admit Turkey to the

E.U. after he campaigned a few months earlier for Brexit essentially saying we should not bring them into the European Union.

And that really got the ire of the German foreign minister, but they were saying exactly when he should be diplomatically, people would expect

treading with a light foot because someone is going to negotiate with these countries to represent Britain and what he says potentially could be --

could make it much, much harder.

[15:25:12]GORANI: Right. And we know the Saudis are not happy about this and he is going to Saudi on Sunday, we'll see how that unfolds. Thanks

very much, Nic Robertson.

Well, I spoke Quintin Peel of Chatham House about these comments. Take a listen.


QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, EUROPE PROGRAMME, CHATHAM HOUSE: I mean, he said a lot of silly things in the last few months. This for the first

time is pretty close to the truth, and I think for once he's been speaking his mind and it is therefore embarrassing.

GORANI: I mean, yes, saying that Saudi Arabia is engaged in proxy battles in the Middle East is not the most controversial thing in the world to say

and so is Iran, and so is Hezbollah, and so were other group?

PEEL: Absolutely, but it is the sort of thing that if you're an ally, you don't say in public. So there he goes blowing off his mouth in public and

he's got slapped down for it. The question I think is how long will he survive in this job? I mean, he --

GORANI: He is at risk here.

PEEL: I think he is an unguided missile. I think that Theresa May knew it when she put him there, but she needs him there because he is one of the

strong pro-Brexit people. He is one of the leaders of the campaign to get Britain out of the European Union. She wants to bind him into the

negotiating process. So at the moment she will not sack him and I wonder (inaudible).

GORANI: So what happens next now? Do you think he will apologize? Do you think he will find a way to smooth things over?

PELL: He is going to be in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. He will have to do quite fast talking if indeed the Saudis take him, but remember, it wasn't

that long ago, he said some incredibly rude things about President Erdogan in Turkey and then he went along. So actually he is a bit like sort of a

jokey Donald Trump, who seems to get away with saying outrageous things and say, well, come on.


GORANI: Quinten Peel there a little earlier. Thanks very much.

Now to another leader prone to inflammatory remarks who many call completely unfiltered in fact and that would be the Philippines President

Rodrigo Duturte.

On Wednesday he spoke about his recent conversation with Donald Trump calling him a friend and he described what Trump said to him.


RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: Oh, President Duterte, you should fix our relations. It needs a lot of, you know, you just said something

good here and you're doing great. I know what you're -- you worry about Americans criticizing you, you're doing good, go ahead. I had this problem

with the border of Mexico and America and (inaudible).


GORANI: That was Mr. Duterte saying the way Trump speaks makes him feel like a saint and implying that the two leaders found common ground in their

country's war on drugs.

A quick note if you're traveling to that part of the world, a tsunami threat to islands in the South Pacific has now largely passed. It appear

there's is no danger there. The warning was issued earlier because there was a giant quake, 7.8 magnitude that hit the so Solomon Islands. The

tsunami watch for Hawaii has been canceled so they got the all clear there.

Still ahead, it's a frosty winter day in Moscow, but the political climate may be warming. We'll take a closer look at how U.S. and Russian relations

could be reshaped under Donald Trump.


[15:31:15] GORANI: Breaking news just coming in to CNN now. Pioneering American astronaut John Glenn has died at the age 95. Glenn, a true icon

and hero was the first American to orbit the earth in 1962. He later became a U.S. Senator from his home state of Ohio and went on to

participate in a shuttle mission in 1998 at the age of 77. Martin Savidge takes a look back at a remarkable life.


MARTINE SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John Glenn, one of America's first astronauts, one of seven men known as the Mercury Seven, chosen to take

part in the United States first attempt to put men in space. He had already made history in 1957 by breaking the transcontinental speed record,

flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes.

In 1962, the military test pilot became the first American to orbit the earth. As Glenn he lifted off in his Friendship 7 capsule, fellow

astronauts Scott Carpenter in mission control uttered some of the most memorable words in U.S. history.


SAVIDGE: Three revolutions in four hours and 55 minutes later, he returned an instant legend. He was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor,

and New York threw him one of its signature ticker tape parades. Later in life, Glenn would poke fun at the risk.

JOHN GLENN, FORMER ASTRONAUT AND SENATOR FOR OHIO: We used to joke about it in the past when people say, what do you think about on the launch pad?

And the standard answer was, how do you'd feel if you knew you're on top of 2 million parts built by the lowest bidder on the government contract?

SAVIDGE: Until Glenn's flight, the Russians had led the space race.


SAVIDGE: Glenn's success bolstered America's spirit and gave pregnous (ph) to President John Kennedy's pledge to put men on the moon. Glenn would not

be one of them. JFK ordered NASA not to fly him again. He was too valuable as an American figure. He resigned from NASA in 1964.

In 1983, the Mercury Seven were immortalized in the movie, "The Right Stuff."

GLENN: I didn't much care for that movie. I thought it was dramatic enough without Hollywood doing its number on it. No, we had no control

over that at all.

SAVIDGE: He learned to fly as part of a college course and went on to join the Marine Corps in 1943. Glenn flew 149 combat missions in World War II

and the Korean War before becoming a test pilot.

After leaving NASA, he spent the next decade as business man. But in 1974, he ran for and won a U.S. senate seat from Ohio. When he announced he'd

retire at the end of the 105th Congress, Glenn had served for 24 years. He was widely regarded as an effective legislator and moderate Democrat. Not

everything went perfectly for Glenn, however. In 1984, he ran for president.

GLENN: With the nomination of my party, I firmly believe I can beat Ronald Reagan.

SAVIDGE: John Glenn never gave up on his dream of, one day, returning to space. He got to be, as he often called it, a willing guinea pig once

again. At the age of 77, he flew on a nine-day space shuttle mission. The mission was to learn more about the ageing process in space. The flight

proved, once again, Glenn was a man who embraced a challenge.

In 2012, President Obama recognized that, and all of his accomplishments, by awarding the former astronaut and Senator the nation's highest civilian

honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For most people, fame is fleeting. For John Herschel Glenn, it lasted a lifetime.

GORANI: Well, the governor of Ohio, John Kasich, released a statement. In part, it reads, "As we bow our heads and share our grief with his beloved

wife, Annie, we must also turn to the skies to salute his remarkable journeys and his long years of service to our state and nation."

[15:35:09] In fact, John Glenn and Annie had been married 73 years. They were married in 1943 and she survives him.

We'll have more on John Glenn a little bit later, more reaction. But back to Syria. And the regime has stopped all military operations in Aleppo,

according to the Russian foreign minister. Sergey Lavrov says the government is now focused on evacuating residents. Regime forces have made

major gains in Aleppo in recent days, though we are hearing some reports that there are still sounds of some fighting in eastern Aleppo. What

you're seeing there is civilians evacuating some of the besieged rebel-held areas.

Syria's civil war has caused major disagreement between Washington and Moscow in recent years, but now, there are hopes that the relationship will

warm. The Kremlin seems to be ramping down its anti-American rhetoric. Let's bring in CNN's Elise Labott. She's live in Washington for us.

Of course, this is because the next president will be Donald Trump. Donald Trump has had some very nice things to say about Vladimir Putin and maybe

on the same page, perhaps, even as Vladimir Putin regarding Syria.

How might things change there?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Hala. I mean, you heard Donald Trump, all through the campaign trail, a couple

themes. First of all, wouldn't it be great if the U.S. and Russia could get along better? And also, wouldn't it be great if Russia could work with

the U.S. on going after ISIS? And there seem to be this indication that the U.S., under a President Trump, would let Russia kind of have at it in


They would make this deal with Russia in Syria and what would that mean? That would pretty much mean that, you know, President Assad would say, the

U.S. would stop talking about some kind of political transition. And you've heard Donald Trump say in recent months that he could possibly end

U.S. support for the opposition. So I think there is an expectation in Moscow that they might even have more of a green light in Syria, and that's

why you hear Vladimir Putin talking, in very favorable terms, about Donald Trump and how they hope that U.S. and Russia relations could get back on


GORANI: Thank you, Elise, live there at the State Department. Donald Trump is turning to former military brass to fill key posts in his new

administration, raising some concerns that's he's weakening traditional civilian oversight of government. One of his picks, retired General James

Mattis is Defense Department Chief nominee. He would need a special waiver from Congress to serve since he hasn't been out of the military long enough

to comply with existing law.

Our next guest has worked with General Mattis and knows him well. Major- General Chip Chapman was a military adviser to U.S. Central Command. He's also the former head of counterterrorism at Britain's Ministry of Defense.

Thanks for being with us, sir. Let me ask you first, what kind of man is James Mattis?

MAJ. GEN. CHIP CHAPMAN, FORMER HEAD OF COUNTER TERRORISM, BRITISH MINISTRY OF DEFENSE: Well, James Mattis is a very thoughtful strategist and that

will be the difference when he goes into the position as secretary rather than being a war fighter, which he was in previous years.


CHAPMAN: And all the quotations about him being "Mad Dog" with when he was a motivational leader for Marine Corps personnel, that is different than

what he'll get into which is business of war which is different from warfighting.

GORANI: So his nickname is not a reflection of his personality?

CHAPMAN: I never ever, in 25 months, heard him called him "Mad Dog" once.

GORANI: OK. So that's something that came after his military service?

CHAPMAN: No, it came when he was warfighting.

GORANI: Oh, OK, when he was warfighting. Now, he has, of course, a very distinguished military career that goes all the way back to Iraq I and

earlier, even 2001 in Afghanistan, 2003, the invasion of Iraq, the battle for Fallujah in 2004, and then step down from U.S. Central Command in 2013.

How will that inform, do you believe, if he's confirmed as Secretary of Defense and his post there?

CHAPMAN: Well, I think it's the latter part of his career which informs what he'll be doing as secretary, and that is strategy is the bridge

between political intent and military power. And so he will give sage, thoughtful advice to the President who, ultimately, is the decider on what

to do alongside the Secretary of State, who is promised into powers on foreign policy.

GORANI: But we understand he very much believes Iran is one of the biggest threats for western powers, and this Iran deal presumable is something he

wouldn't be in agreement with. Do you think this is something he might want to go back on?

CHAPMAN: Well, there's a congruence on two --

GORANI: But it's not an easy thing to tear that deal up for sure.

CHAPMAN: Yes, there's a congruence on two issues between Russia and America. One is that you don't want a nuclear Middle East, so I don't

think he would give advice to tear that up. And secondly, we're both collectively against I.S. That doesn't mean this congruence with Russia on

any other issue is to do with Syria or Assad.

GORANI: But, I mean, of course, Iran is very much a supporter of Bashar al-Assad's regime, very much in line with that access that involves Russia

as well. So if you're anti-Iran, technically, would you not be a little more potentially uncomfortable with having Iran gain so much influence in a

country like Syria?

[15:40:02] CHAPMAN: Yes, you could, but that doesn't mean that there's any good solution. I mean, James Mattis used to say that Syria is a wicked

problem. The problem is exacerbated by the malign influence of Iran. Indeed, it's really not Russia which is the main malign influence in Syria.

It's actually Iran.

And if you look at the fighting in Aleppo, the counter attack which happened at the end of October by the rebels to try and break out of Aleppo

was actually stopped by Lebanese Hezbollah who, of course, is sponsored by Iran.

GORANI: Well, Russia is very much playing as supporting Iran, sometimes actively participating in aerial bombardments, though. So it's very much

an actor in this situation.

CHAPMAN: Yes, they are. I mean, that land-air cooperation is aided by the Russian air power, alongside the Syrian empire, no doubt about that.

GORANI: And how would someone like General James Mattis, do you think, approach the ISIS problem?

CHAPMAN: Well, you can't --

GORANI: You can defeat ISIS militarily. Fundamentally, it's an ideology. You can, you know, bomb, you know, eventually go into Mosul, eventually

clear Mosul. It'll move somewhere else. It's this what-a-mole thing, isn't it?

CHAPMAN: Yes, it is. And, of course, he would say probably that to defeat ISIS, you've got to solve the problem of Syria, and solving the problem of

Syria is a wicked problem as I've said. And there are no good policy solutions or options for America, five years after this started. This is

essentially a Syria versus Syrian problem enabled by outside powers, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. It is a wicked problem.

Now, of course, the ride about could be, you know, he could propose a plan to go and invade and take out the Syrian regime, but that would be at a

major fiscal and military cost, which American was not probably willing to pay because it is not a vital interest for America to do so in that region.

GORANI: Right. Well, I think we could say safely there's no appetite for that in the United States, certainly.

Major-General Chip Chapman, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate your time on CNN.

And check out our Facebook page, by the way, You'll have much more of our show there online. We'll be right back with

more of our breaking news on the death of John Glenn. Stay with us.


GORANI: Well, we're following that breaking news out of the United States. The astronaut John Glenn has died at the age of 95. Glenn is a true icon

in America and for anyone interested in space exploration. He was the first to orbit the Earth in 1962, the first American. He later became a

senator for his home state of Ohio. The state's governor just released a statement about Glenn's death.

John Kasich says, quote, "John Glenn is and will always be Ohio's ultimate hometown hero and his passing today is an occasion for us all to grieve."

In fact, NASA has tweeted this reaction, "We are saddened by the loss of Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, a true American

hero. God speed, John Glenn. Ad astra."

[15:45:02] John Glenn, born in 1921, and as you see there, deceased on this day in December 2016. He's survived by his wife, Annie. They were married

73 years. We understand from reports that he was surrounded by family, as well, when he passed away. Just a quick update there on John Glenn.

Here, I have some facts in front of me because they are really just mind boggling. John Glenn flew a total of 149 missions during World War II and

the Korean War. So he received multiple medals and declarations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross on six occasions. In fact, he's the last

surviving airman of the original seven U.S. astronauts from Project Mercury.

Randy Avera, I understand, joins us now with more reaction. He's a former NASA engineer and he's on the line with us.

Randy, your first thoughts?

RANDY AVERA, FORMER ENGINEER, NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (through phone): Well, I think the world has lost a great leader here, a

man who lived by principles of great values, and really loved other people greatly. And that was a core to the success that he had in the military

and at NASA and as a U.S. senator as well.

I knew him when I worked for NASA at Kennedy Space Center during the Space Shuttle Program. I was a lead structures engineer at Kennedy Space Center.

And when we had the Challenger crash, John Glenn was part of the presidential commission that assisted in investigating the cause and the

recovery of that event. He was a United States Marine Corps pilot. He flew jets in Korea. It was one of the first applications of jets.

And he, also, was in the Mercury Program, which was the lead up to the Apollo Program to develop a rendezvous radar, the docking mechanisms, and

how to operate in Earth orbit in space.

GORANI: And --

AVERA: He became a U.S. senator as well.


AVERA: And served that many years.

GORANI: You mentioned the Project Mercury, the Mercury Program. He was the last surviving of the original seven astronauts on that program, so

it's really the end of an era here. And I find his life trajectory so fascinating because, of course, he was an adventurer, a pilot during World

War II and the Korean War, became the first American to orbit the Earth. But then I find fascinating that, at 77 years old, he became the oldest to

ever fly into space. I mean, it's someone who never seems to have lost his sense of adventure.

AVERA: Well, I was there at Kennedy Space Center when he trained for that mission and when we launched him into orbit. And he always said that since

NASA had medical history on him as a young astronaut, that he thought it was a good idea that they get medical history of him as an older astronaut.

And now, we see on the International Space Station where we're beginning to see long-term space travel takes a great toll on the human body.


AVERA: On the organs in the body. And so even though it might have looked to some like, you know, sort of a victory lap for John Glenn to let him

have a space shuttle flight, but the medical data from his body is to this day very valuable to NASA.

GORANI: Right, contributions to science as you mentioned there as well from having done that. What a life!

Thanks very much, Randy Avera, former NASA engineer, who knew John Glenn, a great admirer of him, as are so many Americans. Thank you, sir.

We're joined on the phone from Washington by former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison.

Thanks for being with us. I want to get your reaction on this day as we learn of the passing of John Glenn.


same time, I think it's sort of a celebration when we look at a life that's been so full and so impactful and then so beneficial to all of us. I was a

girl growing up on the south side of Chicago, a young kid, before I was even in kindergarten when John Glenn was selected for the astronaut

program, and he was really the epitome of the right stuff.

And I had the pleasure of meeting him on a number of times and sharing a conversation with him. And what I can say is that he maintained that sense

of adventure, that testimony for courage, that we all see.

GORANI: And how did he --


GORANI: I was going to ask you, as an astronaut yourself, how were you inspired personally by a man like John Glenn?

JEMISON: Well, you know, there are two things that I look at. Well, of course, as a young girl, I remember the, you know, the original seven, the

Mercury astronauts, "The Right Stuff," all of these things and sort of being there and just wanting to be a part of it and just assuming that I

was going to space as a young girl. And that was there. And that was there. They sort of, you know, led the way and John Glenn being the first

American to orbit the Earth was really important.

[15:50:18] I also felt very much that him becoming a senator and continuing to contribute to the public was critically vital. One of the things that

we sometimes forget is that we have an opportunity to grow and evolve and continue to make contributions all the way through.

So I heard you talking about the fact that he flew on the shuttle at age 77 was continuing to make contributions. But, again, that is evidence of the

incredible work that he does and the fact that he had this work ethic that would continue on.

GORANI: Mae Jemison, thanks very much, a former NASA astronaut with her thoughts today on the passing of John Glenn at the age of 95. Thank you

very much. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back on CNN.


GORANI: Well, if you're in Paris, you be having trouble breathing. The level of pollution in the French capital is at its worst in a decade, and

it's causing officials to take action. For the third day in a row, they've imposed driving restrictions based on license plates. So only those with

even numbers can drive in the city on Thursday. And also, public transport is free.

By the way, tweet me if you're there, @halagorani, and let me know if you're feeling any different because of these pollution levels.

And speaking of, I guess, nature and the environment and kind of the impact that human beings have on the planet, the gentle giant of the African

savanna is in serious danger of disappearing.

A conservation group days the continent's wild giraffe population has plunged by as much as 40 percent over the last 30 years. From 163,000 in

1985, to just over 97,000 last year. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says habitat loss and illegal hunting are

contributing to the decline of the species.

Well, CNN's John Sutter has spent a year reporting on the many species that could die out during a mass extinction brewing around the globe. The

giraffe could be one of those species, and John joins me now live from CNN center in Atlanta.

Is this reversible?

JOHN SUTTER, CNN DIGITAL OPINION COLUMNIST: I think it is, or we can avoid the very worst of what scientists call the Sixth Extinction if we change

our ways very, very quickly. I talked to Anthony Barnosky who is an expert on global extinction at Stanford, and he told me we have 10 to maybe 20

years at the very most to really change the way that we're handling land and farms to combat climate change, in dealing with poaching, especially in

Africa with, you know, elephants and rhinos being two of the key species there.

We have to change these things in very dramatic ways, or we're going to enter an era of irreversible extinction. And when people talk about this,

I think people often underestimate how bad things really could become. If we enter the sixth era of extinction in all of earth's history, then that

means that three quarters of all the species we know essentially disappear in the next couple of centuries.

[15:55:00] So these are long-term trends but we're looking at very stark consequences that are happening, when you look at the history of the Earth,

at a very rapid pace. But, you know, from our perspectives, they seem to be moving very slowly. But I think this news about the giraffe is sort of

a wakeup call.


SUTTER: This species that we thought were fairly safe are even in trouble.

GORANI: And you've been working on a special about vanishing species around the world, all the way to the depths of the oceans as well where

we're seeing some issues.

SUTTER: Yes, I think this is, you know, incredibly wide spread. And one of the stories that I did was in Madagascar on a tiny island where people

are very dependent on coral reefs to survive. Without big changes in the way that we produce energy and we need to get off of fossil fuels and

towards cleaner sources like solar and wind, then, you know, we're heating up the atmosphere which is heating up the ocean, making it more acidic.

And all that is very, very bad news for coral. You know, coral worldwide reefs could be gone, the way that we know them, certainly this century or

if not by 2050, which is, you know, very, very soon.

So I actually went to Madagascar to this small island to see what the human toll of that change would be.


SUTTER (voice-over): This song is about their love for the reef and their efforts to protect it. But climate change is putting all of this in

jeopardy. Thousands of miles away, we continue to burn fossil fuels, which is heating up the oceans and making them more acidic. That's killing the

coral, which 275 million people depend on for their survival.

And here is where they feel it the most.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language)


SUTTER: As you can see there, you know, very stark consequences for these changes. And, you know, this is an island where there's no school, there's

no electricity, there's no running water. People are very dependent on these natural resources, and they're doing nothing to cause this problem.

So I think that, you know, this news about the giraffe and news from all around the world, you know, I hope is a wakeup call to all of us that, you

know, the way that we're handling our relationship with nature is really causing some very drastic changes all around the globe.

GORANI: All right. Thank you very much. And John will explore five stories of endangered species in this special, "VANISHING THE SIXTH MASS

EXTINCTION." That's on Friday at 10:30 a.m. in London.

Well, thanks for watching. A lot more on the death of John Glenn ahead. I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming up.


[15:59:57] RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: All the way to the market at a record high in New York. The Dow Jones is up some 55 points, a gain of

just a third of 1 percent, but is over 19,600 which should be a good day. Well, I suppose that -- oh, that was a bonus.