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NEW DAY SATURDAY
Obama Blames Putin for DNC, Podesta Hacks; Moscow Responds to Obama; China Steals U.S. Navy Drone; North Carolina Governor Signs Bill Curbing Democratic Successor's Power; Aleppo Fighting And Evacuations, Family Opens Up to CNN About Brussels Attack. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired December 17, 2016 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:00] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, they're so fabulous in so many ways. We know that when you're in the hospital, it's more than just the physical aspect.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: And it's so stressful.
PAUL: Mental, emotional. Yes.
BLACKWELL: Strong bond they built with the patients.
PAUL: Having that support. Good people there.
Listen, we have a lot more to tell you about this morning.
BLACKWELL: Certainly the next hour of your NEW DAY Starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC. Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin. Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia. We can do stuff to you.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Public shaming does not work with President Vladimir Putin. I'm thinking specifically of Aleppo and of Syria and all the carnage there, much of it at the hands of Russian firepower.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They were supposed to be brought to safety. Instead, they're running for their lives once again. A convoy meant to take these East Aleppo residents out of the besieged areas under fire.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: We're going to build safe zones. We're not having them come over. We're going to build safe zones in Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. I'm Christi Paul. We're so grateful for your company. BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. The election
is over, but President-elect Donald Trump is getting his supporters together for one last big rally, a stadium rally, just before Christmas.
PAUL: Yes, the final stop of Trump's thank you tour heads to Mobile, Alabama, and today, this after Trump brought the tour through Florida last night, the sunshine state was a battleground state, remember, that Trump visited the most during the campaign, and it paid off as supporters delivered him the state, setting up his election night victory.
BLACKWELL: Here's how Mr. Trump described a level of passion from his supporters in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You people were vicious, violent, screaming, where's the wall? We want the wall. Screaming prison, prison, lock her up. I mean, you are going crazy. I mean, you were nasty and mean and vicious, and you wanted to win, right? But now you're mellow and you're cool and you're not nearly as vicious or violent, right? Because we won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Well, today, President-elect Trump returns to Mobile, Alabama, and the same stadium where he drew this crowd, 30,000 supporters back in August 2015.
PAUL: This morning President Obama and the first family have arrived in Hawaii, where they're going to spend their final Christmas vacation while in office. The president leaving Washington with the promise of revenge against Russia over their alleged hacking and interference in this election, and this as a strong consensus within the intelligence community builds over Russia's full intent of the hack.
CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto walks us through that.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, the CIA director seeking to dismiss accusations from some GOP lawmakers, even the president-elect himself, that the agency is somehow politicizing the intelligence on Russian hacking of the U.S. election, writing to the entire CIA workforce that the intelligence community and law enforcement are in full agreement on the seriousness and intent of the cyber attacks.
This as President Obama calls out Russia in public for the first time blaming Vladimir Putin.
OBAMA: I told Russia to stop it.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): President Obama, for the first time, publicly blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for hacking the 2016 U.S. election.
OBAMA: The intelligence that I've seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack, the hack of the DNC and the hack of the John Podesta. Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin.
SCIUTTO: And the CIA and FBI agree as to why. Director John Brennan telling the CIA workforce in an internal message that, quote, "There is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election."
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement assessed that Moscow had multiple possible motives -- undermine confidence in the vote, weaken Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.
Today the president said he delivered a stern warning to Putin at the G-20 Summit in China in September.
OBAMA: When I saw President Putin in China I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn't happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out and there are going to be some serious consequences if he didn't.
SCIUTTO: Still, tonight, U.S. officials say that Russia's hacking of U.S. political organizations continues unabated. Since the election one attempted breach targeted the Clinton campaign, though unsuccessfully.
[07:05:00] President-elect Trump, however, continues to dismiss the U.S. assessment that Russian is responsible. Despite the fact that he's being provided the intelligence behind that assessment in his classified briefings.
And today he sought to divert attention back to one of the revelations gleaned from the e-mails stolen by Russia, tweeting, "Are we talking about the same cyber attack where it was revealed that the head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?"
SCIUTTO: I'm told that the CIA director's message comes as many CIA staffers are angry, frustrated, to be accused of partisanship in their response to the Russian hacking. And also, the GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee coming to the defense of intelligence staff as well, saying that they leave their politics at the door -- Victor and Christi.
BLACKWELL: All right, Jim, thanks so much.
Meanwhile, Russia is demanding evidence implicating them in the cyber attacks, telling President Obama to prove it or shut up. Their words. And with such a scathing vow to retaliate from Mr. Obama, Moscow is bound to fire back.
I want to bring in senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward live in Moscow for us. Clarissa, good morning to you. And President Putin himself has
remained pretty silent here, although we have the response. I wonder, though, and there is a difference here, a bit of a distinction between the response we're seeing, we're hearing, and the overall reaction from Russia. Detail that for us.
WARD: I think that's right. I mean, essentially, so far we have heard nothing from President Putin today, nor have we heard any official reaction to President Obama's press conference yesterday. The official party line, though, throughout the last two months since those allegations of hacking first reared their heads back in October, has been this is ludicrous nonsense, to use one of their terms of phrase, this is not true, we had nothing to do with it, there is no evidence.
Just yesterday we heard the Kremlin spokesperson essentially saying, as you summarize, basically prove it or stop talking about it. He went on to say that the accusations were, quote, "indecent." But underlying this sort of stern reputation of the accusations, there is also a little bit of a sense here when you talk to people, when you watch state television, that Russia is somehow enjoying this moment, that Russia is somehow enjoying the idea that it is getting so much attention, first and foremost, but also enjoying the idea that it could possibly have such influence, that it could possibly pull off such an audacious move, such as swinging the U.S. election in favor of President-elect Donald Trump.
But officially, the line here is still very much the same. It's a stern condemnation of the accusations. It's a firm denial. And it's really, they're being cast, essentially, as an opportunity to besmirch Russia, as an opportunity to really poison the well ahead of President-elect Trump taking office, ahead of a possible warming of relations between Russia and the U.S., and it's also being cast as a sort of attempt of the United States government to try to cover up and distract Americans from all of the terrible things that they say are taking place in the U.S. -- Victor.
BLACKWELL: Clarissa, I wonder what you made of the president's reluctance. He stopped just short of saying explicitly that Vladimir Putin ordered the hacks. He says he didn't want to step on the report that's forthcoming, but what did you make of the president stopping just short of saying it just verbatim?
WARD: Well, I think what you understand from the way the president was kind of cautious about stepping short of saying his name explicitly is that at the end of the day, this is not a science, it's an or the art form. So when intelligence officials are putting together all of the evidence and looking at the broader picture, it's not that they can literally see President Vladimir Putin's login as proof of his involvement. It's that they're extrapolating based on their experience and knowledge of the way the Kremlin system works, of the way the intelligence systems here work here in Russia.
And the point that you heard President Obama making was, you know, to the best of my knowledge, he says, I don't think much happens in Russia without President Putin signing off on it. Now that will not be enough to persuade anyone here in Russia of the
legitimacy of President Obama's claims. If anything, it will support the argument here, which is that there is no substantial, tangible, physical evidence to prove that, A, Russia was even involved in these hacks, but certainly not to prove that President Putin himself was involved personally.
BLACKWELL: And as we know, not just the view there in Moscow. That's a view that some are defending here in the United States who are questioning whether it's, as we've heard, Russia or China or some 400- pound man.
[07:10:10] Clarissa Ward there in Moscow for us, thanks so much.
PAUL: So let's talk to CNN senior politics reporter Stephen Collinson and CNN Politics reporter Eugene Scott as well.
Eugene, I want to start with you here, because President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump obviously had very different approaches when it comes to Russia. But if Obama, let's say, imposes some sanctions on the way out of office, what is the expectation that Donald Trump might do with that?
EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, there isn't much expectation that Donald Trump at this moment will continue whatever approach President Obama brings to this situation. Donald Trump has made it very clear that he doesn't have the confidence in the intelligence that President Obama is drawing his conclusions from. And so I think one of the reasons President Obama is being as proactive and aggressive as he is right now is because he thinks this issue will not get the attention it deserves once he leaves office.
PAUL: Stephen, CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Foreman weighed in on the Russian hack just a little while ago when I talked to him, specifically about the DNC. Let's listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: The FBI in 2015 was trying to get a hold of the DNC's IT people. Yes, they called the main switch board on the first call and asked for, who should we talk to that's running your IT program, and when they finally got to the people that were running the program, they said, you're being hacked by Russia. Their response was, no, we're not. We see, you know, the various signatures that show that you're being hacked. No, we're not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Tom Fuentes there, of course. Why would the DNC not have taken this seriously? Does it illustrate a disconnect or a distrust between the agencies?
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. I mean, we know that at the time that this hacking was taking place that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, was under investigation by the FBI on the separate case of her private e-mail server, so that might explain why there was some -- there were some reluctance among the Democratic National Committee technology people to invite the FBI in and let them have a look, perhaps, at the Democratic Party servers.
The problem with this, of course, is that it does undermine to some extent the Democratic claims that the FBI did not take this seriously enough or not enough was done to stop hacking of Democratic Party servers during the election. So, you know, this is a point which is going to get legislated over the next few days, but in the end, it doesn't really matter. The damage was done. And the Democrats believe that the election was unfairly thrown towards Donald Trump by this Russian hacking scheme.
PAUL: They do, but, Eugene, when we talk about Putin's end game in this, you know, what was his intent at the end of the day, I did ask Tom Fuentes about that as well, and he said he believes his end game is just to show the U.S. that he can do it, to show that the U.S. is weaker and that they can't stop him. That is not a narrative or an image that Donald Trump is going to want the world to see.
So what is the expectation in that regard in terms of how the relationship between Trump and Putin will evolve?
SCOTT: Well, Trump has made it clear that he will consider dropping the economic sanctions that Putin would love to see eliminated at this moment, although Putin hasn't done anything that would lead countries to reverse their approach regarding sanctions. He's hoping that Trump will continue to view him favorably, or at least not as threatening as our current president views him, and perhaps to elevate Russia to the world power, the international power that Putin hopes the country can be.
PAUL: Stephen, do you see a power struggle between Putin and Trump?
COLLINSON: It's going to be very interesting. The expectation that Donald Trump has set is that he's going to get on with Vladimir Putin much better than President Barack Obama did and that, therefore, relations between Russia and the United States are going to improve exponentially.
Now it's a question. We don't know exactly how well they will get on when they get together. If it looks to Donald Trump that Vladimir Putin has been trying to manipulate him, as he has previous U.S. leaders, it's possible that his relationship could sour very quickly. We should remember that both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama when he was re-elected in 2012 and Putin had just returned to the Kremlin as president, they tried to improve relations with Vladimir Putin, but it was the actions of the Russians, namely in the last administration, the annexation of Crimea, that made it impossible politically for the United States to carry on improved relations with Russia.
So I think a lot of this goes down to the personality dynamic that emerges between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, but a lot of it also depends on exactly what policies Russia decides to pursue, because in the last few years, at least, Russia's foreign policy, that directed by Vladimir Putin, has been, you know, specifically designed to undermine the power and the influence of the United States, and this intervention in the election is part of that.
[07:15:19] PAUL: Mm-hmm. Eugene Scott, Stephen Collinson, always appreciate your insight. Thank you, sir.
SCOTT: Thank you.
PAUL: Terror in Turkey this morning. A deadly car bomb exploded next to a bus that was carrying soldiers. We'll tell you what we've learned thus far.
BLACKWELL: Plus, China steals equipment from the U.S. Navy, breaking international law. What the U.S. government is now demanding.
BLACKWELL: Eighteen minutes after the hour now. Developing overnight, 13 soldiers are dead, 55 people wounded after a deadly explosion in Turkey. Look at this. The car rigged with a bomb exploded next to a bus transporting off-duty soldiers.
Well, this is the latest in a wave of deadly bombings that have struck Turkey this year. Turkey's president released this statement, here it is. "We know that those attacks that we are facing are not independent from the developments in Iraq and Syria." He also added that, quote, "We will fight against terrorist organizations."
PAUL: Well, new U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea as China steals a U.S. Navy drone. The Pentagon is demanding it back now.
BLACKWELL: Just moments ago, a Chinese spokesman tells CNN that China is, quote, "handling the incident properly through military channels." But here's the problem, China stole the drone inside international waters, which is illegal.
PAUL: And keep in mind, these are the same waters where there's that chain of disputed manmade islands. China reportedly installing heavy weaponry on those islands.
CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Beijing with more.
Matt, what are you hearing this hour from China?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're hearing from China isn't much. The government just putting out that one line that you read there. So really not much officially from the Chinese government. But one expert told us that when we spoke a little bit earlier, that this is clearly an escalation in what is already a very tense situation in the South China Sea, and it comes during a three- week period in which U.S.-China relations are going through some very troubling times.
[07:20:06] RIVERS (voice-over): The USNS Bowditch, an unarmed military research ship, was about 50 miles off the Filipino coast Thursday where the Navy says it was conducting research using two underwater drones called ocean gliders. Officials said the research was legal under international law. It was set to bring them back on board when officials say a Chinese naval ship trailing the Bowditch launched a small boat which swooped in and stole one of the ocean gliders. The Defense Department says the Bowditch immediately made contact to ask for it back but the Chinese ship simply sailed away.
Friday Pentagon officials asked again. Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporter, quote, "It is ours and we would like it back. And we would like this not to happen again." China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday that, quote, "China and the United States are using military channels to appropriately handle this issue." The paper went on to say the source told them, quote, "This issue will be smoothly resolved."
The seizure comes at the time of heightened U.S.-Chinese military tensions in the South China Sea. China has built and militarized artificial islands in disputed territory, action the U.S. calls illegal, and President-elect Trump has made Beijing angry twice in the last two weeks, first taking a call from Taiwan's president and then questioning the legitimacy of the One China policy, a decades old diplomatic staple of U.S.-China relations.
RIVERS: And so in terms of the motivations behind stealing this underwater drone, there are a couple options that most experts will point you to. One could be in retribution for what the incoming Trump administration has done over the last couple of weeks, including taking that call from Taiwan's president. It could be a test of the incoming administration, seeing how far they can push the envelope by issuing this new provocation. But reality is, we don't really know.
What we do know, what most experts will tell you is that this is an unprecedented, at least in recent times, escalation in this region in what is really a tough time right now for U.S.-Chinese relations.
PAUL: All right. Matt Rivers, appreciate the update. Thank you so much.
According to the Syrian government, evacuations of war-torn eastern Aleppo could resume soon. What we're learning this morning.
BLACKWELL: Plus, Democrats are calling it a brazen power grab. The Republican North Carolina governor just signed a bill stripping powers from the office before the Democrat who beat him in the race to take the job takes office. Inside the outrage at the state capitol. That's next.
[07:25:47] BLACKWELL: We want to share this really touching moment with you. It's from astronaut and former senator John Glenn's public viewing. Annie Glenn, his widow, arrived in a wheelchair and slowly touched his casket there and bowed her head for a moment. Glenn's body was there in state at the Ohio state capitol building. Hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects and to say good-bye. PAUL: That is quite a moment, looking at it there. Certainly
thinking about her and her family.
BLACKWELL: Married for more than 50 years.
PAUL: Which is so rare.
PAUL: Isn't it? I mean, that's something to see. All righty, let's talk about what's happening in North Carolina. There's outrage there after the outgoing Republican governor signs a bill into law stripping away powers from the incoming Democratic successor. Dozens of protesters descended on the state capitol yesterday as GOP lawmakers passed pieces of legislation, one of which removes state and county election boards from Democratic control.
BLACKWELL: Well, now Republicans maintain they're enacting checks and balances, but Democrats are calling it a power grab.
Our Polo Sandoval has the story.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest legislative session closing with growing outrage and crowds in North Carolina's capital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very difficult to hear because of the disruptive noise outside the chamber.
SANDOVAL: Demonstrators are angry over a series of bills rolled out during a hastily called special legislative session this week where lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature want to limit incoming Democratic Governor Roy Cooper's powers.
ROY COOPER (D), GOVERNOR-ELECT, NORTH CAROLINA: What is happening now is unprecedented. What's happening now is going to affect the issues that make a difference to every day working families.
SANDOVAL: Among the restrictions, requiring the Republican-controlled Senate to approve all of Governor-elect Cooper's Cabinet appointees. Also significantly decreasing the number of appointments allowed by the new administration from 1500 to 300. Additionally, Cooper would be blocked from appointing some members of the State Board of Education and all members of the Board of Trusties for the University of North Carolina system.
Cooper beat out conservative Republican incumbent Pat McCrory by only about 10,000 votes. McCrory claimed fraud and challenged the outcome before conceding about four weeks later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is majority rule. We have elections.
SANDOVAL: Despite large Republican majorities, leaders say they are going to continue to be relevant in the state, but Democrats call it a power grab. It makes for what will be an even more turbulent transition for McCrory's Democratic successor.
Polo Sandoval, CNN, Atlanta.
PAUL: There is new hope for people trying to get out of Aleppo. According to a military news outlet run by Hezbollah, the Syrian government may allow evacuations to continue there.
PAUL: Mortgage rates climbed this week, again. Here's your look.
[07:31:02] PAUL: It is good to have your company this morning. I'm Christi Paul.
BLACKWELL: 31 minutes after the hour, I'm Victor Blackwell.
PAUL: Donald Trump's going to be in Mobile, Alabama today. This is the last stop on his thank you tour. After that, he's off to Palm Beach, Florida to spend time at his place in Mar-A-Largo.
BLACKWELL: While Trump says thank you, President Obama is giving a warning and nearly naming Russian President Vladimir Putin as the man behind Russia's alleged hacking and interference in the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARRAK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In early September, when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way insured that that didn't happen was to talk to him directly. And tell him to cut it out, there were going to be some serious consequences if he didn't. And in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Well Russia had the message back for the U.S. It says prove it. In the mean time, President-elect Donald Trump talking about radical Islamic terrorism during this thank you tour in Orlando yesterday. He talked about how he plans to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: We're going to build safe zones. We're not having them come over. We're going to build safe zones in Syria. We're going to build safe zones. And we're going to get the Gulf states to pay for these safe zones. And we're going to try and help people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: So we're hearing that from the president-elect, because there's new hope we're hearing for the people in Aleppo, to get out. According to a military new outlet, it's run by Hezbollah. The Syrian government and the rebel group in eastern Aleppo, they're reached a new agreement and that evacuations in the city will resume.
PAUL: This is an announcement that comes after the evacuation of thousands of refugees from that city had halted. Now CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen following this story for us from Beirut. Fred, the images, the sounds that we're getting from Aleppo is just so hard to take. We cannot imagine what these people are going through. What are you hearing about possible evacuations being put back into place?
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know you're absolutely right. The situation there on the ground really does appear to be devastating and getting worse by the hour. There's some images that we've been seeing of people sleeping on floors. People who are really very cold, haven't eaten in days. Of course, a lot of folks who are still wounded and sick and who need that immediate evacuation. Now the latest that we're hearing, is that the deal appears to be back on, and the evacuations could start within the next couple of hours.
It seems as though there's a new agreement, where by, the evacuations would resume once again. And in return, there are two villages in rebel controlled territory with some pro-government people in them and those will be evacuated as well. It's a complex deal, but it is one that many people in east Aleppo need. Because they need to get out of there fast as possible. Let's have a look at why this deal fell apart yesterday.
PLEITGEN: They were supposed to be brought to safety. Instead, they're running for their lives once again. The convoy meant to take (inaudible) Aleppo residents out of the besieged areas under fire.
This eyewitness says, he was part of the convoy, stopped, he claims by an Iranian militia fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad.
UNIDENFIED MALE: (Inaudible)
PLEITGEN: The Syrian government has a very different account. It says rebel fighters in the convoy were carrying concealed weapons and that they are to blame for the violence that reportedly left a number of people dead. Evacuations that had already succeeded in getting thousands out of eastern Aleppo, ground to an immediate halt as the blame game began. Russia making a public announcement saying, it believed the evacuation of east Aleppo was complete and that only hard line rebel fighters remained in the enclave.
Turkey which helped negotiate the agreement, shooting down those claims. The Red Cross and UNICEF, for their part, say tens of thousands of people, including more than 1,000 children are still trapped inside the war torn city. For those that made it out, the anguish was almost too much to bare. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)
PLEITGEN: But for those still trapped inside the tiny rebel enclave in eastern Aleppo, the situation's even worse. Stocked in the bitter cold with no food and no medical supplies, left to pray that the violence won't begin again.
PLEITGEN: And you know, if you look at this other political level guys, it's such a complex situation. You have the Russians involved. You have the Syrian government involved. You have the Turks involved. Of course, the U.S. trying to play it's part as well. The Iranians involved and then on the ground you just have this gigantic array of militias fighting on both sides, including Shiite militias from Iraq, from here in Lebanon, from Afghanistan.
You have Palestinian factions and then a wide array of militias, Islamists and non-Islamists fighting on the rebel's side. But at the same time, we always have to keep in mind for the civilians who are trapped there inside eastern Aleppo. It's very simple. They need to get out and they need to get out as possible. Because with every minute and every hour that passes, they get weaker. They don't have the supplies they need. They don't have the medical supplies they need. So they need to get out of there and get real medical attention as fast as possible.
PAUL: Those images, they just tear you up. We just heard Donald Trump talking about wanting to build safe zones. Based on what you know, all of the things that you just talked about, all of the different entities and governments that are involved here. How plausible is it to build safe zones in Syria?
PLEITGEN: Well you know, essentially there are already some - - some safe zones for civilians in the north of Syria. It's those areas that Turkey has taken over in the past couple of months. They've obviously have some Syrian militias that are also fighting on their side. Mostly trying to take territory away from ISIS, also fighting with some Kurdish factions there as well. And essentially those areas are now under Turkish control, so those could be considered safe zones. But the places that the people that we're seeing in east Aleppo are going to certainly, are not safe zones. You have places like Idlib Province which is a place that's held by the opposition, quite a lot of Islamic factions including some links to Al Qaeda there as well.
The people who are going there are going to subjected to another war zone. There's bombings going on there. There's air forces, especially the Russians, and the Syrians flying there as well. So, putting in place new safe zones will certainly be difficult, especially in those areas that Russia's operating in. But there are already some places that are safe for civilians, but they're not very big. And they certainly don't have the infrastructure to take in the tens of thousands of people who are fleeing their homes right now.
PAUL: Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much for bringing us the latest on what's happening there.
BLACKWELL: The terror in Brussels really hurting an American family. We've got exclusive first hand accounts from Brussels inside that attack and what life is now like for this family after this tragedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I live everyday because of her. I live everyday for her, to remember her. And to honor her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: All right, $25 million. That's how much the U.S. State Department says it will now reward anyone with information leading to the location, arrest, or conviction of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi.
PAUL: The steep fight jump (ph) for the terror leader, back in 2011, the reward was $10 million. Now government officials feel raising the reward is a proactive incentive, sighting that taking out al-Baghdadi would better protect our homeland.
BLACKWELL: An American family caught in the Brussels terror attack, five of them critically injured. Their beloved mother and wife killed.
PAUL: Well they are graciously opening up exclusively to CNN about that very day that changed everything for them. CNN's Chief Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr sat down with the Martinez family.
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: I'm pushing through it everyday. It's difficult, to go through the pain. But you have to look forward.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CHIEF PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: For 18 year old Kiani Martinez (ph), her brothers and sisters, there is utter devastation beyond the pain of burnt shrapnel and broken bones.
Their mother Gail was killed. All four children and their father, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Kato Martinez were among the Americans critically wounded in the March ISIS suicide bomber attack on the Brussels Airport. Lieutenant Martinez, who was just back from Afghanistan, they'd been waiting to check in for a flight to go on vacation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Local media reports being an exchange of gunfire. And they're reporting that this is a bomb blast.
STARR: Thirty-five people were killed, 300 wounded when ISIS attackers detonated bombs hidden in suitcases at the airport departure area. In their first interview ever, the family wants the world to know what ISIS took from them when Gail died that day.
Tell me about your mom. What do you want people to know about her?
KINANI MARTINEZ (ph): I live everyday because of her. I live everyday for her, to remember her. And to honor her.
STARR: Kiani (ph) says her mother was everything to the family. This young teenager is unflinching.
KIANI MARTINEZ (ph): I think it's important for me to talk about this. At 18, where you're supposed to be going to college, becoming independent, having been prepared for everything by your parents. And then trying to learn for yourself what the real world is like. The real world slapped me in the face on March 22nd. And I'm not going to forget that.
STARR: Kiani (ph) was supposed to be in college by now.
KIANI MARTINEZ (ph): When I heard news that I was awarded an Air Force RT (ph) Scholarship, the first person I told was momma. And she was so proud.
STARR: Lieutenant Colonel Martinez now raising four children on his own, grieving his wife and recovering from his own injuries. Photos of happier times with Gail in Europe, while Lieutenant Colonel Martinez held a NATO job.
LIEUTENANT COLONEL KATO MARTINEZ: I later learned I took most of the shrapnel, if not all the shrapnel, because my son took the secondary wave and he got the burn, the flame. I didn't lose consciousness. I was blasted forward. I knew I was bleeding, because I felt blood coming from my ear.
STARR: Martinez, instantly feared the worse.
KATO MARTINEZ: My first instinct was to look for my children and for my wife. I couldn't find my son or my two youngest.
BLACKWELL: After the break, we're going to hear from the youngest members of the Martinez family and how they're coping with this tragedy. Stay with us.
BLACKWELL: Before the break, we introduced an American family caught in that Brussels terror attack.
PAUL: Yes. Five of them were critically injured. But, their mother was killed, and now nine months later, here we are. And they're opening up exclusively to CNN and quite graciously we should point out about where they are today and how that has shaped them. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATO MARTINEZ: But my first instinct was to look for my children and for my wife. I couldn't find my son or my two youngest. I heard screaming and I found Kiani (ph). The fact that she was screaming meant that she was alive. She was coherent. And I went to look for her mom, I said I'll be right back. I went to look for her mom. I knew I was bleeding out and my body was going into shock. So I closed my eyes and welcomed it and figured I'd join my wife and my three kids. But as I as slipping away, I heard this little girl call out to me. Daddy, don't you go. Don't you leave me. And just when I thought, you know, I was enveloped by a darkness and ready to go to sleep, I - - I heard her voice and decided to come back.
STARR: Then the unimaginable, Gail, the love of his life was gone.
KATO MARTINEZ: The story I got from one of the first responders regarding my baby, the youngest one, was that they found her in Gail's arms. When they got to her, they told her we got the baby now. She's going to be OK. And that's when they - - she looked up to them, smiled, and closed her eyes, for the last time.
STARR: Lieutenant Colonel Martinez would not learn the rest of his family survived until he woke up in the Belgian hospital. Initially, he could not be moved out of bed to even see them. Military buddies came to the hospital to make sure the children were never alone.
KATO MARTINEZ: They did shifts, around the clock, making sure that my children were taken care of and they were, there was always a friendly face there.
STARR: Now, home is Texas. The family is very slowly getting through it's days. The two youngest, seven year old Kalian (ph) and her nine year old Noalani (ph), recovering from their injuries, now tiny master chefs in the kitchen.
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: And then we're waiting for the last so we can put it on top, smush it down to straighten it. And then not (inaudible)
STARR: At physical therapy, 13 year old Kimo (ph), loosens his burn scar tissue that covers his lower body so he can play sports again. This American military family grief stricken, but honoring their mother killed by terrorists. By recovering and regaining the lives they know she wanted for them.
KATO MARTINEZ: I see her in the face of my children. I see her in this house. I see her in the people that come to help us. I see her in all the things that are done for us, to support us, to help us. All the good things that have happened.
STARR: It's more than just physical therapy to climb this wall. For the Martinez family, total determination to get to the mountain top and ring that bell.
Barbara Starr, CNN, San Antonio.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: Parts of the country have been plagued by drought for months, adversely impacting farming now. And as a result, this holiday season is feeling the blow. Christmas trees, we know soon will be in very short supply.
PAUL: Family farms are really hit this season and hit the hardest in fact. And some are being forced to shut their doors this year as well. CNN's Allison Chinchar has that. I know it's dry. The bad weather is dry for them, for the environment. Obviously, businesses are taking a hit. What are you learning about how expansive this is and how long it will last?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well that's going to be the key, is the length of time. Because it's not only a problem for this year, but it's likely going to be a problem for the years to come. So keep in mind, even next year, or the year after if you go out to get a tree, you may be dealing with some problems. So again, a lot of the Christmas tree problems that we're dealing with have been because of the drought, especially in the Southeastern region and New England.
Portions of the Northeast, where they were really hit hard by an exceptional drought and extreme drought and we're not just talking for a month or two. This was a very prolonged drought that a lot of these regions were able to see. Now, the other thing you have to understand is the Christmas tree growth. OK. So we know of two closed farms, two states with closed farms, that's Alabama and Massachusetts. Both of those states were in the incredibly hard hit regions of the drought.
Now with the drought you get dead seedlings. It also stunts growth and then the trees themselves have more of a yellowing type of appearance. Now typically in a season, you'll grow about four to eight inches. So this is what we talked about in the fact that it's going to be a prolonged event. Because that's four to eight inches that it didn't grow this year. So even if the tree wasn't necessarily going to be ready for this year, but maybe next year it would have, or the year after. It won't be the case. Because it didn't get to that typical season growth, because in many cases, they got absolutely zero growth for the season.
So that is also a big concern as we talked about going forward for a lot of these regions. So again, keep in mind, if you have plans to go out and pick your tree, it's not that there's going to be zero, Victor and Christi. Because the one thing you have to notice, there are other states. We're talking Washington State, Wisconsin, Michigan. Those states also have some Christmas trees just like this as well. So it's not that there's going to be zero, but it may end up costing you a little bit more in the coming years. Or, you may end up having to deal with a slightly shorter tree than you normally would been able to get.
PAUL: All right. Never fails. Thank you so much Allison, we appreciate it. And, want to jump into the political arena next here.
BLACKWELL: Yes. We've got a lot coming up in the next hour of your NEW DAY. It starts right now. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
OBAMA: The Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC. Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin. Our goal continues to be, to send a clear message to Russia, we can do stuff to you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Public shaming does not work with President Vladimir Putin. I'm thinking specifically of Aleppo and Syria and all the carnage there, much of it at the hands of Russian fire power.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: They were supposed to be brought to safety. Instead, they're running for their lives, once again. Convoy, meant to take (inaudible), Aleppo residents out of the besieged areas under fire.
TRUMP: We're going to build safe zones. We're not having them come over. We're going to build safe zones in Syria.
PAUL: All right. It's Saturday morning and we are so grateful to be with you. I'm Christi Paul.
BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. President- elect Donald Trump embarking on the final stop of his thank you tour today. He's ending it where many saw the first sparks of his power of his political movement. Trump will hold a rally in Mobile, Alabama.