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CNN NEWSROOM

McCain: Russian Hacking Threatens American Democracy; U.S. Electors under Pressure to Change Vote; Battle for Aleppo; Ten Killed in Jordanian Terror Attack; China Takes Trump to Task for Reaction to U.S. Drone Seizure; Unclear How Trump Will Handle North Korea; Toddler Dies in Arkansas Road-Rage Incident; Extreme Weather Cripples U.S. Roadways. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired December 19, 2016 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Show us the proof: that is the word now from the Trump team as leading senators from both sides of the U.S. political divide ask for an independent probe into alleged Russian election hacking.

And making it official: Electoral College voters get ready to seal the deal Monday officially making Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States. But there is an effort to get some of those voters to change their vote.

And in the meantime, North Korea's leader, not known for keeping his opinions to himself, is withholding judgment on the president-elect. We will examine why he may be holding back -- still ahead.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: It is 2:00 am on the U.S. East Coast.

Russian hacking: the U.S. president-elect's chief of staff isn't so sure about it, at least not yet. This despite the fact that the CIA, the FBI and the director of the U.S. national intelligence all say that they are increasingly convinced Russia hacked the Democratic emails all in effort to try to influence the U.S. election.

Reince Priebus says top intelligence officials should lay out their findings against Moscow publicly. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: It sure would be nice to hear from everybody. I mean, if there is this conclusive opinion among all of these intelligence agencies then they should issue a report or they should stand in front of a camera and make the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Republican Senator John McCain and three other senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They are asking for a select committee to look into these allegations of hacking, McCain slamming the U.S. response so far.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZ.: We need a select committee. We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to find out exactly what was done and what the implications of the attacks were, especially if they had an effect on our election. There's no doubt they were interfering and no doubt that it was cyber attacks.

The question now is how much and what damage and what should the United States of America do?

And so far, we have been totally paralyzed. This is serious business. If they are able to harm the electoral process, then they destroyed democracy, which is based on free and fair elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Senator John McCain, saying they destroyed democracy; following the story live, CNN's Matthew Chance, in the Russian capital this hour for us.

Matthew, good to have you. The drumbeat continues to pick up momentum on this side of the globe.

How are these allegations being perceived there in Russia?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting; the reaction from the Kremlin has been pretty consistent really since the beginning of October, when these allegations first surfaced at the height of the U.S. campaign.

And it's just been one of categorical denial and the last statement that I saw, which came late last week from the Kremlin, is they said it was indecent that the United States should keep coming up with this allegation without providing any proof at all.

They said they should provide that proof or they should stop talking about it. And so you get the sense that the Kremlin is getting quite irritated at this point by the consistent flow of allegations that are coming from the United States' side.

At the same time, I think -- and that view, by the way, is being affected very much on state media. At the same time, when you speak to ordinary Russians about this, the majority of them get their news from state media and so they see this as an attempt to besmirch Russia in the eyes of the incoming U.S. administration by its enemies.

But there's another sense in which many people think, well, isn't it great that Russia has the power to be able to put its thumb on the scales of the U.S. presidential election potentially?

So there's sort of a twisted national pride amongst some Russians I have spoken to that this could have happened, even though, as I say, the official position is that there is complete denial and a call for evidence.

HOWELL: You talk about the power there of cyber when it comes to Russia, the possibility of hacking in this election.

But if you could, explain to our viewers, Matthew, the sophistication of Russia's ability when it comes to cyber.

CHANCE: Well, the truth is we don't know the full capabilities of Russia, just like we don't know the full capabilities of the United States and other countries that have significant cyber warfare capabilities.

But what we do know, I think about Russia, is that it has started a process of --

[02:05:00]

CHANCE: -- what we call weaponization of information, which is something we haven't really seen to this extent ever before. They've got a whole complicated multilayered network of, you know, hacking of fake news, of trolling on the Internet, of, you know, just various other things that they are using in conjunction with each other to try and change the narrative when it comes to, in this case, United States elections but with other issues as well.

The big difference, remember, in this alleged intervention in the U.S. election compared with other hacking scandals is that, you know, espionage, the gathering of information from U.S. political institutions is one matter.

Actually then, weaponizing that information and releasing it in a partisan way is something that is new and it's something that's very, very disturbing to all of those watching the elections in the United States.

HOWELL: Matthew Chance, following the story, live for us in Moscow. Matthew, thank you for the reporting.

Russia adamantly denies that it interfered with the U.S. elections but concerns about cyber hacking are not just confined to Washington, D.C. Ukraine and other Eastern European nations are also worried about Moscow possibly meddling as well. We get more on that from CNN's Ivan Watson.

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IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): War games in the stony fields of Eastern Europe, as U.S. soldiers train in Latvia; 25 years ago, this was part of Soviet Union. Today, Latvia is part of the European Union and also a U.S. military ally in NATO. WATSON: These are live fire exercises. That's why I've got to wear

all this extra protective armor. Military commanders say they're trying to show that they are a force of deterrence and their number one threat, Latvia's much bigger neighbor to the east.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The war games are really a response to Russian activity in 2014 (INAUDIBLE) situation changed.

WATSON (voice-over): He's talking about Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula after Russian forces drove Ukrainian troops out of this corner of Ukraine in 2014. Russian's land grab frightens people in former Soviet republics like Latvia, where there are still bitter memories after a half-century of Soviet occupation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our main aim is to protect and protect our sovereignty and (INAUDIBLE) protect our statehood.

If Russia is so peaceful and regards us as neighbors, good neighbors, why you should put more equipment and more forces on your borders?

WATSON (voice-over): But there are two sides to this tension.

We traveled from Latvia across Lithuania to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in Europe that's cut off from mainland Russia. In Soviet times, this was a heavily militarized place, closed off from the outside world. Kaliningrad was recently thrust back into the spotlight after Russia deployed nuclear-capable missiles here.

Russia's top diplomat defended the move, arguing it's the U.S. that's threatening Russia.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, it's our territory. But the plans of the United States, not only to -- well, they quadrupled, they think, the money allocated to support military deployment in Eastern Europe. Then they moved NATO infrastructure next to our borders.

WATSON (voice-over): Kaliningrad is still the headquarters of the Russian navy's Baltic fleet and Moscow has been flexing its own muscles, performing military drills in the region. In 2014, Western governments punished Russia's actions in Ukraine with economic sanctions.

They've contributed to a broader economic crisis in Russia that's got everyone we talked to worried about the future.

"Of course I feel bad when they always blame Russia for everything that's gone wrong in the world," says Konstantin Smirnov (ph).

This confrontation, he tells me, is not good for anyone.

Rival militaries maneuvering along opposite sides of increasingly tense borders in a land that still bears scars from the last time armies fought here.

WATSON: The countryside around Kaliningrad is dotted with dozens of old German churches like this one, abandoned and in ruins after the Soviet army invaded and conquered this land, reminders of what happened the last time tensions spun out of control in this part of Europe -- Ivan Watson, CNN, Kaliningrad, Russia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Ivan, thank you.

And a programming note for our international viewers joining today, all this week, CNN will have --

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HOWELL: -- have special coverage of Vladimir Putin's Russia, from allegedly meddling in the U.S. elections to annexing Crimea and its role in the Syrian conflict.

Be sure to join us for "Reports on Russia: Flexing Its Muscle on the Global Stage," here on CNN.

So the election in the United States it did happen; Americans did vote but officially Donald Trump has yet to win the presidency. That all changes today because that is -- because 538 members of the U.S. electoral college will meet Monday in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia. They will be casting their ballots.

Trump won the majority of electoral votes in last month's election, even though he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by about 3 million people.

The electoral college vote is typically a formality. It's typically a rubber stamp, if you will. But this year, there has been a drive to get Republican electors to change their votes and it is drawing much more attention to this process.

CNN's Kyung Lah reports the electors are being targeted with some intense messages.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The threats keep coming to Christopher Suprun (ph), from raping his wife and daughters with a knife before killing him to warnings on social media to messages on his cellphone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd better get yo' shit straight. We coming after you.

CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN (PH), TEXAS ELECTOR: People have put out my home address. They put out my home phone number. We're now in a place, where, oh, you're not going to vote the way I want? I'm going to kill you.

LAH (voice-over): All because Suprun (ph) is a Republican Texas elector in the Electoral College. He's a so-called faithless elector, a conservative lifelong Republican will not vote for Donald Trump, even though the GOP easily won Texas.

LAH: Why not vote for Donald Trump?

I mean, isn't that what you're supposed to do?

SUPRUN (PH): If I'm a rubber stamp, that's exactly what I'm supposed to do. This is, unfortunately, the first time I think we've needed to use it as a nation. But it's time to pull the brake.

LAH (voice-over): He claims that goal of stopping Trump has made him the target of a smear campaign. Suprun (ph) says he was a Dale City (ph), Virginia, volunteer paramedic at the Pentagon on 9/11.

He said Trump supporters are alleging he was never there, a claim he calls "outrageous." The Dale City (ph) fire department says Suprun (ph) was a volunteer member from 2000-2002 but can't find a record of where he was on 9/11.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These electors are charged with a constitutional responsibility.

LAH (voice-over): The electoral vote is something we usually never pay attention to. But 2016 has been anything but usual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bottom line, he hasn't won yet. The only vote that matters when it comes to president has not happened yet.

LAH (voice-over): Brett Kiafalo (ph), Democratic Washington State elector formed The Hamilton Electors the day after the election, now trying to urge Electoral College members across the country to block Trump from 270 votes.

For that to happen, 37 Republican electors must flip. Suprun (ph) is the firset Republican to publicly flip but Kiafalo (ph) says he's heard from others.

BRETT KIAFALO (PH), DEMOCRATIC WASHINGTON STATE ELECTOR: We believe that there's a large group of people who are staying silent out of fear or maybe because they haven't made a final decision. But we do believe there's dozens of Republican electors who are seriously considering not voting for Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The callers will announce the votes.

LAH (voice-over): But even if that remote possibility happens, the House of Representatives controlled by Republicans elects the president.

LAH: He's still going to win.

SUPRUN (PH): He's still going to win.

LAH: So isn't this all pointless then?

SUPRUN (PH): Not if you're trying to vote your conscience. Not if you're trying to do the right thing and bring up the issue. I have been hoping he would become the president we all want him to be. But he keeps proving me wrong.

LAH (voice-over): Kyung Lah, CNN, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Kyung Lah, thank you.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, China and Donald Trump spar yet again over his tweets. What China did this time to rile up the U.S. president.

Plus: hundreds of people have been evacuated from Eastern Aleppo. But thousands more are still waiting and it is getting tougher for them to survive the hunger and the freezing temperatures.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN, following the crisis in Syria.

The evacuation deal that could save thousands of lives in Eastern Aleppo. Hundreds of people were evacuated Sunday; still, though, thousands more remain trapped in freezing temperatures there.

Convoys were stopped for hours after an attack on buses that were heading to other besieged areas. CNN's Muhammad Lila has more now from the Turkish-Syrian border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After a weekend of desperation and disappointment, there finally appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The U.N. is referring to these as limited evacuations. We understand just about five buses or so filled with people who are being evacuated from the eastern part of Aleppo to the Aleppo countryside.

This is part of a bigger plan, a bigger transfer or exchange, if you will, of civilians who are trapped; there are some civilians in a couple of pro-regime towns that have been encircled by jihadi militants, including elements of Al Qaeda.

They've been besieged in those towns for more than a year and a half. And as part of this arrangement, people in those towns are going to be released in batches of about a thousand or so and concurrently similar numbers will be released from the eastern part of Aleppo.

Now the big question mark in this is, because you're dealing with a transfer, it requires a lot of guarantees on the ground, not just observation from the United Nations and relief organizations; but it also requires a certain buy-in from all of the militant groups on the ground as well as the Syrian army and the pro-Assad militias.

And we've seen, over the weekend, that there are some elements that don't want this evacuation to take place; of course, the biggest example of that were these buses that were headed to those besieged towns to take those people out. Well, some of buses were set on fire before they could even reach there.

No group has officially claimed responsibility for setting those buses on fire.

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LILA: But we do know that it happened in an area where there is a heavy Al Qaeda presence. And there were some rebel commanders in Eastern Aleppo who were not happy with that. They wanted this evacuation plan to go through; what happened was the group that set those buses on fire sabotaged this evacuation plan and left the lives of thousands of people on both sides hanging in the balance simply because many people are still sleeping out in the cold.

And they're unsure if they're going to have enough food to eat tomorrow -- Muhammad Lila, from the Turkish-Syrian border, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Muhammad, thank you.

For many of us, the atrocities that we've seen in Aleppo are simply unimaginable. Only those who have survived fully that they understand the brutality of this Syrian civil war.

Our affiliate, Expressin TV (ph), talked with a family that lived under heavy bombardment in Eastern Aleppo.

They say, quote, "We lost a lot of the beauty of life. We lost our families, our people, our homes."

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language). UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

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HOWELL: The wait to be evacuated from Eastern Aleppo has been especially difficult for the wounded. As Simon Israel from ITN reported a while ago, a makeshift hospital was not given enough ambulances to evacuate the patients. We do want to warn you going into this report, some of the images are disturbing.

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SIMON ISRAEL, ITN REPORTER: They said they needed 50 ambulances for 120 patients, today, they were promised only two, under the renewed evacuation plan. Yet, in every corridor in every corner on every inch of floor lie the injured, the sick and the dying in this makeshift hospital basement.

He's been waiting a week and the bleeding won't stop. As the hours tick by, still no news, no ambulances, no buses. The desperation, the urgency increases. This man wants his friend to be treated as a priority, now they've been told only two ambulances will be coming.

"Two cars are only enough for four cases. Nothing more than that. The rest of the injured people are still in the only field hospital left inside the city. The rest of the injured are all over the streets and no one are listening to our calls."

And then there are the babies whose cries have barely heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): She's two months old, just arrived here in the hospital. They were at the checkpoint for three hours and the weather was very cold. They couldn't cross and they came back, just cramps now, there's no pediatrician and no basic medicines.

ISRAEL: Their releases from Aleppo has been hanging on one crucial condition, the freedom of hundreds of others in the besieged pro-Assad villages of Foua and Kefraya. A convoy of buses was laid on.

But then a Sunni extremist faction intervene and set fire to the fleet before it could reach those villages.

"We won't let you evacuate this year, you pick," said one attacker, "they've only come out -- --

[02:25:00]

ISRAEL: -- "when they are dead."

Back in the rebel enclave of Eastern Aleppo tonight, all hope has been crushed. And the sick and the injured have returned to their precarious existence. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we are cleaning the hospital preparing all the rooms to start working again. And we are -- or we will stay here now. And we don't know if we will leave. And no hope but all to leave.

ISRAEL: But that is not the picture Syrian state TV is broadcasting tonight. It shows half a dozen buses with it said militants and their families waiting a checking to cross into the west of the city and free them. Yet one person can be seen on the coaches or on the roadside.

The injured and the vulnerable are supposed to be their priority in an evacuation from a war zone where civilians and fighters live alongside each other. Tonight, by any account they were not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Now, to Jordan: officials there say a cowardly terrorist attack Sunday left 10 people dead and dozens more wounded; four gunman were killed after a standoff with security forces. Their victims include security members, civilians and a Canadian tourist. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has more from Amman, Jordan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has been described as a terrorist attack by Jordanian officials has come to an end according to a statement from the security services in Jordan.

They say, what is ongoing right now is clearing and calming operations around the area of the main attack around that castle of in the city of al-Karak to the South of Jordan.

They say that four attackers who they described as terrorist were killed in this operation, they say they found a large number of automatic weapons on them as well as a large amount of ammunition.

Also, in the house that these attackers described as terrorists were using in a town near al-Karak, they say, that they found suicide vest and explosives there.

According to Jordanian authorities, this was multiple shooting incidents that took place in Southern Jordan.

To the north of the city of al-Karak in the town of Gatrana, their security forces came under fire and also in al-Karak itself, these two shooting incidents, one where a police patrol came under-fire but the deadliest most serious incident was when a gunman positioned himself in the Kerak Castle, that's 12th-century Crusader castle, one of the main tourist attraction in Southern Jordan and they opened-fire on a nearby police station there.

They were surrounded by security forces and gun battles ensued for few hours. This type of attack is rare in this country, Jordan, they pride itself with its security and stability in the midst of its turbulent region. But this key U.S. ally has been a target of terrorist organizations according to officials here who say that they have thwarted several terror plugs over the past year including one by ISIS.

It is still unclear who is behind this attack on Sunday, being blamed on terrorist groups by Jordan who says - where the government says, that it is investigating the identity of the attackers and what affiliations they have -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Amman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Jomana, thank you.

Much more news ahead. Donald Trump calls China's seizure of a U.S. drone unprecedented. How China has fired back at the U.S. president- elect.

Plus North Korea's leader is usually outspoken about the United States but he has been strangely silent on the presidential election. We examine why.

Live from Atlanta to our viewers in the United States and worldwide this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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[02:32:18] HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell, with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

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HOWELL: One of the final steps in the U.S. election process happens in the coming hours. The 538 Electoral College voters will cast their ballots Monday. And if all goes as expected, they will make Donald Trump's the 45th president. He won a majority of the electoral votes in last month's selections, even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote overall.

With the Electoral College set to vote, there are campaigns to have Republicans electors switch their votes, or as Andrew Spencer reports, delay that vote altogether.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: If they're able to harm the electoral process, then they destroy democracy, which is based on free and fair elections.

ANDREW SPENCER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator John McCain, who has been vocal about the Russian election-related hack, spoke out again on Sunday, just one day before the Electoral College is set to vote. 538 electors, individuals selected by their political parties to cast votes for president and vice president, will gather in their respective state capitals on Monday to do just that. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote on election night, but President-

elect Donald Trump got more than the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

The electoral voting process has long been a formality, but with the conclusion from intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, some Democrats are calling on Congress to delay the vote until electors can be briefed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we're asking for is the information to be released. It appears it's not going to be released. That's why tomorrow I'll forward a motion to call for a bipartisan independent commission to investigate Russia's interference.

[02:35:02] SPENCER: Despite the motion, the vote remains scheduled for Monday.

The intelligence community said it will not discuss the Russian hack until a review ordered by President Obama will be completed in January.

I'm Andrew Spencer, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Two top Democrats and two senior Republicans want a bipartisan probe into Russia's alleged hacking of the U.S. election. The group includes incoming Senate minority leader, Charles Schumer. He says nothing less than a special Senate committee investigation will do here. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D-NY), INCOMING SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Leader McConnell has said let the intelligence committee do this alone. That is not good enough for three reasons. First, there are conflicting jurisdictions. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the FBI. The Foreign Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over foreign policy. The Armed Services Committee has jurisdiction over the hacking of the military. And the Intelligence Committee, of course, has jurisdiction over the CIA. With all these conflicting jurisdictions, if we don't have one Select Committee, first, things could be left out, there could be holes that no committee covers. Second, we could get contradictory information, the FBI says this, the CIA says that, and they're not reconciled. And third, the existing committees are very, very busy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Top Democrats there in the House, Charles Schumer.

Another story we're following on the other side of the world, China's seizure of U.S. underwater drone. It has sparked a war of words with the U.S. president-elect. That device was snatched by China" in international waters last week. Trump responded with angry tweets. China said it will return the drone but it is taking Trump to task for his reaction.

CNN's Matt Rivers has more from Beijing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR: The seizure of this U.S. Navy underwater drone by a Chinese Navy ship really played out along the entirety of the weekend. We found out about it on Friday. It was on Saturday, the Ministry of Defense here in Beijing confirmed what had happened and said it would be returning that drone to the United States.

And then it was President-elect Donald Trump's turn to weigh in. He tweeted twice about this issue. But the second tweet appearing to be more aggressive, saying, the United States should let China keep the drone and not worry about getting it back.

And then on Sunday, it was the state-run media here in China, it was their turn to weigh in on all of this. And it was a state-run tabloid newspaper called "The Global Times," which is known for its very provocative use on issues like this that stood out to us. Let me read you some of the editorial that was written about the subject. It read in part, quote, "The tone of a bystander fanning flames in Trump's second tweet is particularly worrisome that he might treat the relationship between superpowers as a game. Given that he has not been in the White House, the official Chinese rhetoric about him so far has been measured, but this restraint will not last when he officially becomes president if he still treats China the way he tweeted today."

That really matters because state-run newspapers in China are just that, state run. Nothing gets published here, even if it is editorial, without the sign off of Communist Party Censors. While you might not hear a spokesman getting up and making a provocative statement like that, the fact is that this is a state-run newspaper expressing state views.

A big question here that's remaining in Beijing is, how will this incident effect U.S./Chinese relations going forward. If you look at what has happened, it's the latest negative incident in terms of the relationship between both sides. And it all surrounds the incoming Trump administration, Donald Trump taking a call in early December from the president of Taiwan, and questioning the One-China policy, and then tweeting about this latest incident, and it's drawn the ire of the Chinese government. Whether that's part of the Trump administration's plan moving forward, we're not sure this kind of tough take on China. But it's safe to say here, at least on the Chinese side of things, the Chinese government, given their statement and what you're seeing in state media, not really happy so far with the take and the track of the incoming Trump administration.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Matt Rivers, thank you. China's relationship with the United States plays a critical role in

Washington's policy towards North Korea. And though the President- elect has given many indications that will shakeup foreign policy, it is unclear how he will deal with Pyongyang.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has more now, saying that North Korea is unusually quiet.

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PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to insults, North Korea does not pull punches. South Korea's impeached president, Park Geun-hye is being a called prostitute and a bloodthirsty dictator. U.S. President Barack Obama was referred to as a monkey and a heinous war maniac.

But Mr. Obama's successor, President-elect Donald Trump has still barely been mentioned in the weeks since the election.

[02:40:14] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is a wild card. I think Kim Jong-Un doesn't know how to size up this person, and vice versa. It's an interesting tale of two alpha males and how they're stiffing each other out in this point.

HANCOCKS: Trump was referred to as a "wise politician" by Pyongyang during the campaign after suggesting U.S. troops could be pulled out of South Korea. Official state media has officially said the U.S. should face up to the reality of a nuclear North Korea. But the unofficial word coming out Pyongyang is let's wait and see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard from the North Korea official there, they do not want to make any provocative actions until they know what kind of North Korea policies are in the U.S. new administration.

HANCOCKS: In stark contrast to a couple of months ago. This year alone, Kim Jong-Un has carried out two nuclear tests and two dozen missiles tests. Never in its history has so much testing been done in such a short period of time.

During the campaign, Trump referred to Kim Jong-Un as "a bad dude," as well as almost praising him for taking over from his father so convincingly, as well as saying he would be happy to have a hamburger with the guy. Not the worst idea, according to some experts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is self-professed negotiator, deal maker. I think that's how he sees the political landscape, including with North Korea. So, with what he's saying, it's both offensive and defensive. And that's a classic negotiation play.

HANCOCKS (on camera): One negotiating play that may actually backfire is Trump's apparent willingness to confront China. The U.S. needs China on board for these U.N. sanctions against North Korea to have any chance of working. If Beijing starts to move further away from Washington, experts say it may start to move closer to Pyongyang, just to teach Trump a lesson.

Paula Hancock, CNN, Seoul.

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HOWELL: Paula, thank you.

Extreme weather conditions continue to grip parts of the United States causing crippling weather on the roads. A rough situation there. We'll check the weather when NEWSROOM continues.

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[02:45:39] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

Police in Little Rock, Arkansas, are searching for a man involved in an apparent road-rage incident that left a 3-year-old dead. The little boy was on a shopping trip with his grandmother. Residents in the community where it happened they say that the violence needs to stop.

Shannon Miller of our affiliate, KARK, has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frightening. As cute as can be, going to a store and somebody think you did something to them.

MILLER: This man and his wife have lived near Mabelvale Drive (ph) for the past few years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a good area, a real good area. It's real quiet here. Everybody looks out for one another.

MILLER: But he says Sunday morning, he woke up to disturbing news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was getting ready for work and saw the news that morning.

MILLER: The quiet neighborhood was the scene of where police say a boy was shot inside his grandmother's car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, you've got four kids, four girls. Touched me. It touched me a lot. You want your kids safe.

MILLER: Police say the shooting stemmed from a road-rage incident after the grandmother stopped at a stop sign, honked her horn, before the man got out of the other car and shot at her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, it's mindboggling.

MILLER: Many say the shooting reminds them of when a two-year-old was shot in her mother's car not too far from the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twice in less than two months.

MILLER: Hampton says the violence, especially towards young children, needs to stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to sit down and talk to them and for them to revert their anger in another way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: A $20,000 reward is being offered for an arrest and conviction in this little child's death.

HOWELL: Following severe weather that has been causing trouble across much of the United States over the weekend and that has the rest of the day's weather headlines. We'll see what happens. Cold weather, I'm sure.

Karen Maginnis joins us live -- Karen?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEROLOGIST: Yeah, it is cold, George. You have to go back a long way before seeing temperatures quite as cold as we've seen over the last 24 and 48 hours. Here are some representative temperatures and these are not wind-chill factors. Not wind-chill factors. These were the outside air temperatures. all of these are record-low readings, minus 37. You have to go back to the 60s and 70s for most of these records to be as impressive as these. We broke numerous records all across the Dakotas and into the upper Midwest. Now we're looking at some of the current temperatures and much not wind not like we were seeing 24 hours. Nonetheless, three degrees in Minneapolis, it feels like minus 12. That gives you some idea that frigid air is still in place. It's going to gradually pull away. We'll have cold temperatures replacing that arctic air and temperatures will start to rebound a little bay cross the southeast, and making its way into the northeast and New England. Now, that's not super warm. But at least it's going to be milder.

I just want to show you -- give you an example of some of the moisture that we've seen as far as the winter precipitation goes. A month ago, and only about 17 percent of the country had any kind of snow fall on the ground, but now here we are, the latter portion of December, and we have about 58 percent in the country as being snow on the ground. But that came at quite a cost with the blustery wind and the dangerous cold temperatures.

All right. Let's go ahead and show you what's happening as we look again at what happens in the forecast. I showed you those readings are going to warm up. You go from 20s to 40s. You'll just about double your temperatures over the next couple of days. Chicago goes from temperatures in the teens to temperatures right around freezing. That will be a little bit of a break.

They can use a break in China with the air quality. It's been so bad, they are looking at this red alert for China right around the vicinity of Beijing. They have such poor air quality. They had to go to some factories, thousands of factories, and they're getting some cars off the road. They're trying to really clean up the air quality here and meet a 2030 goal of improving the air pollution across this region. It does looks like they're no mixing. That's not going to happen until we go towards Wednesday. We'll start to see some improvement. George, back to you.

[02:50:37] HOWELL: Wow, just looking at those images, you get a sense of how intense --

MAGINNIS: It is.

HOWELL: -- that situation is.

Karen Maginnis, thank you.

The satirical show "Saturday Night Live" is having fun with the upcoming Electoral College vote. We'll show you how they work Hillary Clinton into the movie, "Love Actually."

Stay tuned.

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[02:54:48] HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

As we reported earlier, the U.S. Electoral College will vote in a few hours to make the victory of Donald Trump almost official. And that provided fodder for the American satirical show "Saturday Night Live." Listen.

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[02:56:26] HOWELL: "Saturday Night Live" poking fun at a scene from the romantic Christmas movie, "Love Actually."

We thank you for being with us this hour for CNN NEWSROOM. Hour two of NEWSROOM is up after the break. Stay with us.

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