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Ft. Lauderdale Airport Slowly Returning to Normal; FBI Previously Checked Florida Shooter's Background; Orthodox Christians Celebrate Christmas; Mom Hides in Pantry to Eat Candy. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired January 8, 2017 - 03:00   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): The Florida gunman and mental health. His brother says he needed help but never got what he needed. The very latest on the investigation ahead.

A closer relationship: that's what Donald Trump says he wants for the U.S. and Russia, despite intelligence reports claiming that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.

And she just needed a minute. A mother hides in her own pantry, trying to escape the chaos of four little children, and it's all caught on video that has gone viral.

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

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HOWELL: The suspect in a deadly shooting at a Florida airport has confessed he planned that attack and now faces federal charges.

Court documents show Esteban Santiago told officials he flew from Alaska, he loaded his gun at a bathroom after he arrived in Ft. Lauderdale and then he shot the first people that he saw in the baggage claim area, emptying two magazines.

The 26-year old could face the death penalty if found guilty. Months ago, officials referred Santiago to a mental health evaluation. But his brother says, despite that, Santiago still didn't get the psychological help that he needed.

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SANTIAGO'S BROTHER (through translator): I want to clarify this for the Puerto Rican people and for all the people in the world, that the federal government already knew his reaction.

They already knew the thoughts that he was having and how they weren't good. He himself went after them to ask for help. And they did nothing. They had him hospitalized for four days. And then they let him go.

How are you going to let someone leave a psychological center after four days, when he is saying he is hearing voices, that the CIA is telling him to join certain groups?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The investigation certainly continues. And, in the meantime, authorities have reopened most of the terminals at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale.

We are learning much more also about the victims. Our Boris Sanchez has that part of the story.

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BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Operations are returning to normal here at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood international airport in the aftermath of the gunman opening fire at the bag claim area and killing five people and wounded six others.

CNN has learned the names of two of those killed. Olga Walter (ph) was a great grandmother from Georgia. She flew in Ft. Lauderdale with her husband so that could go on a cruise. Terry Andrews was also on vacation. He was a ship worker from Virginia celebrating his 63rd birthday with his wife.

Of the six rushed to the Broward medical center, three two surgery, two of them had been shot in the face.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Of course, need to talk to family that lost a love one. You cannot imagine what they are going through right now. You know, not wake up thinking this is going to be another wonderful day in their lives and then lose a loved one.

SANCHEZ: Following the interview with the suspected gunman, Esteban Santiago, investigators revealed that the 26-year-old allegedly came to Ft. Lauderdale specifically to carry out this attack. They don't know why this airport was targeted.

Authorities say that in November, Santiago had a gun in his vehicle when he paid a visit to the FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska. The former National Guardsman told agents there that he had been hearing voices that told him to watch ISIS videos.

CNN spoke with the Iraq war veteran in New Jersey over the phone, who said, quote, "His mind was not right when he came back from Iraq. He talked about all the destruction and the killing of children. He had visions all the time."

Investigators in Florida tell us the investigation is still in the early stages and possible ties to terrorism have not yet been ruled out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have not ruled out anything. We continue to look at all avenues and all motives for this horrific attack. At this point, we are continuing to look at the terrorism angle in regard to the potential motivation behind this attack.

SANCHEZ: Santiago will likely appear before a judge on Monday. The second floor of terminal two has been reopened to help process passengers.

And there is a bit of good news. One of the six injured being helped at Broward health is expected to go home soon. But we also got the FBI to confirm that Esteban Santiago was armed when he went to visit their field office in Anchorage, Alaska.

Apparently he had a fully loaded weapon inside his car that agents retrieved. Also inside that car, his infant son, which his girlfriend had to go pick up. Important to point out, that weapon was confiscated during his mental health evaluation. They held it for about a month. It was returned to him ultimately, on December 8th.

It turns out that weapon that was confiscated was the same one used in Friday's attack here in Ft. Lauderdale -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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HOWELL: CNN law enforcement analyst Matthew Horace joins us from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, via Skype.

Matthew, good to have you this hour.

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HOWELL: Now that we know that Esteban Santiago has confessed, he is facing newly filed federal charges that are eligible for the death penalty if he's found guilty.

The question though, how might mental health play in all of this?

MATTHEW HORACE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I'm sure mental health will come into play in terms of his defense.

In other words, was this carefully planned out and what was his intention and what was his motive?

But there are people that were left dead in this incident. And I'm sure the government will be seeking death penalty.

HOWELL: So investigators also say that Santiago had been planning the attack for some time. They notice he had been selling his possessions, that he sold his car. They say friends noticed him acting more erratically, not to mention the time they say in November, when friends urged him to go to an FBI office apparently to seek help.

Could authorities have done more?

Anything more to prevent what happened?

HORACE: You know, George, it's a very good question. But I can tell you from my experience working in the federal government as a federal agent, we would get people to come into tell us things many times that seemed erratic and unintelligible.

During those times, we have the choice either to evaluate it as being credible or evaluate it as being just a series of rants and raves. Most often, we send that information back down to the local police to make reports and follow up if necessary.

But if you can only imagine, the hundreds or thousands of individuals that come into law enforcement offices like this every year and every day, it gets to be overwhelming.

HOWELL: What would be the distinction, though, as you say, if you were to experience something like this to encounter someone like this?

You say the difference between being credible and rants and raves, what do you mean?

What would you give as an example of that?

HORACE: Well, you know, I had this happen to me, where people would come into the office at ATF and make allegations that they were hearing voices and things like that.

But, remember, our job is not to evaluate mental health. Our job is to enforce federal law. So in some cases, we can refer them to the state and local organization and hope they can seek help. In other cases, we write up a report and document it, and that's about the extent that we can do.

If the person hasn't committed a crime or shows us that they have the potential to commit a crime, at that point, there's really nothing we can do except for document it and hope for the best.

HOWELL: OK, so for mental health, I want to ask about overall security. Back in November when he was assessed by the FBI there in Alaska, they determined that he had no ties to terrorism at that time. So he wasn't placed on no-fly list; he wasn't monitored.

With regard to airport security overall, what more can be done in situations like this one?

HORACE: Well, that's a great, great question, George. You know there are 378 commercial airports in the United States. Every day, 1.73 million people travel. So I think we're going to have to retool and rethink the overall security strategy for our aviation facilities. Because we don't want this to happen again.

The fact is, this exposed airports and this exposed us in a very vulnerable and a very real way. And I would hate to think that there were copycats out there that sort of take this model and try to use it for themselves.

HOWELL: CNN law enforcement analyst, Matthew Horace, Matthew, thank you for your insight.

HORACE: Have a great evening. HOWELL: Now switching to the Trump transition. the U.S. president- elect says the United States should build closer ties to Russia, even after learning how hard Moscow worked to influence the 2016 presidential race.

On Saturday, Donald Trump tweeted this.

"Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only," he said, "stupid people or fools would think it is bad. We have enough problems around the world without yet another one.

"When I am president, Russia will respect us far more than they do now. And both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of many great and pressing problems and issues of the world."

Larry Sabato, the director of The Center for Politics at the University of Virginia says Trump is venturing far from longstanding U.S. policy.

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LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It's pretty clear that a sizable majority of the American population, not to mention a large majority of Congress in both parties, disagree with the president- elect.

When you look at Russia and its role in the world and its behavior in its own neighborhood and even domestically, it's pretty obvious that Vladimir Putin and his allies there in Russia have very different values than American democracy.

What is bizarre and is difficult to understand is why the president- elect identifies so much with Vladimir Putin, more so than with many domestic politicians, as he said during the campaign.

It's just something we have no experience with and not just during the Cold War but in all of the years since then.

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HOWELL: And more on the Trump-Putin --

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HOWELL: -- bromance. Trump's admiration of Vladimir Putin has helped to give the Russian leader a global profile not seen since the Soviet Union. CNN's Phil Black takes a closer look at Putin's growing influence.

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PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some have argued Vladimir Putin could be the most powerful man in the world. Not everyone sees him that way, but

Putin has powerful levers he's often willing to use, including cyber power, military might and a cult of personality. Together, they form and often affected web of influence.

While Moscow denied its highly skilled hackers tried to influence the U.S. election, they've also been accused of spying and causing big disruptions in other countries like Estonia and Ukraine, claims Russia also rejects.

Russia's enormous hacking powers state and criminal isn't new. It traces backs to the USSR when its universities were designed to produce world-class engineers.

Putin's power is also a hugely enhanced by his very personal control of Russia's vast military. Much of it, including the nukes, is also a Soviet legacy. So Putin is pumping extraordinary amounts of money into modernization, but most analysts agree Russia's conventional forces are still only mighty enough to project power close to its borders.

Russia also used limited air power to successfully prop up the Syrian regime. The critics say that works because of Putin's willingness to indiscriminately bomb board civilian areas, something Moscow denies.

One of the bigger sources of Putin's power is his own extraordinary popularity at home. The more other world leaders criticize him, the more Russians celebrate their president. His approval figures soared with Ukraine and spiked again with Syria.

The reason, many Russians really care about their country's ability to influence world events even if it comes to sanctions and a hit to their own quality of life. They're proud of it. Putin also benefits from a political system and a media landscape with zero tolerance for criticism.

So no doubt Vladimir Putin is powerful and unpredictable, but he's also limited by some pretty big problems. The Russian economy isn't going anywhere. That's why there's another popular theory about Putin and his web of influence. He's someone who plays a weak hand very well.

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HOWELL: Phil Black there for us.

Thank you, Phil.

Trump also says he that he will get together with Britain's new prime minister in a few months.

The exact date not yet announced but he tweeted this, "I look very much forward to meeting Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington in the spring. Britain, a long time U.S. ally, is very special," Donald Trump said.

The Trump transition team is standing by a conservative columnist who's been tapped for a top national security communications position in the president-elect's administration. A CNN investigation found that Monica Crowley plagiarized large portions of her 2012 best- selling book, "What the (INAUDIBLE) Just Happened."

It cites multiple passages in that book that it says appear to be lifted from other sources, including news articles, other columnists and websites. The Trump transition spokesperson says, quote, "Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country."

Some soldiers in Ivory Coast are rejecting a government deal to end a mutiny there. What the soldiers are angry about and what they're demanding now -- just ahead.

Plus: it may be the new year. But for Orthodox Christians, Christmas has just begun. We'll go inside a midnight mass in Russia -- still ahead.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.

Several news agencies are reporting a car bomb in Eastern Baghdad has killed at least 11 people. It's wounded dozens more. This information is coming to them from police and from medics. That blast reportedly hit a vegetable market in the mainly Shiite district.

A massive car bomb in Northern Syria has killed about 50 people and it's wounded about 80 more. This happened in the rebel-held city of Azzaz (ph) on Saturday, very close to the Turkish border. No one has claimed responsibility for that blast.

But ISIS has targeted the town in the past. The bombing happened, despite a nationwide cease-fire that has been in effect since December 30th.

The president of Ivory Coast says that government has reached a deal to end a mutiny by soldiers. But some of those soldiers have rejected that deal and they are still fighting. They say they were promised a salary bonus for bringing the president to power. But they never received the money.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I confirm my agreement to take into account the demands relative to the bonuses and the better living and working conditions of the soldiers.

I would like to repeat that this way of making demands is not appropriate. Indeed, it tarnishes the image of our country after all of our efforts in economic development and diplomatic repositioning. Having marked my agreement, I call on all of the soldiers to go back to their barracks in order to allow for these decisions to be executed calmly.

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HOWELL: Those soldiers are asking for written proof now that they will get paid.

Ghana has sworn worn in a new president, Nana Akufo-Addo took the oath of office in a lavish ceremony in that country's capital Saturday. Dozens of African leaders attended, including the outgoing president. The 72-year-old former opposition leader pledges to cut taxes and to boost the economy.

As many as 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world spent Saturday in Christmas celebrations.

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HOWELL (voice-over): According to Russian Orthodox tradition, Christmas begins with mass, followed by celebrations at home the next day. Orthodox Christians use the Julian calendar, which observes Christmas 13 days after most other Christians.

On Saturday, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, attended a midnight mass at a cathedral just outside of Moscow.

Pope Francis is scheduled to baptize newborn babies in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, marking The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Our senior Vatican analyst and editor, John Allen, now joins from Rome.

John, it's good to have you with us this hour.

First of all, what exactly is the pope doing today?

And what makes this different than other papal events?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SR. VATICAN ANALYST: Hello, George. Happy Sunday to you on this chilly Roman Sunday morning.

Today, as you indicated, is on the Catholic calendar the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, it commemorates that scene from the Bible, where Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist.

Unlike other papal events, where -- which are, you know in the St. Peter's Basilica or St. Peter's Square and kind of intended for the whole world, this one today is much more what the Italians would call de la familia, it's a family thing.

This is going to be in the Sistine chapel and it's a very intimate setting, where the pope will be saying a mass. And then, afterwards, he will baptize the children, the newborn children of Vatican employees during the year.

So he will be doing 28 baptisms today, 13 baby girls, 15 baby boys. And it's kind of a thing for his closest collaborators, his aides, his family, so to speak, here in the Vatican -- George.

HOWELL: So what is the pope's relationship right now with his staff in the Vatican?

What's that like?

And are they supportive?

Are they with him with where he is taking the church?

ALLEN: Well, you know, George, most people who work in the Vatican are sort of naturally inclined to be supportive --

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ALLEN: -- of the pope, whoever he is. Now there certainly would be some in the Vatican who would be of a bit more conservative inclination, who would be uncomfortable with some of what they perceive as the progressive changes being introduced by Pope Francis.

Also, Pope Francis has been working on an overhaul of the bureaucratic structures of the Vatican for more than three years now. And, quite frankly, there are some people here who were just a little worried about whether they will still have jobs next year.

And so that relationship, you know, has been a little bit difficult from the very beginning. And that, George, is what makes a day like this so important because it is a chance for the pope to be with his staff here in the Vatican and to reassure them that, you know, whatever happens, you know he is not only their pope, he is, in a way, their parish priest.

And I will tell you, having talked to the families, who have had their children baptized by the pope in the past, this is a day they will cherish their entire lives. So you know, both for the pope and for the personnel in the Vatican, George, this is a big day.

HOWELL: Our senior Vatican analyst, John Allen, thank you so much for the insight into what is happening there.

Now to talk now about a dangerous winter storm that has dumped snow and ice on parts of the southeastern U.S. and it is still not done. it's headed up the East Coast. Near whiteout conditions are possible in some areas. This storm being blamed for dozens of vehicle pileups and car crashes.

Crews have been working around the clock to clear icy roads and authorities are telling people to stay at home, off the roads for their own safety. It's not just North America that's dealing with bad weather this winter, cold weapon. Parts of Eastern Europe are also feeling the cold snap.

Our meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, is here to talk more about Europe dealing with the mess as well.

(WEATHER REPORT) DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You've got to see this image coming out of the Harbin Ice Festival. And George, this is amazing because that gentleman right there is carving a replica of an individual doing tai chi.

I don't think I could do that.

HOWELL: Wow. That's skill.

VAN DAM: You need a steady hand for that.

HOWELL: Derek Van Dam, thank you.

VAN DAM: Thank you.

HOWELL: All right, so we're closing out the show here to talk about eating contests.

Have you ever wondered how many meatballs you can eat while dancing?

If so, Thailand has a festival for that, a province in Northeast Bangkok, just north of Bangkok, just held its annual fish ball eating contest. That's right. And more than 300 people joined in, some of them champions from other countries. They had to stand for the competition but many --

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HOWELL: -- danced while the crowds cheered.

They were also asked to dip their fish balls in the same sauce pot. That is a tradition in that area. The winner gets a cash prize, around $2,800.

So it can be tough sometimes as a parent to get alone time. So one mother did what she had to do to eat candy in peace. But even then, her kids weren't far away. And the video that she took, well, that's gone viral, as Jeanne Moos shows us.

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ASHLEY GARDNER, COVERT MOM: Say, hi.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Need an escape from the kids?

This mom's solution went viral.

ASHLEY GARDNER: Mom desperately needed a treat to get through the rest of the night. So I am hiding in the pantry, eating a treat.

Is that wrong?

MOOS (voice-over): Well, Ashley Gardner did get some mean comments. But the Internet was smitten with the end.

ASHLEY GARDNER: They don't ever go away. They want everything you have.

MOOS (voice-over): When she moved her phone down to the crack of the door, that's when viewers cracked up.

GARDNER: See. She's always there.

INDIE GARDNER, QUAD: Hi. Hi.

ASHLEY GARDNER: Hi.

MOOS (voice-over): Three "Hi's," one eye. But she wasn't alone.

How many of them are there on the other side of the pantry door?

Four 2-year olds, nicknamed the Quad Squad. The Gardners of Orem, Utah, struggled with infertility for eight years until IVF paid off.

TYSON GARDNER, QUADS' DAD: Well, they split. And so here we are with quadruplets, two sets of identical twins.

MOOS (voice-over): Ashley titled her video, "Sums Up Motherhood in 34 Seconds."

ASHLEY GARDNER: I mean, my video was about being in the pantry, eating a treat. And a lot of other moms identify with the fact of just going to the bathroom for 30 seconds in peace, which never happens.

MOOS (voice-over): And who wants to eat Twizzlers in the bathroom?

The Gardners are no strangers to publicity. They blog about their family life almost every day and are even on a reality show about parenting.

MOOS: You did get some comments like, "You had them, deal with it," kind of stuff.

What do you say to those people?

ASHLEY GARDNER: They obviously don't know what it's like to be a parent.

MOOS (voice-over): The daughter peering through the crack, by the way, is named Indy. Her nickname...

ASHLEY GARDNER: Indy Pie.

MOOS (voice-over): And because she likes to say, "Hi," sometimes they call her Indy Pie Hi.

INDIE GARDNER: Hi, hi.

MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN.

INDIE GARDNER: Hi.

MOOS (voice-over): New York.

INDIE GARDNER: Hi.

ASHLEY GARDNER: Hi.

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HOWELL: You know, sometimes you just need a quick break.

Thank you for being with us here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'll have your world headlines right after the break.