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North Korea Blames Hostile U.S. Policy for Missile Launches; Israel PM Says ISIS Played Role in Deadly Truck Attack; New Video Showing Moment Gunman Opened Fire at Ft. Lauderdale Airport; Ft. Lauderdale Shooting Witness Called a Hero; Trump Aides: Trump Accepts Russian Hacking, Did Not Influence Election; Trump Says Despite Hacking Ties Can Be Improved with Russia; Queen Elizabeth Makes Appearance after Illness; Big Night for "La La Land" Amid Politics at Golden Globes. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 9, 2017 - 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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[02:00:37] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

It is 2:00 a.m. on the U.S. east coast. The newest threat from North Korea, it claims to be able to launch a ballistic missile anytime, anywhere. That's the quote. It was just last week the country said it was close to testing this long-range missile.

Let's go live to South Korea. Paula Hancocks is following this story this hour.

Paula, North Korea says they are doing this specifically because of the United States. Help our viewers understand the context here.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, this is something we have been hearing for years, even decades, North Korea blaming the United Nations for their arms development, saying they need to have this nuclear missile program so they can protect themselves against what they call a hostile policy of the United States. It is in keeping with what we have seen for many years now. We heard on Sunday from North Korea that they said they could launch an intercontinental at any time and from any location. It depends on the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, to give the green light. An increase in rhetoric once again. We heard him in his New Year's Day address say he was close to test launching an ICBM which could hit the United States in theory. One day later, we heard from Donald Trump saying it's not going to happen. This is really a response to that. We are not seeing Donald Trump being mentioned by North Korea. There's no combative language when it comes to the president-elect. They are saying, once again, they blame the United States for the fact they feel the need to have this ICBM program -- George?

HOWELL: So, Paula, the increased rhetoric, we're seeing that. The claim has been made. It is causing a great deal of concern. There have always been doubts about the North's capabilities. Is there any new reason to believe now they are truly able to carry it out?

HANCOCKS: The only person that knows the answer to that is Kim Jong- Un himself. Those outside of North Korea, the intelligence community, the governments, the officials, the experts, they can see guess. They can see what North Korea has been saying. They can look at satellite images. They can see what's happened with the satellite launch that North Korea carried out just over a year ago. North Korea said it was peaceful. They launched a satellite into space. But experts say that technology is the same as an ICBM. All you have to do is take a satellite off the top and you put a nuclear warhead or a conventional warhead. It is a little complicated than that, but then you have an ICBM.

What hasn't been tested or what hasn't been seen is the reentry into the earth's orbit and be able to strike a target. That has not been proven. U.S. officials have consistently said they have to take what Pyongyang says seriously. It would be too dangerous to assume they are not telling the truth. You have to err on the side of caution.

HOWELL: Paula, let's go a little further with the issue of timing. South Korea, as you have reported, has been mired in domestic issues with its president. In the United States, we are less than two weeks away to a new president, who has said about North Korea's threats that it is not going to happen. Is this an opening for the North?

HANCOCKS: It is important for us to look at the last couple of months. North Korea had been quiet. When you consider what happened in 2016, they carried out two nuclear tests, a myriad of missile tests, of rocket launches, and also this satellite launch back in February. They had been in a rush for this nuclear and missile technology. Before the election, things calmed down. We haven't heard too much being bellicose from North Korea. Many experts say it could be that they simply don't know what Donald Trump's North Korea policy is. They may be concerned about what missile launches or ICBM launches might be. It's the fear of the unknown. It could be one of the reasons we are seeing a quieter North Korea or a more well-behaved North Korea -- George?

[02:0534] HOWELL: Paula Hancocks, following the story for us live in Seoul. Paula, thank you so much for your reporting.

A visit by Taiwan's president to the U.S. is prompting a warning from a Chinese state-run tabloid. The U.S. currently recognizes Taiwan as part of One China. China's "Global Times" says the mainland is prepared against any move towards Taiwan independence, writing, "If Trump reneges on a One China policy after taking office, there Chinese people will demand the government to take revenge. There is no room for bargaining."

Moving on now to Israel, a type of attack we are seeing far too often, a truck rammed through a crowd of people. Authorities are calling this deadly attack terrorism. It happened Sunday in Jerusalem.

And there is surveillance video. And we do want to warn you going into this, this video is disturbing.

It shows Israeli soldiers getting ready to get on a bus. And look in the background here. Highlighted here, this truck plowed right through the people there. One officer and three cadets died. Israeli police shot and killed the driver of the truck.

Our Oren Liebermann picks up the story now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRSPONDENT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visiting the scene of the attack a few hours after it happened, said there are indications the truck driver in this case was a supporter of ISIS.

In the ensuing investigation, police say they have arrested nine suspects, five of whom are family members of the attacker, who police say is a 28-year-old Palestinian from east Jerusalem, a neighbor that is close to where this took place.

Police have increased security in and around the area to try to prevent any copy-cat attacks.

Police say there are no ISIS cells in Israel. Again, it is Netanyahu who is saying this attacker may have been inspired by ISIS.

Israel's education minister called this "viral terrorism" that is promoted on social media. It has been a big effort of Israeli security forces to crack down on social media, and not just after this attack but over the last few months.

Meanwhile, Israel gets ready to mourn four of its own soldiers killed in this attack, as well as a dozen others injured in this attack. Those slain will be posthumously promoted. All of their funerals set to take place on Monday.

Let's walk you back through here what happened. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon on Sunday in Jerusalem when police say this truck driver drove his truck off the road and onto what was a crowded walkway, heading straight for a group of soldiers, all in their 20s, getting off this bus. That's where police say these soldiers were killed as well as a dozen others injured. The attacker was shot and killed at the scene.

Now, the investigation will focus on where did the truck come from? Did anyone else know about it? That is what police are trying to focus on. Or was it a lone wolf-style attack, which we've seen. And police have said it is much more difficult to pinpoint for intelligence services and much more to prevent, and yet that will be the challenge, how to spot the next one to prevent it before it happens.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Oren Liebermann, thank you there.

Ahead, next hour, we will talk to a member of the prime minister's cabinet. The Israeli energy minister will join us to talk more about the investigation in this attack that has been called terrorism.

Now, to a deadly incident that set off a great deal of outrage. This has been the scene, but in Gaza a very different response at this refugee camp. Thousands of supporters of Hamas marched through the streets, praising the attack, yelling out anti-Israeli chants. That group tweeted it is, "a normal response" to the crimes of the Israeli occupation.

In Florida, the gunman who confessed to opening fire in a Fort Lauderdale airport will be formally charged on Monday. Prosecutors say Esteban Santiago admitted he planned the attack. Just two months ago, the Iraq war veteran went to an FBI office in Alaska and he told officials his mind was being controlled by U.S. intelligence. Authorities took away his gun and they referred him for a psychological evaluation. Santiago's brother even said, after that, he still didn't get the help he need. A month later, Santiago got his gun back from police. Officials say there was no legal reason for them to keep the weapon. They now believe it is the same weapon used in the airport, used to kill five people and wound six others.

[02:10:07] There is also new video out that appears to show the moment that the gunman opened fire. Take a look here. This is a still image of that video. You can see the shooter wearing a blue shirt, his weapon drawn.

Boris Sanchez has more.

We warn you, going into this, this report contains disturbing video.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Sunday, we got an up-close look at exactly what unfolded in the baggage claim area on Friday at the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. In this video released to TMZ, you can see Esteban Santiago walk into the frame nondescript. He's walking casually. The moment before he reaches into his waistband and pulls out a .9-millimeter pistol, his expression doesn't change. He is emotionless as he opens fire on the people nearest to him. This collaborates what we heard from officials, this was a planned attack. He bought a one-way ticket from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale in ordered to carry out this attack. And he didn't really target anyone specifically. He just opened fire on the people that were closest to him. In the video, after he opens fire, you can see him kind of crouch down and he starts running.

You can see the people all around him in horror as they realize what's happening. Many people throw themselves on the ground. One woman gets behind a luggage cart, trying to do anything she can to get away from him.

The big question yet to be answered is why he decided to come here to Fort Lauderdale. Investigators say this is still potentially a terrorist act. They have not ruled out terrorism as a potential motive.

Esteban Santiago is due in court on Monday. He is facing very serious charges, all of them eligible for the death penalty.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Boris Sanchez, thank you.

Now, as we learn more about the alleged gunman, we are hearing from witnesses, people who saw this shooting firsthand.

Here is what one told CNN affiliate WSVN about how she survived.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the ladies was killed was my seatmate on the plane. She was standing right next to me.

UNIDENTIFIED WSVN REPORTER: In the baggage claim?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the baggage claim.

I gave her a gift. She turned around, I turned around, and the pops started. I turned around and she was shot in the head and killed. Her husband was shot in the face. The guy next to him was shot in the cheek. The guy next to him was face down. He was dead.

UNIDENTIFIED WSVN REPORTER: Did the man say anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't hear anything. People were yelling get down.

I have a strong belief in a higher power and i know someone was watching over us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: What a terrifying experience. Thankfully, she survived that.

Another witness to the Florida attack is being called a hero for shielding a total stranger from the gunfire.

Here's WSVN's Nicole Linsalata with that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNIKA DEAN (ph), WITNESS: I heard gunshots. I recognized it immediately as gunshots.

NICOLE LINSALATA, REPORTER, WSVN: And then chaos erupted around elementary school art teacher, Annika Dean, just arrived from a trip to Atlanta.

DEAN (ph): I looked for place to hide. There wasn't a place. I saw a smart cart and i went on the other side of that and i just laid down.

LINSALATA: The suspected shooter, Esteban Santiago, had been walking towards her, she says, shooting people.

DEAN (ph): By the time i was laying down, i was just looking at the carpet and praying to God my children would have a mother.

LINSALATA: Her sons are only 13 and 11.

But just then --

DEAN (ph): A man basically climbed on top of me and told me, "i will protect you." It brought me comfort during the most terrifying experience of my life. I wasn't sure if I was going to live or die.

LINSALATA: But she remained quiet along with her protector, Anthony Barseawitz (ph). The gunman fired over them but neither was hit. And now a young mom has been comforted by a stranger. Her faith in people strengthened rather than destroyed.

DEAN (ph): He is just a hero. He just wanted to protect me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[02:15:18] HOWELL: Just wanted to protect her. That was Nicole Linsalata reporting for CNN affiliate WSVN.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, a top aide says there has been a shift in Donald Trump's position on hacking. But consequences for it remain a question. We have details ahead.

Plus, Hollywood gets a bit political at the Golden Globes. We'll have more on what Meryl Streep had to say, referring to the President-elect Donald Trump.

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HOWELL: The Trump transition. A senior member of Donald Trump's team says the president-elect accepts the conclusion that Russia hacked political operatives during the presidential campaign but Reince Priebus stopped short of saying what action would be taken. Trump received an intelligence on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PREIBUS, CHIEF STRATEGIST, RNC & INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He accepts the fact that Russia and other entities engaged in cyberattacks. All day long, he accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia. He is going to order the intelligence community to make recommendations. And whatever the recommendations are will be discussed and actions may be taken. But I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to have a good relationship with Russia and other countries around the world, and that's what the president is saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Reince Priebus there.

Another top trump aide acknowledges that there were hacks, but Kellyanne Conway insists they did not influence the outcome of the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Has he been persuaded that Russia did carry out a comprehensive cyber campaign against Hillary Clinton? And what is he prepared to do about it?

[02:19:53] KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR TRUMP ADVISOR: Jake, if you read his entire statement, and followed the briefing on Friday, he makes very clear they Russia, China and others have attempted to attack different government institutions and businesses and individuals and organizations over a series of time. He mentions the Democratic National Committee. That's why we are having this conversation. I don't want any of your viewers to be misled into thinking that somehow the Kremlin and the Republican Party or that -- that the Kremlin was dealing with any of the hackers and bringing that information back to Moscow. And anybody who allegedly attempted to influence our election actually didn't. If you read the full report, they made very clear, Mr. Clapper, in his testimony made very clear on Thursday under oath, that any attempt to influence the elections failed. They were not successful in doing that. It is a very important point. We are talking about this because we had embarrassing leaks from the DNC e- mails. There were no fireworks in that report because there was no firewall at the DNC.

TAPPER: What they, what the intelligence community said is there was no evidence that Russia was able to penetrate any voting machines and affect the outcome that way. But they made no conclusion whatsoever - they said they didn't have any evidence and it wasn't in their charge to determine whether or not the investigation hacked by Russia that was ultimately leaked to the public, whether or not it changed any votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So despite the hacking scandal, Donald Trump said the icy ties between Russia and the United States can thaw after he takes office.

Jill Dougherty has more now from Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Donald Trump has been tweeting about improving the relationship between the United States and Russia and together solving a lot of the big challenges, the big problems the world encounters. That, of course, is music to Vladimir Putin's ears. He says he wants the U.S. and Russia to work together on things like fighting terrorism. But when you get down to the specifics, that's where the rubber hits the road and it becomes more difficult. After all, previous U.S. presidents have said much the same thing.

Here is one example, the Iranian nuclear deal. The United States and Russia helped to negotiate that agreement. Both countries support it. But Donald Trump does not. Does that put him in the opposition to Putin? It would appear that it does, unless he changes his mind. These are some of the details that make that relationship much more complicated.

Essentially, Vladimir Putin has defined what he believes are the interests of Russia. And Donald Trump will have to do the same, what he believes are the priorities and best interests for the United States. The question will be, will those interests align?

Jill Dougherty, Moscow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Jill Dougherty, thank you.

A big announcement from carmaker Fiat Chrysler. They will spend $1 billion expanding its U.S. factories in the states of Ohio and Michigan. Production of new Jeep Waggoneers, Grand Waggoneers and Jeep pick-up will create 2000 new jobs. Last week, Ford cancelled plans to build a plant in Mexico. It will invest $700 million in the state of Michigan instead.

Moving on now to the United Kingdom. The British prime minister, Theresa May, in her first interview of the year, says Brexit means finding the, quote, "right relationship with Europe." Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Think about this. Somehow, we we're coming out of membership but we want to keep bits of membership. What we would say is what is the right relationship for the United Kingdom that is no longer of the European Union? People who simply talk about issues around membership of the single market, access to the single market, are looking at the means. I'm looking at the outcome. The outcome is a really good ambitious trade deal for the U.K. with the European Union.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Theresa May was asked about an upcoming meeting with Donald Trump after he tweeted he was looking forward to it. May said she already had two positive conversations with Donald Trump.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth has made her first public appearance in more than a month. The 90-year-old monarch attended church service on Sunday and looks to be over the severe cold she has been fighting.

CNN's Max Foster has this story from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRSPONDENT: Changing of the guards here. It's one of the routines here at Buckingham Palace. And it seems the queen is back in routine as well. She is not saying here at the moment. She's up at her private estate in Sandringham in Norfolk. But she hasn't been seen in public for more than a month, until Sunday. She's had a very heavy cold. She missed crucial church appearances over the Christmas period. The palace said she had a cold but there was fear, because of those nonappearance, that it was something more serious. That doesn't seem to be the case. On Sunday, she came out. She walked quite briskly and she looked pretty well. So, the queen back out in public. She will be back here in London in February to start a fresh round of official engagements for 2017.

Max Foster, CNN, London.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:25:24] HOWELL: Max Foster, thank you so much.

Now to Los Angeles, the 74th Annual Golden Globes Awards. Many of the top stars of the silver screen and small screens turned out for the biggest party Sunday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Golden Globe goes to "La La Land."

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: "La La Land" dominated the night, winning seven awards. That's a new record for the Golden Globes. The film won for best actress, Emma Stone, best actor, Ryan Gosling, and for best movie musical or comedy. The coming-of-age story "Moonlight" took home the Golden Globe for best movie drama. On the TV side of things, "The People Versus O.J. Simpson" won best actress and best TV movie or limited series. Best actor in a movie drama went to Casey Affleck for "Manchester by the Sea." French actress Isabell Bropair (ph) took home best actress in a movie drama for the film "Ellie." Netflix's "The Crown" won best TV series drama. And best TV series comedy went to "Atlanta."

Meryl Streep was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. In her nearly six-minute acceptance speech, she got political and praised diversity in Hollywood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick them all out, you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: Meryl Streep also blasted the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump for mocking a disabled reporter during his campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEEP: In this instinct to humiliate, when it is modelled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filtered down there into everybody's life. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Streep also saluted the press and called for those in power to be held accountable for their actions.

Officials believe the gun used in the Florida airport shooting was taken away by police months ago. Why the suspect was able to get that back, still ahead.

Plus, a man who played a role in the bloody Iran/Iraq war is dead. How Iranians are remembering their former leader, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, ahead.

We are live in the United States and around the world this hour. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM from Atlanta.

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[02:31:25] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Good to have you with us. I'm George Howell, with the headlines we have for you this hour.

(HEADLINES)

HOWELL: The suspect in the Florida airport shooting, the man you see here, will be formally charged on Sunday. Esteban Santiago could face the death penalty. Five people were killed and six others were wounded at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Prosecutors said Santiago has confessed to planning the attack according to court documents. He said he loaded the gun in the bathroom and opened fire at the first people that he saw in the baggage claim area.

Our Dan Simon has more on this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His troubles began after servicing time in Iraq, relatives say. Esteban Santiago spent 10 months in the war-torn country, earning a combat action badge.

His brother says the changes in him were apparent. BRYAN SANTIAGO, BROTHER OF ESTEBAN SANTIAGO (through translation):

They had him hospitalized for four days and they let him go. How are you going to let somebody leave a psychological center after four when he says he is hearing voices, that the CIA is telling him to join certain groups.

SIMON: Santiago's brother is referring to the 26-year-old's meeting with the FBI, and a subsequent mental health evaluation. Santiago, on his own, walked into the FBI Anchorage office last November seemingly to explain the demons in his head.

MARTIN RITZMAN, ALASKA FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE. Mr. Santiago walked in to report that his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency. He appeared agitated, incoherent and made disjointed statements.

SIMON: Authorities say they didn't find his statement threatening. But there was reason to alert the police who took him to a psychiatric hospital.

In his meeting with the FBI, Santiago said he had a gun, which was seized by the agents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Santiago was having terrorist thoughts and believed he was being influenced by ISIS. Santiago had a loaded magazine on him but had left his firearm in his vehicle prior to contacting agents.

SIMON: CNN has learned the evaluation lasted less than 72 hours. Santiago a free man. A month later, he got the gun back form police, the same gun law enforcement said he used to shoot 11 people at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

Santiago's troubled history includes a domestic violence case involving his girlfriend at this home in Anchorage. In court documents, he was charged with assault and criminal mischief. He allegedly broke down the bathroom door at his girlfriend's home and the woman told police Santiago yelled obscenities while strangling her and smacking her in the side of the head. Santiago pled no contest but the charges were said to be dismissed if he stayed out of trouble.

While a motive for the shooting remains unclear, Santiago's neighbors are left wondering why he chose Fort Lauderdale as his target.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We would be out in the alley getting firewood. He could have shot anybody up in the vicinity, if he went all the way down there.

[02:35:16] SIMON: Despite the FBI's interaction with Santiago, he was not placed on a no-fly list.

RITZMAN: There had been concerned raised about why Santiago was not placed on a no-fly list. I want to be clear, during our initial investigation, we found no ties to terrorism. He broke no laws when he came into our office making disjointed comments about mind control. SIMON (on camera): So why would someone who is clearly mentally

disturbed be able to get his gun back? The U.S. attorney in Alaska says there was no legal basis to prevent him from having it. A judge would have needed to declare him, quote, "mentally defective" to deny him his Second Amendment rights.

Dan Simon, CNN, Anchorage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Dan Simon, thank you.

In eastern Baghdad, ISIS is claiming responsibility for two suicide bombings at busy market on Sunday. The first happened when an attacker blew up his car in Sadr City. 11 killed and 25 others wounded. In the other attack, a man wearing an explosive vest blew himself up. That attack, killing at least five people and wounding 12. ISIS says the bombings targeted Shiites.

Iraqi counterterrorism forces have reached the east bank of the Tigris River in eastern Mosul. It is the first time that troops have reached the river since the operation to retake that city from ISIS began in mid-October. Troops have retaken a key hospital in Mosul. Security forces killed more than 125 ISIS militants Sunday. Hundreds more residents are fleeing Mosul. And troops recaptured neighborhoods. The U.S. says more than 125,000 people have been displaced in all of this and about 2,300 people each day are fleeing.

Iran has lost a pivotal figure in its modern history. Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died Sunday. He was 82 years old. State media reports he suffered a heart attack.

He was the president from 1989 to 1997 and later remained a key voice in Iranian politics.

CNN's Becky Anderson has a look back at his life and his career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: (SPEAKING FOREING LANGUAGE)

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The somber announcement, Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani dead at the age of 82.

Known for his political tenacity, Rafsanjani ruled for over three decades. He was a controversial figure for some both inside and outside of the country. A close confidant of Ayatollah Khomeini. He shot to political prominence after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

He was elected as the first speaker of the newly established Iranian parliament in 1980, a position he held until 1989, a period coinciding with the Iran/Iraq war.

Under Khomeini's direction, Rafsanjani also served as the commander- in-chief of the Iranian military throughout that eight-year conflict. After the war, his two consecutive terms as president of the Islamic

republic were dubbed by his supporters as the reconstruction period. He pursued liberal economic policies and tried to rebuild ties with Iran's neighbors.

After his presidency, Rafsanjani remained a powerful player in Iranian politics, including serving as a close adviser of Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, who he supported in becoming the country's supreme leader.

Rafsanjani's political leanings, though, began to diverge from Khomeini, a fact that would sideline the old revolutionary.

In 2005, Rafsanjani ran for president but lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an opponent he criticized for his foreign policy language and populist ideology.

After the presidential elections, he sided with the protesters. While his decision helped his popularity amongst supporters of the Green Movement, it was politically costly, diminishing his influence behind the scenes.

(SHOUTING)

[02:39:30] ANDERSON: But by 2013, Rafsanjani's moderate vision for Iran put him back in play as his close associate, Hasan Rouhani, was elected as Iran's seventh president.

His death then just months away from Iran's next presidential election will deal a major blow to moderates such as Rouhani, who has lost both a leader and a mentor in Rafsanjani.

Becky Anderson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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HOWELL: Welcome back to CNNNEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

On Tuesday, confirmation hearings will begin in Washington for the U.S. president-elect's cabinet nominees. The Office of Government Ethics says several nominees have not been properly vetted. That means they had not completed the ethics review process. One source telling CNN, among those in question, is Trump's pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Trump's transition team responded saying all of the nominees are qualified.

Trump's nominee for attorney general is scheduled to be the first to go before a Senate committee for confirmation hearings. It is Senator Jeff Sessions who will face opposition.

It's not the first time though. As Drew Griffin reports, the allegations that Sessions faced back in 1986 may well come up again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) (CROSSTALK)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, the first U.S. Senator to come out in support of Donald Trump, was a U.S. attorney in Alabama when then- President Ronald Reagan nominated him for the federal court. But the appointment broke down at his 1986 confirmation hearing when allegations over his alleged racial remarks took center stage, allegations that Sessions angrily denied then and now.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, (R), ALABAMA & INCOMING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: i am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks. I supported civil rights activity in my state. I have done my job with integrity, equality and fairness of all.

GRIFFIN: Transcripts of that Senate Judiciary hearing show that Thomas Figures (ph), a black former assistant U.S. attorney in Alabama, testified Sessions called him "boy" and joked about the Ku Klux Klan.

[02:45:18] SESSIONS: I state categorically that I have never called Mr. Figures (ph) "boy."

GRIFFIN: And Gerald Hevers (ph), who was a Justice Department lawyer, also testified Sessions called the NAACP and ACLU un-American and Communist inspired. Hevers (ph) recalls Sessions said he thought they did more harm than good when they were trying to force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.

In a heated exchange with then-Senator Joe Biden, Sessions denied calling the National Council of Churches and the NAACP un-American.

SESSIONS: My opinion is they have not. They may have taken positions, and i consider it to be averse to the security interest of the United States!

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Does that make them un-American?

SESSIONS: No, sir, it does not.

BIDEN: Does it make the positions un-American?

SESSIONS: No.

GRIFFIN: Sessions also denied a statement that he thought Klan members were OK until he learned they smoke marijuana.

SESSIONS: This assertion is ludicrous. i detest the Klan.

GRIFFIN: He went on to testify that, "I'm am loose with my tongue on occasion and i may have said something similar to that or could be interpreted to that.

His seat on the court was denied. But 10 years later, he was elected to the Senate and went on to become the Judiciary Committee's top Republican Senator.

He told CNN's Dana Bash in 2009 that the allegations of racism were heartbreaking.

SESSIONS: That was not fair. That was not accurate. Those were false charges and distortions of anything that i did. And it really was not. I never had those kinds of views. And I was caricatured in a way that was not me.

GRIFFIN: Today, Gerald Hevers (ph) tells CNN he stands by his testimony from 30 years ago.

GERALD HEVERS, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ATTORNEY: The allegations i made against him and things that i heard firsthand from him were things that demonstrated gross racial insensitivity to black citizens of Alabama and the United States.

GRIFFIN: Hevers (ph) says Sessions shouldn't be anywhere near the cabinet.

HEVERS (ph): He never backed off of the comments he made at that time. He never apologized for them. The fact that he would be considered to lead a government agency at the cabinet level is very alarming to me.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Hevers (ph) has not seen Sessions since they sat next to each other. Since then, Sessions has gone onto become the attorney general of Alabama and, for almost 20 years now, a U.S. Senator.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Drew Griffin, thank you for that report.

Heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures have settled across Europe and that severe weather has turned deadly.

Our Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is here to tell you more about it.

The cold snap in Europe dangerous and deadly.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEORLOGIST: A couple of weeks of it now. It is beginning to culminate. The snow element in there as well, George. I looked at Istanbul, their airport, to see the single most-impact airport on the planet on Saturday. On Sunday, same story, over 500 flights cancelled.

HOWELL: Wow.

JAVAHERI: On Monday, almost 200 flights cancelled so far. So, yeah, we are seeing all of the elements come together. We'll show what's occurring out of Greece. We'll show video of what's occurring across the region. It is brutally cold outside. Blustery weather. The accumulations on the order of now meters in spots. Of course, it is a rough go on the roads. Rail services disrupted. Shipping ports there closed as well.

I want to show you those temperatures. How cold are we talking? Some of the suburbs in Moscow, temperatures dipping to minus 30. It is sitting at minus 30, but the actual low temperature minus 30 degrees. It is the single coolest in 12 years. It says a lot because they are used to cold. To Paris and London, temperatures above the freezing mark. When you talk about minus 30 to minus 45, it only takes a couple of minutes to be permanently damaged due to frostbite. Of course, we know fatalities have been associated. It gets warmer. And almost funny when you look at getting warmer and staying below zero. It is more in line with what you expect. We have had fatalities there in Switzerland. Record cold temperatures Naples has ever seen in the past 24 hour. And over 50 centimeters of fresh snow around places such as Albania.

Yes, winter is here in full swing. It looks like it will continue. By the end of this upcoming week, we'll begin to see conditions moderate a little bit. But it is harsh out there.

[02:50:09] HOWELL: Good to know.

JAVAHERI: Yeah.

HOWELL: Pedram, thanks.

JAVAHERI: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, Nissan is turning to NASA to help get millions of driverless cars on the road. More on some of the fascinating new technology, still ahead.

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HOWELL: Welcome back. Monday marks 10 years since the first iPhone was introduced. Apple says it sold more than one billion iPhone at that time. The company commemorated the journey of what it called the gold standard and they say the best is yet to come.

The latest invasions in technology and gadgets of the future, they were all on display in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronic Show. One company showing how drivers could be doing something different. Driving could, some day, become a desk job.

HOWELL: CNN's Samuel Burke has this report for us.

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[02:55:00] SAMUEL BURKE, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Sometimes at CSE, it feels like the "C" stands for cars. That's because there's so much tech packed into passenger vehicle these days that all present here at the Consumer Electronics show. Nissan made an announcement. It's signaling that self-driving cars

can't do everything themselves, at least for now. That's because Nissan just announced it is working on a new service. If a self- driving car gets into a situation that it can't understand, let's say it hits a roadblock and needs to cross the yellow dotted line, it's trained not to do that. What Nissan is proposing is that a service, with human beings, imagine that, use the cameras on the self-driving cars, look at the situation and give the car new instructions. They are not saying when the service will come out but they are working on it over at Nissan.

One area where it is really interesting to be technology correspondent is when you see this cross section of health and technology. This is a spoon that's meant for people who are suffering from Parkinson's. You just flip it on. If they are suffering from tremors, no matter how much i shake right now, the spoon is meant to keep the food on there. I am shaking and still that spoon is keeping as still as possible. It will cost about $300.

It is fascinating to see how technology might be used improve people's lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: What a cool assignment.

Samuel Burke, thank you.

And thank you for being with us for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

Hour number two of CNN NEWSROOM is still ahead. Stay with us.

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