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CNN NEWSROOM

Terrorist Caught in Istanbul; End of Search; Trump Versus a Civil Rights Icon; Fleeing for Their Lives; A Clean Break. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 17, 2017 - 03:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: New details about the New Year's terrorist attack that killed 39 people in a Turkish nightclub as arrest are made. Official say the main suspect confessed.

Plus, nearly three years since it vanished, the search for Malaysia Airlines 370 has been suspended. And some of the victim's families are outraged.

And later, a CNN exclusive, thousands of Syrians who escaped Aleppo have faced a horrific journey, fleeing their homes. Our team goes inside Syria to speak with survivors.

Hello, and welcome to our viewers from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

We are learning more about the suspected gunman in the mass shooting at an Istanbul nightclub. Authorities just wrapped up a news conference about 15 minutes ago. Istanbul's governor says the gunman was born in Uzbekistan in 1983 and educated in Afghanistan and that he confessed to the attack.

An intense nationwide man hunt ended on Monday with five people in custody. The shooter gunned down 39 people celebrating New Year's Eve at the Reina nightclub. Dozens more were wounded.

And Ian Lee joins us now from Istanbul with the very latest on this. Ian, it is of course, significant. We're learning that the suspected gunman was born in Uzbekistan, educated and trained in Afghanistan as we mentioned, and now, of course, that he has confessed to this horrendous and horrifying crime. Talk to us about what that tells authorities and what the next step is here.

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. And just to add to that, they also say that his fingerprints, Rosemary, matched the fingerprints that were on the gun that was left at the scene, so authorities are fairly convinced that they do have the man that committed that crime.

But he wasn't acting alone, even though when we've seen the surveillance photo, we do see him committing the crime alone, he had help according to authorities. They rounded up dozens of people they say had links to this attack, most noticeably -- notably, a few days ago, they arrested two Chinese nationals they say had connections to it.

But in the night of the raid, which happened just the last night in the neighborhood that's about 30, 35 kilometers from where the nightclub shooting took place, there was also four other people with him. An Iraqi man, an Egyptian women -- woman and two other women from Africa, according to authorities.

They still haven't found out their nationalities. They say that it is likely that those people played a role in this attack. So, that is something they're going to be investigating further, but we know ISIS has already claimed responsibility for this.

This gunman, they also named him as Abdulkadir Masharipov from Uzbekistan, as you said. And that he arrived in the country over a year ago. So, that something the police will also be looking into. Was he on the radar beforehand? Or was he on the radar once he committed this crime?

CHURCH: And Ian, the other point that came out of that news conference held by Istanbul's governor and other officials is that 168 foreign terrorists were apparently involved in that Reina nightclub attack. That is an extraordinarily, an extraordinary number.

As you mentioned, ISIS has already claimed responsibility, but that is a major concern, when you're talking about that number of people.

LEE: That's right. And ISIS has been operating here in Turkey. They've carried out a number of attacks, so it's not a surprise that they would have an extensive network, especially since Turkey was the main entry point to Syria for ISIS fighters in the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

Also we're hearing that he had close to $200,000 with him at the time, when he was arrested. So that does give the impression that this was very much a larger operation, that there was a network of support behind him.

But they had quite a few people on this case, thousands of people scouring the country for him. They said they had over 2,000 tips from Turks, people saying they saw something. Also went over 7,000 hours of surveillance footage to finally find this alleged gunman last night.

[03:04:58] CHURCH: And Ian, that is the significance, too, isn't it. This massive manhunt, ending in the arrest of the suspected gunman. He is alive, which means that they can learn so much more about this, and clearly, they have already learned a lot in just how far and wide this is.

LEE: That's right. You know, he had, he wasn't just in Istanbul the whole time, he was in Cognac he was in other parts of Turkey. Possibly getting support, you know, they'll learn more since he is captured alive about how exactly he pulled this off, where he traveled to, did he go into Syria.

But I can tell you one thing that we're hearing from people who survived this attack, people who are connected to it from the nightclub owner, who said that he was glad he was captured alive. He thanked the security services. He thanked the intelligence for capturing him so they could figure it out.

He also said, "I felt an immense wave of relief rush through me. I think a huge weight has been lifted off the shoulders of the victims and the families just knowing that this man is no longer walking free." And I think that underscores just the general feeling here in Turkey now that over two weeks since this deadly shooting people are glad that it is finally over.

CHURCH: Yes. Incredible sense of relief for people there, no doubt. CNN's Ian Lee joining us live from Istanbul, Turkey where it is just after 11 in the morning. Many thanks to you, Ian.

I want to turn now to the United States where the wife of the gunman in the Orlando nightclub shooting has been arrested and is facing federal channels, including obstruction of justice.

Orlando's police chief says Noor Salman could have prevented the attack. But her attorney Salman did not know of her husband's plans. Omar Mateen killed 39 people at the Pulse nightclub in June before police killed him.

Well, the search in one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history has been suspended. We might never know why Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared almost three years ago with 239 passengers and crew members on board.

Officials just announced they have completed their search in the Indian Ocean and will not look for the Boeing 777 anymore.

Well, our Alexandra Field joins us now from Seoul in South Korea. And Alexandra, understandably, this has really outraged and upset family members, but I want to start first with why authorities have made this decision to suspend the search at this time.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the news is deeply painful and it comes with a lot of frustration for so many people, not just the families of the victims who are on that plane that disappeared from the radar just an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur nearly three years ago.

But frankly, for the rest of the world who just waited for and demanded answers. Look, it was just back in December that an Australian government committee put together a report suggesting that this search be moved to another area about 2500 square feet northeast of the area that was being searched. A 120,000 square kilometers in the Indian Ocean.

But at that point, the Australian transportation minister said without proof that that plane was in that 25,000 square kilometer area, the search would not be expanded. And now we are hearing official word from three governments involved, Australia, Malaysia, and China that the search is not being expanded, that the last vessel in the search area has left the area. They say they have done an extensive and exhaustive search of the area

where they believe that that plane had gone down after disappearing on March 8 of 2014. And they at this point, they will stop here. That is despite these calls to continue to investigate what happened to this plane.

It leaves so many people continuing to ask the question of where the plane is now. Pieces of this plane have been recovered. At least three pieces of debris have been confirmed by investigators to belong to MH 370. They washed off of East Africa.

There are a number of other pieces of debris which are considered likely to be parts of the plane. But now we know that officials are not moving to take any further steps to actually find the bulk of the wreckage itself, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Alexandra, as you mentioned, of course, this is heartbreaking for family members. And they are -- I mean, talk to us about what they're saying, but also, is it possible that if they bring more pressure to bear on this, that there could be an effort to restart this rescue -- this search operation.

FIELD: Look, officials are -- officials are saying that without credible evidence, they won't expand, but the families are not taking that for an answer. Remember, they've waited nearly three long years.

So they are being very quick right now to voice their frustration and their outrage. Their emotions do run the gamut. Some of them have said that this is a financial decision. Others have said that the plane is being searched for in the wrong area.

[03:10:00] Others have said that they feel even more hopeless today than they did just three years ago, and they are demanding that the search continue. We don't know how officials will respond to them, if officials will respond to them in any further way.

But a group called voice 370 which represents the family members of the victims put out this statement, saying, "In our view, extending the search to the new area defined by the exerts is an inescapable duty owed to the flying public in the interest of aviation safety. Commercial planes cannot just be allowed to fall out of the sky."

Very strong words from family members who continue to be heartbroken. They may have a few more answers tomorrow. We are told that Malaysia Airlines has reached out to family members, invited them to a briefing in Beijing where they'll be able to hear some more questions and answers. And of course, we know they aren't getting the answer that they've been waiting for, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. So difficult for all those family members searching for some closure and some answers in this. Alexandra Field joining us there from Seoul in South Korea, just after 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Many thanks.

Well, in just a few hours from now, British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to deliver a clean break speech on Brexit. Her office says she doesn't want a deal that leaves the country half in, half out of the European Union.

May is expected to lay out a dozen priorities for upcoming Brexit talks. And you can watch the Brtish Prime Minister speech right here at 11.45 a.m. in London, 7.45 p.m. in Hong Kong.

Well, some are alarmed in Europe after Donald Trump singles out NATO as obsolete. And his comments about Merkel and Putin are also putting European leaders on edge. We'll have the details on that, coming up next.

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CHURCH: European leaders are responding with worry, shock and defiance after Donald Trump laid out his views on foreign policy. Trump called NATO obsolete predicted more countries will be leaving the European Union, and that's not all.

Nic Robertson has more now on what Trump said and the reaction he's getting among key U.S. allies.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: More than just an interview, President-elect Donald Trump laid out what is in effect a foreign policy blueprint.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: In Europe, his comments, though, are proving incendiary. France's Prime Minister incensed that Trump doesn't seem to care whether the European Union breaks up or not.

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[03:15:04] MANUEL VALLS, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): It is a provocation. It is a declaration of war to Europe.

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ROBERTSON: Trump talked about making deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin then further undermined European confidence, criticizing NATO. The alliance that helps protects the U.S. and its allies from Russian aggression.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's obsolete, because it was, you know, designed many, many years ago. Number two, the countries weren't paying what they're supposed to pay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Germany's foreign minister aghast at Trump's tone. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK WALTER STEINMEIR, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I just can't believe that an American administration will follow the thought process that Europe is not somehow important to the U.S.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Trump got personal, too, praising and criticizing the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I felt she is a great, great leader. I think she made one catastrophic mistake that was taking all these illegals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: She took it in her stride.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Once he's in office, we'll then see what sort of accord we can forge between us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry more forthright.

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JOHN KERRY, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: It was inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping in to the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: On trade, Trump's lesson for German auto makers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's not a two-way street. How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Maybe none.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Like his other comments Trump getting push back, this time from Germany's minister of the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIGMAR GABRIEL, GERMAN ECONOMY MINISTER (through translator): my advice is to make better American cars, then maybe someone will buy them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTSON: As a foray into foreign policy this is yet that a taste of what the president-elect can expect. From Friday, there's no going back for either side.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

CHURCH: So let's get more now from CNN Paris correspondent Melissa Bell in the French capital. And Melissa, we heard former Prime Minister Valls called Trump's comments a declaration of war to Europe. But how is President Hollande responding and what about the presidential candidate on the right?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a great deal of outrage here in Europe. You heard a number of European leaders expressing themselves in that report. Francois Hollande perhaps went further than any of them.

Now what's interesting is he was never actually mentioned in this particular article. Indeed, the interview was given to a British newspaper into German One France which pretty much left alone.

And yet, Francois Hollande probably had the harshest reaction of all to what Donald Trump had to say, reminding the president-elect that it wasn't simply a question of an incoming or outgoing administration, that it was the relationship, the very values on which the relationship between Europe and the United was founded that were now being threatened.

Things like an attachment to the importance of freedom, an equality of men and women. Fundamental principles like the right to asylum, on which he said the United States was founded.

These were the things that Francois Hollande that were threatened, by the sort of the language that was being used by Donald Trump. European leaders feel extremely threatened by this, Rosemary, partly because it is a signal that that liberal consensus that so many had believed was the end of something. Eternal had been decided once for all.

And that people like Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel very much represent politically has in fact now been threatened in a way that simply hadn't happened within living memory.

And these are the very ideas, the sort of populous surge that threatens that consensus that are now threatening the governments of Francois Hollande and his party, which of course will be standing in the upcoming election and also, Angela Merkel in Germany. Hence, that very strong reaction against what Donald Trump had to say.

CHURCH: All right, many thanks to our Melissa Bell bringing us that reaction from Paris, where it is nearly 9.20 in the morning. Many thanks.

Let's turn now to CNN.com contributor, Frida Ghitis. She is a world affairs columnist for World Politics Review. Frida, thank you so much for coming into the studio and talking to us. There's a lot to cover here. I wanted to start first with Donald

Trump's view of NATO. He has called it obsolete. He says that members of NATO not paying their fair share. He's also supported Brexit.

What sort of impact do you think that sort of approach to foreign policy is likely to have on European institutions, on the European community, and in the end, do you think that he's trying to find some sort of leverage here with foreign policy? What do you make of it.

FRIDA GHITIS, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's really stunning what we've been hearing from Donald Trump on these interviews and his tweets. He's really causing all kinds of uncertainty.

[03:20:01] And what we know from him is that he likes to create uncertainty, he likes to be unpredictable and that may be a strategy that works well when you're negotiating real estate deals. On the world affairs, on foreign policy it is not -- it is not a good idea to create this kind of unpredictability. It's not good for global stability.

And now the European leaders, the European people are right to be very, very concerned about what's going on. We don't know if Trump is indicating what his policies are going to be or if he's just speaking without great concern for diplomatic niceties or what really he's planning to do.

CHURCH: The other -- the other things he said about Angela Merkel, specifically, Germany's Chancellor has concerned a lot of people, hasn't it? I mean, clearly they don't share the same immigration policy.

But when it comes to things when he was talking about the Times of London and to Bild newspaper he referred to Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin in the same sentence, pretty much saying I trust them both equally. That has really worried a lot of people, and it's a break from U.S. foreign policy. What do you make of that?

GHITIS: It is -- it is -- it was such a shocking thing to hear. You know, Angela Merkel leads a country that is one of the United States' closest allies. And to put her in the same category as Vladimir Putin, who has been an antagonist of the United States, an antagonist of the North Atlantic alliance is really an extraordinary thing.

And, you know, we can't escape the impression that Trump appears to be aligning himself, appears to be preparing to align U.S. policies with Russia's, and that's really -- that could not be a sharper break with the past.

Trump seems to be taking a lot of pleasure, a lot of satisfaction in seeing the troubles of the European Union. You know, Trump's own choice for secretary of defense, General James Mattis said that he views Putin's objective as breaking up NATO, and it would seem that that is what Trump is trying to do. He is creating divisions within NATO that weaken, not only the alliance but by doing that it also weaken the United States. CHURCH: And I wanted to ask you on that very point. Because what has

been interesting as we watch these confirmation hearings is that a lot of the nominees of Donald Trump have moved in opposite directions.

And you mentioned their defense secretary nominee, James Mattis, because he has said that Russia wants to break NATO. That Russia, he perceives Russia as the biggest threat to the United States, which is completely in opposition to what Donald Trump believes. So, what do we take from that? What direction is the United States likely to take after January 20, when he's inaugurated?

GHITIS: Here we just a few days from the inauguration, and nobody knows. Nobody knows, which is really an incredible thing that would -- just, what is it, 72, 96 hours from the inauguration, nobody knows exactly what the core of U.S. foreign policy is going to be.

The statements that Trump has been making run counter to what has been U.S. foreign policy since World War II, for more than 70 years. He appears to be reversing policies that have been in place for such a long time. And he's making statements that shock not only America's European allies, but American foreign policy professionals here in the United States.

CHURCH: All right, well, of course it's difficult to know whether he's trying to shake things up, or some people are concerned that he doesn't maybe know a lot of the geopolitics that's involved here, but we will just have to see.

Frida Ghitis, thank you so much for coming to the studio. We appreciate it.

GHITIS: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, thousands of Syrians were forced to flee Aleppo last month after the government brutally retook the city.

In a CNN exclusive from inside Syria, CNN international correspondent Arwa Damon spoke with families still recovering from a traumatic escape.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Our car bumps through Syria's rugged hills towards a new refugee camp close to Turkey's border. My mind drifts back. To nearly six years ago, to the first camp we visited not far from here. And all the cycles of Syria's wretched story.

We want to talk to those who evacuated eastern Aleppo during a ceasefire last month, or as it was for them, a forced displacement. After months under siege and relentless bombing.

"All you hear are the planes, the strikes, the terror, the funerals. All you see is funerals." And one of those was for her husband. A farmer, killed in a strike on his way to work seven months ago.

[03:25:04] The only thing that she was able to bring with her other than one change of clothing for the kids when they left was a photograph of her husband, their father. It's the most precious thing she has. She pulls out another picture. Ali, the youngest, reaches for it. He likely won't remember his father's touch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): even now, we don't know if this is permanent. Maybe something worse than war will happen to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAMON: The last days in Aleppo defied logic.

"What more is there to say?" Unvi Lual Asq, (Ph)says.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They bombed us, and in just three minutes, not three hours, they destroyed our whole neighborhood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAMON: The children don't know how to live. They only know how not to die or even wish for it. He asks, "why are there so many strikes? He starts to cry." Sometimes he even says, "I want to die."

They walked and walked. Twice the buildings they sheltered in were hit by airstrikes. For four days they lived in the streets.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I had to burn my children's clothes to make heat for them. I had two bags of their clothes, and I burned them, because it was so cold.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAMON: Like everyone we saw, they yearned for home, for that feeling of being safe and warm. The images are not new, not shocking. But then again, even when Syria shocks, what difference has it made?

Arwa Damon, CNN, Kafr Karmin, Syria.

CHURCH: More Syrian opposition groups now say they will attend another round of peace talks in Kazakhstan next week. It's still unclear if the incoming Donald Trump administration will accept an invitation to participate.

Still to come, Estonia prepares to defend itself if necessary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do the Estonian people feel they have to be ready for it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a huge present neighbor and I'm not talking about Latvia. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: He's talking about Russia, and he's not even a soldier. He's a salesman. Hear why he volunteered to fight for Estonia.

[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: And a warm welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you on the main stories we've been following this hour.

Istanbul's governor says the suspect in the mass shooting at a nightclub has confessed to the attack. He says the gunman was born in Uzbekistan and educated in Afghanistan. He says 168 foreign terrorists were involved in the Reina nightclub attack. Thirty nine people were killed. An Iraqi man and three women were also arrested.

The search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been suspended. Officials say they have completed their search in the Indian Ocean and that there's no evidence to warrant continued searching. The Boeing 777 disappeared nearly three years ago with 239 passengers and crew members on board.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is just a few hours away from delivering a speech on making the Brexit a clean break. Her office says she doesn't want a deal that leaves the country half in/half out of the European Union. May is expected to lay out a dozen priorities for upcoming Brexit talks.

Well, Russia's foreign minister has been speaking to reporters in Moscow. Sergey Lavrov says Russia sees an opportunity for improved relations with the U.S. after Donald Trump is inaugurated. He says Moscow hopes to see more effective cooperation in the fight against terrorism and in resolving the Syrian war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I say to the Donald Trump is a particular, they are different from the existing leadership and predecessors, both democrats and republicans. This show the interests, Donald Trump shows his interests in the United States. If we look at Donald Trump's foreign policy, most important thing will be the fight against terrorism, and of course we can only welcome that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And CNN contributor and former Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty joins us from Moscow. Jill, this news conference is still going on of course, but what have you been making so far of what Sergey Lavrov has been saying, specifically about Russia being right to invite the Trump administration to Syrian peace talks next week?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right, I mean, that's the most concrete part. And we could begin with that. I mean, he is urging the United States to go to Kazakhstan, participate, as he said it would be our first official contact with the Trump administration.

But I think, Rosemary, some of the most interesting stuff that the foreign minister said was right at the top, when he went on, it sounded very theoretical, but when you listen to what he's saying it's anything but.

He was talking about values. And essentially, he was saying, and some of the quotes, there has been a messianic obsession with export of values by the west. And this, he said has sparked revolutions, color revolutions in places like Ukraine and the Arab Spring.

And what he's saying is essentially to Donald Trump's administration, stop talking about values. Forget about that. Let's have a pragmatic relationship, and it's very interesting, because he essentially, Mr. Lavrov, is saying, as a businessman, Donald Trump should understand a deal.

He's not saying this verbally, but it's a deal. Without values, without extraneous information. This is, we can work together. And he also said that we can work together primarily on terrorism. We can do that. It can be a great relationship.

[03:34:57] So this is all very interesting, they're now, knowing that at this point they can't define what the administration's going to do. As he said, this is the world according to Donald Trump, but they can begin to set the ideas out, to work together pragmatically and not be worried about values.

CHURCH: And Jill, as that news conference continues, let's listen for a moment to the way Donald Trump talked about Russia less than three years ago, around the time the U.S. was leveeing sanctions against Russia over the annexing of Crimea. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He was right, and he was also right when he mentioned in one of the debates about Russia, and he said Russia's our biggest problem. Russia is not strong economically. And we could do a lot of different things to really do numbers on them if we wanted to.

We should definitely be strong, we should definitely do sanctions, and we have to show some strength. I mean, Putin has eaten Obama's lunch, therefore our lunch, for a long period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: So Jill, a lot can happen in three years, apparently. What has changed that could soften Trump's attitude toward Russia do you think?

DOUGHERTY: Well, actually, that's very unclear. It's interesting that he has done this kind of flip. This was answered by the way just a few minutes ago, by the spokesperson for the foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova who said essentially that that reporting by CNN, showing some of those videos, is another way of whipping up hysteria. That a while ago they'd been talking about the anti, the pro-Russian

Donald Trump, and now they're playing it in the opposite direction. This is going to be back and forth. I think, keep your eye on the ball, because the eye on the ball is that the Russians really don't know what Donald Trump is going to do.

So, they are saying, yes, let's have a good relationship, but they're not buying into specifics at this point.

CHURCH: Yes. All right, we're all waiting to see what he's going to do. Jill Dougherty, joining us there live from Moscow, where it is 11.37 in the morning. Many thanks to you and your perspective on this. I appreciate it.

Well, Estonia lies on Russia's doorstep. And the former Soviet republic is very worried about Moscow's intentions.

Phil Black takes a look at how thousands of residents are preparing to fight back if necessary.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many Estonian people love spending time enjoying the rugged often frozen beauty of their country's forest and wilderness. They also feel a powerful drive to defend it.

These people are volunteers in an official paramilitary force. And through numbers alone, they make up the bulk of the country's armed forces, 25,000 people, men and women, trained with the Estonian defense league.

When Ryan Ularigum (Ph) isn't training to defend his country, he travels across it, working as a salesman.

Why do the Estonian people feel they have to be ready for anything?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a huge friendly neighbor. And I'm not talking about Latvia.

BLACK: He's talking about Russia. For much of Estonia's history, this land was ruled by Moscow. Many fear it could happen again, especially since Russia's recent military adventures in Georgia and Ukraine.

What is it about the Estonians that makes you willing to come out here into the cold to prepare to train?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love our land, we love our people, we love our language. We'd like to keep it that way.

BLACK: This is the border that so many Estonians fear could one day be moved by force. Just across that river is Russia. But in this part of Estonia there are also many people who feel culturally Russian, they have strong connections to their giant neighbor, and they don't believe Moscow is a potential enemy.

Narva Bay on the Estonian side of the border looks and feels like a Russian City. And its local market, you only see and hear the Russian language. These women say they're big fans of Russia and its President, Vladimir

Putin, but they don't think he wants to invade such a small country. The Estonian government doesn't share their confidence.

That's why for all the enthusiasm of its volunteers, Estonia relies from the combined strength of the NATO alliance to Russia. And why Estonians have watched with concern as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has talked about NATO inconsistently, describing it as both obsolete and important, while also complimenting Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[03:39:56] MARGUS TSAHKNA, ESTONIAN MINISTER OF DEFENCE: We know Russian soul, and we of course during the hundreds of years, we have experienced the Russian attitude. It hasn't changed. Even more, Putin's regime is clearly not democratical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACK: In the heart of Estonia's Russian community, these students are practicing a language they rarely speak at home, Estonian. Many descent from Russia who moved here when Estonia was part of the Soviet Union. They're not the children of two cultures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love Russia, and I love Estonia.

(FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are young people's future, Estonia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACK: It's a hopeful vision shared across the country, but many here have long believed freedom can only be assured if Estonia and its allies are prepared to fight for it.

Phil Black, CNN, in eastern Estonia.

CHURCH: We'll take a short break here, but still to come, more democrats announce they won't attend the U.S. inauguration after a bitter exchange between President-elect Trump and civil rights icon John Lewis has yet to die down.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: A growing number of democratic lawmakers won't be at Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday. Many are furious over his recent tweet calling civil rights hero Congressman Lewis all talk and no action.

Jim Acosta has more.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: On this MLK Day, Donald Trump met behind doors with Martin Luther King III, the son of the civil rights icon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN LUTHER KING III, MARTIN LUTHER JR.'S SON: Certainly he has said that he is going to represent Americans. He said that over and over again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: But it was a brief reprieve from the controversy swirling around his inauguration. The incoming 45th president is slamming German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing Syrian refugees into her country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have a great respect for her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TRUMP: I felt she was a great, great leader. I think she made one very catastrophic mistake. And that was taking all of these illegals, and you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody really knows where they come from. You'll find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: That drew a sharp response from Secretary of State John Kerry to CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: I thought frankly it was inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner. And he'll have to speak to that as of Friday, you know, he's responsible for that relationship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Trump appears to be placing Merkel in the same category as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I start off trusting both, but let's see how long that lasts. May not last long at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Trump is once again signaling a new, softer policy on Russia, hinting in a published interview that he wants to work out some sort of deal with Putin. Russia's hurting very badly because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are going to benefit. And Trump sounds like he's not sold on the NATO alliance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [03:45:04] TRUMP: And I said a long time ago that NATO had problems.

And then it was obsolete, because of this, you know, it was designed many, many years ago. Number two, the countries weren't paying what they're supposed to pay.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: The president-elect is still fuming over to the disclosure that U.S. intelligence officials briefed him on unsubstantiated allegations that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising information on him.

Trump slapping at put going CIA Director John Brennan, who said the incoming president should treat Russia with caution. Trump tweeted, "oh, really? Couldn't do much worse. Just look at Syria, red line, Crimea, Ukraine and the buildup of Russian nukes. Not good. Was this the leaker of fake news?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, TRUMP PRESS SECRETARY: It was John Brennan, someone the president-elect is supposed to be trusting that came out and attacked him on his breadth and depth of understanding Russia which is unbelievable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Trump is again raising questions about how he will repeal and replace Obamacare, telling the Washington Post his plan is insurance for everybody. But the transition is offering few details.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: The president-elect made it very clear to the leadership in the Congress that he wants to do repeal and replace simultaneously, and we're working earnestly to do that.

(END VOICE CLIP)

ACOSTA: Despite the fire storm whipped by his Twitter tirades, Trump is vowing to keep on tweeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'd rather just let that build up, and just keep it at real Donald Trump, and the tweeting, I thought I'd do less of it, but I'm covered so dishonestly by the press, so dishonestly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And now, more than two dozen democratic members of Congress have announced they won't be attending Donald Trump's inauguration, in solidarity with democratic Congressman John Lewis. Trump so far has yet to comment on the democratic defections.

Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: And domestically there's more backlash against the president- elect over his exchange with Congressman John Lewis. It all started when Lewis called Trump's election illegitimate.

Trump replied with the series of critical tweets saying among other things that the congressman was all talk. Lewis is one of the last living giants of the Civil Rights movement and many are siding with him in this feud.

Now more than two dozen democratic lawmakers have announced they will not attend Trump's inauguration in solidarity with Lewis.

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter with the Atlanta Journal Constitution and he joins us now. So, those Trump tweets, they were very critical of this district, of Atlanta, where we live. He specifically said it's crime-infested and falling apart, among other things.

So, what has been the reaction? Because of course, your newspaper put out a huge front page article on this, talk to us about what people are saying.

GREG BLUESTEIN, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. The front page article said Atlanta to Trump, wrong. There was outrage throughout the district, because not only was he attacking and insulting a congressman, who's beloved by people on both sides of the aisle, but he also called the heart of metro Atlanta, the home of many of its finest jewels and historic gems an area that was in horrible shape and falling apart.

So we interviewed dozens of people from both sides of the aisle who live in that district, CNN's headquarters as well, who said that there's not -- you know, there's not a whisper of truth there, who are very upset and very -- a lot of people took it personally, that Donald Trump, the President-elect, was calling basically the heart of metro Atlanta a horrible area.

CHURCH: Yes. And as far as the stats go, he's wrong, when it comes to crime-infested. So, let's -- the Trump camp doesn't seem to be backing down at all.

BLUESTEIN: No.

CHURCH: We want to listen for a moment if we can to what Vice President-elect Mike Pence had to say about this.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

PENCE: I was just so disappointed that he would make the statement that he made, suggesting that President-elect Trump is not a legitimate president. I urge him to reconsider that statement, and for someone of John Lewis' stature, to lend credibility to the baseless assertions of those who question the legitimacy of this election is deeply disappointing. I hope he reconsiders it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: What's interesting here is that Donald Trump himself questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama, didn't he, in the initial stages, so what do you make of this?

BLUESTEIN: And called the election rigged. No, Vice President-elect Pence is echoing a lot of national republicans we've heard who are saying in essence that what John Lewis did was extraordinary, which is question the legitimacy of an elected president who's taking office in just a few days. But what he did not go to, and he did not -- he did not defend Trump's remarks about the city of Atlanta, which is what has so many people here in Atlanta so infuriated.

CHURCH: And of course, the inauguration is supposed to be a bipartisan event, and there's going to be a situation where there's going to be 24 or so house democrats who won't be there. What sort of impact is that likely to have?

[03:50:05] BLUESTEIN: I think it really questions the unity of the nation before, you know, the inaugural of a president. There will be four, you know, living presidents there. There will be, it's usually a time of coming together and of peaceful transition of power.

But there's talk of walkouts and protests and giant rallies, all over the nation, including in Washington. So, I think Donald Trump's presidency will begin under a cloud.

CHURCH: Greg Bluestein, thank you so much.

BLUESTEIN: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: I appreciate it.

A photographer captures a moment that "Frozen" fans can appreciate. And Europe is dealing with an icy blast. Those stories still to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: When the temperature drops, people take photos of all sorts of frozen things. Take a look at this. A photographer had sort of shot something quite remarkable. Mark took this real-time video of soap bubbles freezing in extremely cold weather and he posted this on social media with the caption bucket list item, done, hash tag frozen. How cool is that.

And our meteorologist, Allison Chinchar joins us now with more on the cold weather, but take a look at that picture very extraordinary. Have you seen anything quite like that?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's this, so when the temperature gets cold enough we're talking usually like minus 10 or minus 15 Celsius or colder. You really get the chance to start doing fun science experiments like that that only happen when the temperature gets to these extreme measurements. And that's being one of them.

CHURCH: Yes.

CHINCHAR: I'm always kind of fascinated when people actually try to do them on their own rather than just in a classroom or something like that.

CHURCH: Yes, right.

CHINCHAR: But, yes, we've been experiencing cold in a lot of places. But really the big one has been Europe. They just can't seem to catch a break in some of these countries. So, let's kind of take a closer look at some of the impacts that this has had.

For example, this is the Danube River. Now we've already talked about the Danube the last several weeks because of the cold that it's been experiencing, but this is particularly important. Because you can see the boat literally frozen in some of this ice flock chunks.

This is in Serbia, near Belgrade. Again, it just has to go the impact of the long term cold because that doesn't happen overnight. You don't get these big main river channels that freeze overnight.

But now we're going to be adding another cold blast of air. We also got this low pressure system sitting in southern Italy that's going to bring snow not only to portions of southeastern Europe. But we're also talking into northern Africa as well.

Here you can see that low again, spinning right there just due south of Rome. You can see that nice little circle. But look towards Tunisia and Algiers, Morocco. Again, we've got some of those white colors popping indicating we've got the snow.

[03:54:57] Now keep in mind, it's mainly in the higher elevations. Here is another look. This is some of the that fell in Tunisia. Again, it's just a nice coating. We're not necessarily talking multiple centimeters of snow per se, but a nice good dusting right there. And then, obviously a little higher amounts when you get into some of those mountainous regions.

And even going forward the forecast does bring us a little more, especially around Constantine there and then even west as you towards Morocco. Now the coastal cities will mainly get rain. But we will be looking at some of that snow.

And then take a look at portions of southeastern Europe, we're talking portions of Greece picking up 22 centimeters, even Italy, again, we're talking high elevations here, but even with that said, you're talking 50 to 60 centimeters of snow, and then that cold air begins to infiltrate back into portions of Europe as well.

Take a look at Zurich, for example. The average high 3 degrees we're not going to get even close to that in the next seven days. And it's not just that. Even Madrid, the Iberian Peninsula, we're talking temperatures well above average. So, that cold air is really going to dip pretty far south. And I think

the unfortunate part with most of this you can't help but wonder about the migrants, the homeless people that will be out in that cold for extended periods of time.

CHURCH: That is a really major concern for sure. Allison, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Well, there's lots of weird and extraordinary things in Florida, and you can add one massively terrifying giant alligator to this list. Look at this. The four-meter-long gator was spotted at a nature reserve over the weekend. He slowly crossed that grassy path ambling from one march to another while stunned hikers and park visitors stared in amazement.

It turns out he's been showing up there for decades. Although we don't know for sure he's a he, and apparently, no one has approached him to try to find out. He's known simply as humpback. Very -- imagined to see there. It looks like a dinosaur, really, right?

And thanks for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me any time on Twitter @rosemarycnn.

And the news continues with our Max Foster in London.

You have a great day.

[04:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)