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Obama Commutes Sentence of Chelsea Manning; Countdown to Inauguration Day; Judge to Decide on Arrest Warrant for Samsung Chief; Dozens Killed When Nigeria Jet Bombs Wrong Target; Boko Haram Steps Up Attacks in Northeastern Nigeria; Chinese President Says No One Will Win a Trade War; British PM May Lays Out Brexit Vision. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired January 18, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:10] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour, going free. President Obama commutes the sentence of Chelsea Manning. The former U.S. soldier was convicted of passing military secrets to WikiLeaks.
Vladimir Putin comes to the defense of Donald Trump, saying those who attack the President-Elect are worse than prostitutes.
And in Nigeria, a military blunder leaves at least 50 people dead after an air strike on a town meant to be a safe haven.
Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.
The first hour of NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
With just three days left in office, U.S. President Barack Obama has sparked anger and outrage after commuting the sentence of a former soldier convicted of one of the biggest leaks of classified information ever. Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving 750,000 secret documents and videos to WikiLeaks, a move that's being criticized by many lawmakers who say Manning is a traitor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COTTOM (R), ALKANSAS: Chelsea Manning pleaded guilty to very serious crimes leaking highly classified information that put at risk the lives of our troops and our diplomats, our intelligence officers, allies who have helped us around the world. This was grave harm to our national security. And Chelsea Manning is serving a sentence and should continue to serve that sentence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The White House defended the decision saying Manning has accepted responsibility and expressed remorse. She will be released in May after serving nearly seven years of her sentence. I'm joined now by former U.S. Marine and Green Beret Chase Milsap.
Chase -- thanks for being with us.
The Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, he tweeted this out. "Commuting Manning's sentence is a slap in the face by our commander in chief to those who served honorably.
And I know you don't really want to get into the politics here. But as someone who has served, what is your reaction now to this decision to essentially set Manning free in the next couple of weeks?
CHASE MILSAP, FORMER GREEN BERET: Yes, John -- thanks.
You know, first thing that strikes me not only as a veteran, but as a commander, you know, one of those that have been on the ground is that there is a breach of trust. You know, those of us that are on the front lines, and there are American troops out there right now on the front lines, there is a special trust that those in support roles, especially like Mr. Manning and in intelligence role are going to handle classified material in accordance with those procedures, but also in a way that really thinks about the second and third order effects.
This leak, as you mentioned, has had impacts across the globe. And it's one of those things that not only has an impact on the team level, but at a very, very high strategic thing. And looking at this at the front lines, we're changing the way we're doing business. And we're in a very, very difficult position as it is being there, and dangerous position. And having these sorts of things only makes the job even harder.
VAUSE: There was a report that came out that said essentially the leaks by Manning did not actually directly lead to the death of any U.S. soldiers or anyone working with U.S. Forces in Iraq or Afghanistan.
But from your point of view, how did it change what is done actually on the front lines in Iraq after all this information was out there?
MILSAP: Yes. It's very simple, you know. As a commander on the ground, one of the things you have to be able to do internally is manage good order and discipline. Your team has to know that those procedures that are in place to protect information, which in turn also protects American lives is there and those rules are being upheld.
And I look, you know, right back to the oath that every member of the Armed Forces, the U.S. Armed Forces takes on day one. And that's an oath to support and defend the constitution in regulations accordance with the uniform code of military justice.
And in this case, there were multiple violations of the UCMJ. And as a commander, I would look at this and say what are the standards that are there and how do we enforce them? Because at the end of the day, the appearance that there is some sort of double standard is a killer, both of morale and of the unity that is required on the front lines. VAUSE: Manning has been held in solitary confinement. She has
endured being a transgender woman in a men's prison. Sometimes we're hearing from her lawyers that she has been suicidal.
What do you make of the argument that this is simply an act of mercy and it's the right thing to do?
MILSAP: I know there is an opinion out there that this is most definitely a human rights case. But I look at this very, very -- through the military lens. And I would go back to the standards with the UCMJ and say what was violated here and what are the sentences that are aligned to that.
But really, I think with this case and others that are out there, we're talking about, you know, just in the last year, we've seen not only low-level enlisted coming through, but senior level officers that have mishandled classified material.
[00:05:09] I would look at this across the board and say where is the process right now and really take a step back and say do we need to do another review all the way from the top to the bottom to make sure that those procedures that are in place are actually protecting those that are on the front lines?
VAUSE: Ok, Chase -- thanks for being with us and giving your insights and reaction, you know, from the point of view of someone who has served and has been directly impacted by what happened with Manning.
Thanks for being with us.
MILSAP: Thanks -- John.
Joining me here now in Los Angeles Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic". We're going to keep talking about this.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
VAUSE: Fairly typical responses from the Republican side. We heard from Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House. This is part of his statement. "President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won't be held accountable for their crimes."
Not just Republicans though.
VAUSE: Here is Democrat Senator Robert Menendez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I have serious concerns about equivocating sentences when national security is at stake. What happened here is that literally hundreds of thousands of documents were released. It put national security at risk. It put individual operatives at risk. It put our national interests at risk with other countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Ok. So this is across party lines.
BROWNSTEIN: Right. Look, when it comes to commutations and pardons, presidents often save the most controversial for last. I mean you think of Bill Clinton with the fugitive financier Mark Rich at the very end of his presidency.
You know, to your question before, I mean there is no political constituency for doing this. And it is especially odd against the backdrop of coming at a time when the intelligence services in the U.S. are accusing in unanimous fashion WikiLeaks of being a conduit for Russian interference for the American election, to pardon -- to commute the sentence of someone who was -- really put WikiLeaks on the map, (inaudible) which is a very politically lonely decision to make.
And I think it's hard to see any other reason for doing this than as you said, seeing it as an act of mercy because there really is no audience for this on the political spectrum.
VAUSE: When you look at this with the backdrop of the election we have just had --
VAUSE: -- and the role WikiLeaks has played in all that, how would Hillary Clinton be feeling about that?
BROWNSTEIN: It's an extraordinary moment, right. We have had now months of U.S. intelligence services concluding with increasing certainty that WikiLeaks was the conduit for a systematic Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. Election. And then even though they are completely unrelated cases, to then take this step for someone whose vehicle was also WikiLeaks is again, it just makes it even more extraordinary.
VAUSE: As we say, there is no political constituency for this. There also now seems to be universal outrage across party lines especially within the intelligence community.
VAUSE: -- in some way, does this now take the heat off Donald Trump, who has been waging his own war with the intelligence agencies? You know, their ire, their anger now focused on Obama in the last couple day?
BROWNSTEIN: Maybe it just opens another front. I think the problem, the strain between Donald Trump and the intelligence community is deep and systemic and, you know, escalating again over the weekend with his attacks on John Brennan, the CIA director. But this is -- look, as I said, it is not unusual for a president to save the most controversial for last. And this certainly will go up there in the annals of last-week presidential decisions that are going to echo beyond.
VAUSE: Ok. A lot more politics to get to, in particular about Russia. So Ron, you'll stay with us.
Russia's president says unverified claims from a dossier on Donald Trump are rubbish. CNN reported last week U.S. intelligence officials gave Trump the dossier. It warned Russia may have compromising information on Donald Trump. Buzzfeed published the dossier in full, CNN did not report the details.
President Vladimir Putin joked about some of the allegations whilst defending Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Did Trump really come and meet with Moscow prostitutes? First, he is an adult. And second, he is a person who for many years has organized a beauty pageant, socialized with the most beautiful women in the world.
It is hard to believe that he ran to a hotel to meet with our girls of a low social class, although they are the best in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: We have more details now from CNN's Matthew Chance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But it was a full and colorful defense of Donald Trump from Vladimir Putin. The Russian president has said that a clear attempt was being made in the United States to undermine the President-Elect. Part of what he said was the internal political fight in the United States continuing even after the election there was over.
[00:09:56] He also rejected unsubstantiated allegations made in a private intelligence dossier that Russian secret services had for years gathered compromising information or kompromat on Donald Trump.
"Years ago we didn't know about his political ambitions," Putin said. "He was just a rich businessman. Our security services don't chase after every American billionaire," he added.
Putin also went further, pouring scorn on allegations carried in a dossier that Trump had been videotaped in a Moscow hotel cavorting with prostitutes. "President-Elect Trump has spent most of his life with the most beautiful women in the world," Putin explained. "Why would he need to socialize with Russian prostitutes," even though he jokes they are the best in the world.
"Those who compiled the dossier," Putin said, "were worse than prostitutes with no moral boundaries, spreading false information to use in a political battle."
Matthew Chance, CNN -- Moscow.
VAUSE: Robert English, deputy director of the USC School of International Relations joins me now for more on this. Robert -- thanks for being with us.
Was there anything odd to you about the Russian president coming out and defending the U.S. President-Elect, not just defending him, but defending him in the way that he did?
ROBERT ENGLISH, USC PROFESSOR: The President of Russia bragging that their prostitutes are the best in the world? Our President-Elect accused of consorting with Russian prostitutes? Everything here is odd.
But on a more serious level, it's understandable with these allegations right on the eve of Trump's accession that they would want to put them aside, they would want to, for example, draw a parallel with the intelligence community, also at the last minute doing something similar to Hillary Clinton. And, you know, try to get past this with ridicule, which perhaps it deserves.
We don't know what's really in that dossier. But it seems pretty dodgy. I look to a more serious set of policy issues very soon and putting these theatrics behind us.
The Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov also held a news conference. He talked about the similarities between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Donald Trump also says he wants to focus on the interests of the United States, on security, and on the interests of the United States, including setting up favorable conditions for business. And that is exactly like President Putin when he speaks about foreign policy and the Russian Federation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Lavrov went on to say that basically Trump's priorities and Russia's priorities with Vladimir Putin line up exactly. Is that how you see things at this point?
ENGLISH: Not necessarily. On the one hand, many of us see that there are obvious deals out there. The art of the deal could be brought to bear in a major improvement in U.S./Russian relations, right. And without going into great detail, we know what it will take for a compromise to get past the Ukrainian crisis. Russia will have to get out of eastern Ukraine and return sovereignty and control of the eastern border. The Ukrainians will probably have to recognize after some period that Crimea will not be coming back to them. It is after all an overwhelmingly Russian. Maybe they need another referendum there.
The Russians want sanctions relief. We both have things we want from the other. But that's assuming a normal set of circumstances and with Donald Trump, nothing has been normal -- his campaign, his election, his transition team, his policy preparations. I have no confidence that his team will be able to make the deal that is probably out there.
It's a good thing that we're getting past the bitter political animus that existed between the Obama, between Hillary Clinton, and you know, and Trump -- excuse me, and Putin and the Russian side. But there is no indication necessary that Trump will be able with confidence to act on this, you know.
Making a deal, international diplomacy requires deep knowledge. It requires patience. And it requires the support of your allies. And what we have seen so far is superficial knowledge. We've seen Twitter storms of impatience. And we've seen alienation of our allies -- not good signs.
VAUSE: You talked about this essentially poisoned relation, if you like between Vladimir Putin and the Obama administration. And we also heard on Tuesday from the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power essentially taking one last shot at Vladimir Putin and Russia. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The Russian government under President Putin is taking steps that are weakening the rules-based order that we have benefitted from for seven decades. Our values, our security, our prosperity and our very way of life are tied to this order. And we -- and by we, I mean the United States and our closest partners -- must come together to prevent Russia from succeeding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[00:15:09] VAUSE: Firstly, is she right? And does the -- do the Russians rather have the capacity to do what Ambassador Power is stating there? Do they have that capability of undermining the international world order?
ENGLISH: No, I don't think so. I think we're starting to look at the Russians as we looked at the Soviets before, as if they're 10 feet tall. Russia's economy is very weak, and they're desperate for sanctions relief and resumed ordinary, normal economic relations.
The Russian public opinion -- their incomes have dropped almost a third over the last two years -- will run out of patience. There is a lot of patriotism, but there are also signs of weakness. And, you know, the fears for example about Russian propaganda, Russian TV that we saw outlined in the intelligence briefing two weeks ago are so overdrawn.
You know, we know that RT, the Russian network is propaganda stick. It pushes a certain very anti-American line. And that was laid out in chilling detail in the intelligence dossier.
What wasn't noted was that nobody watches it. In Europe it has less than one-tenth of 1 percent of audience share. In the United States, in Nielsen ratings, RT doesn't even make the top 100. So I think it's really overdrawn.
And sure, you know, there is a concern. Trump himself however, is the one perhaps driving a wedge between us and our allies. It's not coming from the Russian side in any scary way. And, again, diplomacy requires knowledge, experience, patience, and professionalism. And I sure hope we start seeing some of that from our new administration soon.
VAUSE: Well, in three days I guess we'll find out.
Robert, thank you so much for being with us. Robert English-- we appreciate it.
ENGLISH: You're welcome.
VAUSE: More on this now. CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein is back with us.
Ok. Ron -- I want to play a little bit more from that news conference because it turned into the bizarre right towards the end. But Putin did make the point that the Obama administration in his opinion has been trying to undermine Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUTIN: Nevertheless, during this campaign, there were a number of objectives, some of which were clear. The first one was to undermine the legitimacy of the elected president. By the way, I would like to point out that whether or not people want to do this, whether or not this is in the interest of the United States, this does huge harm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: He also went on the say that measures taken by the Obama administration essentially tying the hands and the feet of the incoming administration Donald Trump. And to some extent, it would seem Putin is right about certainly the last part.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, certainly the first part where he is saying that they're trying to undermine him, of course, exonerates Russia from whatever influence that it had in the events.
And look, the Obama administration is doing whatever it can to safeguard their policy agenda. But I think even more importantly, I think the President has had a very clear two-track strategy since the election on the one hand of being as personally gracious and encouraging to Trump as they can.
And on the other hand setting a series of policy trip wires that if the new president goes past them on things like climate perhaps or on immigration or relations, different groups within American society that he will feel empowered, President Obama, to speak out more directly than we usually see former presidents do.
VAUSE: You know, we heard from the White House spokesman Josh Earnest today, it was his last White House briefing. He made the remark that sounds like Putin got his talking points from the Trump team. It does sound, you know, like they're talking from the same page here.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, look, I mean that was striking in the interview that Donald Trump did with the "Times" of London and the German newspaper over the weekend where he basically embraced the arguments against the European Union that Marine le Pen is going to rely on in the French national election in 2017.
He embraced the argument against Angela Merkel's refugee policy that the AFD party in Germany, the far right populist party in Germany is going to rely on in their 2017 elections in Germany. He made arguments about kind of the rules-based order, as Samantha Power argued that are similar to the case that Donald Trump made.
I kind of disagree a little with the last guest when he says that Russia cannot directly unravel the western alliances. But they are supporting directly and indirectly parties in European countries that are committed to precisely that end. And the bizarre kind of turn of events is that rather than resisting that, you now have the American president really reinforcing the arguments and in some ways validating the arguments that they are going to make, echoing arguments that Vladimir Putin might make.
VAUSE: Very quickly, we had the first pre-inauguration event. It was in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday night. A black tie dinner for donors and diplomats, and we heard from the President-Elect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: We have great respect for your countries. We have great respect for our world. We have a man that I wanted right from the beginning, Rex Tillerson. And these lights are bright, but he is around here someplace. Where is old Rex?
[00:20:06] What a job. Thank you very much. Thanks, Rex. I think it's tougher than he thought. He's led this charmed life. He goes into a country, takes the oil, goes into another country. It's tough dealing with these politicians, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, Donald Trump, he went on to predict there will be record crowds going up on Friday. There may be record crowds but not essentially for the inauguration.
BROWNSTEIN: (inaudible) Donald Trump likes to keep everybody off- balance -- opponents, allies alike. Interesting in the "New York Times" tonight reporting how he still needles Reince Priebus, his chief of staff about suggesting that he drop out at various points, and does it in front of others.
He is someone who thrives on chaos, who kind of revels in the tempest. And the question I think will be how that style works for the country and for the world. I mean we noted his approval rating in incoming polls is way below any other incoming president. He will be the first president ever, almost certainly, to come into office with less than a majority support in the first post-inaugural poll.
And I think part of the reason for that is just the sheer level of turmoil and conflict that has accompanied essentially every day since his victory. You know, there is something very rare is happening. His support has narrowed between Election Day and inauguration day. There is almost no precedent for that in the history of modern polling.
VAUSE: We also have a situation that there is this growing boycott of the inauguration ceremonies on Friday by Democrats, essentially they're saying that, you know, they don't want to turn up to validate his presidency. Trump laughed that off. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as other people not going, that's ok, because we need seats so badly. I hope they give me their tickets. Are they going to give us their tickets or are they going to give them to other people?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're ok with them not going.
TRUMP: No, what happens to their tickets? I hope they're going to give us their tickets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWNSTEEIN: Look, you know, he can be dismissive. But there is a debate about whether it is appropriate to boycott the inaugural or not. In the Senate, there isn't nearly the same amount. I don't believe there are any Democratic senators.
But this is reflective of something else. He will come into office with by far the highest disapproval rating overall and the highest disapproval rating among voters in the opposite.
Highest disapproval rating ever for an incoming president, 25; Trump will be 45 to 50. That has real world consequences. He needs Democratic senators, eight Democratic senators to get over the filibuster on anything that can't be done through our reconciliation process.
And that will become harder if they believe that he is not as strong as it appeared he might be in some of those states after the election.
VAUSE: Ok, Ron -- good to have you.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.
Well, Barack Obama will hold his last news conference as U.S. President on Wednesday. You can watch it right here on CNN. Our coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. in Washington. That's 7:00 p.m. in London. 11:00 p.m. if you are watching from Abu Dhabi.
Happening now in a South Korean court, a hearing which could decide the fate of a Samsung chief. We'll have details after a short break.
[00:23:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: Well, at this hour, a South Korean judge is considering whether to issue an arrest warrant for the Samsung vice-chairman Jae Y. Lee. Lee was mobbed by reporters when he arrived at the courthouse for the hearing on Wednesday. He is accused of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in a corruption scandal that led to the President's impeachment.
CNN's Alexander Field joins us now from Seoul, South Korea.
So Alexandra -- walk us through the process here. What can we expect?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's all pretty eye- popping, John, when you look at these images. You're talking about one of South Korea's most prominent business leaders, the grandson of the founder of Samsung, the de facto head of the country's largest conglomerate, swarmed by those reporters, as you point out as he heads in to face this judge who will now have to decide whether or not to detain Jae Y. Lee on these charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury.
It is alleged that tens of millions of dollars were paid out to help secure government backing of a merger between two Samsung affiliates that helped to consolidate Jae Y. Lee's power within Samsung. It's really a move that helped make him the heir apparent of this company again. He is really serving as the de facto leader while his father, the chairman of the company remains ill at this point.
So a judge is sitting through this hearing this morning. And he'll have to really determine whether Jae Y. Lee poses a potential flight risk, whether there could be a risk of destroying any evidence that is related to the investigation before issuing decision on whether or not Jae Y. Lee needs to be detained as this investigation moves forward.
Jae Y. Lee has denied knowledge that any of these payments were made. Samsung has also come to his defense saying that no payments were made to curry any kind of favor for any sort of merger.
But certainly this is a scandal and these are allegations that has gripped the country not just because of the potential impact on Samsung, a company that is so closely tied to the South Korean economy, but also because this has such close ties to the political scandal that has rocked this country. The payments allegedly were made to organizations that are associated with a close confidante of President Park Geun-Hye. That confidante is at the center of the influence peddling scandal which led lawmakers to vote to impeach President Park Geun-Hye last year for improperly sharing documents with that confidante.
So, far-reaching implications both for South Korea and this continually developing political scandal and also the future of Samsung itself -- John.
VAUSE: Ok, Alexandra, thank you for being with us. It sounds like you got the same cold that I have, even though we're separated by an ocean. We appreciate it. And keep us up to date if anything happens.
FIELD: Indeed. Thanks.
VAUSE: Well, the Nigerian army says it was a mistake. Coming up what happened to helpless civilians at a refugee camp.
[00:28:19] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[00:31:46] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.
Many U.S. lawmakers are outraged over President Barack Obama's decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, formally known as Bradley Manning. The former soldier was convicted of leaking U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks. Former intelligence official calls the move hypocritical since Mr. Obama has denounced WikiLeaks' hacking in the past.
Vladimir Putin is dismissing claims that Russian security services spied on Donald Trump. Russian president says Trump ran a beauty pageant and socialized with the most beautiful women in the world so it's hard to believe he would meet with prostitutes.
A South Korean Judge will decide in the coming hours whether Samsung Vice-Chairman Jay Y. Lee should be arrested. He is accused of bribery, embezzlement and perjury in the corruption scandal that led to the president's impeachment. Lee denies any wrongdoing.
Australia was not ruling out, resuming the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but only if there is credible evidence of a new possible location. The hunt for the Boeing 777 was suspended on Monday after almost three years since it disappeared with 239 passengers and crew on board. The family, though, say the search should continue.
At least 52 people have been killed in an airstrike by the Nigerian Air Force at a refugee camp in the country's northeast in what's described as a misfire. Doctors Without Borders posted images online and a warning, the scenes are disturbing.
The aid group says at least 120 others were hurt who also condemned the incident as shocking and unacceptable. But the Nigerian Army said the jet was trying to target the terrorist group Boko Haram when it dropped its bombs.
Farai Sevenzo joins us now from Nairobi with the very latest.
So what is the latest right now we have on evacuating the wounded? And Farai do we actually have a number -- confirmed number of people who have been killed?
FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At the moment, John, we are going with the original figure of 52, which was released by the Medecins Sans Frontieres. And 52 people are known to have been killed. Hundreds are injured. But then, of course, let's bear in mind this is an area where 25,000 people. We are calling them refugees, but they are internally displaced Nigerians caught between the Nigerian Army's war against Boko Haram and Boko Haram itself.
Let's not kid ourselves. This is a ruthless organization. Our viewers may remember that they kidnapped 200 girls in April 2014. And the area where this happened in Rann has recently become accessible to aid groups.
So in some way, the military operations are working. Sadly, though, up to six Red Cross workers were killed in this unfortunate air strike, which could be called a complete accident. The government deeply regrets it. And in the moment, people are being flown from Rann to the nearest hospital in Maiduguri by helicopter. And we understand that the figure of dead is likely to rise, John.
VAUSE: It does beg the question. They say a mistake. But how do you mistakenly hit a town of 25,000 people in an area which is meant to be a safe haven?
[00:35:08] SEVENZO: OK, well, it's -- the government, General Irabor, the man in charge of military operations in that area released a statement saying that they had received reports that Boko Haram were gathering in an area called Cala (ph) very near the Cameroonian border.
It might be a safe haven, but it is still a refugee camp. People have been caught into this buffer zone for many years. 15,000 people have been killed. Two million displaced. And they're caught between this war.
And basically, it is the most inaccessible place. It's very remote. They're also suffering great malnutrition. UNICEF is talking about feeding 4 million people in the region. It is really the fallout of a war that has been going on for seven years. And the Nigerian government seemed very keen to wipe out Boko Haram, but of course, this is the kind of damage that happens when a war gets people bang in the middle between the insurgents and the people trying to fight them.
VAUSE: And just on that last point, though, I was under the impression that the Nigerian president had claimed that Boko Haram had essentially been defeated. It would seem that's not entirely the case.
SEVENZO: John, that is a wild estimation of the situation on the ground. As we know, just last week, Boko Haram suicide bombers blew up in Maiduguri University killing several people, injuring many more. And they are not at all uneasy about sending children strapped with bombs into marketplaces.
It's become really on one side Boko Haram is being defeated. But it's like a wounded beast and attacking everyone. And of course these poor refugees and let's not forget the aid workers who are putting themselves in the very frontline of saving people. All across Africa, aid agencies are setting up refugee camps, Uganda on the border with South Sudan and Nigeria is no different. It's a gruesome situation and a tragedy of enormous proportions.
VAUSE: OK. Farai, we'll leave it there. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate the information.
And we'll take a short break now. When we come back, British Prime Minister Theresa May makes her biggest speech yet on Brexit. We'll have reaction in the UK and elsewhere across Europe in just a moment.
VAUSE: China's President Xi Jinping never mentioned Donald Trump by name, but the soon-to-be U.S. president-elect was clearly on the Chinese leader's mind during his first speech at the World Economic Forum. Trump has threatened to impose high tariffs on goods imported from China, but china's president defended the benefits of globalism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): Pursuing protectionism is just like locking oneself in a darkroom. While wind and rain may be kept outside, so are light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in the trade war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Trump Adviser Anthony Scaramucci says the incoming administration does not want a trade war with China, but he says current agreements could be reworked to benefit American workers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, DONALD TRUMP ADVISER: I don't think that there are a lot of people that like these man-made, you know, islands being built in the middle of the South China Sea. They may not like him opening up the question of a One China policy. But I think when we get to the table, there is a rational spirit there between the two parties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Well, China's foreign ministry says the One China policy is at the heart of its relationship with the United States and is not negotiable.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has laid out her vision toward Britain's exit from the European Union. Nic Robertson has the reaction at home and abroad.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Billed as her biggest Brexit speech so far, the British Prime Minister made clear she wants a clean break from the EU.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave. No. The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.
ROBERTSON: With few details so far and Theresa May's self-imposed deadline for triggering EU exit talks barely two months away, much is riding on her words. In particular, political support for her plans.
MAY: I can confirm today that the government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both houses of parliament before it comes into force.
ROBERTSON: The markets that have become the instant barometer of all things Brexit quick to deliver their verdict. A slight upward shift in the value of Sterling.
Across Europe, a similarly tepid response from EU politicians in their tweets. European Council President Donald Tusk saying "Sad process, surrealistic times, but at least more realistic announcement on #BrexitEU27. United and ready to negotiate after Article 50."
Lead EU negotiator Michel Barnier saying "Ready as soon as UK is. Early notification can kick off negotiations. #Brexit."
MAY: A stronger Britain demands that we do something else. Strengthen the precious union between the four nations of the United Kingdom.
ROBERTSON: With her usual passion, May insisted Brexit won't break up the UK. She promised the EU, Britain wants it to succeed, but warned no deal is better than a bad deal.
MAY: We would still be free to strike trade deals across the world, and we would have the freedom to set the competitive tax rates and embrace the policies that would attract the world's best companies and biggest investors to Britain.
ROBERTSON (on-camera): Her speech was an advance on what she said here six months ago that Brexit means Brexit but it's still short on detail. The prime minister spoke to that saying every detail, every hyped word makes it harder to get the best deal, a deal she says that would define the future of Britain.
Nic Robertson, CNN, London.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Finally here, a fishing trip gone wrong. Two American college students were fishing on a lake in Georgia this weekend. There they are moving at quite a clip. More than 90 kilometer per hour apparently. That's when the boat's steering system malfunctioned, hurling them both into the water. They both made it back to the boat safely. They say there is a moral to the story. Life jackets save lives.
Now thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. A live edition of "World Sport" with Patrick Snell is up next, including the latest Aussie open results. And then I'll be back with another hour of news from all around the world. You're watching CNN.