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Trump Set to Deliver First SOTU; Dueling Partisan Narratives Over Memo; McCabe Exits FBI. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 30, 2018 - 03:00   ET

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


ROSEMARY CHURCH, ANCHOR, CNN: Dueling partisan narratives on a memo and sudden exit of the number two at the FBI. The Russia investigation developments that took -- could overshadow Trump's big speech.

With forum referendum, Ireland commits to holding a vote on easing its strict laws on abortion plus, we would take you to Yemen where CNN was granted rare access to the front lines of the Civil War there.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I am Rosemary Church and this is CNN Newsroom.

We're just hours away from Donald Trump's first State of the Union speech but his ongoing battle with the Justice Department and FBI could overshadow his big night. House Republicans have voted to release a controversial memo that alleges anti-Trump bias at the Bureau and now the President has to decide whether to make it public.

The memo comes from Congressman Devin Nunes, a staunch Trump supporter. He claims the FBI abused its power by surveilling Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. The Justice Department says the memo contains classified information, and should not be released.

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ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR, CNN: If the Department of Justice wrote a letter saying it is extremely reckless and that -- I mean, part of the concern is it gives away sources and methods, why not allow the Department of Justice, you know, the ability to review it. I know you said, Christopher Ray has taken a look at it, but clearly the Department of Justice wrote this letter that they are not happy about this.

RICK CRAWFORD, US HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, REPUBLICAN: Well, sources I've met say, and you're absolutely right, we do not reveal sources and methods. That is why we gave Director Ray and two of the staff the opportunity to review that. So, I think it has had an adequate review. It is only four pages in contrast...

COOPER: So, the Department of Justice is wrong when they said it is extremely reckless. They are just flat out mistake.

CRAWFORD: That is their opinion and so our opinion as a body is that we need to share this information because we have a responsibility to exercise oversight over federal agencies, and as I said before, it may not appeal to DOJ, but if there is wrongdoing in any federal agency, we have a responsibility to expose that and take the appropriate action.

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CHURCH; The Democrats want to release their own response. They say the Nunes memo is skewed and is really just another attempt to discredit Special Counsel, Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

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ADAM SCHIFF, US HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, DEMOCRAT: We have votes today to politicize the intelligence process, to prohibit the FBI and the Department of Justice from expressing their concerns to our committee and to the House and to selectively releaseto the public only the majority's distorted memo without the full facts. A very sad day, I think in the history of this committee.

When you have a deeply flawed person in the Oval Office that flaw can infect the whole of government and today, tragically, it infected our committee.

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CHURCH: And one of PresidentTrump's frequent Twitter targets has decided to step down. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was set to retire in March. Now the White House is having to answer questions about whether McCabe was forced from his job. CNN's Jim Acosta reports.

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JIM ACOSTA, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: One day before the State of the Union speech, the White House is busy dealing with the state of the Russia investigation, insisting President Trump had nothing to do with the departure of deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The Presidentwasn't part of this decision-making process.

ACOSTA: But the President has made it clear for more than a month. He wanted McCabe gone tweeting about the Deputy Director's wife, a Democrat who had mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the Virginia State Senate. "How can FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge be given $700,000.00 for his wife's campaign by Clinton puppets during investigation and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. Ninety days to go."

McCabe is the latest official close to the Russia investigation to feel the President's fury from former FBI director James Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump to Attorney General Jeff Sessions who was pressured by the White House to not recuse himself.

But the President's attempt to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller along with Mr. Trump's wishes to get rid of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

ACOSTA: It sounds like there are multiple officials at multiple levels who are being pressured by the White House by President. What would you say in response to that concern?

SANDERS: I said I have said -- I would say what I have said probably 100 times before and continue. I will say I am sure 100 times today day that the White House has been fully cooperative and is going to continue to be fully cooperative.

ACOSTA: White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders conceded the President has put pressure on officials.

SANDERS: The only thing that the President has applied pressure to is to make sure we get this resolved, so that you guys and everyone else can focus on the things that Americans actually care about and that is making sure everybody gets the Russia fever out of their system once and for all, that you are all reminded once again there was no collusion.

ACOSTA: No obstruction of justice? Nothing improper? Nothing inappropriate here? At all whatsoever from the President since he came into office when it comes to this investigation.

SANDERS: No, and I think we've been pretty clear on that.

ACOSTA: The latest turmoil in the Russia probe comes as the President is about to deliver his first State of the Union speech.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that state of our union today?

SANDERS: I think it's credible and I think that you will hear that in the President's words tomorrow night. Look, we've got an economy that is booming. ISIS is on the run.

ACOSTA: The President is expected to make a pitch for the White House immigration plan that would provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants. Mr. Trump conceded the proposal may not have the votes to pass.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've said this speech for many, many years. We've been talking immigration, they never got anything done. We will get something done. We hope it's going to be bipartisan because the Republicans really don't have the votes to get it done in any other way, so it has to be bipartisan.

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CHURCH: And that was Jim Acosta reporting. So, let's bring in CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston. Mark, good to have you with us. Now, you heard White House saying they had no involvement in the abrupt departure Monday of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCable, but Mr. Trump has publicly criticized him for weeks now.

Why did McCabe suddenly leave Monday? What was the trigger and what at all are you learning about this? MARK PRESTON, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, a couple of

things. One, is we're not entirely sure why Mr. McCabe left. Now, sources are telling CNN that there was an Inspector General's report basically, a watchdog within the government that was looking into the FBI in how they handled the investigation of President Trump during the campaign as well as Hillary Clinton.

As our viewers around the world would remember, as she had issues with her computer server in which she shouldn't have had. So, the question is washe forced out in some ways because of the suspected general's report which we haven't seen? Some sources say that that is the case. Other sources say that McCabe at this point just had enough that he felt so much pressure not only from President Trump but from the higher end of the Department of Justicehere in the USthat he just could not stand it anymore and he decided to leave.

Now, he was going to leave anyway in March, we were told. He was going to retire, but it was a very abrupt departure on Monday.

CHURCH: Yes, it certainly was and very unusual we hear too inside the FBI to leave abruptly like that and of course the other political drama playing out on Capitol HillMonday was the House Intelligence Committee voting to release the memo alleging that the FBI abused surveillance laws during the 2016 Presidential campaign and Mr. Trump has five days now to decide whether he will or won't release it. What is going on here? Is there something to this or is it all about discrediting and disrupting the Russia probe?

PRESTON: Well, again it depends on who you talk to and we haven't seen the memo yet. I suspect we will see the memo though by mid to late week because we do expect the White House and President Trump to decide to release it.

He will be the final sign off, but if you talk to Democrats, they think that this was a partisan witchhunt on behalf of Republicans to try to discredit the independent counsel, but also primarily the FBI that was looking into which started the whole investigation.

We saw Nancy Pelosi on CNN just several hours ago where she came out and said that the memo was basically constructed along partisan lines, and that there was no truth to it.

Democrats, in turn, tried to release their own memo, but were stopped from doing so. But I suspect we will see the release of that memo within the next week or two, but right now, Democrats and Republicans are playing politics. Republicans say that Democrats do not want to get to the truth of it all.

CHURCH: We will see what happens with that and of course, President Trump's first State of the Union address gets underway Tuesday evening and the theme is building a safe, strong and proud America. What can we expect to hear and is there any possibility that some sort of compromise on immigration might be offered or is that off the table?

PRESTON: Well, he will call it a compromise because he has already laid out kind of the pillars of what he is willing to do. Just to take a step back and for people around the world who are just now tuning into what is happening here in the US, what we are seeing is Democrats are very much against President Trump's desire to build the wall along the southern border at the same time, Republicans in addition want to change, as well as President Trump want to change the visa lottery system that is in place right now and they want to end what they call chain migration. That is when somebody comes here from another country is able to get citizenship and then by virtue of that is able to bring over all of their family.

Republicans want to end that. Democrats say that that is not the case, but where President Trump said he is willing to do though is create a path to citizenship for the Dreamers. These are the young kids who were brought over here, no fault of their own illegally. They know no other country but the United States. He said he is willing to create a path to citizenship for them, but Democrats have to go along with the funding and the idea to change how the immigration system is set up.

So, there will be no resolution, certainly tomorrow night, if not this week, but you will hear President Trump talk a lot about America first, he'll talk a lot about the economy and he is going to talk about how the country is really going in the right direction.

If you remember, it was just a year ago where he talked about carnage here in the US and how things were such a mess. Well, after year, he thinks that things are right on the right track now.

CHURCH: Yes, we will wait to see what he has to say. And of course, it is always interesting to see who the President invites to the State of the Union. So, we will wait for that. Mark Preston, always a pleasure to talk with you. Many thanks.

PRESTON: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: And you can watch Mr. Trump's speech and get expert analysis from our reporters and contributors. Be sure to tune into our special coverage of the State of the Union address. It all begins Tuesday at 8 p.m. in New York; Wednesday 9 a.m. in Hong Kong.

The US government has released a list of Russian oligarchs and politicians who have flourished under Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime. The release is part of a 2016 law that was meant to punish Russia for meddling in the US election. The aim is to name and shame and possibly sanction them. However, the State Department has decided against that and says just having that law is being seen as deterrent enough.

The Treasury Department, which compiled the list says, "It is not a sanctions list and the inclusion of individuals or entities in this report does not and in no way should be interpreted to impose sanctions on those individuals orentities."

CNN's Fred Pleitgenhas been looking through the list and he joins me now live from Moscow. So, Fred, who is on this list?

FRED PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Rosemary, it might not be a sanctions list, but certainly is a very wide-ranging list that I actually have the right here. The interesting part about the list it's sort of divided into two separate categories. One of them is Russian political figures who are close to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government and the other are Russian oligarchs who of course also benefit from the current government here in Russia and many of them also very close to the Russian government as well.

Now if you look at the political part of it, the politicians -- that is basically the entire Russian government, the foreign ministers on it, Serge Lavrov, the spokesman for the Kremlin. Dmitry Peskovis on it as well. The defense minister of Russia is on it; pretty much every senior Russian political figure. Also, many from Russia's Presidential administration as well.

So, the really interesting part really comes when you go to the oligarchs list because a lot of these oligarchs are quite concerned that simply being on this list, even if it does not mean that sanctions against them are imposed will make it more difficult for them to operate in the future.

For instance, getting credit with banks. For instance, starting to do business overseas. Some of the major names on there arefor instance, Roman Abramovich who of courseowns the Chelsea football club. You have Aras Agalarovwho is one of the big tycoons here in Russia who was also involved in the Miss Universe competition that President Trump -- back then Donald Trump held here in Russia in 2013.

You have Oleg Deripaskawho is also one of the big oligarchs here in this country who was also implicated in that Trump-Russiainvestigation for allegedly having ties to Paul Manafort and then one of the maybe surprising names is Eugene Kaspersky of Kaspersky Labs, which of course is a software that many people internationally use to try and hunt for viruses and other things on their computers. That is certainly will mean more difficulties for them.

There have been some issues around Kaspersky labstechnology and its use by US government entities in the past, so some of these oligarchs will certainly be very, very concerned. It's a wide-ranging list, but as you have noted, the Treasury Department says by no means a sanctions list, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed, so what has been the reaction to this flip-flop on the 2016 law, what has been the reaction there in Russia?

PLEITGEN: Yes, well it has been a really twofold reaction. There have been some senior political and business figures who have come out and said exactly what we are saying right now, look, this is no sanctions list. It really does not mean anything but then, when you look at it, you can see that the Russians are really angered by this.

Now, one of the people who has come out early this morning has been very vocal. He is the head of the Dumas's that's the Russian Parliament International Affairs Committee, and he came out and I am quoting him out right now. He said, "The American leadership itself does not see the consequences of these actions. They may jeopardize relations in the world between countries, and this can have very, very serious consequences."

So, obviously, the theme they are saying that this could mean more issues between US and Russia internationally. The Russians themselves for their part so far, the government at least, has not come out and said that there would be any retaliation. We're looking to see whether or not the Kremlin will issue a statement or some sort of interview later today, usually there is a conference call with the Kremlin spokesperson that happens in the morning hours here or the early afternoon hours in Moscow, but there is really a lot of reaction already coming out against some of it, brushing all these off. Some of it really taking it very, very seriously and you can imagine that the Kremlin is certainly taking this list very seriously as well, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, of course that Fred Pleitgenbringing us it up-to-date there from Moscow where it is 11:15 in the morning. We thank you.

All right, return to Afghanistan now where a wave of violence in recent days is prompting concern over the government's ability to protect itself and the country's people. ISIS is claiming responsibility for several of those attacks.

The Taliban claimed the others and this map shows the reach of both militant groups in the country, areas where the Taliban are either in control and supported and much more extensive than those of ISIS, but ISIS is making its presence felt, particularly in areas near Kabul.

More than 130 people have been killed in four separate attacks in Afghanistan in the span of just nine days. The most recent one happened Monday at a military base in Kabul. More now from CNN's Nick Payton Walsh.

NICK PAYTON WALSH, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It has been a devastating week, nine days, really, for those living in the Afghan capital of Kabul in what's supposed to be a ring of steel into which many people have fled the violence embroiling so much of Afghanistan and today's attacks against the Military Academy is just another instance of the insurgents in many different forms, trying to show they can project power more or less wherever they feel they can.

That's the Military Academy the weekend before Saturday. The Taliban attacked a part of the diplomatic area. A checkpoint there, near a hospital and an ambulance used as a suicide car bomb. The horrifying tactic claimedover hundred lives. Then we see earlier, a few days, a charity for children attacked in the east of the country and then the weekend before, the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul attacked by the Taliban as well.

This is about making sure that the Afghan government's supposed supporters begin to doubt whether their security forces can in fact keep them safe, particularly given the attack against the hotel was specifically warned about by the Americans a matter of days earlier.

There is now a worrying trendhere too and that there are two forces at work here. The first is, the Taliban who all quite clearly trying to compete it seems for this sort of extremist low grounds to be the most brutal and the most savage against ISIS who obviously are a relatively new part of the insurgency who have lost a lot of territory in Iraq and Syria, but it seems some sort of traction take form perhaps amongst younger fighters seeking a new kind of branding inside of Afghanistan.

These two groups, it does appear trying to sort of outdo each other, so to speak. None of that competition is remotely any comfort for ordinary Afghans who have seen, now 16 years of war slowly erode their ability to have daily life as one might normally expect inside their country, and now we are into perhaps a new phase in which President Donald Trump has made it clear, personally pledged that he will win Afghanistan. He is sending hundreds of American troops closer to the front lines now to train Afghan security personnel and on top of that, too, there are some signs that the military certainly is trying to reduce the transparency of how the wars is fought. One key indicator about how well they were doing, the number of Afghan soldiers or police who are being killed or injured well that has been classified now for number of months.

There are many concerns that as we get into more of this fighting season ahead.Less open information will be available, but still, all of this absolutely no solace for those over hundred families grieving the losses of this past devastating. Nick Payton Walsh, CNN, London.

CHURCH: We'll take a short break here, but still to come, Ireland's abortion laws are among the strictest in the world. Why that could possibly change? Plus, he was a superstar on the field. Now David Beckham will get his chance to run the show. Details on his new MLS team just ahead.Stay with us.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: It is that time, let's talk weather. I am meteorologist, PedramJavaheri. This weather watch is in association with Egypt Tourism and the weather story right now across Europe, still watching from mild temperatures across the southwest, a disturbance trying to sneak into Northern Africa, another storm coming in from the north and west and big-time cold where it belongs this time of year as you transition on into Asia there.

But notice the system here, pushing just south right there through the North Sea, could eventually bring in with it very cold temps across this region and in fact, much of the -- say Norway, gets some significant snow especially right along the coast there. Nothing much to say, 15 to 25 centimeters, some areas as much as 30 or more centimeters of fresh snow in the next couple of days.

As you migrate a little farther to the south, much of it will fall still as rainfall before the cooler air arrives and 11 in Paris, light rains like what we're watching here in London around nine, Dublin at it's seven degrees and you notice one shot of cold air after another signals exactly what we expect here as we walk our way into the month of February over the next several days, but here's the forecast across Amsterdam, notice that cooling trend is there, five of the next seven days of a chance for wet weather as well with this active pattern in place, and work your way into Southwestern Asia there, we're talking about places such as Tehran coming in with another high temperature subzero coming in at minus 2, while around say Tripoli, sunny skies, 19. Casablanca same score, Capetown, 26, windy conditions in store.

CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Irish voters will have the chance to decide whether to liberalize the country's strict abortion laws. The Irish cabinet approved a referendum to be held in late May. Currently, abortion is allowed only when a woman's life is at risk.

The eighth amendment to the Irish Constitution gave an equal right to life to the mother and the unborn child. The Prime Minister supports repealing the amendment.

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LEO VARADKAR, PRIME MINISTER, IRELAND: We know that thousands of Irish women, women from every single county in Ireland travel abroad for abortions every year. We know that women obtain abortion pills through the post to end their pregnancies without any medical support or counseling or supervision.

So, we already have abortion in Ireland, but it is unsafe, unregulated and unlawful and in my opinion, we cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions.

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CHURCH: Recent polls find up to 56% of Irish voters support changes in the abortion laws.

Volkwagen'ssupervisory board is calling for an investigation into the use of monkeys to test the health effects of diesel exhaust fumes. The New York Times reports three German carmakers -- Volkswagen, Diemler, and BMW hired researchers to conduct the tests. The research was intended to show that modern diesel fuel is safe and not carcinogenic.

A German newspaper also reported the same research has conducted studies of exhaust fumes on people. The German government said the research was unjustifiable.

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STEFFEN SEIBERT, GERMAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: After everything that has now come out. It has to be said that the outrage felt by many people is completely understandable. These tests on monkeys or even people are ethically absolutelyreprehensible and leave many critical questions to be answered by those who were responsible for these tests and these are questions that are in urgent need of answers.

BERND ALTHUSMANN, VOLKSWAGEN SUPERVISORY BOARD: The whole process is extremely problematic, especially against the backdrop of the diesel scandal that has been dragging on for three years and we will carry out a thorough investigation within the Volkswagen Supervisory Board, and I presume that the Board is going to fully cooperate with us because the whole thing is inexcusable and in this respect, there will be serious personnel consequences.

(VIDEOCLIP ENDS) CHURCH: The studies were conducted in 2014. That was a year before

Volkswagen was caught using software to conceal emissions that were above legal limits.

The European Union is taking a hard line on transition talks with British Brexit negotiators. EU Ministers are offering to allow Britain to keep its member benefits for a time, but rejected giving the UK a voice in European laws.

Bianca Nobilo has the details.

BIANCA NOBILO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Today, the European Union had outlined its negotiating position on the transition period. The EU 27 took all of two minutes to sign off on MichelBarnier'snegotiating directives.

Broadly, they say that the relationship between Britain and the European Union can remain pretty much the same during the transition period. Britain can stay a member of the single market and the Customers Union, but crucially, there will be condition. That means that UK will have to continue to accept all of EU laws and regulations, but will have no seat at the table and no say in those laws in will need to accept.

That would go down well with the Prime Minister's Brexiteer faction of the conservative party. Let's take a listen to what Michel Barnier had to say outlining those negotiating directives earlier today.

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MICHEL BARNIER, FORMER PRIME MINISTER, FRANCE: During the transition, the UK will continue to take part in the single market, to take part to the Customer Union and to all union policies. It will continue to have all the economic benefits, therefore, it must also apply all the EU rules and the single market cannot be (inaudible).

(VIDEOCLIP ENDS)

NOBILO: The EU is keen to have the negotiations wrapped up by October, but the UK Brexit Secretary, David Davis said they might need a few more months. He also today raised questions about the UK's representation during the transition period. And whether or not the UK would have its autonomy to strike trade deals during that period too.

Transition has become a focus for the Brexiteer faction within the Prime Minister's conservative party. And up until now, they haven't caused any problems for her. But today, yet again, underscore the unity of the EU 27 compared to the fault lines of merging within the Prime Minister's own party.

Bianca Nobilo, CNN, Brussels.

CHURCH: Major league soccer is coming to Miami, or football as most of you would call it with one of the most popular players of all time pulling the strings. MLS awarded David Beckham a new franchise Monday. The team does not

yet have a name or a stadium or even a start date. Beckham first announced his intention to buy a team in 2014.

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DAVID BECKHAM, OWNER OF NEW MLS TEAM: I just think it has been a long journey it has been long tiring, hard, at times, greatat times and at times we did not think it was going to happen. So, being on stage today being awarded the franchise officially by Don, the Commissioner have in my partners and owners that were onstage, having our family in the audience, having the fans, it's real and it is happening and it has been an emotional journey, but one that I look back on now and there is reason it has taken this long. There is a reason why, you know, we have met different owners and it did not work out and different investors because it just was not right.And now it is right so...

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CHURCH: And Beckham's Miami team will be the 25th MLS franchise. Well, still to come, a rare look inside Yemen's Civil War. We take you to the front lines of the battlefield and inside secret rebel tunnels. Plus, the EPA quietly changes its position on the case affecting the world's most valuable wild salmon fishery. The details behind the agency's sudden reversal. Be back in a moment.

And a very warm welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I am Rosemary Church, I want to update you now on the main stories we had been following this hour.

The Trump Administration has decided not to call for new sanctions against companies and countries that do business with blacklisted Russian entities. A 2016 law meant to punish Russia for its election meddling says those companies must be made public and sanctions possibly imposed, but a State Department official says that law is already serving as a deterrent.

US House Republicans have voted to release a controversial memo alleging anti-Trump bias at the FBI. Democrats say it is really just an attempt to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. President Trump will decide whether to make that memo public.

Irish voters will have the chance to vote on whether to liberalize the country's strict abortion laws. The Irish Cabinet approved the referendum to be held in late May. Currently, abortion is allowed only when a woman's life is at risk.

Well, the Civil War in Yemen is getting more complexed, government forces and southern separatists who have fought on the same side against Houthi rebels, but now they are fighting each other for control of the Port City of Aden.

The Saudi-led coalition is calling for talks between Yemen's government and the separatist following two days of deadly clashes. Meanwhile, the coalition is trying to reclaim Yemen's capital Sanaa from the Houthis.

Our Nick Robertson got rare access to the front lines in this battle.

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NICK ROBERTSON, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yemeni government soldiers are taking us to the front line. It's a bone-crunching slog up mountains just outside the capital Sanaa.

This part of the mountain is so steep. We've had to get out of the truck and walk up. We're over 2,000 meters, more than 6,000 feet up in the mountains.

The fight to get here is grinding and unforgiving as the terrain. We passed camps feet wide, clinging to the rock face.

The Yemini military is putting on a big show for us here, a lot of soldiers out in force. We've pashed Katyusha rockets at the side of the road. This soldier has a message for the Houthis, he tells me he is going to come and kill them. Send them to hell he said.

He has good reason to be cheerful. In recent months, the Yemeni army has been gaining ground. Eighty-five percent of the country's territory, now with the elected government. Only 15% with Houthi rebels.

Along the way, we pass a large Houthi military base destroyed during Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. The Houthis are still close. Soldiers hurry to show us a discoverythey have made.

Even though the whole base was destroyed by airstrikes, the Houthis were hiding out in a tunnel here. It goes 25 meters, 25 yards in to the mountain. The soldiers are going to show us in.

They lead us deeper inside, past bedding and tables.

It's rigged up for lighting as well. There is a battery here, an inverter, so that they could run their equipment and it keeps going deeper and deeper into the mountain. It's huge.

Inside here, the Houthis set out the coalition air strikes and it is what makes the Houthis a tough target today.

It is incredibly complex here. Breakouts all the way along for different sleeping areas, we're past a kitchen area, more sleeping areas up here. It is a very, very sophisticated cave system built here.

After several hours, we finally emerge at the top, looking down towards the capital. We're keeping low here because we have been told the Houthis might be able to see us from the valley below. We've been told we're about 10 miles, 16 kilometers from the capital Sanaa.Maybe double that to the center of the city. But being close doesn't make the battle any easier.

It's wind swept and desolate, but vital to push the Houthis from the capital and retake control of the country.

Okay, Sanaa airport is just down there. So, I can see a small town down here and the Houthi in this town?

The commander in charge up here tells me he plans to hold this high ground, that he does not want to send troops into the capital because he wants to avoid civilian casualties, but he and the coalition that back him were accused by the UN and others of not doing enough to prevent civilian casualties.

In the safety of his command post, a cave cut into the mountainside, he explains more.

With a little more equipment, we could take the capital in a week, he says, but that is a decision for our political leaders. We won't take it and pillage it like the Houthis.

Until that decision comes, these soldiers will be toughing it out on the mountaintop, toiling up and down these tortuous tracks.

Nick Robertson, CNN just outside Sanaa, Yemen.

(VIDEOCLIP ENDS)

CHURCH: Our inside Yemen series continues Tuesday with a look at the toll the wall has taken on Yemen's youngest soldiers.

(VIDEOCLIP STARTS)

ROBERTSON: Check this out, he's showing me, this is the gun truck. He used to drive his gun truck. This is you, the driver?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, yes.

ROBERTSON: Salloshows me a picture of him driving a rocket launcher. He was 13 at the time.

ROBERTSON: He's joking because he thought I was speaking Arabic.

(VIDEOCLIP ENDS)

CHURCH: And we will have that report Tuesday and look for of our team's coverage all this week. In just a few hours from now, US President Donald Trump will deliver his State of the Union address, and in it, he will likely say the US has scored a victory because ISIS is losing power, but there is another trouble spot where American troops are on a mission.

They are trying to stop Al Shabaabterrorists who are terrorizing the country. In the last year, the number of US forces there has doubled to 500. That's the highest number since the disastrous Black Hawk downgrade in 1993.

Sam Kiley joins us now from Mogadishu with more on this. So, Sam, what exactly are those US forces doing in Somalia and just how extensive is the Al-Shabaab problem? SAM KILEY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, the American forces are due to

have an upgrade in numbers up to about 600 which as you say is a very large investment particularly as most of these troops are actually Special Forces.

Now, their mission very similar to the missions that they carried out in Afghanistan and before that, in Iraq is to go off to the management and the middle-management of Al Shabaab, the idea being that if they can decapitate the organization, perhaps it will fold up underneath its leadershipor in the absence of its leadership.

B0ut that said, Al Shabaabdoes control -- it is difficult to say exactly, but at least a third of southern Somalia, possibly more and above all, they control the roots around the country making it impossible really to deliver aid, or indeed commercial traffic without handing over funds to them at their roadblocks and it is also said that here in Mogadishu. They run a bit of a protection racket which adds to their funds.

At the same time, the Somali National Army is being knitted together by using a wide range of different militia groups with the help of American, Turkish and British training teams that are trying desperately to create something of a national Army after 27 years of Civil War and clan distrust.

So, it is going to be a long hard slog and it already has been. It is after all 25 years to the famous Black Hawk Down incidentin October 3rd, 25 years ago.

CHURCH: And Sam, what are the biggest challenges in trying to contain or shut downAl Shabaabin the country?

KILEY: The main challenge is to prevent Al Shabaabfrom launching the sort of attacks that they have been involved in the past whether it is the famous embassy bombings of Kenya or in Tanzania or more lately, the attack on the shopping mall in Nairobi. That is their external activities that they have been using Somalia as a basic conduct that, so that is the international efforts trying to shut them down in terms of spreading.

Locally, they want to go to grind down their ability to influence the central government here in Mogadishu, but they of course in a very similar model to the Taliban in Kabul, have had a series of bomb attacks in particular targeting government ministers and policemen, soldiers and so on to try to send a signal that there is no central government here. It is a very precarious process establishing government here and it is been a very slow African Union led. There are African Union peacekeepers here from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and other Burundi and other countries that have slowly been trying to expand territory on the government control, but now there are plans actually to draw those numbers down and I think that the United States that will be the problem, as the international peacekeepers or peacemakers are reducing in number to 2020 when they are supposed to be gone. There is a chance or even a probability that the Americans may get sucked deeper in.

CHURCH: Indeed, Sam Kiley joining us live from Mogadishu where it is 11:40 in the morning.

Well, the opposition in Kenya wants to swear in their leader as an alternative President. The government is warning that will be treason. Plus, a billionaire prince caught up in Saudi Arabia's corruption crackdown is now a free man. Why investors may be celebrating his release too, that's still to come. Stay with us.

Welcome back, everyone. A central figure in Saudi Arabia's corruption crackdown is now free. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal was released from detention on Saturday and since then, his wealth has soared by $1 billion. Shares in his firm Kingdom Holding have been on a turf.

CNN's John Defterioshas more now on what lies ahead.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR, CNN: The release of the highest profile commercial player in Saudi Arabia certainly lives a cloud of uncertainty, perception of how the corruption crackdown was proceeding hinge on the handling of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. A camera team was invited into the Ritz-Carlton to show he was alive and well. But during that appearance with Reuters, he did not state settlement terms, nor did he admit guilt calling it all a "understanding."

He did however make reference to a CNN report in January on his biggest project, the world's tallest tower in Jeddah, saying it is on track, albeit at a slower pace. With the number of releases this weekend and after netting what the government says is at least $100 billion in fines, the man behind the crackdown, crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman seems eager to wind down the overall investigation to avoid further damage to the Saudi economy.

Growth is projected to be below 2% according to the IMF. At a closely watched indicator, cash reserves had been tumbling. Before the oil crisis, they stood at nearly three quarters of a trillion dollars. Now, they are below a half-trillion dollars, but have stabilized with the recent oil recovery with the looming IPO for state energy giant Saudi Aramco, the government said they will start a roadshow next month to help close a chapter on what was an unusual crackdown at a five-star resort in Riyadh.

John Defterius, CNNMoney, London.

CHURCH: The opposition in Kenya wants to swear in its leader, RailaOdinga as an alternative President. The government is warning that will amount to treason. Activists fear it could lead to more unrest.

Farai Sevenzo from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. So,Farai, what will be the likely impact if the opposition goes ahead with its plan to swear in its own leader, RailaOdinga and what exactly does it achieve by doing this?

FARAI SEVENZO, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, remember Rosemary, it has been stuttering for some time. I know when we were speaking about the August elections way back when, 2017, we were talking about how unhappy Nasa and Mr. RailaOdinga were with the situation of electoral reform and that is why he is gathering his supporters that over in Uhuru Park, just to the left of our bureau here to try and claim himself as President of course, while it's a bright and sunny day here, there is a lot of tension in the air as you rightly point out.

Just give you a couple of headlines, Moment of Truth say the people in the locfal press and then of course, the whole air of expectancy, "What to expect on this day of conflict?" Now, while everybody is expecting conflict, our team has been out and about this morning and all we could say is that the tensions that we saw in 2017 of tear gas all over the place, we have not witnessed, but we are seeing hundreds of people gathering in Uhuru Park for this alleged swearing in.

Now, what can Mr. Odinga hope to achieve by this? He is hoping to force the government into some kind of talk. That is one kind of view and he is hoping that that the Presidentwho promised when he was elected again in October to be a President for all, includes the opposition in dialogue and who he appoints to ministries. That is one way of looking at it, but if it doesn't go that way, it is, of course, the tension I will be speaking about, Rosemary, this country has been through the mill in terms of the electoral process and at the same time, both sides have not found any point of agreement, and we are where we are.

CHURCH: That is the worry isn't it? The possibility of any violence as a result of this. What other options does the opposition have?

SEVENZO: Well, you know, the government is saying look, the Supreme Court who are now the first election have granted them the winners in the October election and what is the gripe all about? They have been declared the winners and of course, they have the numbers in the House of Assembly, so they are saying, Mr. Odinga'smove is completely illegal. It is going to be interesting how he juggles that in the court of public opinion and indeed, the Supreme Court of Kenya.

At the moment, we are waiting to see when the actual swearing does happen and of course it has been postponed and put off and postponed and we do not know whether this will really go ahead, because by the letter of the Kenyan law, what is going on is very much against the Constitution.

CHURCH: All right, the FairaSevenzojoining us from Nairobi where it is 11:47 in the morning, coming up to midday there. Many thanks. Well, the new Liberian President, George Weah says he is taking a 25% pay cut and will invest the money in a development fund to help the country's economy.

The formal football star is also pledging to invest $3 billion in infrastructure. Liberia is struggling with high unemployment and widespread corruption. President Weah was sworn in last week in Liberia's first democratic transfer of power in more than seven decades.

The US agency responsible for protecting the environment has changed its plans regarding a wild salmon fishery in Alaska. The reason for that reversal when we come back. Plus, after President Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, some scientists decided to withdraw from the US taking their research abroad. Be back in a moment with that and more.

Welcome back. Well, just a few months ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency planned to reverse existing safeguards for a pristine area of Alaska. A CNN investigation uncovered that the administrator ordered the rollback after a meeting with the CEO of a mining company, but now he says he is changing course.

CNN's Drew Griffin has the details.

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DREW GRIFFIN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It was an inexplicable decision. The EPA wanted to stop special protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed from taking effect, paving the way for a massive golden copper mine to be built even though years of study had shown the mine would irreversibly damage a pristine area home to millions of sockeye salmon and other wildlife.

Then CNN broke this report, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt directed his staff to remove the special protections a littlemore than an hour after he held a private meeting with the mining company's CEO. That CEO, Tom Collier told us the environmental protection was based on flawed science.

TOM COLLIER, CEO, ALASKA: It is not a science decision. It is a process decision.

GRIFFIN: You know, the optics on this look.

COLLIER: The optics on this are right. They don't look bad a bit.

GRIFFIN: Bad, this looks like a head of a gold mine with your new administrator and got them to reverse what an entire department had worked on for years.

COLLIER: Then, put your glasses back on, because you are not seeing the right optics.

GRIFFIN: The report sparked outrage. More than 40 Democratic members of Congress sending a letter to President Trump urging him to reverse the EPA's decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I found out from your story that they actually had an agreement and to have him have a mining executive walkout of his office and minutes later that's the only information he has and he makes this decision? It's just appalling.

GRIFFIN: In Alaska, EPA hearings were flooded with people opposed to the pebble mine and the EPA got more than 1 million public comments on the issue. Then this past Friday night, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt quietly dropped another bombshellsurprise. He was reversing his own decision. "It is my judgment at this time Pruitt writes that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there." The statement goes on to say, "Untilwe know the full extent of that risk those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection." (VIDEOTAPE ENDS)

The mind can still be built and the mining company says it is going ahead trying to get a permit to build it. But the EPA admits that would have to cross a very high bar because like the Obama administration, the Trump era EPA now believes the risk to Bristol Bay may be unacceptable. Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

CHURCH: When President Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, he said it was not fair to America. Well now he says, maybe he wants back in. But only on his terms.

Some US scientists are waiting around to see if another agreement materializes. They have moved to France to do their work.

Jim Bittermannreports.

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EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT, FRANCE: Make our planet great again.

JIM BITTERMANN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: French President Emmanuel Macron's famous rebuke of President Trump after he ended America's participation in the Paris Climate Change Accords included something else.A promise that France would support climate change scientists who wanted to come here to continue their research. It was more than just words.

Six months later, after sifting through 500 grant proposals, the first 18 scientists were selected and are now in the process of reestablishing themselves in French research centers.

For many, it was ablessing.

CAMILE PARMESAN, BIOLOGIST: Having a climate denier become the head of state, become the President was just something I didn't think I could live with for the four years.

BITTERMANN: What's more, coming to France could be a significant career boost. Grant winner, Delphine Renard, an agronomist is wrapping up her work at the University of California in Santa Barbara before moving to Montpellier, France where her million Euro grant will allow her to assemble a team of 10 researchers to study the way plants survive climate change.

DELPHINE RENARD, BIOLOGIST: I think the United States can lose over the long term if they don't fund their research on climate change or ecology or environment. The society has something to lose you know. It is not only the government, but everybody.

BITTERMANN: One particular way the US could lose out is but without is on intellectual property. While climate scientists say they share their work internationally, any specific discoveries or patents that arise from their work would belong to the institution who had sponsored them. The government minister in charge of attracting the climate scientist

says there is no question the country will benefit in that and other ways.

FREDERIQUE VIDAL, MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH AND INNOVATION: The idea is we need to have the opportunity to reinforce research laboratories in the topics, in the universities and the research organizations.

BITTERMANN: That's certainly evident that the brand-new French Photovoltaic Institute outside Paris. When he got his grant, Philip Schultz left his position at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado to pick up his research here. He will receive EU 1.3 million over the next five years to put together a 10-person team to study how photocells can be layered to make them more efficient.

PHILIP SCHULTZ, PHYSICIST: It's definitely an incubator and for me, it was a vehicle to come here and to ramp up my research.

BITTERMANN: Those climate scientists drawn here by the French support will no doubt contribute toward making the planet great again, even if they won't be at the US to help make America great again. Jim Bitterman, CNN, Paris.

(VIDEOTAPE ENDS)

CHURCH: Well, President Trump delivers his first State of the Union, Tuesday night and here is just a little bit of history on the annual event. George Washington gave the shortest speech in the very first State of the Union address back in 1790. It was only 833 words and lasted less than 10 minutes.

The longest speech on paper was Harry Truman in 1946, had more than 27,000 words. The only time it was postponed was in 1986, then President Ronald Reagan was set to deliver his speech January 28th, the same day, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. So, the speech was delayed until February 4th, a little history there for you.

And be sure to join us to see how Mr. Trump's speech goes. CNN's special coverage begins Tuesday at 8 p.m. in New York; Wednesday 9 a.m. in Hong Kong. We would like to thank you for your company at this hour. I am Rosemary Church, remember to connect with me any time on Twitter. The news continues now with Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN, have a great day.