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World Leaders in Paris for Armistice Centennial Ceremony; Officials Warn Fierce Winds Expected to Fuel Flames in California. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired November 11, 2018 - 03:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Marking 100 years since the end of the First World War. World leaders planning to come together in the coming hours. CNN is live in Paris, covering all events around Armistice Day.

Plus this:


OLIVIA ALLEN, TODDLER: Those fires. Those fires.


We're not going to catch on fire, OK?

HOWELL (voice-over): A father talking to his toddler.

Can you imagine that?

Driving through flames to get to safety. Wildfires in California continue to burn out of control, destroying homes, cars and entire neighborhoods.


HOWELL (voice-over): Also ahead this hour, controversy over election ballots, races too close to call to declare a winner. Both counts to go into a recount in Florida.

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


HOWELL: Around the world, good day to you.

It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. And 100 years ago today, that war came to an end. In the next two hours, world leaders are set to come together in Paris, France, marking the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, will speak at a ceremony. The U.S. president, Donald Trump, also there, keeping in mind the relationship between the U.S. and French presidents has been off to a rather rough start.

There was a tweet by the U.S. president, criticizing Mr. Macron just moments after arriving in Paris. That didn't help. And there seemed to be a chill in the air when the two leaders sat down for face-to- face meetings. My colleague, Fareed Zakaria, spoke exclusively with the French president.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Let me ask you about your relationship with Donald Trump. He says, now that he's made up with you after the tweet, he says you have lots in common. And I'm wondering what that is because he calls himself a nationalist. He draws on these populist forces.

And you describe yourself often as one of the great opponents of these forces of nationalism and populism.

What do you think you have in common?

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: Probably the fact that both of us are outsiders, of the classical politician, I would say. He arrived from the business side. He was not a favorite. And it was an unexpected candidate. And I was pretty much in the same situation in France.

Probably because we are very much aligned in the fight against terrorism. And we work very closely together following this line. We know where we disagree and we are very straightforward in that; on climate, on trade, on many other items (ph). But we work very well together because we have very regular and direct discussions.


HOWELL: Again, live images just outside the Elysee Palace. You see guards there, world leaders arriving there in the French capital. From there, they will head to a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe. CNN is live in Paris, France, around Armistice Day. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, standing by live, along with senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann in Paris.

Nic, first to you. We've seen the U.S. president side by side with his French host, Emmanuel Macron. Mr. Trump also spending time with the president of Turkey. We're hearing more of what came out of these meetings, some conversation about the death of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Tell us more about what you're learning.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: If we look at this tweet that you started talking about, President Trump's tweet on arrival, it seems strategically timed and its intent can only be taken to sort of cause disruption because President Macron's comments made to a French radio station that so upset President Trump, calling it insulting.

President Macron talking about the need for a European army or a better coordination between European nations for their own defense. President Trump's tweet timed just after he arrived.

Of course, this subject that President Macron was talking about is something that's been discussed by President Macron, by others in Europe, for many, many months. You can go back several years, looking at the need, the discussion, the need to rationalize, for example, the manufacture of defense equipment in Europe. The United States has one manufacturer of a tank; Europe has many.


ROBERTSON: The idea is that Europe can do a better job of maintaining and having a better integrated defense capability. And that goes to President Trump's point about needing NATO nations to up their contributions, their defense spending, relative to GDP.

And this seemed to be how President Macron and President Trump pulled the conversation back onto that subject. President Trump, at the end of the conversation, saying that, yes, he understood what President Macron was talking about ask, they have the same aim, to make Europe's contribution towards NATO better, stronger. This is something that President Trump has been very clear in demanding.

But the very nature of that tweet, coming at a time just after he arrived and when any number of advisers to President Trump could have explained this to him. And what -- President Macron's words were not new. So we saw in that meeting as well President Macron reaching out and touching President Trump's knee.

And that really seemed to be the French president really trying to sort of, if you will, calm the U.S. president down. We've heard from officials within the White House, saying that President Trump has arrived here in a sour and testy mood.

And the video we have of that meeting with President Macron does seem to indicate President Trump, who is looking not particularly happy. So if he got off to a bad start, it seemed part of President Trump's intent; although why not clear.

Yes, he did have dinner last night, sitting next to the Turkish president, President Erdogan. Protocol, of course, at these big state dinners, would have been determined by the French. Interesting that President Erdogan sat next to President Trump, because, of course, out of the conversation between President Macron and President Trump yesterday, came very interesting insights into the United States' thinking, that we hadn't really heard before about the murder of "The Washington Post" journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, that the American side is very afraid of disrupting the relationships with Saudi Arabia, walking on eggshells, it was described.

They're very keen to know the precise chain of command of those 15 people that came from Saudi Arabia to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul moments before Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, that they were there during that period.

That's very interesting that we hear from the United States, that they still haven't figured out if there is a trail of command that goes all the way back to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. That is a very key issue for the United States still, we understand, from this meeting. We hadn't known those details.

And interestingly, too, in the context of Saudi Arabia, the United States had said yesterday that it was stopping its air-to-air refueling of the Saudi coalition air force for its war in Yemen at the request of Saudi officials.

In that meeting with President Macron yesterday, President Macron's officials took away from that meeting that the United States had done this with the intention of pressuring Saudi Arabia to end that war in Yemen.

So a lot coming out. So placing President Trump next to President Erdogan at that dinner would have given the Turkish president a chance to speak directly to the American president about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

HOWELL: It does seem that, with the context of history in the background, a very somber, sobering moment that we're all remembering. Today's geopolitics certainly front and center being discussed and a lot to talk about; Nic Robertson, thank you.

Let's shift to Jim Bittermann in Paris as well.

Jim, if you could tell us about the day ahead, the services planned in commemoration of Armistice Day?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, they've already started in some ways here, George. If it sounds quiet behind me, it's because the police have closed off the Champs-Elysees, which leads to the Arc de Triomphe, where all this will take place.

Seventy world leaders will gather around the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where for the last 80 or so years they've rekindled the flame every night at 6:30 in the evening and they'll do that again today, of course.

At exactly the 11th hour on this, the 11th day of the 11th month, 100 years on, all over France, church bells will ring just as they did, kind of an echo of what took place 100 years ago, when the armistice was finally signed and announced throughout the country and the guns fell silent.

It was the war to end all wars but it was a war that was unbelievable and tragic in its consequences: 40 million military and civilian casualties in France; 1.4 million soldiers lost their lives alone. So this ceremony will be to commemorate that but also to celebrate the end of the war and the armistice --

[03:10:00] BITTERMANN: -- that was signed. There will be readings, for example, from four different high school students in four different languages -- five, I'm sorry, five different high school students, five different languages, letters from soldiers who were at the front when the war came to an end and their reaction to peace finally coming to the battlefield. So that will be one of the moving moments.

There's also going to be a performance by Yo-Yo Ma, the celebrated Chinese American cellist, playing a very respectful and solemn "Sarabande" by Johann Sebastian Bach. There will be a performance by the European Union Youth Orchestra. Just a number of events that the French have been planning for over a year now.

HOWELL: Our senior international correspondent, Jim Bittermann, live for us in Paris, along with our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson.

Gentlemen, thank you both for the reporting. We will stay in touch with you as we continue to cover events there for Armistice Day.

As world leaders come together in Paris, there is a remarkable story to share of a French woman who faced a great deal of danger in order to support her country during the First World War. CNN's Melissa Bell has the story of a young hero who fought for peace more than a century ago.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Louise de Bettignies was just a young French girl from an upper class family until the outbreak of World War I -- a war that would make her a hero.

HENRI CLAUD DE BETTIGNIES, GREAT NEPHEW OF LOUISE DE BETTIGNIES: There was a sense that -- this war was a disaster for everyone and she needed to try to contribute and to use her personality and her experience in different countries and the language and so forth and to service against the Germans.

BELL: At just 34, Louise posing as a peddler and using the name Alice Dubois began working for the British, spying on German positions and troop movements in northern France and passing crucial knowledge on the Allies, sometimes in the form of messages hidden inside toys and chocolate bars.

Louise de Bettignies became known as the Joan of Arc of the North. And it is in the northern French city of Lille that she is best remembered with streets signs, plaques, schools and memorials like this one. It was after Lille fell that Louise began running her network of spies.

(on camera): Passing the message on to the British. One of her very last communications just before her capture by Germans warned of a massive offensive that was being planned at Verdun.

(voice over): The French military refused to believe it and just 16 months after taking Lille, the Germans kicked off one of the bloodiest battles of World War I.

DE BETTIGNIES: The ability to cope with danger and the willingness to risk her life because she knew that she would be caught. There were times she got into very sticky situations and managed to escape.

BELL: But Louise was caught, according to her biographers, swallowing her final message before being locked away. Louise died in a German prison just before the end of the war, although she was never forgotten.

The Supreme Allied Commander visited her memorial several years later to remember the heroism that had made such a difference. And more recently veterans marking the centennial of the end of the Great War did the same.

DE BETTIGNIES: The family is proud and would like their children to remember that if you are committed to an idea or committed to a direction and you follow it, you can achieve great things. And it is thanks to people like her that maybe would things did happen at the end and we had this armistice.

BELL: An armistice now being remembered 100 years on along with the sacrifices made by people like Louise de Bettignies for the allied cause and in the name of peace -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


HOWELL: For more, my colleague, Cyril Vanier, is here with perspective.

Cyril, all eyes are on your hometown. Tell us more about what this means for Paris, to have all these world leaders come together for this momentous occasion.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: This is really important for France, for French people and for the French leadership. If you consider that not one but two French presidents made the commemoration of World War I, the centenary, one of their political priorities, you start to understand how important it is.

This started more than four years ago, commemorating the 100-year anniversary of World War I. Under the past French president, Francois Hollande, now it continues under Emmanuel Macron.

There's an understanding for the French leadership and the French people in general that this is one of the two or three single biggest events of the past 100 years that have shaped the way France is today and the way Europe --


VANIER: -- is today. And that's why people do buy into these commemorations and take them seriously.

There's another aspect to this for Emmanuel Macron personally. He is going to be the master of ceremony that involves almost 100 world leaders. And there is nothing that French presidents like more than being the center of global attention and get an opportunity to show that they are a global voice. And Emmanuel Macron is no exception to that rule.

HOWELL: We know he will be speaking shortly at a ceremony with other world leaders around him. There is a sense of somber remembrance, also celebration around this event. Help viewers understand how they're striking that balance.

VANIER: I think the mood -- look, the mood is going to be solemn. When you go through the French education system, as I did, if you remember only one thing from your history class, it is World Wars I and II.

There is the understanding those are the two biggest things that shape the country as it is today. There's another aspect to why people take this seriously. You cannot extricate the history of World Wars I and II from France, because you see monuments, reminders of it in your daily life everywhere.

It's in Paris, with statues, with plaques, with commemorations. It's also in the provinces and the villages, in front of schools, in front of churches, in front of town halls. You can't forget this.

And there's a lesson that French people have remembered that is drilled into them at school and part of the national political consensus, which is that unbridled nationalism and the competition of national interests leads to death and destruction.

Europe is a continent that has been structured by rivalries and wars. And it is only when millions of people were killed that the lesson was learned that Europe had to come together to find a lasting peace.

HOWELL: It is interesting to point that out. As an American traveling through your city, you see it on the streets. You see the monuments, the statues. You get a sense, the world came together.

VANIER: They leave the bullet holes and the shell holes on buildings on purpose as a reminder.

HOWELL: And certainly globalism very important with what we're watching here. Cyril Vanier, thank you so much.

VANIER: George, thanks.

HOWELL: Absolutely.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, world leaders coming together in Paris, marking a momentous occasion. CNN is live in Paris -- ahead.

Plus devastation, destruction, massive fires burning out of control in California. And the flames don't seem to be stopping anytime soon. Stay with us.





O. ALLEN: Those fires. Those fires.

J. ALLEN: Hey, guess what?

We're not going to catch on fire, OK?


J. ALLEN: We're going to stay away from it. And we'll be just fine. OK?


J. ALLEN: We're doing all right.


HOWELL: That is the voice of Joe --


HOWELL: -- Allen, a resident of Paradise, California, as he and his wife and two daughters escaped from the largest fire now burning in the state of California. Allen was trying to keep his 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, calm as she asked questions about those flames.

That family was escaping one of the three major wildfires burning in California as we speak. In the northern part of the state, at least 23 people have died in the so-called Camp Fire. That fire already the most destructive fire in California's history. It is still growing.

Thousands of firefighters are working to contain the massive fire that has consumed more than 42,000 hectares so far. Also take a look at the fire trucks and emergency vehicles lining the roads in Chico, California. The driver says this is the only -- is only half the units that she passed by. Wow.

Further south the so-called Hill and Woolsey Fires that threaten thousands of people and property and the entire city of Malibu, California, known for celebrities, its beachside homes, people forced to evacuate there.

You can see here the plumes of smoke that filled the sky. Firefighters made some progress on Saturday but strong winds are set to pick up again in the coming hours. Scott McLean has more now from Malibu.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A massive swath of suburban Los Angeles remains on evacuation orders, affecting tens of thousands of people, because of the Woolsey Fire that came through this area of Malibu fast and it came through hot. You can see the damage that it's done.

If we just go up here, this seems to be somebody's guest house. Firefighters have been here three times at least to try to put this out. Yet this fire still seems to be coming back. It's not exactly clear why.

But crews are having a difficult time getting the gas shut off for every house. It's not as easy as just flipping a switch.

If you come over here, you can see a lot of these houses had a pretty scenic vista overlooking this area. The ocean is not far from here, less than a mile. And this house is absolutely destroyed.

There are some very well-heeled people who live in this area that are going to be coming home to homes that are absolutely destroyed.

You can see this one, all that's really left is this front facade.

If you come over here, you can actually see there's a washer and a dryer back in there, proof that obviously this was a home that was certainly lived in.

There is a bit of a reprieve for firefighters. They've gotten some lesser winds. But one official said, look, don't get lulled into a false sense of security; Mother Nature is going to turn on her fan again Sunday into Monday. There may not be any relief in sight until Tuesday -- Scott McLean, CNN, Malibu, California.


HOWELL: Scott, thank you.

We are hearing countless stories of people who lost homes and businesses in these fires. And we're going to actually speak with one person in that situation, Mishawn Delgado, now on the line with us.

Mishawn, we do understand that you and your husband lost your business in Paradise, California. Tell us more about where you are right now and what you're seeing and what you're doing.

MISHAWN DELGADO, PARADISE, CALIFORNIA, RESIDENT: Well, hello, and currently we are in Plymouth Lake, staying with a co-worker. And we had to leave Oroville because we got evacuated from where we were staying there. We were just trying to get a grasp on this devastating situation.

HOWELL: That's understandable. It's hard to deal with, with so much change and tragedy in that area. We're looking at these images right now. You're seeing these entire communities just destroyed. Talk to us about what it was like for you and your family simply to escape all of this.

DELGADO: Well, luckily, I have a sister-in-law who works at the Paradise police dispatch. So she kind of gave me a before warning, before it got really bad. Then we just had to act quick. We've experienced wildfires before. But nothing -- within 20 minutes we were grabbing a laundry basket and getting out the door in our car.

HOWELL: I want to ask you a question. I hope -- with respect, I ask it. There are so many people who are in your situation right now. There's so much uncertainty about, what do I do next?

If you don't mind just explaining to our viewers, how are you coping with that, that uncertainty of what are the next steps?

DELGADO: You know, this is -- our community is such a tight-knit community. You know, all of us, you know -- these are our family and our friends. And you know, our gym members that have all lost their homes. We haven't spoke to maybe two people that still have homes.

Everybody's just taking it step by step and just trying to kind of deal with right now. We keep seeing pictures of the town just completely gone. It's devastating and it's heartbreaking.


HOWELL: Mishawn, are you hearing anything more from officials?

We have our meteorologist here in a moment to tell us about it. But just dealing with the fire as it is now, the winds in the days to come, what are you hearing?

DELGADO: Yes, so the winds have been picking up tonight and will be picking up through Monday. And so right now, the city of Oroville is at risk. So we have to watch out for that. And so family and friends down there as well. And so we're just kind of, you know, closely watching it as it just kind of travels.

HOWELL: We're just terribly sorry for the loss of property. We are thankful that you and your family are OK. We appreciate you being with us and explaining your situation. Thank you.

DELGADO: Thank you.

HOWELL: Let's talk now about the weather situation, the conditions there.


HOWELL: If you want to help people affected in California by these wildfires, we have a link to help you get information. Go to

We're following the day's events in Paris. These live pictures that you're seeing just outside the Elysee Palace, the French president meeting with world leaders coming together for ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. CNN live in Paris.

And as world leaders come together, the U.S. president bringing his own brand of diplomacy to Paris. We'll explain as NEWSROOM pushes ahead.