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CIA Concludes Saudi Crown Prince Ordered Jamal Khashoggi's Death; California Wildfire Survivors Face Long Road to Recovery; Trump Answers Written Questions from Special Counsel; Judge Orders White House to Return Jim Acosta's Press Pass; U.K. Prime Minister May Moves Quickly to Fill Vacant Cabinet Posts; U.S. Trade War; North Korea Weapons Test Sends a Message to Washington; Celine Dion Partners on Gender-Neutral Apparel; "Yellow Vests" Demand President Macron Lower Fuel Prices; Aired 5-6a ET

Aired November 17, 2018 - 05:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A brutal murder ordered from the top. That's the conclusion by the America's leading intelligence agency that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My 3-year-old son keeps asking why can't we just go home and I don't know what to tell him.

HOWELL (voice-over): The stories are devastating, this in the aftermath of California's largest wildfire. Many of the stories coming from those working to help the victims.


HOWELL: President Trump says he's personally written answer to the questions by Robert Mueller and he insists that he isn't agitated by the Russia probe.

Live from headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome in our viewers from the U.S. and all around the world. I'm George Howell and CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: At 5:01 on the East Coast, it's a damning report from American intelligence pointing directly to the Saudi crown prince. Sources say the CIA has high confidence he ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the conclusion based on evidence including a phone call, where the prince's brother urged Khashoggi to go to the consulate in Istanbul.

That's the last place he was seen before he disappeared. Khalid bin Salman denies making that call. The Saudi embassy says the CIA's claims are false but the U.S. officials are confident of the report. A senior diplomatic source told CNN the current sanctions on Saudis may not be enough after this.

In the meantime, symbolic funeral prayers were held at an Istanbul mosque on Friday even though Khashoggi's body has not been found. Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is following the story in Beirut.

Ben, the reaction from Saudi Arabia is not only a flat denial but even a dare to make the information public.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's what we've heard, George, from the spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in Washington but really at this point the number of leaks that have piled up in this case is going to make it very difficult for the Saudis to make a convincing argument that crown prince Mohammed bin Salman did not issue the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the 2nd of October.

This latest report is interesting where they're citing a conversation that Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, had with Jamal Khashoggi in which he told him in order to get the piece of paper he needed to remarry, he should go to the consulate in Istanbul.

And he had that conversation with Khashoggi at the request of his brother, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. What's interesting is this is a leak that does not involve these anonymous Turkish officials who, for so long, they were doing this drip, drip of information about the murder.

This is coming directly from the United States and doesn't involve the Turks at all. So it appears that the CIA for its part is becoming involved in this slow effort to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to come clear when it comes to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

We know that, for instance, President Trump is not an enthusiast for taking this process to its logical outcome, which, of course, is that the crown prince did, indeed, order the murder of Jamal Khashoggi -- George.

HOWELL: Is there any indication that this new revelation, this new information, could have some new pressure on the crown prince, given his position to put his position in jeopardy?

WEDEMAN: His position on the world stage is in jeopardy; his reputation certainly tarnished. But the question whether that will, in fact, impact on the reality that he is the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia is yet to be seen.

Traditionally Saudi Arabia's ruled by consensus. The senior princes in the kingdom would decide on who should run the country. Now it appears that Mohammed bin Salman has neutralized most of his --


WEDEMAN: -- rivals. His father, King Salmon is very old, has dementia. It's hard to see how he will see his power whittled down under the current circumstances but certainly, on the international stage, he is damaged goods -- George.

HOWELL: Ben Wedeman, live for us in Beirut. Ben, thank you.


Let's talk more about this now with CNN global affairs analyst, Aaron David Miller. Aaron is a V.P. and distinguished scholar at Woodrow Wilson International Center.

Good to have you with us this hour.


HOWELL: -- CIA points the finger directly at the Saudi crown prince.

How significant an impact will this have?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think it's going to bring the administration to a proverbial moment of truth. For the last 40-plus days since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the administration has been trying to figure out a way to navigate through this, maintaining a relationship that they believe is critically important to America's Middle East policy, its oil policy, its arms sales policy on one hand and how to avoid having to take dramatic and punitive action against Saudi Arabia on the other, if it were proven that Mohammed bin Salman, AKA MBS, ordered or had direct foreknowledge of this operation.

What the CIA did in putting this out -- and clearly the agency had come to this conclusion some time ago; the administration, I'm sure, was aware of most of this -- has now become public, which means it's going to be an issue Congress, the media and the international community as well.

So I think the administration it's reaching a point where it's going to have to decide how to act. It's already sanctioned 17 individuals but clearly that didn't pass "The Washington Post" test in Congress. Frankly, U.S.-Saudi relationship is out of control and the administration is going to have to figure out a way to reset it.

HOWELL: Before this reporting, Turkey had been putting pressure, a great deal of pressure, given that it holds the cards to this investigation.

How does that square with the U.S. president trying to find ways to remove the Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, in order to possibly ease pressure on Saudi Arabia?

MILLER: Well, if that report is true -- and NBC had reported it out -- it may have been a suggestion I doubt, frankly -- it's one of the dumbest idea I think I've ever heard. I've worked for half a dozen secretaries of state who came up with some pretty hair-brained schemes but nothing that even remotely resembled trading in order to placate Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one authoritarian, in order to get another authoritarian off the hook.

I mean, it's a fundamental undermining of both the American values and interests and I doubt, frankly, if the administration would even consider seriously acting on turning Fethullah Gulen over to the Turks in order to somehow dissuade Erdogan, who's in a bitter rivalry with the Saudis for a variety of reasons.

HOWELL: It is a complicated web here and, look, complex is very important here, Aaron.

Does the president take the CIA assessment seriously, given that he has discounted his own intelligence agencies many times in the past?

Does that give him some wiggle room here to get out of this?

MILLER: Yes. I think you've identified a critical issue.

Is the president going take issue with the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community and try to figure out a way to discount this report or downgrade it or trivialize it and somehow find a way to let Mohammed bin Salman off the hook?

That's the pattern over the last 18 months, the tacky intelligence reports and analysis that didn't square with his views of the world or what his sensibilities and predilections were.

I think it's going to be extremely difficult, given the horrific nature of this crime, given the fact that the Saudis have been lying on this from the very beginning. The most recent Saudi report went back to the notion that the killing of Jamal Khashoggi was accidental. It was supposed to be a rendition back to Saudi Arabia and the dismemberment of his body was done on the spot without authority from Riyadh.

I think this strains the bounds of credulity to the breaking point. I think the world knows it, I think Congress knows. The real question is whether the administration is prepared to act.

HOWELL: Aaron David Miller, thank you again for your time.

MILLER: George, thank you.


HOWELL: The president is set to leave the White House in a few hours for the state of California to meet with survivors of these deadly wildfires, also set to be joined by the --


HOWELL: -- governor Jerry Brown and governor-elect Gavin Newsom. Over the past week California has been ravaged by two fires, the Camp Fire in the north is the worst in the state's history and the Woolsey Fire in the south, that fire expected to be contained by Monday.

But the Camp Fire is only 50 percent contained and so far the fire has burned nearly 146,000 acres. That's 600 square kilometers. And at least 12,000 structures have been destroyed. That includes 9,800 homes. The fire captain for Madura County says 5,600 personnel have been assigned to fight these fires, at least 1,000 names are still on list of people who are missing. CNN's Scott McLean has more on the search for the missing.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For those lucky enough to survive the deadliest wildfire in California's history, the list of those who may not have made it is gutwrenching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, oh, geez.



MCLEAN (voice-over): The latest list of those possibly missing in just one county is filled with more than 600 names of friends and families and neighbors, this along with photos and pleas online onto local community boards like this one.

MARE REASONS, HOUSEKEEPER: My clients are wonderful people, very giving people.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Mare Reasons (ph) is a caregiver and housekeeper; of her 11 clients in Paradise, California, she's heard from all but one, an elderly woman with no local family.

REASONS: She didn't drive anymore. She had a big farm gate across her property. You have to get the key out. The farm gate was big and cumbersome.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The woman's house now a little more than ash.

MCLEAN: How much hope do you have?

REASONS: Half and half.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Officials warn that the number missing is likely to change as the displays reconnect and the long search for human remains continues.

SHERIFF KORY HONEA, BUTTY COUNTY: This is a dynamic list, right. Some days there might be more people, some days there might be less people.

MCLEAN (voice-over): At the height of the danger, the fire tore through towns at a range of one football field per second, giving little time to escape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh, these poor people.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Many of the missing were last seen fleeing the flames by car. Teams now searching charred neighborhoods and evacuation centers for clues.

MATTHEW GATES, PARADISE POLICE OFFICER: She had burns on her arms and I knew it was her.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Officer Matthew Gates tears up speaking about the mother he found by chance at a recent evacuee dinner.

GATES: I went and gave her a hug because I had been looking for her body.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Nearly 10,000 homes have burned to the ground. In the destroyed town of Paradise, California, more than half of the police force is now homeless.

DAVID AKIN, PARADISE POLICE OFFICER: My 3-year-old son keeps asking why can't we just go home. And I don't know what to tell him.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Scott McLean, CNN, Paradise, California.


HOWELL: Just doesn't know what to tell him.

The story in California is huge. So many homes destroyed, so many lives lost and so many people missing. And the other part of the story right now, it's the smoke, smog.



HOWELL: If you're watching the story and want to help the people, you can go to for more information and links.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, it is a take-home test with historic implications. The U.S. president says he's answered written questions from the special counsel Robert Mueller about collusion and that his lawyers didn't do it, he says he did it. We'll explain that.

Plus Britain's embattled prime minister determined to get her Brexit plan through Parliament even as her own political future hangs in the balance. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Welcome back. You could say it's a milestone in the Russia probe. The U.S. president says he has answered written questions from Robert Mueller about possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Trump also said he wrote the answer, not his attorneys. Our Kaitlan Collins reports from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After 24 hours of Twitter silence about the Russia investigation, President Trump addressing it out loud today from the Oval Office.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There should have never been any Mueller investigation.

COLLINS: Announcing he's finished the written answers to questions from special counsel Robert Mueller and even penned them himself.

TRUMP: I write the answers. My lawyers don't write answers. I write answers.

COLLINS: Trump met with his legal team nearly every day this week and despite his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, raising concerns about some of the questions...

TRUMP: No collusion.

COLLINS: -- Trump said he hasn't submitted them yet, but doesn't have any problems.

TRUMP: But they're not very difficult questions.

COLLINS: The president insisting he's not bothered by the Russia investigation --


COLLINS: -- despite writing in all caps the day before that it is a witch hunt like no other in American history and has gone absolutely nuts.

TRUMP: I like to take everything personally, because you do better that way.

COLLINS: Trump suggesting investigators from the special counsel's office were setting him up to perjure himself.

TRUMP: Gee, was the weather sunny or was it rainy?

He said it may have been a good day. It was rainy. Therefore, he told a lie. He perjured himself.

COLLINS: The back and forth with the special counsel coming as the president is weighing shaking up his own staff. Today, when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, standing over his shoulder, he said he's not done making changes yet.

TRUMP: I'm extremely happy. I'm very happy with almost all of my cabinet. And, you know, changes are made because they're always made, especially after midterms.

COLLINS: Sources say Trump has decided to remove Nielsen from her post, but he hasn't picked a replacement yet and there are questions in Washington about who wants to work in a White House engulfed in chaos.

Now as the president continues to search for more people to bring into his administration while he's considering getting rid of some, we have learned from sources that the Florida attorney general Pam Bondi is scheduled to meet with Trump while he's in Florida next week for his Thanksgiving vacation, someone whose name has been floated for not only the attorney general post but also for Kirstjen Nielsen's job over at the Department of Homeland Security.

While all this is going on, a senior administration official made a stunning remark to Jake Tapper earlier today, saying that there are people in this administration who are arsonists and people in this administration who are firefighters.

And they said -- and I'm quoting this senior administration official now -- "The president is looking to get rid of the firefighters. The more he does, the faster his administration is going to burn down" -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Kaitlan, thank you.

Our colleague, Jim Acosta, will be reporting again from the White House press room. That is the ruling for now from a judge after the Trump administration revoked Acosta's credentials.

CNN's chief White House correspondent now gets to keep his press pass at least until a lawsuit filed by CNN is resolved. President Trump says it's not a big deal. Acosta on the other hand welcomed the big news. Listen.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Everybody, thanks for coming. I just want to say something very briefly and that is I want to thank all of my colleagues in the press who supported us this week. And I want to thank the judge for the decision he made today. And let's go back to work. Thank you.


HOWELL: Let's get back to work with Leslie Vinjamuri, the head of the U.S. and Americas Programme at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, live this hour in our London bureau.

Always a pleasure to have you on the show, Leslie. We heard Jim Acosta there. He is back to work, back in the White House. But there is now this new promise of rules to govern how reporters engage with officials when asking their questions. The U.S. president spoke about that in a recent interview. Let's take a listen.


It's not a big deal. What they said though, is that we have to create rules and regulations for conduct, et cetera. et cetera. We're doing that. We're going to write them up right now. It's not a big deal. And if he misbehaves, we'll throw him out or we'll stop the news conference --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your rules going to be?

What is it that you're saying --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- this is over the line and you --

TRUMP: Yes. We're doing them now. I mean, we'll have rules of decorum.


HOWELL: We don't know exactly what those rules will be but the White House certainly has, you know, the time to write this out. We understand this happened before this with Jim Acosta.

Can the White House arbitrarily create these rules to govern the press and if the rules are deemed unfair, Leslie, can the press then challenge them?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Of course, the press and the wider public and many different individuals and organizations will challenge the rules if they don't think they're fair.

But this is a very interesting development. Remember that much of what we've seen during this presidency is things we've taken for granted in terms of conduct or behavior or what people call norms haven't been respected and people have never really confronted this.

So now what we're seeing in this case is a very specific effort to say we will develop clear rules in an instance where people in the past didn't feel they were needed because the basics of decorum were for the most part respected.

HOWELL: How does this play into the president's continued war on the media as he describes it because instead of simply not choosing reporters that they don't want to talk to, instead this White House seems to prefer escalating controversy, these moves, then fighting it out in court.

Do you see this as a move that plays to his base?

What's the strategy?

VINJAMURI: The strategy is partly reactive. Trump has had clearly, throughout his campaign and especially throughout his time in office, has had a very negative response --


VINJAMURI: -- to certain parts of the media and we all know CNN is one of those. But what's interesting -- and we've seen this again throughout his

entire presidency -- is a lot of things have been taken to the courts, not only when it comes to the media. You go to the very first travel ban, went right to the courts; civil society, the ACLU has engaged heavily and things worked their way through the courts.

It shows the system at some level is working to ensure the integrity of the office of the presidency, despite real challenges. So this ruling, of course, is on the basis that there must be due process. It's not a freedom of speech ruling. It said it must work its way through the court. So I think that's very significant and very promising.

HOWELL: The midterm elections, I want to shift to that. They've come and gone. But Republicans losing Orange County. Orange County has always been seen as Reagan country but Democrats now officially losing the governor's race here in the state of Georgia.

Still in the grand scheme of things, it seems as if this blue wave grew bigger than first expected.

VINJAMURI: Yes. This has been a fascinating election. I think many of us were talking about it almost immediately. And if you look at what we were saying the day after, it's very different. The blue wave looks much bigger. One of the biggest losses, seventh biggest loss, I think, in the House, the Republicans have ever suffered, and 38 or 39 seats. So quite a significant setback for the Republican Party and this president will feel that.

One very interesting thing is a lot of individuals who voted for President Obama then voted for President Trump. In this election, they've turned back and voted Democrat. So that's a very interesting swing of population to watch.

And as we know a lot of suburban areas have voted Democrat. So there continues to be a very significant divisions but the blue wave is much more considerable than we thought a few days ago.

HOWELL: Leslie Vinjamuri, thank you so much, live in London. We appreciate it.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

HOWELL: Speaking of the United Kingdom, Britain has a new Brexit secretary. Coming up the prime minister, Theresa May, may act quickly, of course, to shore up support for her unpopular deal with the E.U. We'll follow that story for you.

Plus, Kim Jong-un overseeing the test of a new weapon, a weapon that's also a message. Stay with us.



[05:30:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)

HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


HOWELL: Now to the United Kingdom, the British prime minister rebuilding her fractured cabinet after a disastrous rollout of her Brexit plan. The terms of that draft agreement triggered a wave of resignations, including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab.

Ms. May brought in a loyalist, Stephen Barclay, to replace him. But Barclay's role is greatly diminished. Downing Street says going forward the prime minister will handle all negotiations with the E.U.. The top priority for Ms. May is to get Parliament to back the Brexit plan, a prospect that appears stacked against her.

Let's go live to London to discuss. Nina dos Santos following the story.

Nina, the prime minister pushing on, despite these resignations.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Good morning to you, George. Yes, she's managed to stave off her second round of resignations. Five key pro-Brexit members of her cabinet have decided to stay on because they believe they may be able to change the wording of one of the most contentious issues, the so-called Irish backstop, the insurance policy to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Whether or not that's likely to be feasible, given the fact that, as you just pointed out, her now third Brexit secretary will have an even more diminished one than the previous one so that the government, particularly Theresa May will be taking on the mantle of these negotiations.

That's one reason perhaps why many in the Conservative Party, particularly pro-Brexit members, have written to special backbench committees to say they have no confidence in the prime minister and would like to see a leadership challenge.

They think perhaps this is, to use a Margaret Thatcher adage, a situation where the lady is not returning and she will not necessarily listen to them. That raises the specter of a leadership challenge mounting; so far we have not heard from Number 10 Downing Street but they have been notified that enough members of the Conservative Party have written to try and mount a no-confidence vote.

They need 15 percent of Tory MPs. That doesn't seems to have happened yet. But it could be they gain momentum over the weekend and maybe Monday or Tuesday that might happen.

HOWELL: With regard to that no confidence vote, getting to 50 percent in the past, we've seen the numbers grow over time.

Is there a sense the number could continue to grow, given the uncertainties and the questions around this Brexit plan?

DOS SANTOS: It could but in light of that --


DOS SANTOS: -- the prime minister has now pivoted away from trying to get their cabinet on board and MPs on board. Yesterday she sent out her whips to try to get them to toe the party line, to make sure some of these unruly MPs didn't send in those letters expressing no confidence in the prime minister.

They met a number of times at Number 10 Downing Street. Now she's taking the message to the people and the members of the Conservative Party, having conversations with the chairmen of local constituencies and so on.

Remember any future leadership contest is not just the Conservative members of Parliament who will have a big say in who becomes the next prime minister; it will also go to the members of the broader party as well. It's not said and done that those two parts of the equation would like to see the same person.

The real issue is the members of the party don't necessarily have an obvious leader here. We did see Boris Johnson emerge a few months ago as a potential leader. He's been conspicuously absent in this debate. So the prime minister is going to try to mount a big pushback over the course of the weekend with a big social media blitz campaign to try to get the people on her own side, even if she can't necessarily get her own MPs on her side.

She's holding the cabinet together. But when it comes to the vote, that's going to be a whole different ballgame. Might be an even tougher battle for her.

HOWELL: A social media blitz still ahead. We've seen her make the media rounds, trying to gain support. Nina, thanks for reporting. We'll keep in touch with you.

Let's put all of this into context now with Matthew Doyle. He was a political director for prime minister Tony Blair, joining us from our London bureau.

Pleasure to have you on the show today.


HOWELL: Matthew, we understand this is the final plan, the final offer from the E.U., described as resoundingly unpopular, no matter how you slice it.

Do you see Theresa May gaining traction here in her efforts?

DOYLE: I don't see how at the moment this plan can get through the House of Commons. She doesn't have the numbers within members of Parliament. But she really has no choice other than to pursue this aggressive, resilient strategy.

The problem is at some point her resilience slips into denial of the reality. But there's also a challenge for her opponents here. There's zero evidence that I can see that a different leader of the Conservative Party would be able to negotiate a better deal than this one.

So for all the criticism she faces, this is the plan she's got from the European Union and she is going to stick with it until the bitter end.

HOWELL: I'm curious as well, whether you were on side Leave or Remain, what is the mood among people, given that this is the deal that U.K. is staring down?

DOYLE: On both sides, this deal is unsatisfactory: obviously, for those who want to Remain, this is not where we want to be. But equally for people on the Leave side, there are great concerns about the Irish backstop arrangements in it; the lack of clarity there is around the future trade arrangements. Those are the only two areas where potentially Theresa May could, with these cabinet ministers who decided to stay on board, do a bit more work and look to finesse the deal and strengthen the language around the U.K.'s ability to get out of the backstop position and also show confidence of the future arrangements.

I have to say, as we look at this today, Parliament is deadlocked. There isn't a majority for any of the negotiating positions. The question then becomes, what happens when this deal is voted down?

That's why talk of there being a second referendum is increasing.

HOWELL: The appointment also of Stephen Barclay, a diminished role a bit but a loyalist under the prime minister, what does that pick tell you?

DOYLE: He was picked for two reasons. One, he was a Leave supporter in the referendum and second, as you say, he's been a loyal minister who's risen through the ranks to this new position.

The reality is these negotiations are always led by Downing Street rather than the secretary of state in these situations. So in one sense the briefing around his appointment is only putting in place what we know to be the reality, that given the crunch point we're at, the buck does stop in Downing Street with these negotiations.

And what Theresa May will hope is that by stabilizing her cabinet now, she's seen off the immediate resignations.


DOYLE: She's still got the risk that I think is a real risk of a leadership challenge within the Conservative Party. But my personal view is she'll see that off, too. However, neither of those things assures she's going to win the vote in Parliament.

HOWELL: Let's talk about that, this looming vote of no confidence and a possible leadership challenge.

Do you see that possibly gaining traction here?

DOYLE: So it's been interesting, the trickle of letters that have been going in, that is the required process to trigger a confidence vote. It hasn't really transformed into the floods that people have been expecting when Jacob Rees-Moog, one of the leading Brexiteers, came out and made his statement outside Parliament.

That said, I think they will just go over the line, to mean that a leadership challenge happens or a vote of confidence, which is the first phase, happens. But I think she'll survive that vote; she'll be diminished by it but she'll survive and she'll keep fighting on. The one thing you have to say about Theresa May is the incredible resilience she has shown in this position.

HOWELL: Matthew Doyle, thank you for your time and perspective. We'll stay in touch with you.

DOYLE: Thank you.

HOWELL: Across France, major roadways could be shut down this weekend because protesters have started demonstrating and blocking roads across the country. You're looking at a live image in Bordeaux, France; you see many people on the streets. This has been happening as we continue to watch it.

They're demanding the French president Emmanuel Macron do something to make the fuel cheaper. They call themselves Yellow Vests, mainly for the reflective gear motorists are required to keep in the car in case of emergency. We'll continue to watch that story for you.

Still ahead in the NEWSROOM, the mood at last summer's summit between U.S. president and the leader of North Korea, it was warm. But since then, things have cooled off a bit. We'll look into that.





HOWELL: At the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea, the strain in U.S.- China relations was back on full display in B-to-B speeches. The U.S. vice president Mike Pence issued a blunt warning to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit that Washington would not back down in its trade war until Beijing, quote, "changes its ways."

He also alluded to China's claim to disputed waters in the South China Sea.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China has an honored place in our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. If it chooses to respect its neighbors' sovereignty, embrace free, fair and reciprocal trade, uphold human rights and freedom, the American people want nothing more. The Chinese people and the entire Indo-Pacific deserve nothing less.


HOWELL: The Chinese President Xi Jinping also spoke for the need for global cooperation and international trade.

Relations between the United States and North Korea seem to be deteriorating. The latest example, the North says it has tested what it calls a, quote, "newly developed ultra-modern weapon."

It's the first since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with the U.S. president. Pyongyang also says it will restart its nuclear program if the U.S. doesn't remove sanctions. Barbara Starr takes a look.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Korean state broadcasting announcing Kim Jong-un has personally supervised testing of what it is calling a new ultramodern weapon.

The only evidence so far?

A photo of Kim with his commanders but no indication of when or where it was taken.

South Korean sources say it may have been long range artillery. The worry? Not the weapons test itself. Sources say it may not be that new. But why now for Kim?

REP. MIKE TURNER (R), ARMED SERVICES AND INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEES: It certainly shows a return to the militaristic stance of North Korea. It's certainly in contrast to his statements of seeking peace.

STARR: A sign of that peace process --


STARR (voice-over): -- South Korean guardposts blown up at the DMZ, a confidence building measure. U.S. intelligence still believes Kim wants a nuclear deal with President Trump in exchange for sanctions being lifted. But Kim is under pressure from his own elites not to give away the store to the U.S.

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: He has to depend on the military, his security forces to stay in power and those security forces and the military were never going to let him make a bad agreement.

STARR: Now, a possible concession from the White House, trying to find a way to ensure there will be another Trump-Kim summit. Vice President Mike Pence telling NBC news that a list of nuclear and missile sites must be discussed between the two leaders at the next meeting instead of insisting North Korea provide the information beforehand.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it will be absolutely imperative in this next summit that we come away with a plan for identifying all of the weapons in question, identifying all the development sites.

STARR: Talks have stalled, discussions with secretary of state Mike Pompeo were cancelled earlier this month. It's a stark difference from the image President Trump painted just after the midterm elections.

TRUMP: We're very happy how it's going with North Korea. We think it's going fine. We're in no rush.

STARR: North Korea also announced it's deporting an American man who entered a restricted border area and claimed to be CIA. South Korea believes it's the same man who was caught in similar circumstances last year and deported according to the Associated Press. The U.S. is taking it as a good thing that the North Koreans are leading this American man go -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


HOWELL: Barbara, thank you.

It was pretty simple once, blue for boys, pink for girls. Not anymore. One celebrity is using her kids as motivation and changing the trends with gender neutral clothes. Stay with us.






HOWELL: When legendary performer Celine Dion teamed up with a children's boutique for a line of gender neutral clothes for kids, first question many had was why. Chloe Melas sat down with Dion and asked her.


CELINE DION, SINGER: The first time I brought them to Disney, I thought they were going to go for, you know, the big superheroes. They were looking at princesses and they all wanted to be, you know, Minnie Mouse.

And then I said, "But what about Mickey?"

And then I'm thinking to myself, you know what?

It's OK. You know why it's OK?

Because they're talking. They're finding themselves.


DION (voice-over): We may thrust them forward into the future but the course will always be theirs to choose.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Celine wants all kids to find themselves, not just her own. And she hopes her partnership with NUNUNU will help. The clothes in her new line are gender neutral.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some parents might be a little worried or concerned seeing their child put on their heels or put on their nails.

DION: I'm not here, Celine Dion, singer who's got three kids, who's going to tell the world right now, you should do it this way, you should not do that, this is wrong.

Listen, I'm not doing that. Let them tell you what they feel like.

MELAS (voice-over): NUNUNU has been around for years. Its founders created the fashion line out of necessity when they couldn't find clothing for their own kids.

TALI MILCHBERG, CO-FOUNDER, NUNUNU: Fashion has the power to shape people's minds. We're, Celine and NUNUNU, trying to shape the future of all human beings by saying --


-- find your own individuality.

IRIS ADLER, CO-FOUNDER, NUNUNU: We bring a new order as a concept.

MILCHBERG: Into the world.

ADLER: Into the world.

DION: Do you know what?

You don't know what they're going to become later and you don't want for them to have sick relagicment (ph), a problem of growth, and say, I'm supposed to be like that, I'm supposed to say that, I'm supposed to dress like this because I'm a guy, I'm a boy, I'm supposed to do.

No, no. You don't know. Let people be who they are as quick and as soon as possible.


HOWELL: Chloe Melas, thank you.

Finally, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. President Trump awarded it to seven people. Among the recipients on Friday, the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia; his wife, Maureen (ph), was at the ceremony.

Another was awarded to the late king of rock 'n' roll, Elvis Presley. The CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises accepted that honor.

Also the Babe, baseball legend Babe Ruth; his grandson accepted the medal.

Other winners include Republican senator Orrin Hatch and philanthropist Miriam Adelson, who was also the wife of the Republican megadonor, Sheldon Adelson.

Thanks for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell in Atlanta. For viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "STATE OF AMERICA" with Kate Bolduan is ahead. Thank you for watching CNN, the world's news leader.