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Special Counsel Recommends No Jail Time For Flynn; What If Trump Hadn't Won The Presidency?; CIA Chief Briefs U.S. Senators On Journalist Death; China Commits To Trade Truce Agreement With U.S.; Discussing Brexit Battle in England's "Leave Country"; French Government Suspends Fuel Tax Hike for Six Months; Yemeni Peace Talks; U.S. Set to Withdraw from Missile Treaty in 60 Days; Russian Media Grow Increasingly Critical of Trump. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired December 5, 2018 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everybody, I'm John Vause. Great to have you with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour, don't lock him up, don't lock him up. A pre-sentence memo from the Special Counsel calls for no prison time for Michael Flynn because the former senior Trump aide who lied to the FBI was helping in not one investigation but three. Trump tweets markets tanked.

Big losses on Wall Street followed by a pullback in Asia as doubts grow over the chances of a U.S. trade deal in China. And after weeks of demonstrations and violence, the French government blinks announcing a hike in fuel tax has been postponed for this once-in-a- generation protest is now but a lot more for the price of fuel.

The man who led the chant of lock her up against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign might just end up serving no time in jail himself despite his guilty plea of lying to the FBI. Special Counsel Robert Mueller says because Michael Flynn has been so cooperative in the Russia investigation, he should not be required to serve time. Much was redacted in this pre-sentence memo which was submitted by Mueller but it does reveal the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is far from over. CNN Sara Murray has details.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: President Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has provided "substantial assistance to the Russia investigation and should get no jail time." That's the big news from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's court filing on Tuesday night. The filing, a sentencing memo comes after Flynn is cooperated with Mueller's team for more than a year sitting for 19 interviews with the special counsel and other Justice Department offices.

Now the memo appears to show that Flynt helped the Justice Department with at least three ongoing investigations. References to two of those investigations are almost completely redacted. Flynn also cooperated with the special counsel's investigation into links or coordination between the Russian government and members of the Trump campaign as well as interactions between the Trump transition team and Russia.

The Flynn revelations come amid this flurry of activity from the Special Counsel's team. Last week Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and prosecutors accused former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort of lying to the Special Counsel and violating his cooperation agreement.

Now, as for Flynn, he was a fixture with Trump on the 2016 campaign trail even leaving a lock her up Hillary Clinton chant at the Republican National Convention. But his turn as a White House National Security Adviser, that was brief. He was fired more than two weeks after then acting Attorney General Sally Yates told the White House that Flynn had lied about his communications with the Russian ambassador and that he could be blackmailed by the Russians.

Flynn is said to be sentenced on December 18th in D.C. federal court. Sara Murray CNN Washington.


VAUSE: And CNN Legal Analyst and Civil Rights Attorney Areva Martin is with us from Los Angeles. OK, Areva, clearly Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel, very please both with 19 interviews he had with Michael Flynn, very pleased with the first date information Flynn provided as well. All the documentation Robert -- Flynn made available with Mueller and said Mueller made this recommendation. This is what he wrote. Given the defendant substantial assistance and other considerations set forth below, a sentence at the low end of the guideline range including a sentence that does not impose a term of incarceration is appropriate and warranted.

Boy, were they flip they really flip. I mean, you know, what are we looking at here. If he says no prison time for Flynn, is that where the judge goes with this?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the judge is going to take into consideration all of the substantial things stated about Michael Flynn by the Special Counsel. Not only did he talk about how a cooperative Flynn was and that he's helping with three investigations he talked about the you know, the 19 interviews that he participated in, not only with the Special Counsel but with other lawyers from the Department of Justice.

Now, we don't know if those lawyers were in the Southern District of New York or what you know, other area in the Department of Justice but we know Michael Flynn has been very valuable to the Special Counsel and the Department of Justice. The Special Counsel talks about his substantial time in the military, the fact that he's been -- you know, he's done more than 30 years in the military, served five years in combat. So Special Counsel Mueller went out of his way to highlight the positives about Flynn's participation and cooperation with him. So I think the judge is going to give a lot of weight and credibility to the statements made by the special Counsel in this memo.

HAYES: Yes, you know, there's a lot of expectation about what it may or may not reveal. We kind of get what we expected but -- you know, because a lot of it was redacted citing the ongoing investigations. But there was one part of the memo which stated the defendants record of military and public service distinguished him from every other person. Notice every other person who's been charged as part of the Special Counsel's Office investigation, that would be like Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, (INAUDIBLE) goes on. However, senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards. Senior government leaders, any ideas who Mueller might be referring to there?

[01:05:10] MARTIN: You embrace our a really good point, John. We were hoping to learn more about what motivated Flynn to tell the lie that he told about his communications with the Russian ambassador who might have been in on it, and you know, some other details about you know what led to him pleading guilty. We didn't learn those things than this redacted memo, but we did learn a lot about this investigation. And I think one of the more important things we learned is that it's not over.

Despite what the president and his legal team has stated over and over again in the media, it appears that there are many veins and many other lines of investigation that are being pursued by the Special Counsel. And we don't know if Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Don Jr. or other members in the Trump administration are the targets of those investigations, but is very clear that Mueller is keeping close to the vest what those investigations involve and who are the people that are a part of those investigations.

VAUSE: You know, the investigation goes on. The pushback from Trump supporters goes on again in this incident almost as soon as a member came out. Here's Trump friend and unofficial adviser Sean Hannity of Fox News. Listen to this.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Flynn is "a convicted felon, a victimless process crime based on evidence that his suspect. The FBI didn't think he lied. Now, you can't get him on an actual crime so the old perjury trap always becomes the fallback in the Mueller camp of Democratic donors. This is how America is going to treat a military hero? This is a sad and pathetic moment for not only the Special Counsel but for the country.


VAUSE: It's all a victimless crime. The man confessed which seemed to suggest the evidence was not suspect. So I'll leave the last question to you. Is this a sad and pathetic moment for the country?

MARTIN: Absolutely not. I think this is a proud moment for the country and this is a proud moment for the Special Counselor's office. What we know about Robert Mueller, he has been impeccable. He's been methodical. There hasn't been weeks from his office. He's been very strategic and he's been effective. And that's one of the things that Trump and his supporters can't argue against the facts are the facts are not only guilty pleas but actual convictions of individuals involved in his probe and in this investigation. Those facts cannot be disputed.

And you know, it's so interesting when you hear Sean Hannity, the President, Rudy Giuliani talk about Michael Flynn. They want to spend this narrative that somehow Flynn didn't lie to the FBI. Well, Flynn himself acknowledged that he told a lie. So I don't know how you can undermine, dispute, or somehow challenge the testimony from the individual himself. So if you have respect for him as a 30-year military man, why not respect him to be intelligent enough to know when he told a lie.

So, it's a quite ridiculous argument, John. It doesn't have a lot of credibility. We expected the president to try to minimize. We expect this kind of rhetoric from Sean Hannity. But the reality is Robert Mueller is having a ginormous week when it comes to individuals involved in the Russia investigation.

VAUSE: And it was Tuesday. OK. Now, it can wait. Flynn really seem to rise to prominence during the Republican convention in 2016. That was when Donald Trump was officially nominated as the party's presidential candidate. I'm looking back now over the irony, the irony.


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Lock her up. That's right. Yes, that's right. Lock her up.


VAUSE: Yes. Lock her up, Hillary Clinton, because of e-mail server. I mean, the twist here is that Flynn actually probably won't serve a lot of time in jail. That doesn't sit easy with a lot of people. Listen to one of Flynn's colleagues. Here he is.


RALPH PETERS, RETIRED U.S. ARMY: I really have mixed feelings about this. As a former officer, I'd sent him to jail for life. He betrayed his country. But as someone who's known Mike since 1985 and he has served this country well, he's a superb officer.


VAUSE: OK. So whether you like it or not, this is how the system works. Basically, you do a deal, you give up a bigger fish, you go free or you serve reduced time. That's it, right?

MARTIN: And not only that, John. You go to the Special Counsel early. And I think when you look at what happened (AUDIO GAP), you stay on team Trump, a pardon is all but guaranteed. And now you have Robert Mueller saying look, there's a new and different game in town. If you come to the Special Counsel's office with information that's credible and you come early and you participate in cooperating with the Special Counsel, you may also be facing what Flynn is facing which is a memo and a recommendation to the court that you not face any jail time.

So I can understand how you know, colleagues of Michael Flynn have mixed feelings about this because he was serving at the highest level of this country and you do expect him to be held to a higher standard and you wouldn't expect him to be in royal in any criminal you know, wrongdoings but he was. And I think the good thing here is he didn't deny, he didn't spend, he didn't you know, try to run from you know, the wrongdoing that he committed.

He went to the Special Counsel, he cooperated, he's cooperated throughout this entire year and apparently he's provided some very valuable information to Robert Mueller that hopefully is going to lead to the indictment and prosecution and conviction of other individuals who have been involved in criminal activity.

VAUSE: Yes. And if you heard Jeffrey Toobin earlier with the last couple saying if he was President Donald Trump, he would be very worried right now. Areva --

MARTIN: Absolutely.

VAUSE: Good to see you.

MARTIN: I think no doubt he's worried. Thank you, John. Always good to see you as well.

VAUSE: Thank you. Casting is underway for a fourth season of Amazon's the Man in the High Castle. The hit series is set in the 1960s with a dystopian alternate history which saw the Allies lose World War II. Hitler is still alive at least for the first season and the defeated U.S. is divided between Nazi control of the East and Japanese occupation of the West.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This day in 1947, two years after the capitulation of the United State of America, the bloody struggle was finally and comprehensively won.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to imagine a very different version of America. It's 1962, the United States no longer exists after the Allied defeat in World War II. First time an American (INAUDIBLE) since the war might just change.

VAUSE: So what would the world look like if Donald Trump hadn't won the election two years ago? The result turned on less than 100,000 votes in three states but the outcome has had a profound impact on many of those who are closest to this president. Many call this the man in the Trump Tower.

We'll start with the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn because well, he's in the news today. He was a decorated war hero rose to be a lieutenant general, had a reputation for developing effective counterterrorism strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was promoted to run the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012. There was a stain on his record after being fired two years later by the Obama administration because of mismanagement and temperament issues.

But then a year ago, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI denying he talked about U.S. sanctions during a conversation with the Russian ambassador in Washington. It turns out he did. Because of a plea deal with a Special Counsel, Flynn is unlikely to serve time but that conversation with the Russian ambassador took place during the transition. If there was no incoming Trump administration, no appointment of Flynn as National Security Advisor, no conversation, no lying to the FBI. And now Flynn is actually expected to be sentenced in two weeks.

And then there is Michael Cohen, the once I'd take a bullet for Donald Trump guy who's now cooperating with the Russia investigation. Just last week he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal which then Candidate Trump was actually pursuing through the election campaign despite repeated claims by Donald Trump to the contrary. And that's on top of Cohen's guilty pleas from earlier this year for eight counts of tax fraud, false statements to a financial institution, unlawful corporate contributions and excessive campaign contributions.

Now facing huge legal costs and feeling abandoned by the president, Cohen cut a deal and he flipped. And then York Times reporting Mr. Cohen has concluded that his life has been utterly destroyed by his relationship with Mr. Trump and now his own actions and to begin in anew he needed to speed up the legal process by quickly confessing to his crimes and serving any sentence he receives according to his friends and associates as well as an analysis of documents in this case.

It's possible that at some point Michael Cohen could have faced charges of tax fraud but would there be in the same level of scrutiny as there was after the 2016 election? Though he certainly wouldn't have been charged with lying to Congress because chances are he would never have been called to testify in the first place.

Now to Paul Manafort who rose from the son of a small-town man to international political consultants and the chairman of the Trump campaign and now a felon. Guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, one count of hiding a foreign bank account. For decade he made millions advising autocrats, kleptocrats, and strongmen around the world. But it seems he would not survive five months he served as the Trump campaign chairman.

Manafort agreed to a plea deal with the Special Counsel's office but last month federal investigators accused him of repeatedly lying, an extraordinary allegation that could mean a lot of prison sentence and maybe potentially new charges as well. At 69 Manafort could die in jail. His one hope right now is the presidential pardon.

[01:15:00] And then there's the President's eldest son Don Jr who could be facing an indictment over that Trump Tower Meeting in 2016. Especially, if it turns out that his father's denials of no prior knowledge actually are not true. Similar legal problems are said to be hanging over Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

And remember the former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, quit his job and its credibility now in tatters and seems he's unemployable. Well, that the former chair of the Republican Party Reince Priebus, once had a promising career, now, who knows?

And also, for a president himself, under siege, reportedly unhinged, and lashing out. Who takes little joy in the process of government, perhaps, he too is wondering, what if?

And CIA director has briefed a handful of key U.S. Senators on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Gina Haspel was a no-show at a closed-door intelligence briefing on Khashoggi, last week. That has some lawmakers angered and demanding their own meeting.

And after hearing the opinion of the CIA, those Senators say they are more convinced than ever that Saudi Prince ordered the killing of the opinion columnist and dissident from the Washington Post. Our Manu Raju has more details now from Capitol Hill.

[01:16:17] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, Senators from both parties were outraged after a closed-door briefing for about an hour with the CIA director Gina Haspel, who went into detailed the intelligence showing links between the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi On October 2nd at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Now, the Trump administration has rejected that assessment for the most part. Saying there's no "direct evidence" linking the crown prince to the murder of Khashoggi. And the president himself has said, "Maybe the crown prince was involved, maybe he wasn't," as the president touted the economic advantages of having a good relationship with Saudi Arabia.

But, several Senators including Senator Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker, Republicans' pushed back strongly.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: MBS, the crown prince is a wrecking ball, I think he's complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible. I think the behavior before the Khashoggi murder was beyond disturbing.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I have zero question on my mind that the crown prince, MBS ordered the killing, monitored the killing, and knew exactly what was happening. Planned it in advance.

He -- if he was in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes, guilty. So, the question is what do we do about that?


RAJU: Now, going forward, there are questions about what Congress will do? There are ample discussions between Republicans and Democrats about how to push ahead? One idea is to pull back from the U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

And there are other ideas on the table, as well. Perhaps, hit the Saudi crown prince with new sanctions. Something that may come into ahead as soon as next week on the floor of the Senate. But, the Trump administration is going to push back. Will they have enough votes to keep this both Republican and the Democratic Senators from formally rebuking Saudi Arabia, and also the Trump administration in the process? Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

VAUSE: Manu Raju, thank you. Now, we'll take a short break. When we come back, President Trump's tweets on tariffs on China, weighing on global markets. First-year stocks plummeted, now, Asian markets are also pulling back. We'll have the very latest on that in a moment.

Also, the French government puts on hold the fuel tax hike. Giving in to demands by protesters, but they say that's just a crumb. They want the hold be got.


[01:21:24] VAUSE: Well, China is promising to push ahead with a temporary truce in the U.S. trade war including a 90-day pause in tariff hikes. That seems doing not much to calm investor's nerves. Stock markets in Asia have been silly down.

Japan's Nikkei, Hong Kong's Hang Seng have hit -- have -- had the brunt of it, I should say, with steep declines in tech and financials. These numbers said although on U.S. stocks markets tanked on Tuesday.

The Dow nosedive. S&P 500, and Nasdaq throw ball the three percent. We have more now from CNN's Alison Kosik.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: A dramatic move to the downside for stocks. The Dow plunging nearly 800 points. It's the Dow's worst day since October 10th, when it lost 832 points.

The market is reassessing what came out of the meeting between China's President Xi and President Trump in Argentina. There's growing doubt that the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China will end anytime soon.

Despite the White House speaking positively about meetings at the G20, there is a realization in the financial markets that nothing concrete came out of it, and that there is no deal.

And even President Trump series of tweets explaining the trade negotiations, they caused even more uncertainty that fueled the sell- off. Not helping President Trump appointing Robert Lighthizer. He's a hardliner to head the talks with China.

But there is a concern it could lead to a bitter contest. Also rattling the market, investors are concerned about a phenomenon that's brewing in the bond market which in the past has signaled a possible economic slowdown. There are indicators that investors are more confident about current economic growth instead of future economic growth.

U.S. markets are closed on Wednesday to honor President George H.W. Bush. At the New York Stock Exchange, I'm Alison Kosik, now back to you.

VAUSE: Alison, thank you. So, here's a question. What should investors do right now in stock markets that just filled with this kind of volatility? Up one day down the next, CNN's Claire Sebastian has some advice for any trading psychology coach.



CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is lesson number one in trading a volatile market. And I just failed.

HIRSCHHORN: Now, I have just done something that's revolting, right?


HIRSCHHORN: Right, I put $20 in my mouth. I forgive myself of hepatitis. But has my saliva changed the value of this $20 bill?


Doug Hirschhorn is a former sports psychologist who spent the last two decades coaching Wall Street traders to put their opinions and emotions aside, he's been particularly busy this year.

So what's the number one thing that you tell people about how to survive in this volatile market?

HIRSCHHORN: Write down your game plans before you put a trade on. Know why you're putting a trade on. And then when the trade starts to move, it becomes volatile, is -- might you ask yourself this one simple question. Is my reason for doing this trade still intact?

SEBASTIAN: That kind of discipline, he says, is particularly important in a world of information overload.

HIRSCHHORN: We have a president that, that is an active tweeter.

SEBASTIAN: President Trump tweeting this morning, "Oil prices getting lower. Great. Just had a long and very good conversation with President Xi Jinping."

And it's not just the volume of real-time information that sparks the recent market swings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do think it's not a bad time to shift toward defense.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think this is a full market correction.

SEBASTIAN: It's the nagging sense that the U.S. economy is heading for a turning point.

JEREMY SIEGEL, PROFESSOR OF FINANCE, WHARTON SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY: The Fed, of course, is raising rates trying to cool down the market. Usually, when we get unemployment this low, we do get a recession within the next two or three years.

SEBASTIAN: And yet, despite those alarm bells, experts say this is not the time to overreact.

[01:25:04] SIEGEL: Valuations are still sound for long-term investors. There's no reason to panic.

HIRSCHHORN: Sloppy trading comes in when we get emotional.

SEBASTIAN: Doug Hirschhorn, says in this market, too many people are making that mistake. And his message is clear.

HIRSCHHORN: Want to trade now?

SEBASTIAN: Whether it's a two $20 bill that will eventually dry out or an oversold stock ready to bounce back. Sometimes in volatile markets, it's best to do nothing at all. Clare Sebastian, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: And still to come here. Theresa May gets ready for round two after a bruising their defeats. A parliament over her Brexit plan walls go deep into Brexit country where some are just be having second thoughts.


VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm John Vause. The headlines this hour. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, says Michael Flynn has been so helpful in the Russia investigation. He should not have to go to jail. Mueller's team filed at sentencing liquidation, Tuesday. It's heavily redacted because of these two investigations cited are ongoing.

A senior U.S. Senator, says there's no doubt the Saudi Crown Prince was involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA director briefed about dozen lawmakers on the journalist's death, Tuesday. The White House maintains there's no smoking gun linking the crown prince to the killing.

Concern of the U.S. trade wars puts investors as the Dow fell nearly 800 points, Tuesday. Excuse me, the NASDAQ, S&P 500 also a topple.

China has reaffirmed its commitment to the truce streaks between the U.S. president and the Chinese president that includes a 90-day pause in tariff hikes. U.S. market is closed Wednesday for the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush. British parliament will resume debate over the Prime Minister's Brexit plan in a few hours. This will be the second of five days of debate. And if the first day is any indication, Theresa May is in for a really bad time.

As Erin McLaughlin reports of London, the Prime Minister suffered a series of stinging defeats on Tuesday.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, with a humiliating day for British Prime Minister Theresa May, or government losing three votes in the House of Commons including for the first time in history being found in contempt of parliament for its refusal to publish the full legal advice relating to the Brexit deal, that was followed by another defeat over the so-called, Grieve Amendment, which gives parliamentarians more of a say over what happens if Theresa May is defeated in next week's historic Brexit vote.

And it was with that backdrop that Theresa May took to her feet to defend her deal laying out for M.P.s in stark terms that without the withdrawal agreement, without the Northern Ireland backstop, looking at a no-deal Brexit.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The only way to absolutely guarantee no hard border on the island of Ireland at the end of the implementation period is to have a backstop in withdrawal agreement as a last resort insurance policy. Any future relationship will need to be negotiated and will need an insurance policy if that negotiation cannot be completed in time.

Put simply, there is no possible withdrawal agreement without a legal operative or backstop. No backstop means no deal.

MCLAUGHLIN: One of the main voices behind Brexit Boris Johnson, pushing back on that, calling on Theresa may to go back to Brussels to negotiate a better deal. Certainly building all of it, an ominous picture ahead of next week's historic vote.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: And CNN's Anna Stewart traveled to Brexit territory in the Midlands in England where two years ago, they thought leaving the E.U. was a good idea. But as the deadline looms and the Brexit battle heats up, what do they think now?


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Welcome to Derbyshire.

Now, every constituency in this area voted to leave in the referendum. Now, over two years on and just months ago before the U.K.'s actually supposed to leave and the Brexit debate continues.

(voice over): And what better place to get the local sentiment than the local pub?

(on camera): So how did you vote back in the referendum.


STEWART: You voted out. Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly -- why? I didn't know why. I should have voted to stay. And I think everybody thinks different. Everybody has a chance again, I'll vote to stay.

STEWART: Should they pass Theresa May's deal next week?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I'm hoping so. I mean it would cause a lot of trouble if they don't. We should just go with clean Brexit. We voted out. Not a little bit of out and a little bit of in.

STEWART (voice over): For the pub's owner, the debate's become too divisive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there's been a number of occasions where I say on the bar we're not going to talk about this anymore. As an individual here in the bar, I don't express an opinion because I don't want to alienate half my customers.

STEWART (on camera): Now most of the people we've spoken to say they are urging their member parliaments to vote against the Prime Minister's deal next week. They say they'd rather have no deal than one that leaves them beholden to Brussels.

Anna Stewart, CNN -- Derbyshire.


VAUSE: Well, the French government has backed down on a planned fuel tax increase. It's suspended for six months. But that's not enough for the yellow-vested demonstrators who are back out blockading streets on Tuesday.

Melissa Bell has more now on their response to the government's cave on the tax hike.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It was a climb-down (ph) on the part of the French government that was announced today but not a total retreat after all what Edouard Philippe, the French Prime Minister had to say after three weeks of saying that the government would not make any concessions, would not turn around or climb down from that proposed tax hike due to take effect in January 1st was essentially that that tax hike would be suspended. Not taken away, not canceled entirely but suspended for six months.

A concession far greater than anything we could have expected from him so far and yet, a concession that fell short of satisfying the yellow vests. Already their representatives, their members and the few spokesmen that appear to represent them, and remember that this is a movement that has essentially no leader and no political party and no trade union organizing it.

Those who speak in (INAUDIBLE) say they are not satisfied by what the French government had to announce today. One of the problems really facing Emmanuel Macron is that three weeks after this protest began, and given the extraordinary violence on Saturday night, this protest has become about so much more than the initial tax hike that has parted (ph).

And so a partial climbdown on the part of the government was in a sense never going to satisfy those who want to go much further, who believe that they have the wind in their sails and they can look ahead to next Saturday and plan another protest.

The key question will be how many people turn out to demonstrate, will they find themselves out on the streets of France in numbers as great as they have so far? And will that violence once again be repeated in the French capital?

French authorities are working to try and prevent a repeat of those scenes we saw last week. The yellow vests say that they will carry on with their movement. They will carry on expressing in anger. That it's about much more than fuel tax, it is now about the cost of living itself and the policies of Emmanuel Macron.

Melissa Bell, CNN -- Paris.


VAUSE: For more now, CNN's European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas is with us from Berlin. Good morning.


VAUSE: Good to see you.

Ok. Keeping in mind, it was President Macron who has been determined to push ahead with this fuel tax, said it all along. Here's the announcement from the government, this fuel tax hike is now on hold, it's being suspended. Listen to this.


[01:30:02] EDOUARD PHILIPPE, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): These decisions effective immediately must bring back peace and calm to the country. They must allow us to begin a real discussion on the main issues that have been expressed this past few weeks.


VAUSE: Ok. A couple of things here. If you're looking really closely, that was not Emmanuel Macron, the President. That was actually the Prime Minister who is touting the retreat and giving in to the protesters here.

So Macron has actually not spoken to reporters since coming back from the G-20. He's kind of been, you know, skulking around the Elysees Palace. You know, these are not good signs that he actually has a sense of the seriousness of the crisis he's facing because it's not just about the fuel tax.

THOMAS: No. I mean first of all, the fact that his Prime Minister is doing this in some ways is normal. The Prime Minister is the head of the government. It's his responsibility to deal with policy issues, to bring those to the general public and so on.

But you're absolutely right when you say that for Emmanuel Macron what he really needed to do here was to step out and speak to the French people about what are some genuine grievances here and what it ends up doing is further reinforcing the idea that he is a detached president who doesn't listen well to the people.

And it was really important for him to do this at this particular moment because you can see just how the tensions are so elevated in France at the moment.

VAUSE: Ok. We have actually heard from the -- I guess unofficial spokesperson for the yellow vest protesters. He told "The Guardian" newspaper, that the French are not sparrows and don't want the crumbs the government is giving them. They want the baguette."

This sounds almost like, you know, the natural follow-on to the days of let them eat cake. I think what it says is that the anger and the grievance fueling this protest was born long before Macron was elected president. Taking a pause and trying to talk about it for a couple of weeks doesn't seem like they're going to get very far.

THOMAS: No. And I think it is very likely to be, you know, too little too late. This has given an opportunity for many other organizations to come to the forefront. You see different political parties trying to exploit the potential here of this uprising that still is polling very well and in French society you are absolutely right that these grievances have been around for a very long time.

If you just take the last two presidencies and the right-wing presidency of Sarkozy, the socialist government of Francois Hollande -- during that ten-year period, minimum wages only went up approximately 200 euros.

And so these are grievances and pains that the people have been feeling for a long time in French society. And it seems that yet again, this government has been unable to come up with a range of kind of policies that are moving France ahead in the new directions Macron spelled out without appearing to be kind of an onslaught on working people.

VAUSE: So keep that in mind because the President, ever helpful as always, retweeted this.

"There are riots in socialist France because of radical leftist fuel taxes. Media barely mentioning this. America is booming, Europe is burning. They want to cover up the middle class rebellion against culture Marxism. 'We want Trump' being changed through the streets of Paris."

There's actually nothing in that retweet which is accurate. Macron has been governing a centrist even leaning to the right. The sort of a right-wing cabinet technocrats. The fuel taxes are climb change measures in part. No one was shouting we want Trump in the streets of Paris, at least none that we can find.

This is the problem that Macron has. It is very difficult to -- as the leader of a western democratic country to lead to the center. And no one has kind of worked out how to do it yet.

THOMAS: Yes. I just think, just very quickly on Trump's tweets. It's really interesting to look at the forensics of this because of course, he's both tweeting and retweeting here. And far right ideology which he gets from Nigel Farage.

His comments on Brexit ten days ago came from Farage and this sort of, you know, belief that the western system is being undermined by some kind of radical group that's hellbent on destroying western civilization.

In fact, Trump's repeated attacks on the European Union and on the liberal democracies within the European Union are contributing to undermining that process.

Now on the question of sort of centrist rule and so on. That's a more difficult argument to make. I mean after all Tony Blair is really the person in Europe to have inaugurated that kind of mechanism of rule from '97 to 2007 where for all intents and purposes his government was a centrist government.

The bigger issue possibly that we're seeing with Emmanuel Macron, with other leaders in Europe today is over the last few years, we've seen a diminishing of strength of mainstream political parties. And Macron is at the heads of the movement in the way that a very different movement is currently governing Italy in the guise of the Five Star Movement.

And these different political organizations -- yes, he's elected, yes he has the parliament. But they don't have either the experience or one could argue the institutional framework or the understanding as to how these kinds of mechanisms are working.

And we see this and these kinds of challenges at the moment, particularly as Macron is going about implementing these policies.

VAUSE: Dominic -- we're out of time. We shall leave it there but good to see you and thank you for getting up early and being with us. We appreciate it.

THOMAS: You're welcome. See you soon. Bye-bye.

[01:39:59] Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM, Yemeni factions (INAUDIBLE) of peace talks amid grim warnings of the country's humanitarian crisis which is said to get even worse.


VAUSE: Well, a great number of U.S. lawmakers want to limit support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. All of this as Sweden hosts U.N.-sponsored peace talks. Houthi rebel delegation arrived Tuesday with the U.N. special envoy to Yemen. A mediator also came from Kuwait. The Saudi-backed Yemeni government is also said to participate.

Samantha Vinograd is a CNN national security analyst. She served on the national security council during the Obama administration and she is with us this hour from Delaware.

Sam -- thanks for taking the time to speak with us.

The Houthis and the delegates have now arrived in Sweden, representatives from Yemen's government expected in the next couple of days. If they all get together and they have these talks, can they actually make a peace deal? Or can they make, you know, sort of the framework for a peace deal when this is essentially a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

You know, these are the two regional superpowers. Ultimately won't they decide what happens?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that's exactly right. I think that there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen but if you just look at this from a pure negotiating standpoint. If the Saudis and the Iranians are not on board to some kind of ceasefire or actually sitting down and negotiating and debate, this will go nowhere.

And that's why I think it is very important to note that the conditions have changed while the war rages on in Yemen and more children die and people get displaced and famine is about to occur. The Saudis are under more pressure today to make a deal than they were let's say three months ago before they brutally murdered Jamal Khashoggi.

And the U.S. Congress and elected officials around the world put even more scrutiny on Saudi activities in Yemen. So for that reason, I think that there might be a little bit more momentum behind the Saudis this time around.

VAUSE: Well, as you mentioned, the pressure on the Saudis continues to grow. The U.S. Senate expected to debate ongoing U.S. support for Saudi's military offensive on Yemen. As you mentioned, this is the end result of, you know, the death of the "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi and allegations of the direct involvement of the Saudi Crown Prince.

Do you think that we'll get to a point where the United States will join Germany, Denmark, as well as Sweden and suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia? [01:44:54] VINOGRAD: You know, I wish that we would because I think

that will be an important step to prevent more murder down the road. But I think that this president, President Trump, excuse me, will do everything that he can to circumvent the U.S. Congress's authority to hold up these arms sales and to try to find some way to continue them.

The real question for me is what President Trump is telling Republican lawmakers he'll give to them in exchange for letting these arms deals go through. But there's also something that we haven't talked about much in the media and that is Saudi Arabia actually has to ask for these arms deals to go forward.

Today there has been a memorandum of intent that was signed between President Trump and the Kingdom but the actual deals haven't really materialized. So we have to wait and see if they for instance will come forward and then what President Trump does to pressure Republican lawmakers to allow them to go forward.

VAUSE: As you say there is a momentum on both sides of the conflict on the Saudi's (INAUDIBLE) to an end coming from another countries including the U.S.

But internally there's also this humanitarian crisis which gets worse. The numbers are pretty staggering -- 65,000 people killed or wounded so far in the war. Food remains to be in short supply. There's widespread malnutrition, thousands of children are simply starved to death.

House services are being extensively damaged. Right now 22 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and the U.N. is expecting even worse to come.

This is Mark Lowcock, he's the U.N. secretary -- or undersecretary, rather, for humanitarian affairs.


MARK LOWCOCK, U.N. UNDERSECRETARY FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS: The country with biggest problems in 2019 is going to be Yemen. We think that 24 million people in Yemen, about 75 percent of the population will need humanitarian assistance.

The U.N. is planning to meet the needs of 15 million of those people. Our appeal for Yemen is going to be for $4 billion dollars.


VAUSE: So you know, despite the shortfall there and the numbers, obviously that they need more assistance. If they don't get an agreement here to try to end this war in Yemen, what will be the ultimate result?

VINOGRAD: The ultimate result will be that 55,000 or 57,000 more people will die. It's important to remember that Yemen was a country in the worst state in the region before this war broke out. And the real issue now is, of course, the United States has really touted the assistance that we've proffered to the Yemenis for humanitarian purposes over the last few months.

But as this conflict continues, the actual humanitarian costs are going to go up just from a financial standpoint both within Yemen and for those that are displaced outside of the country. And part of the focus that I've seen the special envoy for Yemen is placing what kind of funding is needed is really reaching out to the Gulf countries to ask for them to put more money into the pot to help with this financial assistance while working on some kind of political solution.

VAUSE: What is really sad or depressing is that the U.N. has another seven countries along with Yemen which actually need a billion dollars or more in humanitarian aid next year. This is -- they are the worst of more than 20 humanitarian disasters playing out right now around the globe.

You know there is this record amount of money coming in to the United Nations through the nations but these disasters like the one in Yemen and in Syria, they just seem to be getting worse. They seem to be lasting longer than before.

VINOGRAD: They do. And from a private sector stand point I think that there are -- I know that there's donor fatigue. And these emergencies continue for years.

Private sector donors start to wonder whether their money in the first sense is having an impact. Then that private sector money dries up as well which is why relief organizations and many that work with the U.N. as well are trying to diversify their donor pool so that there is a more diverse set of money that can come in as this conflicts last for years on end.

VAUSE: Ok. Sam -- we'll leave it there. We appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

VAUSE: Hopefully, you know, this is the end to what we're seeing in Yemen.

Well, Israel has accused the militant group Hezbollah of digging secret attack tunnels under the border from Lebanon. An operation has been under way for the last 24 hours now with. The idea to try and find and destroy the tunnel.

Israel says those tunnels pose no immediate threat as the moment but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it is a gross violation of Israeli sovereignty and wants the U.S. to put new sanctions on Hezbollah. A senior Hezbollah official says they're actually surprise by this Israeli military operation but they would not confirm or deny the group is actually responsible for the tunnels. Lebanon's army says it's monitoring the situation.

The U.S. gave Russia an ultimatum on a cold war era missile deal. It's called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The U.S. Secretary of State says they will exit the deal in two months unless Russia changes course. Here's what Mike Pompeo told the NATO meeting. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Whatever successes this treaty helped produced, today we must confront Russian cheating on its arms control obligations.

As I told my fellow ministers earlier today, our nations have a choice. We either bury our head in the sand or we take common sense action in response to Russia's flagrant disregard for the express terms of the INF treaty.


[01:50:06] VAUSE: The treaty was negotiated in the 1980s by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to limit missiles like the ones you see there. Russia insists it's not breaking the treaty; the U.S. and NATO disagree.

This (ph) mostly negative and critical coverage by Russian media by that position taken by the United States on the missile treaty, it seems the Trump glow from the early days may have faded. Back then the new U.S. President seemed to be a favorite of state-controlled media.

But not anymore as CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports -- Moscow may have fallen out of love.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Is the Trump-Putin bromance over? After President Trump snubbed the Russian leader at this weekend's G-20 summit calling off a bilateral meeting last minute, claiming it's because Russia seized several Ukrainian military boats and 24 sailors, snarky comments from Vladimir Putin.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We've had two small boats, gifts from the U.S. to the Ukrainians that couldn't pass through the Kerch Strait.

PLEITGEN: Despite the fact that the boats were not an American gift to Ukraine and the White House saying the meeting was canceled to show Vladimir Putin that the seizure of the ships was unacceptable, Kremlin-controlled media going into attack mode.

TV programs that until recently called the President "Trump Nash" (ph) or "our Trump" now ripping into the U.S. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of person is this? At first he say it's happening, then it's not happening. So we should do what, wait until he gets reelected? And only then we can start communicating with America again? What kind of stupidity is this? It seems like this person is unstable.

PLEITGEN: State-run Russian TV has mostly followed the Kremlin's line saying they believe President Trump is keen to improve U.S.-Russian relations but is hampered by Congress, the media and the Mueller investigation. Now, a possible fundamental shift, both in the Kremlin and in Russian media portraying the U.S. President as weak like Russia's top TV pundit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adjustments (ph) to everyone's mood with Trump looking morose, sitting there with crossed hands as if he's trying to shield himself from everyone else. Scared of blurting out something unnecessary. It looks like he was just not prepared for a coherent meeting with Putin.

PLEITGEN: President Trump did speak briefly with Putin on the sidelines of the summit but the Russians are clearly annoyed. Asked today how the Kremlin would characterize U.S.-Russian relations, Vladimir Putin's spokesman said only dialogue is not really working out.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN -- Moscow.


VAUSE: Well, it's time for a sad and somber reflection in Washington right now for a man who's dedicated his life to public service. Thousands have slowly passed by the casket of former President George H.W. Bush lying in state inside the U.S. Capitol Building.

These are live images right now there in the Capitol 1:52 in the morning on a Wednesday. As you can see the building is still open so anybody can have a moment to pay their respects to the former president.

The Bush family visited the Capitol. They paid their respects. They also greeted mourners. President Trump and the First Lady Melania offered condolences to the Bushes at the President's guest house where they stayed. They were greeted by former president George W. Bush and former first lady, Laura Bush.

Please stay with CNN for extensive coverage of the funeral of former President George Herbert Walker Bush. It begins 10:00 a.m. in Washington, 3:00 p.m. in London, 11:00 p.m. in Hong Kong.

With that we'll be back in a moment.


VAUSE: Be careful what you tweet is the lesson President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani found out the hard way when he was criticizing Robert Mueller's investigation. But in the process he inadvertently created at hyperlink -- I don't know how this works but and someone actually who is very smart used that new link to create a message reading "Donald J. Trump is a traitor to our country".

Giuliani responded with this, "Twitter allowed someone to invade my text with a disgusting anti-president message. Don't tell me they are not committed card carrying anti-Trumpers. Fairness please.

No matter how you feel about the President, there's a holiday gift or decorations to suit your mood. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump has been petting the Christmas tree-hauling horse, lighting the national tree, even popping out of a mocked-up chimney like Santa Claus.

Who knew he would end up as an ornament? His son Don, Jr., posted this meme on Instagram. "Couldn't decide between an angel or a star so I picked both." Prompting someone to comment, "Mr. Mueller is coming to town."

We know what makes the President him merry.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told you that we would be saying merry Christmas again, right.

We're saying merry Christmas again.

We are going to be celebrating Merry Christmas again.

MOOS: His other son Eric, celebrated by hawking the all-new ornaments from the Trump store. The Trump helicopter sells for 55 bucks. Be you can't tell what this is. It's the Trump golf bag ornament. And this is Trump Tower.

Tweeted a critic, "If you shake the Trump Tower globe, does it snow indictment."

And for Trump foes, there is a mocked-up ornament of the baby Trump blimp.

TRUMP: I'm saying Merry Christmas to whoever the hell wants to hear.

MOOS: But here's something you won't find for sale on a Trump web site. Meet corkscrew Donald, the perfect way to open a bottle of fine Trump wine.

It was created by the same designer who dreamed up the Hillary nutcracker. Twisted gifts for under the tree or on top of it.

Jeanne Moos, CNN -- must be a Democratic cork -- New York.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Stay with us. A lot more news here on CNN right after a short break.