Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Federal Judge Strikes Down ObamaCare; Cohen Says Trump Directed Him to Pay Hush Money; Fifth Weekend of Yellow Vest Protests in France; Australia Recognizes West Jerusalem as Capital of Israel; American Student Stabbed to Death in the Netherlands; COP24 Draws Toward Uncertain Close. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired December 15, 2018 - 04:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A federal judge in Texas throws out the Affordable Care Act, ruling the entire health care law unconstitutional. We'll explain what that means for Americans.

Also, a live look in Paris, France, nearly 70,000 police deployed across the country as a fifth round of Yellow Vest protests is underway.

Also ahead this hour, Australia recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing decades of Middle East policy.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell at the CNN NEWSROOM.


HOWELL: 4:00 am on the U.S. East Coast.

The health care law that millions of Americans have depended on, better known as ObamaCare, is in danger of disappearing. A judge in the state of Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, it was former President Obama signature piece of legislation.

But through this judge's ruling, a key component of the law has been singled out as unconstitutional and that puts the entire law in jeopardy. This is very important to point out. Despite the judge's ruling, the Affordable Care Act remains in effect while that ruling is appealed.

What it means for Americans is, if you want to sign up for ObamaCare, you still can; the deadline though to do so is Saturday night. You will remember President Trump tried to repeal the legislation before.

He tweeted that the ruling by a highly respected judge was not a surprise and was, quote, "great news for America." In the meantime, the top Democrat in the House promises to intervene

to hold what she calls the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and promises to reject the Republican effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Let's talk more about this with David Katz, a former assistant U.S. attorney, joining us in Los Angeles this hour.

A pleasure to have you here on the show. Thank you.


HOWELL: Look, we've seen Affordable Care Act survive legal challenges before.

What is different in time around?

KATZ: Well, after surviving numerous repeal attempts and after going to the United States Supreme Court in an earlier incarnation, this is actually a different Affordable Care Act than the one that went to the Supreme Court as the ObamaCare-era one.

This one has the mandate, the individual mandate removed from it, as of next year. So, as of next year, the judge says that this bill will be unconstitutional in its entirety because the original was affirmed 5-4 by the U.S. Supreme Court or upheld as being constitutional because it was use of the federal government's taxing power.

But five justices would have said that it was not proper as an exercise of the commerce clause. The commerce clause allows the federal government to effect interstate commerce but it has to be significant.

And so it was held in that case that the commerce clause would not allow it. And so the fear now and what has alarmed 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions and 13 million people who signed up this year already for the Affordable Care Act is that, without the tax impact, without the individual mandate requiring people to either buy the ACA insurance or to pay a tax, that those same -- they are not the same five -- but that Chief Justice Roberts this time may vote to strike down the new ObamaCare because it doesn't have a tax anymore.

I don't agree with that analysis by the trial judge. But that is the fear that is shaking the land right now.

HOWELL: So I want to make sure I get this clear. ObamaCare was legal, the individual mandate was legal and fining people who didn't purchase health care was legal.

But once that fine was set at zero by Congress, the whole thing now becomes illegal?

KATZ: This trial judge seems to believe that the Republicans in Congress this last year when ObamaCare, quote, "survived," that actually the Republicans had booby-trapped it and that by making there be no mandate that was enforced by the tax laws, that they would strip it --


KATZ: -- of its only constitutional basis, which was the taxing power.

So although McCain dramatically voted against it and the major repeal did not happen, apparently it was, at least for this judge in Texas, booby-trapped in a way that the whole thing was unconstitutional.

Whether the Republicans were really that clever or whether this particular trial judge -- he is a go-to conservative judge who has ruled -- he is from the George W. Bush -- he ruled against ObamaCare previously.

So he was the dream judge for the state attorneys general who are challenging the ACA. We'll have to see whether it ever survives in the court of appeals and we'll have to see whether it ever survives in the U.S. Supreme Court.

HOWELL: And we did get this statement from the White House. We'll put it here full screen.

"We expect this ruling," it says, "will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place."

From your legal perspective, how do you see this playing out, what is the timeline?

KATZ: Well, I think that it will take a while. What is going on now is that the House of Representatives, once its Democratic Speaker Pelosi -- to-be Speaker Pelosi -- has indicated that the Democrats will join the lawsuit, move to intervene in it, it already has 12 to 16 state attorneys general who will be appealing it including the state of California.

It is enormously important to the health of Californians that ObamaCare not be struck down by the higher courts. And then if it gets appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, everybody will be biting their fingernails to see what Chief Justice Roberts is going to do.

And there are ways to affirm the -- to uphold validity of the ACA even with the revisions that were made to it. I believe Chief Justice Roberts, will in the end, I don't believe that the ACA is going to fall. And in the interim until the U.S. Supreme Court might say that it is invalid, I don't see any reason why it is going to be changed.

I don't see that Democrats in the House agreeing to anything that the Republicans and Trump would want in the Senate. So as a practical matter, I think that it will stay in effect until and unless the U.S. Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Roberts casting the fifth vote, strikes it down. If that happens, all H will break loose.

HOWELL: David Katz, appreciate your time. Thank you.

KATZ: My pleasure. HOWELL: Moving on now to the Russia investigation. CNN has learned special counsel Robert Mueller still wants to speak with President Trump but Mr. Trump's attorneys are dead set against that happening. Our Pamela Brown has details now for you from Washington, D.C.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Special counsel Robert Mueller's team continues to be interested in interviewing the president, two sources familiar with the matter tell me. Now Mueller's stance on interviewing the president has been constant for a year and a half. We're told nothing has changed in that sense from the first day, the sources said.

The president and his lawyers are still very much opposed to any potential interview. The president's legal team have resumed some discussion with the special counsel In the weeks since the president responded to written questions, mostly regarding collusion and the time period before the inauguration, these sources said.

And the two sides have agreed to hold off on discussing any interview while the president wrote responses to the questions, which were returned just before Thanksgiving.

That was seen as a first step to concluding more than a year of back- and-forth between the two sides. And the president's lawyers had hoped it would bring Mueller closer to finishing his probe.

But we're told Mueller's interest in talking with the president continues and it includes an interest in asking questions about the president's state of mind in regard to actions under scrutiny in the obstruction probe.

There has been no indication Mueller is moving to subpoena the president, one of these sources said. And asked in Mueller had follow up questions to the president's written responses, the source declined to comment.

Now the president's attorney Rudy Giuliani reiterated that opposition to mean on any potential interviews, stressing the mistrust by the president's lawyers of Mueller's aggressive investigation in their view.

He said, "I am pretty disgusted with them."

The office of the special counsel declined to comment -- Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Pamela, thank you.

Now to the president's former attorney and fixer, who is breaking his silence after pleading guilty to multiple felonies. Michael Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison. He now says publicly that Mr. Trump knew that it was wrong when he directed hush money payments to two women before the election. My colleague, Jim Acosta, has this report.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): It was fixating TV, as President Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen explained that federal prosecutors don't see his flip as a flop.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: The special counsel stated emphatically that the information --


COHEN: -- that I gave to them was credible and helpful.

There's a substantial amount of information that they possess that corroborates the fact that I am telling the truth.

ACOSTA: In an interview with ABC, Cohen pushed back on the president's claim that he didn't issue an order to make hush money payments to a porn star and "Playboy" model alleging affairs with Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Let me tell you, I never directed him to do anything wrong. Whatever he did, he did on his own.

ACOSTA: Giving direction, Cohen insisted, is what the president always did as a businessman.

COHEN: Nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me.

ACOSTA: As for the president's claims he didn't commit any crimes, Cohen noted the critical timing of the payments, just before the 2016 election.

COHEN: You have to remember at what point in time that this matter came about, two weeks or so before the election, post the Billy Bush comments. So, yes, he was very concerned about how this would affect the election.

ACOSTA: Despite all of the investigations now touching the Trump Organization, foundation, campaign, inauguration, transition and administration, the White House is brushing off Cohen's comments, saying they shouldn't be taken seriously.

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: He's a self- admitted liar. You guys all know that. And for him to say, I'm going to start -- I'm going to stop lying now, starting now, is somewhat silly.

ACOSTA: But cracks maybe starting to form under the president's feet. Consider those GOP lawmakers all but lining up to back the president earlier this week, as Senator Orrin Hatch did with CNN's Manu Raju.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president. MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But this is not the Democrats. It's the Southern District of New York.

HATCH: I don't care. All I can say is, he's doing a good job as president.

ACOSTA: Hatch released a statement saying he regretted those remarks, adding: "I made comments about allegations against the president that were irresponsible and a poor reflection on my lengthy record of dedication to the rule of law."

As for the other reality show unfolding at the White House, the president dangled a bright, shiny object, selecting his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, as his new acting chief of staff.

One other top contender, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, had pulled himself out of the running earlier in the day, saying in a statement, "It's an honor to have the president consider me as he looks to choose a new White House chief of staff.

"However, I have told the president that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment."

It was always a stretch to see Christie in that role, given his criticism of the president for hiring family members for key posts.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The situation is made much worse by the fact that, when you have family members in the White House, it makes it much more difficult. And there were many of us who counseled the president not just about Jared, but about any other members of his family having official positions.

ACOSTA: One thing is clear in this photo tweeted this week, showing former chief of staff Reince Priebus and the outgoing John Kelly: they both look much happier.

And no surprise, with Michael Cohen dominating the news cycle, that the president will try to throw out a bright shiny light. And he's done just that, selecting Mick Mulvaney as chief of staff -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Jim, thank you.

And we're following events in France, that nation bracing for another weekend of protests that could rock the city of Paris and other parts of the country. This live look at 10:13 in the morning. When we return, why some protesters say concessions that were made this week by the president there, those concessions still aren't enough.

Also, Australia's prime minister says his country now recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Ahead, we'll tell you the reason behind that big announcement. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

In Paris, more Yellow Vest protests are planned throughout the nation, making it the fifth weekend in a row. We are looking live at Paris right now. You see the Yellow Vest protesters there on the streets. More and more have started gathering within the last hour.

All of this started over rising fuel prices and taxes and from there it broadened into a protest against French president Emmanuel Macron and his government. Macron tried to make concessions earlier this week, including canceling the fuel tax that sparked the protests.

But many say that is not enough and the people on the streets right now plan to be demonstrating. Let's go live to the French capital. Our Melissa Bell is there with a view to see what is happening on the streets.

And Melissa, tell us, what is the mood right now?

We're seeing this live image of protesters gathering.

Is there is a sense that more and more are coming out?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There do appear to be more but the numbers appear to be well down, at least to what they were at this time last week. This is the bulk of the Yellow Vests that are on the Champs-Elysees this time. You can see they've been pushed onto the sidewalk by a substantial number of police.

The riot police out, once again authorities taking no chance, saying that they will have a similar setup to last week. So 8,000 police men and women on the streets of Paris. And you can see there the Yellow Vests, these are the ones that have warned authorities that will be the most determined.

That's why they fear, even though the numbers might be down and bearing in mind that we've seen some concessions on the part of the federal government announced this week and, of course, a terror attack in Strasbourg. The question is whether that will impact the numbers making their way out onto the streets.

Will that at least quiet this protest down, will it take away some of that momentum that we witnessed the last few weeks?

The crucial figure to look out for, 136,000 people were out on the streets protesting around the country last week. It is unlikely that they will get to that number but that really is the standard that we'll be looking to compare the numbers out on the street this Saturday to.

HOWELL: Melissa, it does seem to be a cold day there in the French capital. Tell us about how weather could be a factor in --


HOWELL: -- this December day with the protests we're seeing.

BELL: This is the fifth Saturday in the row for this movement and we've seen the determination, that momentum really staying up. Of course, there is the weather. This is definitely the coldest Saturday we've seen so far. The enthusiasm of those who come out here is undiminished.

The question is whether both the cold and the effect of the announcements that were made, the call for dialogue on the part of the authorities, whether all of those things will impact some of those on the margins of this movement, some who are less determined, some who feel that their point has been made.

That's what the authorities will be looking to measure today.

HOWELL: Melissa Bell, live for us following the protests there along the Champs-Elysees. Thank you for the reporting. We'll keep in touch.

Let's now bring in Agnes Poirier to speak more about what's happening, joining us from Brittany, France. She is the U.K. editor for the French weekly, "Marianne."

It's good to have you on the show with us. Let's take a live look to see what's happening on the streets of the French capital, just to give our viewers a perspective, we're seeing more and more people showing up, people determined to continue this protest, people who feel the concessions from the French president were not enough.

What would you say is motivating this movement, which, again we're seeing in Paris but we also understand has broadened to nations beyond the borders of France?

AGNES POIRIER, U.K. EDITOR, "MARIANNE": At you may remember, there was a trigger. The trigger was the increase in fuel prices and fuel taxes. It is little known outside of France but it came after a series of actions that really annoyed French drivers. First of all, speed limits in July.

And then in August, the increased number of things that you need to do to update and make sure that your car is safe, making it far more expensive to actually have it checked every six months. And then the eco tax and the fuel price increased. And that was really the last straw for a lot of French drivers.

The French president Pompidou, used to say in the '70s, arguably a very different time, of course, but he used to say never touch cars, never. No French people will wear (ph) their cars with more taxes. And it was really the trigger.

But, of course, it has morphed into something much wider and much more profound in a way. And it is interesting that President Macron sort of concentrates the discontent even, you know, so far, the hatred of many Yellow Vests.

But he wasn't even born when public policy 40 years ago started making it more difficult for what you would call the squeezed middle. And really his perceived arrogance was also another trigger.

So all in all, it is an anger that is very profound and the lower middle class, if you'd like, is having its moment. And it is very angry. It wants the whole country to know it.

Of course President Macron has conceded, as you said, quite a lot and has gone far beyond the initial demands of the Yellow Vests.

And so we'll see today; it is really a test, because the figures tonight and the violence that we might see in the streets of Paris but also throughout France, we will see if the French are still supporting the movement but also whether the Yellow Vests are now ready to stop demonstrating and to structure themselves because, as you know, it is a movement that is so far leaderless; it doesn't have any organization. It refuses organization.

HOWELL: Right.

POIRIER: They need to structure themselves in order to meet the government and to go to the table and start negotiating.

HOWELL: Agnes, a question that I have for you, we talk about the concessions that the French president has made, speaking directly to the protesters.

The question I have, do his words really matter here to people who live outside the cities, the rural citizens of France, does it matter there?

And also some people there in Paris who have frustration, do these words matter?

POIRIER: Well, it is a very good question because it does and it doesn't matter. That is to say, you have a very, you know -- the Yellow Vests are --


POIRIER: -- they usually do not live in city centers but in the countryside, they live on the periphery of a lot of towns. And they come from very different backgrounds socially and professionally. They are shopkeepers, artisans, self-employed people, they are nurses. And they belong to the lower middle class.

Now he gave a very good speech in the sense that we haven't seen him that humble in a long time. And he did, you know, try to speak with his heart and I think that that wasn't lost on a lot of people.

And just after his address, there was a national poll that says that 54 percent of people were convinced and thought that the movement should stop taking to the street every Saturday and wreak havoc in the streets of Paris, for instance. And although a majority of French people who support, who has sympathy

for the Yellow Vests, that now perhaps it was time to move on to another kind of protest, something more reasonable and more constructive. So his words did matter and didn't, of course, especially for the radicalized Yellow Vests.

HOWELL: And again, we're looking, as you are speaking, at so many people coming together on the streets of Paris. The numbers not as large as previous weekends but people certainly showing their anger on the streets. Agnes, thank you for taking your time with us.

And we'll continue to monitor what is happening in Paris, France. But as NEWSROOM continues, we talk about the Republicans celebrating a major hit against ObamaCare. But it is hardly the first time it has happened. We look back at the history of the Affordable Care Act and the fierce opposition to it. Stay with us.





HOWELL: A warm welcome back to our you viewers here in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.



HOWELL: Let's get back to the latest on the developing story that we're following here in the United States. A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, is unconstitutional. The legislation has been controversial since its beginning. Here is a look back now at how that law came into being.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: On this vote the yeas are 220, the nays are 211. The bill is passed.

OBAMA: Today, after almost a century of trying; today, after over a year of debate; today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Liberty yes, ObamaCare no. Liberty yes, ObamaCare no. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, hey, ObamaCare is here to stay, ho, ho, hey, hey. ObamaCare is here to stay.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first order of business is to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We came very close but we could not get that consensus. That's why I thought the wise thing to do is not proceed with a vote.

TRUMP: People are hurting. Inaction is not an option. And, frankly, I don't think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote the yeas are 45, the nays are 55, the amendment is not agreed to.


HOWELL: Let's get perspective now on the politics of ObamaCare with Natasha Lindstaedt, a professor of government at the University of Essex, joining via Skype this hour.

A pleasure to have you with us.


HOWELL: The U.S. president, as you will recall, has promised to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Conservatives have been pushing to see this law struck down, they are certainly excited about this ruling.

But as a party, they have struggled to come together on how to replace the law. Let's take it one step at a time.

What does it mean for the U.S. president if the law is simply repealed but not replaced?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, for Trump and the Republicans that have been very critical of ObamaCare and the Affordable Care Act, if it is just repealed and, of course, there is going to be a huge fight and appeals process and it will eventually go to the Supreme Court.

But if it is just repealed, then the Republicans promised that they would come up with some sort of replacement plan. But as Trump has even noted himself, health care is very complicated and it is not that easy to just come up with a replacement plan. It takes years and a lot of expertise. And there is a real danger that, if this plan goes forward --


LINDSTAEDT: -- you have over 130 million Americans that have pre- existing conditions. And ObamaCare was vital to ensuring that anyone that had a pre-existing condition would be covered.

You also had 20 percent of Americans that, prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, that weren't insured. And so if the Republicans get their way and this gets repealed, they will be in more trouble because you have 75 percent of Americans that are in favor of some plan in place that ensures that anyone with a pre-existing condition is taken care of.

HOWELL: And this certainly, however you slice it, plays in to the president's campaign promise that he had. And, of course, he tweeted about it. Let's pull the tweet up if we have it.

He says, "As I predicted all along, ObamaCare has been struck down as an unconstitutional disaster. Now Congress must pass a strong law that provides great health care and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done," talking about the soon to be led Democratic House of Representatives.

With this Congress, under this president, is there a chance that this law might find a path forward, even as it faces these challenges in court?

LINDSTAEDT: I don't think so. I mean the House Democrats have been very assertive with the fact that health care is the biggest issue over the midterms, it was going to be their big issue that they were going to campaign on.

And they want to keep the aspects of the Affordable Care Act in place and just improve upon it. They have no desire to repeal it and to start from scratch. It doesn't really make any sense.

What would make sense would be to work on improving the problems with ObamaCare that people have, that possibly the premiums are a little bit too high for people who are young and healthy.

And there has to be other things that they should be looking at as well. The fact that health care -- U.S. health care -- U.S. government pays twice as much as other countries for health care with results that are subpar. We have lower life expectancy rates compared to other countries with similar incomes and higher infant mortality rates.

We have incredibly high administrative costs to process medical claims. These are all things that could be improved upon, including also lowering drug costs, rather than start from scratch and come up with something new. That just doesn't make any sense.

HOWELL: Let's cover this topic because we're certainly talking about this ruling from the state of Texas that throws the law into question now. But important to point out that Americans still have access to this particular law. It has not gone away, it is still there for them, but there is a deadline on Saturday.

LINDSTAEDT: Right. And that is what people have been emphasizing, the fact that it hasn't been completely eradicated. But there is a deadline that people need to sign up for it. And then they have to wait and see what happens with the process of appeals.

And there are certainly going to be appeals. Many states have already said that they would be appealing and that it would go to the Supreme Court.

And if you look at what happened based on 2012, where the Supreme Court basically ruled in favor of sustaining the Affordable Care Act, though it may be a slightly different situation this time because it is a little bit more of a conservative court, legal experts are claiming that the appeals process is likely to go in favor of maintaining the ObamaCare.

HOWELL: Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you for taking time to give your perspective. We'll keep in touch with you.

LINDSTAEDT: Thank you.

HOWELL: Australia's prime minister has announced that his government now recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Let's get the latest now live from Jerusalem. Our Ian Lee is covering the story.

And Ian, what is the reaction in Israel and is there a surprise here?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're waiting to see what the reaction will be from the Israelis, George. It is Shabbat right now. And I'm told that that reaction will probably come later in the day.

As far as the Palestinians are concerned, they were expecting that the Australian government would declare all of Jerusalem the capital of Israel, not just the western part of the city.

But with this declaration, where the Australians are recognizing only West Jerusalem, that does, the Palestinians believe, show that there is pressure on this Australian government not to make the full declaration of the entirety of Jerusalem.

And also you look at that statement from the Australians, they are saying that the eastern part of Jerusalem could be the future capital of a Palestinian state and that they support the two-state solution and that the final status of --


LEE: -- Jerusalem will be determined through that peace process. The prime minister defended his move. Here's what he had to say.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Fundamentally it is the right of every country to determine its national capital. That is why the government asked the question, just the question, about the position we have long adopted in relation to Jerusalem.


LEE: So George, before the United States made its declaration, the international community at large saw Jerusalem as a city that will be determined through negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Initially when Jerusalem was designated as an international city by the U.N. back in 1947 -- that designation really hasn't changed for most of the international community, although you have had some countries make certain declarations.

Although Israel says that all of Jerusalem is their capital, the Palestinians want to see the eastern part part of their future capital.

But when you do look at what this means, at least for on the ground, it does show that the Australians are determining the western side; the Russians did that last year, so it does keep that line -- the line that they say separates the east and west.

HOWELL: All right. Ian Lee, thank you for the background and reporting. We'll stay in touch.

Next here on NEWSROOM, police arrested the man believed to have stabbed an American student living in the Netherlands. The latest on that investigation is next.




HOWELL: In the Netherlands, a 21-year-old American student who was stabbed to death allegedly by her roommate, police found Sarah Papenheim after they received reports of a dispute in her apartment. The 23-year-old roommate has --


HOWELL: -- been arrested.

Let's get the very latest this hour from Salma Abdelaziz, following the story in the London bureau.

What is the latest on this investigation?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: George, Sarah Papenheim should have been on her way to Minnesota for Christmas next week. Instead, she was tragically found stabbed to death in her apartment in Rotterdam.

Police say there was a quarrel in her apartment and, by the time the authorities arrived, it was too late to save the 21-year old. The primary suspect is her male roommate, the 23-year-old man she met in the Netherlands and befriended over their shared love of music.

But her mother tells local news that she long worried about the instability of the young man and had even warned her daughter away from him.


DONEE ODEGARD, SARAH'S MOTHER: He would have highs and lows. And she noticed that and we had talked and I told her she needed to get out of there because something ain't right.


ABDELAZIZ: Her mother went on to tell local news she has cried so much, her tear ducts are dry. And Sarah's local community in the Twin Cities has also been tragically heartbroken over this at the Christmas season.

She was an aspiring young musician, her friends called her Thumper because she was so good on the drums. And it's the second time the Papenheim family has seen loss. Sarah's brother died of suicide just three years ago. That inspired the young woman to travel to the Netherlands and study psychology at Erasmus University, where, unfortunately, she lost her life.

HOWELL: Salma Abdelaziz, thank you for the reporting. We'll keep in touch.

Still ahead, delegates at the COP24 international climate conference in Poland, they are struggling to agree after almost two weeks of talks.





HOWELL: Talks continue into the weekend as delegates from nearly 200 countries meet in Poland for the COP24 climate conference. They have been trying to flesh out a guidebook on how to implement the Paris climate agreement reached three years ago.

The two-week talks were supposed to end on Friday but disputes remain on how to execute a plan to limit global warming. Nick Paton Walsh has more on this from Poland.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On paper it was supposed to really have concluded by now but we are into extra time here, really, of COP24, vital talks to establish the technical framework, the technical terms of how countries that have agreed, in Paris in 2015, to radically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, how they will transparently audit themselves and possibly who will pay any recompensation for people, for countries that have been damaged by climate change.

Now we're hearing conflicting signals; we were supposed to at some point tonight have heard an update from leaders here about how the talks are going and perhaps later in the night they may emerge with an updated draft text of this agreement. But the task ahead of them is extraordinarily complex.

Over 100 separate nation states have to effectively agree to an incredibly complicated technical framework as to how they will essentially alter their national economies, how they will limit fossil fuel use.

And that has not been helped by the broader tone of the past week or so, altered by last weekend, the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, essentially rejecting a key scientific report about the likely damage to the global climate in the next decade.

And then the U.S. on Monday launching a side event to promote fossil fuel use. That has led some to doubt whether there is international broad consensus here to make real progress.

There are concerns that potentially the final framework they settle upon will be too weak, will be too relaxed and allow too much wiggle room for countries to actually genuinely be forced into openly reducing their emissions.

There are some suggestions, too, that while the U.S. is publicly acting as a spoiler, behind the scenes, it's simply allowing the technical work to go ahead. But extra time really here, constant delays in updates and concerns of a lot of heavy lifting to be done before we finally see some kind of an agreement, if at all -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Katowice.


HOWELL: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

Now to the United States, where a strong storm system is soaking the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, bringing with it severe storms and excessive rain and flooding.



HOWELL: Stay with me here. So diamonds, yellow ones.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I've heard about this.


HOWELL: So the last story is about the largest diamond ever found in North America. You see it right there. Discovered in Canada. A mining company called Dominion Diamond Mines says it discovered a diamond the size of a chicken egg, weighing 552 carats. This in Canada's Northwest Territories.

CABRERA: It's a heavy and expensive chicken egg.

HOWELL: You think?

Plenty of people are smiling. Here is the thing though. It won't be sold in its rough form. Dominion says that it will find a partner to cut and polish the diamond. So somebody or many people will be pretty happy to see it.

CABRERA: You couldn't really wear that anyway, right? HOWELL: My producer keeping saying she wants this.

CABRERA: Go to the diamond district. I think that is probably where it will end up. Lots of pieces, anyway.

HOWELL: Yes. Ivan, thank you for being with us this hour.

I'm George Howell. More news after the break.