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U.S.-North Korea Could Start Another Fiery Exchange; Michael Cohen Starts his Three-year Sentence; Putin Not a Fan of Rap Music; World Headlines; Russian President says rap music should be controlled; CNN goes inside tunnel running from Lebanon to Israel; Explosion near pub in Japan injures dozens; Concerns over detention of 100 Christians; Family of girl who died in U.S. custody seeks answers; Teen slams leaders for climate change inaction; Hillary Clinton gives third-grader a morale boost. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired December 17, 2018 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN HOST: North Korea has a sharp message for the United States, ease up on sections or risk losing any progress toward lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
Also, when it comes to the Russia investigation U.S. president's attorneys says Donald Trump will never sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller.
Russia cracking down on rock. We'll tell you why the Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't seem to be quite a fan of rap music.
We are live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta and we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. Newsroom starts now.
It's 3 a.m. on U.S. East Coast. Thank you for being with us this day.
New sanctions on North Korea have prompted a very harsh response against the United States, putting the relationship between the two countries into question. Pyongyang saying the sanctions could block the path to denuclearization. They warn the two sides could return to, quote, "exchanges of fire."
U.S. sanctions were placed on three North Korean officials for alleged human rights abuses.
Let's get the latest live from Hong Jong with CNN's Will Ripley on the story. And Will, how serious are these sanctions against North Korea?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In and of themselves the sanctions are not particularly serious, George. There are three high-level individuals named who all are very close to interact regularly with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the head of his state security department, his organization and guidance department and the department of propaganda and agitation, which by the way his sister Kim Yo-jong also works for.
But sanctioning these individuals doesn't have that big of an impact overall since there are so many sanctions already in place against North Korea it's not going to hurt much more. It was more a symbolic measure than anything else.
But the fact that the U.S. continues to add sanctions and they bring up the issue of human rights, you know, in addition to the nuclear program is certainly infuriating to the North Koreans, and it's adding to their perception of an atmosphere of hostility from the United States despite the fact that there continues to be a very warm rapport between the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the U.S. President Donald Trump.
And you'll notice even in all of their criticism of the sanctions over the weekend they never criticize President Trump directly. In fact, they say that the sanctions are going against the will of the White House.
Let me ready you a portion of what North Korea's state media put out over the weekend regarding the sanctions. It says, quote, "Added sanctions pressure will block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever, a result desired by no one."
So, they are still expressing a desire to work things out with the United States but also stating the fact that this is an unprecedented opportunity to have this high level of discussions between the North Korean and American leaders and they say it might not happen again.
And that could frankly very well be true because President Trump made a decision that probably no other U.S. president would have made, which is to meet with Kim Jong-un at the beginning of this process which is now turning out to be an extraordinarily difficult process, which is also be surprising to know one given the fact that the Singapore statement was so vague both sides.
The U.S.-North Korea could walk away from it and totally have different, you know, interpretations of what was supposed to happen next. The U.S. and North Korea would immediately begin to denuclearization process or at least be transparent about the weapons they have.
North Korea thought they'd immediately get sanctions relief. Neither side is getting what they want right now, George.
HOWELL: CNN's Will Ripley, live for us in Hong Kong this hour. Will, thank you. We'll keep in touch with you on this.
Now to Saudi Arabia denouncing the U.S. Senate after lawmakers voted to end U.S. military support for the war in Yemen. They also voted to condemn the Saudi crown prince in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. That moved from the Senate also a rebuke of the U.S. President Donald Trump who continues to support the Saudi kingdom.
Saudi Arabia's foreign affairs Ministry issued this statement. I'll read here. "The recent position of the United States Senate which has been built on baseless allegations and accusations includes blatant interference in its internal affairs and the role of the kingdom at the regional and international level."
Moving on now to the United Kingdom, the issue of Brexit and the British prime minister Monday set to warn against the second referendum in the House of Commons. This comes after Theresa May slams her predecessor on this issue. She's accusing Tony Blair of undermining her negotiations on the divorce deal from the E.U. over his comments supporting the idea of a second vote.
[03:04:58] Blair says it isn't irresponsible or insulting to look for an alternative way forward. This as May's chief of staff was forced to deny that he was planning for a new referendum himself. Report came from the Sunday Times, it says some of the prime minister's senior allies are getting ready for a second vote.
Let's go live to London with CNN's Erin McLaughlin following the story. And Erin, there has been more discussion about that possibility of a second vote being put to the people, but with the prime minister's reaction to her predecessor's remarks, does she have the political capital here to stop this from becoming reality.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One thing is clear, George. It doesn't seem that she has the political capital at this point to get her deal through Westminster. Now the meaningful vote is expected to happen sometime in January. Although the opposition is trying to bring that forward to force the vote this month.
But as things stand now, it does not look like she's going to be able to that legislation which believes really a limited number of options. There's then thee hard option, the so-called cliff edge no deal, which is seen as catastrophic to both sides on the channel.
GDP expected to plummet some 7 percent according to projections here in the U.K. if that no deal possibility happened.
The other possibility is the unilateral revoking of article 50, which triggered Brexit in the first place.
Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice ruled that that was possible that the UK has the ability to do that. It seems very unlikely at this point given the fact that Theresa May is so against the possibility of another referendum, arguing that another referendum would be on the Democratic, so that seems to be a ruled out.
So, that leaves the possibility then of course of another referendum. And that does seem to be gaining support here in the United Kingdom. But at this point there's no majority in parliament for any eventuality which is part of the problem here.
HOWELL: OK. So, Erin, the British Parliament clearly opposed to this Brexit deal for the most part of the E.U. promising no new renegotiations here. So, what do you see, basically moving forward for the prime minister who seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place here? Where does she go from here? MCLAUGHLIN: I think it's interesting that in the released excerpts of
her statement to parliament she focuses solely on the possibility of another referendum arguing against that. She's clearly trying to put to the attention there rounded to the fact that she is stuck in between a rock and a hard place.
When she was in Brussels, she insisted that talks between the E.U. and the U.K. are still happening. She's hoping that her chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins who we understand is in Brussels over the Christmas period will continue to talk with the European Council to come up with some sort of mechanism.
Re-negotiation of the withdrawal agreement itself has been ruled time and time again by E.U. leaders. What May and her government are hoping for the possibility of some sort of additional mechanisms, something legally binding, which would essentially get them out or of the customs union, something that would be politically palatable to help her be able to push this through Westminster but at this point that's looking very unlikely.
HOWELL: Erin McLaughlin live for us in our London bureau. Erin, thank you for the reporting.
Let's bring in Steven Erlanger to talk more about this. Steven, the chief diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times in Europe live this hour from Brussels, Belgium. Steven, a pleasure.
STEVEN ERLANGER, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks, George.
HOWELL: Look, there's been this growing chorus of people just getting a bit louder about this possibility of a second referendum all brought to a head by Theresa May's predecessor Tony Blair who went to Brussels to suggest that a second referendum is more likely now.
Theresa May accusing Blair of undermining the negotiations. What do you make of this idea though, of the second referendum? Does it seem that she has the political capital to stop?
ERLANGER: Well, she's certainly trying to. I mean, her whole strategy is y deal or no deal, my way or the highway. The problem is there is no majority in parliament for her deal. Unfortunately, there's no majority in parliament for any deal, but there does seem to be a majority in parliament not to crash out of the European Union on March 29.
So, some people like Blair and it could happen would want parliament to take over control of the process, and vote despite the government's desires for a second referendum.
[03:10:02] No there are lots of reasons why that would be complicated, why it would require delay. What kind of questions would you ask, would it be fair who would give to folks, et cetera, et cetera. But if parliament can't decide the whole idea of punting it back to the people to let them decide again is getting more traction but it is not what Mrs. May want. HOWELL: Steven, we were talking about this in the newsroom just the different options around Brexit. And the question here as we get closer to March and the day the U.K. exits the E.U. is this a matter of Theresa May effectively running down the clock. The closer we get to that date is it put more pressure on M.P.s to either make their peace with this bill, or be responsible for possibly leading to a hard Brexit with no deal.
ERLANGER: Well, that seems to be her strategy. I mean, it's been terribly mismanaged, I have to say, but at this point her argument is, you know, it's a very complicated deal. I've done my best with the red lines that I've had. It's not going to get any better.
So, either, you know, let's accept it and work on what really matters which is true is negotiating a future relationship with the E.U. over the next 20 months because after all, even after March 29, nothing will change for 20 months.
There's a standstill, the standstill deal. So, to some degree, her strategy is a bit like Mohammed Ali used to do, which is like rope-a- dope which is you will lie back against the ropes and protect yourself and my people exhaust themselves by swinging at you but you don't fall down.
ERLANGER: That's Theresa May.
HOWELL: That took me to laugh. Rope-a-dope. I've never heard that analogy brought in the Brexit but I guess it makes sense here. One other question.
ERLANGER: It all makes sense.
HOWELL: Jeremy Corbyn seeming to stay out of the fray lately, but feeling the pressure to back a vote of no confidence, or even putting a second referendum back to the people for a vote.
ERLANGER: Well, Jeremy Corbyn in a strange position because he's actually a Brexiter. He didn't campaign much for remain. His whole desires to pull down the government and it's a very weak government. It's a government completely divided amongst itself. That's what you're hearing.
You have every cabinet minister moving now to maneuver to succeed Theresa May who has already promised to step down before the next election. And then you have Jeremy Corbyn, who is very popular with the young but doesn't have enough support to really yet win an election that he should be. But the labor opposition given the mess in the Tory Party should be way ahead, and it isn't.
So, he's being pushed to ask her vote of no confidence. The problem is it's unlikely that he would win it's because the Tories don't want a new election. And if there is a new election, he may not win either so he's a bit stuck. He's trying to say no to everything to undermine the government and at the same time I think in his heart of hearts he knows the timing isn't right for the Labour Party.
HOWELL: Steven Erlanger, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time and perspective.
ERLANGER: Thanks, George.
HOWELL: You could say this would make a great courtroom drama. The U.S. president's current lawyer takes on Donald Trump's former attorney. Why Rudy Giuliani insist Michael Cohen can't be trusted.
Plus, no social media platform was ever saying from Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. What we're learning from a stunning new report as CNN Newsroom continue son.
[03:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. I'm George Howell.
A chaotic year in Washington winding down with another tweet storm by the U.S. president, Donald Trump, lashing out at multiple targets. On Sunday, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, the Russia investigation, Democrats, the media as he likes to do. And his former fixer, Michael Cohen.
Mr. Trump did not really called his one-time personal attorney, a rat for cooperating with prosecutors. And he got some backup from his current attorney. As our Boris Sanchez explains.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney in cleanup mode after the president's former attorney, Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday and made some disparaging comments about the president over the weekend.
Giuliani trying to put some distance between Cohen and the White House, suggesting that he could not be believed, aiming to discredit him suggesting, for example, that those hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, alleging affairs with the president were not campaign contributions.
Keep in mind that would cause some of the charges that Michael Cohen pled guilty to in the Southern District of New York were related to where those hush money payments campaign finance violations that he made to those women. Further, Giuliani suggested the only way to believe Cohen's claims, or to take his word for it, that's simply not the case.
The Southern District of New York has presented a corroborating evidence to suggest that Michael Cohen is telling the truth. We also know that AMI, the company that owns the National Enquirer, which help to burry those negative stories about the president has corroborated what Cohen has said as well.
So, there's really Giuliani is saying and then there's what's actually happened in court.
Now one thing that's clear is that we haven't possibly heard the last from Michael Cohen. Representative Elijah Cummings, the incoming chairman of the House oversight committee told Jake Tapper over the weekend on State of the Union that he would like to see Michael Cohen testified before Congress yet again. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: I'm hoping that Mr. Cohen will come before Congress where he can tell that the American public exactly what he has been saying to Mueller and others without interfering with the Mueller investigation.
[03:20:01] I think the American people just voted for transparency and integrity in our hearings. They want to hear from him. And I certainly would like to see him come in the month of January to before Congress, and so that people's representatives will have an opportunity to ask him questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: The other question that's out there following reporting from CNN last week that Robert Mueller was still interested in securing an interview with President Trump and having him answer questions in person despite those written answers to questions from the special counsel that were submitted last month, is whether the president would actually sit down for an interview.
Rudy Giuliani was asked about that on Sunday and he sort of joked about it. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK ANCHOR: Is the special counsel does he want to interview the president?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Yes, good lick. Good luck. What they did to Flynn the way they trapped him in a perjury and no sentence for him, 14 days for Papadopoulos? I did better on traffic violations then they did with Papadopoulos.
WALLACE: So, when you say good luck you're saying no way--
GIULIANI: That's a joke. There are joke. Over my dead body, but you know, but I could be dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: In a separate interview, Giuliani strike a bit more of a serious tone saying that he wouldn't comment on that CNN reporting, though he did say that there is an agreement out there between of the president's attorneys and the special counsel that allows for more time and discussion over whether the president will answer more questions that may come from a special counsel.
Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.
HOWELL: Boris, thanks. Michael Cohen is set to start his three-year prison term this coming March. My colleague Jake Tapper talk with Republican Senator Susan Collins about Cohen's conviction and the accusation he acted on the president's orders. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I understand that's Michael Cohen and he has a history of saying things that are not necessarily true but it's not just him making that assertion. The federal prosecutors, the Southern District of New York stated in their filing that the president directed these illegal payments and they were done in coordination with him. Does it bother you that the president of the United States is being accused of ordering felony crimes in order to help him the election?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: Well, let me point out at that there are lot of unanswered ethical legal and factual questions. But clearly, this was not a good week for President Trump, nor for his campaign, the organization and these allegations are concerning. But we need to wait until we have the entire picture.
And that's why it's so critical that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation unimpeded so that we can have the full picture.
TAPPER: I get that when it comes to the Russia investigations because we're still waiting to hear the whole picture there. But when it comes to Michael Cohen, we kind of do have the whole picture. The Southern District of New York said that these payments were illegal. They were campaign contributions and the prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office there saying president -- they were done in direction of and the coordination with President Trump.
I mean, and now Michael Cohen is going to jail as a result of that, and other crimes. Don't we have the whole picture there?
COLLINS: I don't think we do, for one thing the U.S. attorney's office has described Michael Cohen as being deceitful, as being motivated by greed and pointed out that he was not a cooperating witness. And the special counsel side, the special counsel praised him for his cooperation in the Russian investigations.
So, we have two different pictures of Michael Cohen. So, many of the and crimes for which he is going to prison have nothing to do with Donald Trump, such as tax evasion that benefitted him. Lying to the intelligence committee is another crime for which he was punished.
So, the picture there is still murky in my view.
TAPPER: So, there, I mean, there is an audiotape of Michael Cohen talking about these payments with President Trump, I'm sure you've heard the audiotape. Do you -- do you not believe you haven't seen enough evidence to convince you that Donald Trump told Michael Cohen directed him to make these payments to get Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to keep your stories quiet?
COLLINS: I'm not going to engage in speculation because I don't feel that I have the entire picture yet, I have charges and countercharges. Certainly, this is concerning. I don't mean to imply otherwise but I'm going to wait until I have the full picture.
TAPPER: There is -- I mean, he is going to jail but it's not just for that charge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Now the Washington Post has obtained a draft of a report prepared for the U.S. Senate about Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. election. He describes it as the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia's disinformation campaign.
This report studied millions of social media posts provided by technology firms. And here's what it found.
[03:24:59] That Russia used every major social media platform to help elect Mr. Trump. That all of Moscow's messaging was intended to benefit the Republican Party. And on that alone, Facebook alone, Russia campaign -- Russia's campaign, I should say, reached 126 million people.
Washington Post reporter Craig Timberg worked on that report and he chatted about it earlier with my colleague Brian Stelter and Anna Cabrera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG TIMBERG, REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: This is in many ways is the report we've been waiting for, it's sweeping its comprehensive, it uses the fullest dataset we've seen yet from the companies who turned over lots of information to the government that they didn't turn to anybody else.
And so, this is a -- this is, it doesn't exactly tell us things that we didn't suspect or haven't heard, but it puts it all together in a new way and it's a very comprehensive and compelling. I feel like they kind of reverse engineer the entire Russian disinformation campaign in this one report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: And again, that was the Washington Post's, Craig Timberg speaking with Brian Stelter and Anna Cabrera.
Now to the president's new pick for White House chief of staff, whose words have come back to haunt him specifically on whether he actually likes the U.S. president.
Here's what Mick Mulvaney said just a couple of years ago in this video obtained by the Daily Beast. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump. I'm doing so as enthusiastically as I can, given the fact that I think he's a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Ouch. Mulvaney currently heads up the Office of Management and Budget. A spokeswoman for that office released this statement that does provide important context. It says, "This is old news. These comments were made in 2016 when he was a congressman and had not had yet to meet the president."
Live here in the United States and around the world. You are watching Newsroom. And still ahead, rap music and rap artists in Russia and fans are not staying quiet amid a government crackdown.
HOWELL: Why the Russian President Vladimir says that needs to be controlled. Plus, CNN goes underground with the Israeli military uncovering cross border tunnels. The Israelis fear it could be used to attack civilians.
[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers here in the United States and all over the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom live from Atlanta, and we thank you for it. I'm George Howell with the headlines we are following for you this hour.
North Korea says new sanctions imposed by the United States could block the path to denuclearization. The U.S. Treasury sanctioned three senior North Korean officials last week for alleged human rights abuses. Pyongyang warned the measures could return both sides to "exchanges of fire."
In Brussels a protest against the United Nations migration pact turned violent on Sunday. Police say about 5,000 people marched, demonstrations organized by the Flemish right-wing parties. Some of the protesters clashed with police officers. Police used tear gas and water canons to disperse the crowds.
This is the scene in the Hungarian capital. Thousands of anti- government protesters took to the streets for a fourth straight night Sunday. Some clashing with police, riot police, who fired tear gas. Demonstrators are angry over what they call a slave law which would let employers ask workers to do 400 hours of overtime a year, up from 250. In Russia, a rap battle is brewing. In one corner, the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and in the other, the nation's hip hop artists. Listen.
HOWELL (voice over): The Russian president is weighing in on official effort to crack down on rap music. He said Saturday, it is an important part of pop culture, but he also said it needed to be guided by the state. The comments come after the detention of Husky, a popular Russian rapper who you see here.
HOWELL: Lets' go live to the Russian capital. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is following the story, and rap guided by the state, Fred? Huh?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It seems like a bit of a contradiction, doesn't it, but it certainly has been a big problem here in Russia. I would say it is sort of brewing over the past couple of months and that rapper that we just saw there, Husky, he sort of been at the center of the scandal that has been going on here in Russia.
He had a couple of concerts that were canceled, a couple of concerts that were stopped because, obviously, some of the local officials didn't like some of the lyrics that he has in his songs. And the reason why he was arrested is, I think, we are seeing it right now, because after one of his concerts was canceled due to the fact that local officials didn't like what he was saying, he tried to put on a performance on the roof of a car, and then he was arrested and he was in jail for 12 days.
And I think he is out by now, but of course, there is a lot of problem for him and for other rappers as well to actually be able to put on these shows. It was interesting that Vladimir Putin is weighing in all of this because he said that he spoke to a language expert about all this and the language expert told him that rap is just simply right now for young people, a part of popular culture, and that's where Vladimir Putin came up with the fact that he believes that it cannot be banned but he does believe that the state needs to guide it.
Of course, the state here in Russia guides a lot of things in multiple ways. And so now they're trying to come up with a strategy to do it now. I want to just read to you one quote where he said, one thing I agree with completely is if it is impossible to stop, then it is necessary to navigate and guide accordingly, but how to do so depends on us.
So it looks like they're going to have to come up with some sort of strategy of how they want to do this. Meanwhile, all this keeps brewing. One of the big issues that Vladimir Putin says that he has with the rap music is that he believes that three things are important in a lot of the lyrics, drugs, sex and, of course, also protests. Of course, protests is a hot ticket issue here but Vladimir Putin says to him, the biggest problem is wrapping about drugs and glorying drugs and that's the reason why he believes the state needs to find some sort of way to guide rap music and to guide young people, George.
HOWELL: Interesting. Fred, one other question to you. Is there a greater threat? So, you bring up the issue of protest as you laid the other issues. Protest certainly is one that comes to the fore. Is that the bigger issue here?
[03:35:01] PLEITGEN: Well, on the face of it, Vladimir Putin says no. He says, look, for him drugs are the big issue. He said he believes that people rap also as part of the sex issue, concerned about a lot of their body parts. It's not necessarily something that he wants to necessarily hear, but it is also not necessarily something that he says that he wants to restrict.
But of course, here in Russia, there is a track record of trying to reign in protests and trying to stop at least public protests. Certainly, there are a lot of people, Husky probably being one of them, this rapper, who believes that the protest part of it is the actual real problem.
And if you look at some other popular culture acts like for instance the band Pussy Riot who have obviously very much been restricted, members have been in jail, they accuse the Russian government of poisoning one their band members which of course the Russian government denies. There have in the past been problems with bands that have lyrics that are contradictory to some of the things that the state wants to hear here.
So, it is a delicate issue. You can tell that Vladimir Putin knows it is a delicate issue because trying to completely reign this is something that could cause a lot of problems especially with young people here I Russia.
At the same time, they do want to influence it somehow and make it -- I think they would think less dangerous for what they see as the stability of the government, the stability of the state and they don't want to face it. They said protest is the bigger problem but it certainly does also seem to be a problem at least for a lot of these local officials who canceled some of the concerts here in Russia, George.
HOWELL: Maybe if he were to hear some old school Atlanta rap like Outkast, that could change his mind, but I don't know, Fred.
HOWELL: Fred Pleitgen live for us in Moscow, thank you.
PLEITGEN: Maybe we will send him some.
HOWELL: I'm sure. Thank you. It has been almost two weeks since the Israeli army started Operation Northern Shield along the border with Lebanon. The army says the aim is to uncover and disable tunnels built by the Hezbollah militant group. CNN is the first broadcaster to get permission to bring a camera inside one of these tunnels.
Let's bring in our correspondent Ian Lee live from Jerusalem. Ian, what more can you tell us about what you saw with regard to these tunnels?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: George, Israel takes these tunnels very seriously and even though we are about two weeks into this operation, they say that it could take weeks, if not months longer to search the entire border, but take a look at our exclusive look at one of their tunnels.
LEE (voice over): There's a secret in this hole. Those responsible prefer you not to know. We dropped a camera down past tens of meters of hard limestone to reveal a sophisticated tunnel, complete with ventilation, lights. It's large enough for an NBA player to stand in. Israel says it's the work of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group with ties to Iran.
(on camera): It was important for the Israeli military to drill as close to this wall as possible and that's because on the other side of this wall is Lebanon. What they wanted to show is how Hezbollah's tunnel began in Lebanon and entered Israel. Finding this tunnel though wasn't so much on what they saw, but rather on what they heard.
(voice over): Vibrations from drilling exposed the digging. This video shows when the Lebanese militants first discovered their tunnels were no longer a secret.
(on camera): In that video we see an explosion. What can you tell me about that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The explosion, we decided not to kill those people walking in the tunnels. It was a warping for the other side to stay out the tunnels. We have the tunnels booby trapped.
LEE (voice over): Four tunnels have been uncovered so far. The army expects to find more. Israel says they violate a 12-year-old ceasefire. U.N. peace keepers who monitor the border are investigating. Secrets of sophisticated technology provides a location. Then they start to drill. There's little margin for error.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you drill half a metre to the right or half a meter to the left, that's it, you're out. You're not in the tunnel and you didn't achieve your goal.
LEE (voice over): Kind of like finding a needle in a haystack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's more complicated than that.
LEE (voice over): The army says that uncovering the tunnels early has limited the threat. But they have the potential to do Israel great harm. Thousands of civilians living near the border at risk of kidnapping or worse.
A senior Hezbollah official previously told CNN the group were surprised by Israel's operation but neither confirmed nor denied they were digging tunnels. Meanwhile, Israel continues to dig down to build up security.
LEE: And George, Israel says that these tunnels are a clear example of Hezbollah violating U.N. security council resolution 1701. This brought an end to that 2006 war.
[03:40:02] I spoke with the U.N. observer mission that monitors that border. They say they're aware of the tunnels, they've investigated the tunnels, they are going to continue their investigations and give those findings to the security council. It is up to them to decide then if it has been violated or not. In the meantime though, Israel does continue to look for these tunnels that are crossing their northern border, George.
HOWELL: Ian Lee live for us there at 10:40 in the morning in Jerusalem. Ian, thank you for the report.
Still ahead here on Newsroom, China's arrest of 100 Christians has many wondering, is religious freedom in danger there? CNN has live report ahead. Plus, U.S. Congress is getting involved. This after a 7- year-old migrant girl loses her life in U.S. custody. What they're looking for, right after the break. Stay with us.
HOWELL: In Japan, authorities are investigating the cause of a massive explosion near a pub in Sapporo. At least 42 people were injured there, one person critically. The blast on Sunday night was so strong, so powerful it shattered windows across the street. A fire that followed caused the building to collapse. Witnesses said they smelled gas after that explosion, but a gas leak has not been confirmed.
A prominent pastor is calling China's moves against Christians, a wicked unlawful action. Wang Yi is one of 100 Christians who were taken into custody last week. Western governments and civil rights advocates are condemning Beijing for its mass arrest of religious community. It is just the latest move in China's stepped up crackdown on independent religious practise.
Let's go live to Hong Kong. CNN's Alexandra Field is following the story. Alexandra, what more can you tell us about what compelled the Chinese government to take this action on this group?
[03:45:02] ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wang Yi is a 45-year-old pastor, George, of an underground church, but he has got hundreds of congregants. He is very outspoken and his writings and his speaking is very public in China despite the fact that this is an underground church. He has been a vocal critic of the communist party, of government, of President Xi Jinping and China himself and increasingly of the strengthening regulations against religion in China. All that has put him in the crosshairs of authorities before and it seems to have put him on the radar of authorities again.
This is a pastor who presumed he could, in fact, one day be arrested. He had even written that manifesto to be published in the event of his arrest which talked about what he perceives to be the persecution of the church in China. Recently we have seen of course China cracking down on unregistered churches, demolition of those churches, demolition of crosses, the banning of the online sale of bibles.
All of this is seen as the part of the communist party's wider goal of establishing and asserting and maintaining more control. Their view towards organized religion as being something that could be a threat in terms of its very ability to organize people and to invite in foreign influence. We have seen these measures to curtail religion. Certainly it is legal to practise religion in China but houses of worship are of course subject to surveillance by the communist party.
Wang Yi was the pastor of an unregistered church which is something that would put him on the radar of authorities, not to mention the fact that he was certainly fiery and outspoken in his criticism. He is facing very serious charge now, George. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.
So, this is the kind of arrest that is absolutely raising alarm among activists in China and internationally as well as among some western governments, so they're keeping a careful eye on what is going on inside China.
HOWELL: All right. Alexandra Field with the report, thank you. Now to a story that has sparked outrage here in the United States, and now the grieving family of a child who died while in the custody of the U.S. wants answers.
Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin of Guatemala died in a hospital in El Paso, Texas. It happened on December 8. She had been detained by Customs and Border Patrol. The cause of death is not yet determined, but her family wants to know exactly what happened.
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RUBEN GARCIA, FAMILY SPOKESMAN: The family of Jakelin Caal Maquin is still coping with their profound loss. The death of a child is the most painful experience that a parent or family can endure. The family is seeking an objective and thorough investigation and are asking that investigators will assess this incident with a nationally-recognized standards for the arrest and custody of children.
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HOWELL: As I said, it has sparked outrage and now U.S. lawmakers are getting involved. Some will be heading to the state of Texas on a fact-finding mission. Our Ed Lavandera has that report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Tuesday, a congressional delegation will travel to Lordsburg, New Mexico to tour the border patrol station where 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin was taken just hours after she started showing signs of distress and vomiting. It was from that border patrol station that she was flown to El Paso hospital and where she later died.
So, there have been a number of calls for investigation as to how all of this enfolded and why this young girl became sick hours after being taken into border patrol custody. Department of Homeland Security officials say that the agency did everything it could to save this young girl's life.
And over the weekend, we heard from the father of the young girl for the first time who also echoed those statements that he felt that the agents on that bus and the medical professionals did everything they could to save his daughter's life. However, the father did dispute some of the initial accounts that came from the Department of Homeland Security.
DHS officials initially said that the young girl had gone days without food and water. The father of the young girl says that's not true, that she had properly fed and hydrated throughout their journey to the border. So all of this continues to unfold here. The father remains in El Paso, Texas as calls for investigation and criticism of the Trump administration immigration policy continues here along the border.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, El Paso, Texas.
HOWELL: Ed, thank you. Still ahead here on Newsroom, she is only 15 years old, but a young activist says world leaders who are not mature enough to deal with global warming should be called out and she is doing just that and it is going viral on social media. Also, who better to offer words of comfort about losing an election than Hillary Clinton? We will have that story ahead.
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GRETA THUNBERG, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don't care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money.
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HOWELL: The powerful, frank, important words of a 15-year-old activist, Greta Thunberg, who got quite a bit of attention at the U.N. climate conference that took place in Poland this past week. She accused negotiators of stealing young people's futures because leaders haven't done enough to curve global warming. Those comments quickly went viral.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders said Thunberg called out world leaders for their inaction. Earlier this year, the young activist went on a strike from school, protesting outside the Swedish parliament for weeks over climate change.
An 8-year-old girl in Maryland is enjoying a huge morale boost after losing an election for class president.
[03:54:58] Martha Kennedy Morales lost the election to a young boy at her school just by one vote. But then she received a letter of encouragement from, of all people, the former presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Clinton sent this letter in early December and wrote in part, as I know too well, it's not easy to stand up and put yourself in contention for a role that is only been sought by boys. She adds, the most important thing is that you fought for what you believe in and that is always worth it. Martha shared her reaction at CNN. Listen.
MARTHA KENNEDY MORALES, RECEIVED A LETTER FROM HILLARY CLINTON: I thought, like, I didn't really - I was just really surprised.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Are you a fan of Hillary Clinton's?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Did you pay close attention to the race in 2016?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): You were sad when she lost?
MORALES: Yeah. I was pretty sad because it was disappointing. We knew that the runner-up was going to get the vice president, but still it's disappointing to figure out that you lost something that you fought for really hard and you put a lot of effort into it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we can all understand that. Are you going to run again for president next semester?
MORALES: Yeah. I mean, if we do this -- if we do this unit again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Does this mean that you think you have a future in politics?
MORALES: Yeah, I guess.
HOWELL: Somehow, I don't think we have heard the last from her. Thank you for being with us this hour for CNN Newsroom. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. Early Start is next for viewers here in the United States. For our viewers around the world, my colleague Max Foster kicks it off live from London. You are watching CNN, the world's news leader.
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