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CONNECT THE WORLD
Trump Says U.S. Gets Nothing from Being Policeman of Mideast; Putin Agrees with Trump's Syria Decision; Tunnels Heighten Tensions on Israeli- Lebanese Border; All Flights Suspended at Gatwick Airport Because of Drone Sightings; Weinstein Case Moves Forward, Pretrial March 7; Trump, ISIS is Beaten in Syria, Troops Coming Home; U.S. Feds Announcing Law Enforcement Action on China; Cartoonist Takes on Trump with Biting Commentary. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 20, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Robyn Curnow here in Atlanta. Great to see you all. So, let's start
with our top story.
U.S. President Donald Trump says it is not in America's interests to be the policemen of the Middle East, defending a decision that not only blind-
sided many allies in the region but also political allies back at home. He is ordering a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, saying ISIS
has been defeated there. An assessment contradicted by some of his own military brass. Now, the vacuum left by U.S. forces is welcome news for
the Syrian government and its powerful backers, Russia and Iran. But also, Turkey. That's because the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria are aiding Kurdish
fighters who are considered terrorists by Ankara. Well, Mr. Trump explained his decision in a video message which was posted on Twitter. He
says U.S. troops have beaten ISIS, quote, badly, claiming quote, historic victories. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back, and they're coming back now. We
won. And that's the way we want it. And that's the way they want it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Well, a new tweets this morning, in the last few hours, appears to undercut that main argument, that ISIS in Syria has been defeated. He
claims Russia, Iran, Syria, and many others, are not happy about the U.S. leaving. This is the tweet. Because in his words, they will now have to
fight ISIS without us.
So we're taking you around the world this hour to see how countries are reacting to these U.S. troop withdrawals and the scrambling around places
to adjust to this new reality. So we're joined by Stephen Collinson in Washington, Gul Tuysuz in Istanbul, Nima Elbagir in London and Frederik
Pleitgen in Moscow. Stephen, I am going to start with you in Washington. Because we've had this barrage of tweets throughout the morning. In many
ways, the U.S. President contradicting the argument that he put out yesterday.
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Robyn, I think when he talks about and claims that Russia, Iran and others are not happy
about the U.S. leaving, I think we can read that as a sign that the President is slightly concerned about the massive opposition to his move,
and criticism on geopolitical grounds coming from his allies in Washington, members of his own staff, and even from the military.
But when he talks about the fact that he wants to get troops home, that he doesn't want the world -- the U.S. to be the world's policeman, I think he
is on much stronger political ground. Although that view is not shared by people in Washington who are concerned about America's national security,
and his posture around the world, this is a very strong strain in U.S. politics. In fact, it goes back all the way to the election of Barack
Obama in 2008. He was saying then that it is time for America's troops to come home from post-9/11 wars. So where as a lot of the things that the
President does put him in an extreme position that is not shared by a lot of Americans, this is not so far from the mainstream as you would interpret
from all of the reactions that we've seen in Washington.
CURNOW: And Fred, I want to go to you there in Moscow, because when we talk about the President tweeting that Russia, Syria, and Iran and many
others are not happy about this decision, again another contradiction. Clearly, we've seen from Russia, a support for this decision. Mr. Putin
came out, saying that pretty clearly in the last few hours, didn't he?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. And you're absolutely right it was certainly in the last
few hours, Vladimir Putin held his year-end very large and very long press conference which ran for nearly four hours. And within that press
conference, you're absolutely right. He praised President Trump's decision to leave Syria. He said if he were to be asked whether the U.S. should get
out of Syria, he said yes. He feels that they should get out.
Now, Vladimir Putin also said at this point in time he's not sure whether the U.S. would actually do that. He still seemed to have some doubts that
it could in reality happen. He said, look, the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for 17 years and they keep saying they want to come out and so
far, they haven't done that yet. But by and large, yes, he said that he believes the U.S. should get out of Syria. He says that Russia believes
that the U.S. is in Syria illegally because it's not part of any U.N. resolution, it is not there at the invitation of the Syrian government,
under Bashar al-Assad which of course the Russians are.
One thing where he did however agree with President Trump was President Trump's assessment that ISIS has been defeated. Let's listen in to one
sound bite from Vladimir Putin from his press conference just a couple of hours ago.
[10:05:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- announce that he will be withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): As far as ISIS is concerned, I agree more or less with the President of the U.S. And I have
spoken about this before, have really achieved substantial changes with regard to the militants in Syria and have beaten the forces in Syria. As
far as the neighboring regions are concerned, and in Afghanistan, in other countries, moreover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: So we have Vladimir Putin, if he is unhappy about the U.S. leaving, we certainly didn't see it at that press conference, we sat
through as well, because of course, Robyn, one of the things that is key is that right now of course the Russians are, if the U.S. indeed does pull its
forces out, the main power broker and by far the strongest outside nation active in Syria, if the U.S. does indeed leave -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, you make an excellent point. And Gul, to you there in Turkey. In many ways, this move, this political decision, also removes a
road block for Turkey, in terms of the Kurds fighting on the ground there. What is the next step?
GUL TUYSUZ, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL PRODUCER: Well, Robyn, we don't necessarily know what the next step is going to be, but we do know that
Ankara, Turkish President Erdogan over the last couple of weeks have been ratcheting up the rhetoric and saying that the Turkish military could at
any moment enter into Syria, go into that part of northern Syria, where the U.S. troops were backing Kurdish fighting forces on the ground there.
Turkey views that group as an extension of a terrorist group here at home. And has been very vocal about wanting to go in and expel those Kurds from
along the Turkish/Syrian border.
Now that would be the third operation that Turkey carries out into Syrian territory. What it would look like, what had the scale and the scope of
that operation is something we don't know. But the main road block in that Turkish threat was the possibility that U.S. forces and Turkish troops
would be on opposing sides. These two NATO militaries, being on opposite sides. A very dangerous and chaotic front line with the U.S. troops now
being pulled out. That is in some ways giving the Turks a green light to go ahead and carry out this operation. When it will be, what the scope
will be, is something we don't know. And most importantly, we don't know what that map, that very complicated map of Syria will look like, if Turkey
does go ahead -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Thanks so much for that. And Nima to you, you've traveled extensively in the region and reported on this. When we talk about whether
or not this fight against -- whether or not this fight against ISIS is over, I think you will see very few people agreeing with the President's
statement yesterday. When he said that essentially, they were defeated. What do we know about the action that's going on right now on the ground in
Syria with ISIS?
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know the Department of Defense's assessment back in August, that there are over
14,500 ISIS fighters still remaining in Syria. And the President's own envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, Brett McGurk, recently said that even
though we are down to -- we, the coalition -- are down to fighting over the last remaining one percent of territory held by ISIS, and that then Hajin.
This is expected to be the toughest fight. Because those that have survived this far, they believe to be the most hardened fighters. So it is
not nothing, the territory that remains is not nothing. The fighters that remain are not nothing.
And just a few of the regional commanders involved in this fight that we have been speaking to, all of them share the same concern, that you're
sending two messages through this. You're sending one message is which is to ISIS, just hold on because the U.S. is pulling out and the U.S. is doing
the bulk of a lot of the special forces work in the area, so you just need to hold on to be able to survive. But you're also sending a broader
message to the region and to the world which is that the U.S. cannot be counted on to go the distance. That is the reality, the key U.S. allies
are grappling with today -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, there are so many implications to this decision. So Stephen Collinson, you there in Washington, it begs the question, after all we've
heard from all of you around the world, why? Why did the U.S. President make this decision seemingly against the advice of just about everybody in
his cabinet, and his political allies? Why?
COLLINSON: I think there are a number of possible reasons. First of all, I think that Donald Trump, as has been demonstrated from his rhetoric for
many years, believes that the U.S. should not be so committed around the world. That he sees operations like these and alliances as ways for people
to get the U.S. to do their dirty work for them, to protect them.
[10:10:04] He has a very strong sense of belief in his own capabilities in these areas. And is not someone that often listens to advice. You
remember way back in the campaign, he said that he knows more about ISIS than the generals. I guess we're going to find out about that, in the
Now, in the coming years, some people are already saying that this is a President who is under intense political and legal pressure, from the
Mueller probe. He's having to climb down in a showdown over funding for his border wall that he's trying to distract from that. That this is a
deflectionary tactic. But I have to say, the more we talk about deflectionary tactics, we also have to realize that the President does
things which are very, very significant and very serious. So to sort of put this down to just some way to change the news cycle in Washington, I
think, doesn't give it the gravity that it really deserves.
CURNOW: Well, that's why we need to go back to Fred Pleitgen, I think in Moscow. And Fred, because what we're seeing here, when we talk about the
gravity of this decision, whether or not it is just an ad hoc political decision taken by a President who is known for doing this, or the more
sinister question that some critics have posed is why does this decision align with Russian national interests?
PLEITGEN: That's a very good question, and we certainly have seen in the past that President Trump has certainly tried to improve relations with the
Kremlin and certainly the folks in the Kremlin feel that President Trump is still trying to do that. But is somewhat hand-strung as they say by other
political forces inside the United States. Whether or not his decision to pull out of Syria has anything to do with that, certainly very much up for
question and it certainly doesn't seem to be anything to necessarily suggest that that is the case.
However, we do have to state that Vladimir Putin in his press conference was fully on board, with President Trump pulling the United States out of
Syria. And generally, was quite positive towards the President of the United States, saying, for instance, that Donald Trump had won the U.S.
election without a reasonable doubt and that everybody -- or he didn't understand people who were still calling that into question.
He also praised some of President Trump's campaign tactics, saying that some of the divisions between rich and poor people for instance in the
United States were used by President Trump in his election campaign, and that's why he won. And so therefore, there is still quite a positive
atmosphere between these two leaders. Of course, nothing to necessarily suggest that they tried to align their policies, but certainly, you know,
there have been days between Vladimir Putin and President Trump where I'm sure they have not been on the same page. For instance, when President
Trump canceled his last meeting with Vladimir Putin ahead of the G-20 summit, it certainly seems as though this is one of those days where on
many political fronts they do, or their interests do seem to very much align -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK, Fred, thanks so much. Stephen Collinson, Gul and Nima, appreciate it. Great to have all of your perspective from around the
Now the U.S. withdrawal from Syria could throw the entire region into chaos as we've been speaking about. The country a critical, critical buffer zone
between Iran and Israel. The presence of American troops and Kurdish control areas of eastern Syria have been keeping Iran from expanding
throughout the country, into Iraq and to Lebanon. Now that scenario is already on edge. As CNN's Ben Wedeman saw firsthand when he visited the
border between Israel and Lebanon.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The line that separates Lebanon from Israel is tense at the best of times. Ever
more so, Israel is searching for tunnels and claims Hezbollah has dug into Israeli territory. A soldier keeps a close eye through his scope on the
CNN crew on the other side of the fence known as the blue line. Since the Israeli operation dubbed northern shield began more than two weeks ago,
they have uncovered at least four tunnels. Hezbollah, closely aligned with Iran has no comment.
Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the tunnels amount to an act of war. The rhetoric on both sides is taking on a
menacing tone. Last month, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warned his fighters would strike if Israel strikes.
Any aggression toward Lebanon, he said, any raid on Lebanon, any shelling of Lebanon, will definitely, definitely, definitely be answered.
Lebanon and Israel have been officially in a state of war since 1948. In the summer of 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought for more than a month. But
since then, none has prevailed. The possibility of small incidents however sparking a broader conflict always looms large.
[10:15:00] (on camera): We are right on the border between Israel and Lebanon. And just to give you an idea how close everyone is to one
another, this is a Lebanese army position. Over there, under the camouflage, are Israeli troops. And right there, are U.N. peacekeepers.
(voice-over): Hezbollah's forces are nowhere to be seen. Many of them simply local residents who joined the group. On this hilltop, we met two
young men who said they had come to enjoy the view. This man, who identified himself simply at Abu Wahab, told me God gives strength to the
army and the resistance. We're with them.
The U.N. interim force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, it is tasked with implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701. Which brought an end
to the 2006 hostilities but also stipulated that armed group, meaning Hezbollah, should disarm. But in Lebanon's complicated political
landscape, Hezbollah has managed to keep and build up its arsenal and send its fighters to bolster the Syrian army in its war against the rebels.
Israel worried Hezbollah is growing ever stronger almost daily sends its warplanes into Lebanese air space. The Lebanese government has responded
to the tunnel report, saying the Lebanese army has been instructed to take all necessary measures to implement Resolution 1701 and maintain calm on
the border. UNIFIL spokesman, Andrea Tenenti, stresses the importance of continued calm, despite violations by both sides.
ANDREA TENENTI, SPOKESMAN, UNIFIL: There have been violations from both sides of 1701. What's important to emphasize, that there have been
violations, but it all been the stability in the south of Lebanon.
WEDEMAN: Stability, yes. But one wrong step, and it could blow. Ben Wedeman, CNN, South Lebanon.
CURNOW: Thanks Ben for that report.
Now Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that in America's absence from Syria, his country will step up its military campaign, so
let's go to Jerusalem. Ian lee is standing by. Ian, good to see you. What are the consequences of the American withdrawal from Syria where you
are in Israel? What do that mean?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, the decision has been sharply criticized by politicians as well as members of the military here in
Israel. And they say that the American withdrawal from Syria will make it a more dangerous place, especially when Israel -- it comes to Israel, and
that's because a lot of Israelis are concerned about Iran's presence inside of Syria. They believe that this will embolden Iran. That they will be
able to entrench themselves even further.
The Prime Minister here has also come under criticism as well. And that's because they're looking at Netanyahu and Trump's relationship. They have
built this image of a strong relationship. And the criticism is that even that strong relationship wasn't enough to keep the United States inside of
But as we heard from the Prime Minister, he said that he is going to increase their operations against Iran. He also said this. He said we
will continue to take very strong action against Iran's attempts to entrench itself Syria. I know that we do so with the full support and
backing of the United States.
And it is no secret that Israel has carried out a number of air strikes targeting Iran, targeting what they say are weapons transfers, to
Hezbollah, in Lebanon. And even though Israel says that they are going to keep up these strike, they are going to increase these strikes. But you
know, really, when you look at it, this announcement surprised a lot of people. I think a lot of officials in Israel are still trying to figure
out what this exactly means.
CURNOW: Yes, thanks so much. There in Jerusalem, Ian Lee, thank you.
Still to come, here at CNN, the drones who stole Christmas. For thousands of people now stranded in endless lines at one of the world's busiest
airports. But where did the drones who caused all of the chaos come from? And who is controlling them? We will go to London next.
[10:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing? You're making everyone's life a misery, I'm sure that's what their intention was in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Illegal drones have forced the U.K.'s second biggest airports to cancel all flights as the frantic holiday travel season of course ramps up.
It is just days until Christmas.
So let's put a number on the disruption. Over 100,000 passengers were due to take off and land at Gatwick just today. But flights remain suspended
as authorities investigate. Now, drones were spotted flying close to the airfield on Wednesday night. But just in the last few hours, the airport's
chief operating officer confirmed that yet another had been spotted. Earlier, police tweeted that while they don't think it is terror-related,
they do believe the disruption is deliberate. So let's get over to Anna Stewart. She's standing by at Gatwick Airport. Wow, what a mess. So
there are still drones about. And nobody can find them, or take them down?
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: No, and the police have told us that they keep sighting these drones. I'm not sure when the last one was, but regularly
throughout the day. So, every time they think it may have gone down. I have to say, it did reopen at 3:00 a.m. but then they are spotted again.
So, it's still closed. Flights are canceled, at least until 4:00 p.m. but essentially, until they can find the perpetrators of the drones. And that
is very difficult. Some passengers I have spoken to have been stranded here now for well over 15, 18 hours. They are very fed up. So of course,
are the airline, and the airport itself. And I did speak to the COO, the chief operating officer earlier today and here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WOODROOFE, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, GATWICK AIRPORT: It is clearly our intention to get open again but only when it is safe to do so. And
currently, we have had, within the last hour, another drone sighting and so at this stage, we are not open and I cannot tell you what time we will
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Very, very frustrating. Now, it is illegal to fly a drone in the U.K. above 120 meters. It is illegal to fly a drone within one kilometer
of an airfield or an airport. The perpetrators -- we have seen this more than one -- they would face up to five years if found guilty. But the
problem is, Robyn, is finding them. It's incredibly hard to find these drones, and to find the operators.
CURNOW: Well, let's also talk about the drones. Because these aren't the kind of drones that some kids are going to get in their -- you know, their
Christmas sack on Christmas morning. I mean there seems to be quite a high level of expertise and technicality involved in these particular drones.
And again, what about the security implications? Surely there's been some sort of contingency planning in the U.K. for some sort of drone attack even
if it is just a nuisance attack. Why can't they jam systems or take it down?
STEWART: Yes, it's more complicated than I've seen.
CURNOW: I'm assuming so.
But the they actually said these drones are not your standard one off the shop shelf. You'd be very lucky to get one in your stocking, Robyn.
Because these are -- the police say they have industrial sort of specifications.
[10:25:02] Which means they have very long ranges and actually they may not even need an operator at all. Because they could be operating by AI. They
could be operating by telemetry. These are all very clever technologies and that is another reason why it is hard to detect them. Because they not
be operating by GPS necessarily. It may not be operated by Wi-Fi. That means any kind of GA fencing or any kind of blocking technology wouldn't
work. Essentially it is not sending out those kind of signals.
This is a huge problem. Not just for Gatwick, but for all airports. And I have to say that the airport told me all they can do is work with industry,
work with the government and that this isn't limited to them. This is a problem for the entire industry. These drones that you buy now, you don't
have to register them. You may not have to trace them. And actually, our drone operator at CNN tells me increasingly people are able to even build
their own -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Ok, keep us posted. There we go, at Gatwick Airport, Anna Stewart, thanks so much.
Well, let's take you to the U.S. now where a New York judge has ruled that the case which sparked the me-too movement will move forward. The
disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein as seen here leaving court less than an hour before the judge. That judge declined to dismiss charges against
him. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to five felony sexual misconduct charges, including sexual assault and rape. A pretrial hearing has now
been set for March 7. Jean Casarez has been following the story, all the twists and turns for us from New York. So, OK, just take us through what
happened in court. There was a concern that maybe these charges would be dropped or kicked out but they weren't.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, well in court, it was very interesting, the judge did not announce the decision. But we do have it
officially now, at this point, from the district attorney's office of Manhattan. That the judge refused to dismiss the indictment, did not
dismiss any charge. This case is now proceeding to trial. And we are downtown New York City at the New York State Supreme Court building.
Harvey Weinstein left just a few minutes ago.
But the courtroom was packed. And there were actresses in it, in the courtroom including Marisa Tomei, who has won an Academy Award. A lot of
women were there in support of the accusers. Believing there needs to be justice in this case.
When Harvey Weinstein walked in with his attorneys, he did not go up to the center of the courtroom. He sat in a pew in the courtroom, actually
ironically directly in front of me. So I watched him, he was silent, quiet, professional, breathing calmly, did not move a muscle as he sat in
that pew in front of me. But finally, went up to the well, sat in the defendant's chair.
And when the judge came in, he did not announce the decision, but asked the attorneys to go up for a side bar. So none of us knew exactly what he was
saying. I saw a smile on the prosecutor's face. I also saw calendars come out. So you've got a gist that it was not going for the way of the
defense, but when they turned around, the prosecutor was smiling, defense not at all. But Harvey Weinstein conceivably didn't know what the decision
was, because he was sitting in the defendant's chair.
But that packed courtroom saw the smile, saw the body language, Gloria Allred, a very famous civil lawyer here in the United States, one of her
clients is one of the two accusers, the prosecutor shook her hand. You saw what was happening. But I think the headline here is that this case is
proceeding to trial. March 7th is a pretrial hearing. There will be many motions now in this case because the prosecution very well may want other
women to testify, prior bad act witnesses, other women that say they were sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. But now, both sides are going to
battle it out.
CURNOW: OK, so that me-too movement is not over yet. This is going to continue, a fascinating details, there from you, Jean Casarez there from
that courtroom, appreciate it.
Live from Atlanta, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Robyn Curnow. Coming up, a different perspective on the U.S. decision to with draw from Syria.
We'll look at how the fight on the ground could change when U.S. troops are gone.
[10:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CURNOW: I'm Robyn Curnow, thanks for joining us. Let's return to our top story at this hour.
The stunning decision by the U.S. President, Donald Trump, to pull U.S. forces out of Syria. Mr. Trump claims the mission against ISIS is done,
but facts seem to suggest otherwise. CNN has learned U.S. troops conducted over 200 air strikes and artillery attacks against ISIS forces in just one
week, earlier this month. After Mr. Trump's pull-out, all U.S. air strikes will end because there'll be no spotters on the ground to conduct
intelligence and call in air strikes. Well, Nick Paton Walsh has reported extensively from Syria, and he looks at how it might change things now on
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Flying low over the fight against ISIS. You can see the battle has been brutal. But
it's far from done. ISIS is regrouping out there. And in just ten minutes before Trump's mission accomplished tweet, claimed responsibility for an
attack in the city of Raqqah. These drone pictures are just days old, from the city of Hajin, where ISIS's remaining leaders like Abu Bakr al-
Baghdadi, and die-hards refuse to give in.
Whatever you hear, this is not defeat. Regardless, the Pentagon is leaving. The coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, a statement
said, but the campaign against ISIS is not over. We have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from Syria as we transition to the
next phase of the campaign. But the sudden withdrawal does defeat two major U.S. policy goal here, a number of U.S. special forces were limiting
Iranian and Russian influence here calming allies in the region like Israel. They were also --
CURNOW: We're going to have to interrupt that report and go to the U.S. Justice Department. They're making a major announcement regarding a China-
related law enforcement action. Let's listen in.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Charges include conspiracy to commit, computer intrusion against dozens of companies in the United
States, and around the world.
[10:35:00] As with all American criminal charges, individual defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court. This case is
significant, because the defendants are accused of targeting and compromising managed service providers, or MSPs.
MSPs are firms that are trusted to store, process and protect commercial data, including intellectual property, and other confidential business
information. When hackers gain access to MSPs, they can steal sensitive business information that gives competitors an unfair advantage.
The indictment alleges the defendants worked for a group known to cyber security experts as APT-10. These groups are designated as APTs or
advanced persistent threats because they use malware to gain access to computer networks and to exfiltrate or steal data over an extended period
of time. These defendants allegedly compromised MSP clients in at least a dozen countries, the United States, and 11 other countries.
The victims included companies in banking and finance, telecommunications, and computer consumer electronics, medical equipment, packaging,
manufacturing, consulting, health care, bio technology, automotive, auto and gas exploration, and mining. The defendants allegedly committed these
crimes in association with a Chinese intelligence agency known as the Ministry of State Security.
This is not the first time that the Department of Justice has accused Chinese state actors of stealing commercial information. Since the
indictment of five uniformed members of the People's Liberation Army in 2014, our department has repeatedly cast the spotlight on China for its
state-sponsored criminal activity, targeting American corporations. More than 90 percent of the department's cases allege an economic espionage over
the past seven years, involve China. More than two-thirds of the department's cases involving thefts of trade secrets are connected to
In the last few months of this year alone, our department has announced charges in three separate cases, alleging crimes committed at the behest of
a branch of the Chinese Ministry of State Security. It is unacceptable that we continue to uncover cybercrime committed by China against America
and other nations.
In 2015, China promised to stop stealing trade secrets and other confidential business information through computer hacking with the intent
of providing competitive advantage to companies in the commercial sector. But the activity alleged in this indictment violates the commitment that
China made, that was a commitment they made to members of the international community, to the United States, to the G-20, and to APAC.
Now, we want China to cease its illegal cyber activity, and honor its commitment to the international community. But the evidence suggests that
China may not intend to abide by its promises. For example, Chinese industrial policy known as Made in China 2025 lists strategic advanced
manufacturing industries that the nation has targeted for promotion and development.
Many of the companies allegedly targeted recently by Chinese defendants operate in sectors identified in that official Chinese policy. Whether
through computer hackers, operating for China, or Chinese nationals recruited to steal trade secrets from companies in other countries, the
goal is the same. To dominate production in strategically important industries by stealing ideas from other nations. It is just as if they had
broken into American companies and taken the data, the information out physically. They're doing it through cyber means.
And today's charges mark an important step in revealing to the world China's continued practice of stealing commercial data. Responding to that
conduct requires a strategic whole of government approach, to the threats that China poses. That is why the Department of Justice recently announced
an initiative to address a full range of threats, Mr. Demers and Director Wray have been leaders of that effort.
One tactic is to increase our enforcement efforts. Another is to conduct foreign investment reviews to protect against China improperly acquiring
sensitive information through the acquisition of American companies. A third is to find ways to better protect our telecommunications
China stands accused of engaging in criminal activity, that victimizes individuals and companies in the United States, violates our laws, and
departs from international norms of responsible state behavior.
[10:40:04] Exposing these actions through the criminal justice system is a valuable tool in the Department of Justice arsenal. Faced with the
detailed factual allegations today, and the corroborating statements not just from the United States, but from other victimized nations, China will
find it difficult to pretend that it is not responsible for these actions.
America and its many allies know what China is doing. We know why they're doing it. And in some cases, we even know exactly who is sitting at the
keyboard perpetrating these crimes in association with the Chinese government. The alleged criminals in this case are named Zhu Hua and Zhang
Shilong. We hope the day will come when those defendants will face justice under the rule of law in an American courtroom.
Until then, they, and other hackers, who steal from our companies, for the apparent benefit of Chinese industries, should remember, there is no free
pass to violate American laws merely because they do so under the protection of a foreign state.
The Department of Justice and the FBI will continue to use all available tools to respond to China's economic aggression, and the threat that these
actions pose to the prosperity and security of the United States and other nations that respect the rule of law. I want to introduce next Chris Wray,
director of the FBI to make some remark, followed by Jeff Berman.
CURNOW: We are going to leave it at. That you are listening there to Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, here in the United States. Let's
go live to our Ivan Watson who's standing by in Hong Kong. And we heard there, Ivan, the American government essentially taking the gloves off, and
announcing charges against Chinese nationals for an extensive global hacking operation.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And in this, they named two individuals that they say are these hackers. And I
have the first page of this announcement from the Department of Justice. One of them named Zhu Hua which the Department of Justice says also comes
under the pseudonym "god killer". And another individual named Zhang Shilong. Arguing that both of these individuals have allegedly been
involved in hacking from 2006 to 2018, targeting a number of companies in the U.S., trying to steal trade secrets. And announcing that the U.S. is,
and law enforcement, is going to fight against this.
Now, there's a backdrop to this, Robyn, and the FBI, and the Department of Justice have been hammering home this message in recent weeks. Not just
with this case, but a number of other cases as well, about alleged Chinese efforts to steal economic and trade secrets.
For example, it was just a couple of -- it was in October of this year, October 10th, that the Department of Justice announced the arrest and
extradition of what they claimed was a Chinese ministry of state security operative, Yanjun Xu, arrested in Brussels, in Belgium, and then sent to
the U.S. Claimed that he was trying to steal secrets from U.S. aviation companies. And FBI officials have been testifying just this month that
they believe that China is the biggest threat right now to the U.S. economy, because of this alleged economic espionage -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK, so more to come on that. We'll continue also to monitor these comments coming from the FBI here as well. Ivan Watson, thanks so much.
You're watching CNN. After a short break, there'll be more news. Stay with us.
[10:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CURNOW: So let's return to our top story, the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to pull U.S. forces out of Syria. Now President Trump says
the U.S. has defeated ISIS. But CNN has exclusive new footage. I want to show you this video. It was shot in recent days just outside Hajin in
eastern Syria, showing that the fight against ISIS is still very much ongoing. Take a look at your screen.
So let's discuss this U.S. decision to leave Syria a bit more. I'm joined by Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria. Ambassador, thanks
for joining us. I was read a little bit earlier that you have said, quote, I'm not a big supporter of Donald Trump, but in this case, he is making the
right call. Why do you agree with him?
ROBERT FORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA (via Skype): Because in the end, about 2,000 American troops can't fix the ISIS problem in eastern
Syria, and 2,000 American troops can't stop Iran from having troops in Syria, nor can it fix the Syrian civil war. We need to be realistic about
what those troops can and can't do.
CURNOW: In many ways, this was a surprise to allies, political allies in Washington, to allies across the world, even Israel, whether or not it was
the right decision, was it correctly implemented?
FORD: Oh, I think you can certainly criticize the process, by which it was done, if it is true, that France and Britain were not informed in advance,
as government officials have told media. That's really wrong, since they have forces on the ground themselves, they should have been told well in
advance. Now, the same goes for the Syrian Kurdish group, and Arab commanders, who have been fighting with us, who showed the footage from
Hajin, they too should have been informed well advance. They shouldn't learn about it from tweets.
CURNOW: No, so the implications then, you say it is just 2,000 troops but, in many ways, it is 2,000 troops making a point. It is symbolic. It is
about perhaps spheres of influence. Is this then a total retreat from Syria for the U.S.? And what does that mean particularly for the U.S.
allies, the Kurds and their possible fate?
FORD: Well, first, I want to talk about spheres of influence. We need to be realistic, as I've said. The Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad,
as repulsive as he is, they won the civil war. They captured all of the main cities. We don't like it. But it is a reality.
With respect to the Syrian Kurdish leadership, they should have been told months ago, and I understand they were told months ago, to cut their best
deal with the victorious Assad government in Damascus. Those negotiations have sort of dragged on and off. I've just been looking at reports right
before we came on the air, those talks have started up again. No surprise. In the end, it's going to have to be the Syrian government that controls
CURNOW: So what about the oil field, in particular, in the northeast, by withdrawing, is the U.S. ceding the oil fields to Assad?
FORD: Well, first of all, yes, they are, but second, it doesn't really matter that much to Bashar al-Assad. He doesn't care about the economic
well-being of his people to begin with. He is a brutal dictator. And the oil fields are not something that the Americans would ever be able to use
as leverage against Bashar al-Assad. If Bashar al-Assad cared about the welfare of his people, yes, then it might be leverage. But he doesn't. I
mean this so guy who drops chemical weapons on his people.
[10:50:00] So the critics of the Trump administration are wailing about all of the things the Americans are giving up. I think it is important to
recognize, there was no strategy for how American forces in Syria would extract concessions from Bashar al-Assad. There was no strategy for how
American forces would contain ISIS for 5, 10, 20 years in eastern Syria. Syrians have to do that. U.S. forces can't do that.
There is no strategy of how to get the Iranians to get out of Syria just by having forces east of the Euphrates river. There was no strategy for this.
I think the President was right to say there is a limit to what we can do with what the forces we have, and to withdraw them.
CURNOW: Important perspective. Thanks so much, former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, thank you so much for joining us.
FORD: My pleasure.
CURNOW: Live from Atlanta, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, you can say he is drawing criticism. We find out how political cartoonists are
taking on Trump after two years of presidency and what he has to say about Vladimir Putin.
CURNOW: For today's parting shots, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, one political cartoonist we met here in the U.S. has a lot
to say, especially in the Trump era. I sat down with Mike Luckovich, in his Atlanta newsroom office, to watch the creative process, and to discuss
his favorite political cartoons, of 2018. Enjoy.
MIKE LUCKOVICH, POLITICAL CARTOONIST: He's at the pursed lips. Trump has tiny eyes. I really love drawing the hair. Because it is so abnormal.
Oh, let's give him little tiny hands.
CURNOW (voice-over): Drawing Donald Trump, political cartoonist Mike Luckovich, says this is his job, every weekday, in a messy office, full of
years of Pulitzer prize-winning cartoon, piles of discarded commentary, and old sketches.
LUCKOVICH: Trump is exhausting.
I really like being up on the news and commenting on everything that's going on. But is still exhausting.
CURNOW: Sharp and biting political cartoon, a sign of a free press. But political cartoonists and staff are becoming more rare these days, with
newsroom cutbacks and sometimes political pressure. Luckovich began at the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" in 1989.
LUCKOVICH: My very first cartoon, I drew for my grandmother. They have like 14. I drew a drawing of Richard Nixon.
There's never been and I hope there never be another President like Trump. I try to mock him with his look and with his long tie
I used to draw Obama with really huge ears.
I often draw him, instead of the American flag on his lapel, I draw the Russian flag, I have never done that with another President.
CURNOW: Of course, not everyone thinks it is funny, judging by the hate mail he gets. Kevin Riley of the AJC, edits the newspaper.
KEVIN RILEY, EDITOR, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Mike will show us -- show me a rough draft, a sketch, of what he is planning to do.
LUCKOVICH: Kevin, may I show you some sketches?
[10:55:02] CURNOW: Riley says it is important to balance Luckovich's cartoons with ones showing an opposite viewpoint.
LUCKOVICH: Every now and then, we have to say, Mike, are you sure we want to do this one?
RILEY: I do like this one.
LUCKOVICH: Mike won't take it easy on anyone. When someone does something that appears to be hypocritical that person can probably expect that Mike
will have something to say about it.
CURNOW (on camera): So when you look back over the year, what are your favorite cartoons?
LUCKOVICH: I did this one. This was after the meeting with Nancy Pelosi.
It is on Trump's wall. Which is Nancy Pelosi.
CURNOW (voice-over): Some cartoons make an emotional impact, too.
LUCKOVICH: I did this one a few weeks after hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. As Trump was saying finally got my wall, which is a, which is a
CURNOW: This might be a local newspaper. But global leaders are just as much a target.
LUCKOVICH: I love drawing Putin. I often draw him shirtless.
This was after I think Helsinki summit. And so he is saying here, I grabbed him by the presidency. When you're a dictator, he lets you do it.
CURNOW: Luckovich says there is so much material in the Trump presidency, he turned it into a book.
LUCKOVICH: I think that when this era of Trump is over, I think people will like having something they can look back and say, oh, remember when he
did that. Remember when he tweeted this.
CURNOW (on camera): So do you think your book is like an historical document?
LUCKOVICH: Only funner.
CURNOW (voice-over): A bold record of the politics of the day.
CURNOW: Thanks for joining me. The news is always interesting. And it will continue in just a few minutes. I will be back with the
"INTERNATIONAL DESK." See you then.