Return to Transcripts main page
Jair Bolsonaro Sworn In As Brazil's President; Senior U.S. Lawmakers Invited To White House; Migrants Attempt Dangerous Trip Across The Channel; Police: Racist Motive Suspected In New Year's Attack; Terrorism Probe Underway After Manchester Stabbings; Xi Calls On China & Taiwan To Unify; Discovery On The Edge Of Solar System; Whelan Family Rejects Russian Claims of Espionage; Women Form Human Chain in India for Equality; Landslides Kill at least 15 People in Indonesia; Netflix Pulls Episode Critical of Saudi Arabia; Infant Found Alive in Collapsed Russian Building. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired January 2, 2019 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hi everyone, thanks for joining us. I'm John Vause, You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Ahead this hour, Brazil's new right-wing leader has promised to fight corruption, also known as draining the swamp and end political correctness, also known as how we said things in the old days. No surprise and he's already found a fan in Donald Trump.
Also, let's make a deal. The U.S. President invites Congressional leaders to the White House, officially for a briefing on national security but maybe the start of direct negotiations to end the government shutdown. And later, probably going where no spacecraft has gone before. The NASA mission breaking records and inspiring a new song from Queen lead guitarist.
A right-wing populist known as the Trump of the tropics has been sworn in as Brazil's new president. Jair Bolsonaro has promised to restore order and policies which protect criminals and political correctness, at the same time bring prosperity to Brazil. CNN's Amara Walker, looks at Bolsonaro's plan for the country.
AMARA WALKER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Promising to take the country on a shift to the right, Jair Bolsonaro was inaugurated as Brazil's new president on New Year's Day.
JAIR BOLSONARO, PRESIDENT, BRAZIL (through translator): With humanity and honor, I present myself to everyone as president of Brazil. And I stand in front of our nation as we liberate ourselves from socialism today.
WALKER: Before a crowd of supporters in the capital of Brasilia, Bolsonaro also vowed to liberate Brazil from political correctness and to rebuild the economy. BOSLSONARO (through translator): Our election has gave a voice to
those that are silent. And the voice is from the streets in polling booths were clear. I am here to respond and once again commit myself to this change.
WALKER: Before his speech, the former army captain and far-right congressman took a ride through the crowds with his wife Michelle and received the presidential sash from outgoing president Michel Temer. Earlier on the day, Bolsonaro was officially sworn in during a ceremony at the national congress building where he spoke about his intended economic reforms.
BOLSONARO (through translator): We will make structural reforms that are key for financial health and sustainability with public accounts transforming our economic scenario and opening new opportunities. We need to create a new cycle for the economy so that we could open our markets internationally.
WALKER: His supporters see him as a no-nonsense leader that will drain the swamp and tackle the rampant violence plaguing the country. His opponents feel four years of a Bolsonaro presidency will threaten human rights and ecological preservation in the sixth largest country in the world by size and by population.
After his speech, Bolsonaro who has been compared to Donald Trump got a shout-out from the U.S. president who tweeted the USA is with you. Bolsonaro tweeted back. Together under God's protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people. Amara Walker, CNN.
VAUSE: Now, coming into day 12 of the partial shutdown of the U.S. government and one day before Democrats take over the House of Representatives. And President Trump is trading verbal jabs with the woman who's likely to be the next House speaker, a key figure in his efforts to get his funding for the wall.
The President tweeted this about Nancy Pelosi. "Border security and the wall thing and shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start a tenure as Speaker of the House. Let's make a deal. Pelosi fired back saying Democrats now have a chance to show how they'll govern responsibly quickly ending the President's irresponsible shutdown.
For now, on this seemingly endless partial government shutdown, CNN's Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein joins us now from Los Angeles. Ron, happy New Year. Good to see you.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Happy New Year, John.
VAUSE: Thank you. OK, bipartisan compromise, that seems you the only way to end this shutdown. Democrats take control Congress on Thursday, Republicans maintain their slim majority in the Senate. Somehow they need to agree to a deal which satisfies both houses and that includes Democrats demands that there's no funding for this wall but they also need to have some kind of provision to allow the President to claim victory on funding for the wall. So how does that work?
BROWNSTEIN: And it's not clear how this plays out. You know, I think, most Senate Republicans would be happy to find a face-saving compromise that provided more money for border security in general but did not allow the dollars for the wall but it's not clear the White House can climb off of the ledge that it's -- that it's climbing onto.
I think what the President has failed to apprehend is how different this Democratic majority is then the last time the Democrats held the House in 2009 or 2010. Back then there were a large number of small- town rural Blue Dog Democrats who would have been worried about seeming to be on the wrong side of him on an issue like immigration security and border safety.
Now, this is a very different Democratic majority that is much more urban-suburban. Every element of the coalition that elected them in polling overwhelmingly opposes the wall. I don't think they feel a lot of pressure to give in to him and he has I think much less leverage than he anticipated when he started. This is a little bit like a basketball player who went up in the air not really sure what he's going to do with the ball and now here he is.
[01:05:34] VAUSE: Well, before the partial shutdown during that a jaw-dropping meeting with Democrat leaders in the Oval Office, Donald Trump was more than eager to take responsibility for all of this. Here's what he said of the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I am proud -- and I'll tell you what.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We disagree. We disagree.
TRUMP: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yes, but the very first morning the shutdown happened, Trump was on Twitter, the Democrats now own the shutdown. It's insane the White House strategy has been to keep the person out of the spotlight, let his tweet speak for themselves. You know, they made a lot of -- about the fact that Trump was still in Washington dealing with the government shutdown, but he made no public appearances. It seems like an odd strategy given the fact that he could have dominated the news cycle you know, doing a very slow news period essentially arguing his case but they opted not to do that.
BROWNSTEIN: You know, look, throughout his presidency, the President has been much more effective at kind of picking these culturally residents who often racially tinged fights and speaking directly to his base through Fox, through talk radio, than he has been at waging any kind of argument with the broader public. I mean, if you think about the Affordable Care Act fight, if you think
about even the tax reform fight, certainly this, he simply has never shown much ability or even interest in persuading the broader public of his merits and he's all about mobilizing his base. The problem he's got is that government shutdowns are unpopular. I covered them under Clinton, I covered them under Obama. The public never likes the idea of this time of gamesmanship.
And in this, he is using a tactic that is unpopular in advance of a goal that is even more unpopular. I mean the wall has never had majority support in any poll that I have seen during his presidency. The last CNN poll only 38 percent of the public said they supported the wall it dropped to 33 percent when he told that Mexico would not be paying for it.
And as I mentioned, it was at least 60 percent and usually two-thirds or more of all the key groups in the Democratic coalition, young people, minorities, college-educated whites opposed the wall. So he has kind of painted himself into a corner here and it's not clear how he gets out.
VAUSE: The President did make an appearance on Christmas Day. He went out and made a bizarre claim that many federal workers actually support this fight he's having with Democrats over funding of his border wall. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, many of those workers have said to me and communicated, stay out until you get the funding for the wall. These federal workers want the wall. The only one that doesn't want the wall are the Democrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK. So keep that in mind, because two days later on Tweeter, he claims that most of the federal workers not getting paid are Democrats. This --
BROWNSTEIN: Look, and certainly our Border Patrol agents, the Border Patrol Union is a pretty conservative group and I'm sure there are people within the Border Patrol you know, a family that have you know, told him they support the wall. But consistently, somewhere around 50 to 60 percent of the country in poll after poll from organization after organization has said they oppose the wall. And that is I think one -- you know, again a key difference here is that compared to ten years ago, the last time the Democrats had the majority, there are many fewer members who would worry about the president kind of trying to position himself to their right on border security.
The public does support border security. I mean, it's been very consistent in polling over the last 25 years, a pathway to citizenship or legal status for the undocumented coupled with some enhancement of border security is a winning combination with the public but that does not translate and just support for the President's specific solution so he is holding kind of he's playing on the short end of the field in this standoff.
VAUSE: You know, we're also seeing on Twitter like there's abundance of inconsistencies from the President and keep in mind this was a candidate who was devastating with social media you know, during the campaign in 2016, and there are still flashes of that today like the response to General Stanley McChrystal. He said Trump was immoral and doesn't tell the truth. And he tweeted out General McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust, known for a big dumb mouth Hillary lover.
There's also the criticism from the former Secretary State Rex Tillerson and Trump tweeted out you know, that he was dumb as a rock and lazy as hell. But you know, take a look at this account. He's locked more than 40,000 tweets and really not all of them as president, still, for the most part, the tweets almost seem like now it's like a downtown bus. Don't worry if you miss one, there'll be another in 20 minutes. Has he lost his Twitter mojo to an extent here?
[01:10:03] BROWNSTEIN: I think -- I think he has but only in the broader context of the reality of his governing style. I mean, the President is coping with an approval rating somewhere between 38 and 44 percent with unemployment below four percent. I mean that should not be possible. And the only way it is possible is because there are many Americans who are generally satisfied with economic conditions in the country who are deeply dissatisfied with his approach to the job.
I mean, we saw an echo of that again just you know tonight with the rather remarkable Mitt Romney op-ed in The Washington Post where he you know, essentially says the President is defining the office down. And so I think that the Twitter -- the Twitter abrasiveness in line with the overall approach to the presidency, yes it mobilizes a base, it energizes a base, might be enough to allow them to squeeze by you know, those Midwestern states again in 2020.
But there is no question that there is a majority of the country and pretty consistently in every possible way including the Midterm election is expressing that it is dissatisfied, discontented you know, and in some cases disgusted with the way that he has approached the presidency and Twitter is a big part of that.
VAUSE: Yes, a very big part of it. Ron, as always, thank you so much. Good to see you.
BROWNSTEIN: Hey, Happy New Year.
VAUSE: Thank you. Well, as lawmakers in Washington argue over border security, there was a real actual clash on the southern board in Tijuana -- Tijuana rather a Mexico. Border and protection agents fired tear gas and pepper spray to more than 100 migrants who are trying to enter the U.S. illegally, allegedly.
A government spokeswoman said so the migrants were especially throwing rocks, others were lifting children over razor-edged wire put in place by the United States. 25 arrest were made and an investigation is underway. And from Spain, images of the extreme measures taken by some migrants to try and reach Europe. The Spanish police arrested two men found hiding inside mattresses on top of a van. The vehicle has stopped crossing from Morocco. A Spanish senator tweeted the video saying as long as there are no safe routes for asylum seekers, migrants will continue to make these types of risks.
And the U.K. is adding more patrols in the English Channel to deal with a surge in the number of migrants willing to risk the crossing from France. Details now from CNN's Melissa Bell.
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: 12 Iranian migrants intercepted by British border force officials just as they made it to shore. Others have been rescued further out to sea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old is your daughter? How old?
BELL: And in greater and greater numbers. In 2018, 539 migrants tried to reach Britain on small boats. 80 percent of those attempts were made in the last three months of the year according to the British Home Office. On Monday the Home Secretary held a press conference having cut short his holiday.
SAJID JAVID, HOME SECRETARY, UNITED KINGDOM: I want to send a very strong signal to people who do think about making this journey is that we will do everything we can to make sure it is not a success.
BELL: The Home Secretary said that two extra border force boats would be brought from the Mediterranean to the channel and the greater cooperation would be sought with the French. Already the French coast guard has redoubled its patrols and now says it's rescuing migrants every day.
INGRID PARROT, SPOKESWOMAN, FRENCH COAST GUARD: These people when we found them, they are in the state of hypothermia and also they are just so frightened because we thought that this sow deaths and we don't want to have corps on the beach or to have a collision with a big boat.
BELL: This is the part of the French coast that is the closest to England. From here you can see the cliffs of Dover it's only 17 nautical miles across. And so it is from these beaches, from this part of the coast that the migrants set off in whatever they can find, in fishing boats, in dinghies and sometimes even in kayaks.
It was with a dinghy that Ahmed tried and failed not once but twice. He spoke to us from the woods of northern France that he calls the jungle. He told us that the risk was worth it.
AHMED, IRANIAN MIGRANT: Not controlled. You can go to England to two hours, three hours. If you have a motor, strong motor, you can go.
BELL: But there are big ships, there are waves, there are currents. It's very dangerous. You could die in the waters. AHMED: Yes, but to die is better of love -- life in the jungle.
BELL: Ahmed left Iran more than two years ago. More recently, fellow Iranians have been arriving in greater numbers say workers speaking of economic hardship and political persecution. All are in a hurry to get across.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know the New Years in U.K. is leaves the Europe and the police and everything is going to be hard and no one can go to U.K.
[01:15:07] BELL: Which means a worsening struggle for the French and British coastguards as they seek to rescue migrants from waters so cold that no one survive could survive them for more than an hour. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.
VAUSE: Police in Germany believe a 50-year-old man was motivated by racism and intended to kill when he rammed his car in a group of revelers during the celebrations. The attack occurred in a crowded plaza in a town in the northwest, and the driver allegedly made racist remarks during his arrest. According to local reports, Syrians and Afghans were among the four people who were hurt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERBERT REUL, INTERIOR MINISTER, NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA: It is the case of a German citizen who deliberately drove into a group of people. And it was a group of people that mostly were foreigners. So, this man had a clear intention which was to kill foreigners, you can't deny it. Those are the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The suspect apparently was not known to police until now, and did not have a criminal record.
Meantime, the suspect in a New Year's Eve stabbing in Manchester, England is being held under the country's Mental Health Act. Police have also searched the home of the 25-year-old and have opened a terrorism investigation. Details now from CNN's Phil Black reporting from London.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This attack was swift, violent, potentially deadly, but fortunately, it was quickly suppressed. It was 9:00 p.m. local time at Manchester's Victoria Station when a man started shouting and attacking people with what's been described as a large kitchen knife. Two people, a man and woman, both in their 50s were seriously injured. A police officer who rushed to intervene was also stabbed. But it was a group of officers who working together responded quickly, managed to bring the man down and end his attack within seconds. Police say they know who he is, they've searched his home, he's still in custody. Witnesses have told British media that he shouted pro-Islamist slogans, suggesting political, religious motivation and is likely why police say they are treating this as terrorism.
The location is significant, so close to where a suicide bomber killed himself and 22 other people, including parents and children as crowds were leaving the Manchester Arena and the Ariana Grande concert there in May 2017. The exit from that stadium feeds directly in to Victoria Station. And local authorities and police say that proximity makes this latest attack so much more dreadful for the already-traumatized people of Manchester.
ANDY BURNHAM, MAYOR OF GREATER MANCHESTER, ENGLAND: Last night's incidents at Victoria Station was a vile attack on families seeking to enjoy a peaceful New Year. We're all thinking today of the couple who were injured, and of course, the police sergeants as well. They're in our thoughts. And we wish them all a very speedy recovery.
BLACK: Police are also keen for people to know there is no evidence of a wider threat or plot. It appears it was one radicalized determined person. This sort of attack which experience has shown is very difficult for police to detect and stop from happening in advance. Phil Black, CNN, London.
VAUSE: And in Tokyo, a 21-year-old man is in custody accused of deliberately ramming his car into a crowd celebrating the New Year. At least nine people were hurt. Police say the suspect first admitted to a terrorist act but later said he was protesting the death penalty.
China's President Xi Jinping has called on Taiwan to reject independence and embrace unification, and took a hardline on the island's political sovereignty and freedoms, saying nothing can change the fact that Taiwan is part of China, they cannot be changed by anyone or any force. This came through in a speech back in the 40th anniversary of a statement known as a message to compatriots in Taiwan. That led to a thought in relations between Beijing and Taipei.
Still to come, the family of an American man detained in Russia, speaking out to CNN insisting he's no spy. They say he's in Moscow for a wedding, but now, he could be detained in months, and is facing potentially years in jail. Also, a history-making journey to the very edge of our solar system billions of kilometers away.
[01:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: Welcome back. Scientists now know what is in the far reaches of our solar system, and they have a picture of it. It's called Ultima Thule, bowling pin-shaped object billions and billions of kilometers away. But it could reveal the origins of our solar system.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN STERN, PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR, NEW HORIZONS: We set a record. Never before has a spacecraft explored anything so far away. I mean, think of it, we're a billion miles further than Pluto. And now, we're going to keep going into the Kuiper Belt. And hopefully, we'll have another flyby someday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Billion of kilometers, that's a long way. OK, joining us, Mike Wall, Senior Writer at space.com. I got -- I got to be honest with you, the first pictures from New Horizon a bit grainy, blurry, kind of underwhelming. But, you know, when you listen to the scientists and the researchers, they are just so excited by these images. Have a listen at one of them, and how they described it. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAL WEAVER, PROJECT SCIENTIST, NEW HORIZONS: What a difference a day makes. And Ultima Thule is finally revealing its secrets to us. And even though it is a pixilated blob still, it's a better pixilated blob, than the day before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: OK. So, what are they learning from these early images despite being grainy and blurry about Ultima Thule, and what, you know, the geography and the shape and the size and all that kind of stuff?
MIKE WALL, SENIOR WRITER, SPACE.COM: Yes. Well, they did nail down its size pretty well. It seems like it's about 35 kilometers long by about 15 kilometers wide. And yet, it seems like it's probably like a single object. There was some debate whether it was too close -- yes, kind of close orbiting bodies or one body with like two kind of bulgy ends. And that's still a little up in the air, but this like new image, it makes it seem like it's one body, looks like a bowling pin or like a chicken drumstick or something. Yes, it is blurry, it is pixelated, but that should change tomorrow. We should be getting like the first pretty good pictures coming in tomorrow. And, yes, it'll be really cool to see what those ones look like.
VAUSE: Yes, I mean, the data from this probe is being downloaded at the kind of speed you'd only expect from AOL on a good day.
VAUSE: Then all goes according to plan, the actual data comes in, it won't be until the end of 2020 almost when all of its retrieved, but just how good, how -- you know, we're talking about high-resolution images here, how good will these images be?
WALL: Yes, it'll -- well, this is a very close flyby. And people might remember this is the second flyby for this spacecraft. It also has zoomed past Pluto and just about 3-1/2 years ago. And it like came within 7800 miles of -- during that flyby. And like this one, it got within 2200 miles of this like small bowling pin object. So, it's closer, so it should get like really amazing photos if everything worked out as they think it did. And it seems like everything did work out pretty well. Because then we got the data back from the spacecraft, saying everything went according to plan.
So, yes, I mean, they don't really know what they're going to see because nobody has ever explored an object like this. It's a billion miles farther out than the, like, last object they explored, Pluto. And it's a very different object than Pluto, it's much, much smaller. It's not going to be circular, it's not a dwarfed planet. It's this weird kind of -- the kind of like solar system time capsule that's like left over from the early days of the solar system. And it's been in this deep freeze for 4-1/2 billion years, which is why they're so excited to explore it. It's pretty unchanged since the solar system's birth.
[01:25:19] VAUSE: It explains -- yes, that's the part we've shown -- that's the part which I was sort of curious about because we know this is a deep freeze and Ultima Thule hasn't changed in -- you know, for the moment it was actually formed. So, how do you make that leap from this one small well-preserved object to actually understanding the origins of the entire solar system?
WALL: Yes. Yes. Like, you don't make that entire leap in just one go. I mean, it's just one body. But you can make some sort of inferences about it. I mean, you can take this as, well, we like had zero data points and now we have two. I mean, we got Pluto, which is -- yes, it's a different body, but it's still out there in that deep freeze. It's been (INAUDIBLE) by kind of like geological activity over the years, so it's not as pristine (INAUDIBLE) like Ultima Thule is.
So, yes, now we have like a new data point, and you can say, OK, so this is probably what the conditions were like when this thing formed. Here's like what it's made of. Here's how its surface has been shaped. Here's how many times it's been hit by like small impacts. Here's how many craters it has. And like you can kind of extrapolate off. But, yes, I mean, don't go expecting this to be the key to kind of unlock all of the solar system's mysteries. It is just one object. But, it's like one object that we can extrapolate into this realm of the solar system that we pretty much didn't know anything about until now.
VAUSE: Yes, it's a rare day when a NASA mission gets its own song and its own music video, but this one has that. Take a look of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Astrophysicist Brian May who also happen to be the lead guitarist from Queen. He wrote that song, it's his first M.O. (ph) in 20 years. During a news conference, he explained, you know, why he is so excited about all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN MAY, ASTROPHYSICIST AND LEAD GUITARIST OF QUEEN: This mission to me represents more than the mission itself. It actually represents to me the spirit of adventure and discovery and inquiry in the human spirit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, this journey and the potential scientific value is like nothing we've ever seen before. There does seems to be a certain level of excitement about all of this that we haven't seen for some time.
WALL: Yes. And I mean, this is the -- yes, I mean, this is a probe that was built about like 15 years ago and like has been flying for the past 13 years now. And it just exploded, it just took upclose photos of this small object more than 4 billion -- no, well, 6-1/2 sort of billion kilometers from Earth. This is an amazing like exploration feat, and that's partly what gets people so excited is the science of it, what are we going to learn. But it's also just amazing, it's a technological accomplishment, and it's just like kind of like a gee-whiz moment. Like, wow, we have a probe out there studying these far flung bodies, that's just really, really cool. It just makes you kind of like hold your breath about what we can accomplish when we -- when we put our minds to it.
VAUSE: Everyone has forgotten about the two voyages who left the solar system, but I guess that is a (INAUDIBLE) Mike, good to see you. Thanks so much.
WALL: All right. Sure thing.
VAUSE: Cheers. As we go to break, here's a little more from Brian May, the rock star, astrophysicist who was inspired to put to music all about Ultima Thule.
[01:31:28] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.
You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.
Brazil's new president has been sworn into office. He's a right wing populist. Jair Bolsonaro promises to restore order and end policies which protect criminals, also end political correctness. At the same time bring prosperity to Brazil.
He's a former army captain and has been called the Trump of the tropics.
U.S. lawmakers have been invited to the White House Wednesday. This comes as President Donald Trump is pressuring Democrats to make a deal to end the partial government shutdown. He tweeted, "A dispute over border security and the wall is not how Nancy Pelosi wants to start her tenure as House Speaker." She says Democrats now have the House majority and can quickly end what she called the irresponsible Trump shutdown.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is investigating a clash on the border there in Tijuana, Mexico. Border Patrol agents fired teargas and pepper spray at more than 100 migrants who were allegedly trying to enter the U.S. illegally.
Authorities say some of the migrants were throwing rocks. Others lifted children over razor edged wire. 25 arrests were made.
The family of an American detained in Russia insists he is not a spy. Marine veteran Paul Whelan was arrested Friday in Moscow. His brother says he was there for a wedding.
But as CNN's Matthew Chance reports, the Kremlin may now have other plans.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, the timing of this arrest is, to say the least, suspicious. It was just a few weeks ago that a Russian gun enthusiast Maria Butina, who's being held in the U.S., pleaded guilty to conspiracy after prosecutors accused her of attempting to infiltrate conservative groups like the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party to influence prominent members.
She now faces a potential prison sentence in an American jail, something that has angered Russian officials who insist that she's innocent of any kind of espionage and was unknown to Russian intelligence services.
In his annual news conference last month, Putin actually referred to the case insisting there be no retribution, that no innocent person he said would be arrested simply to exchange them for Butina.
Yet that now seems to be something that is being speculated about. It is too early to talk about a prisoner swap of course but there are precedents for it. Back in 2010 ten Russians suspected of espionage in the U.S. including, you may remember Anna Chapman who went on to become a minor celebrity in Russia, were returned to Moscow in exchange for the release of four Russians convicted of spying for the West. It is possible that the Kremlin may have something like that in mind again.
Matthew Chance, CNN -- Moscow.
VAUSE: Paul Whelan's family is concerned for his safety and they're relying on the U.S. government to secure his release. His brother David spoke with CNN's Phil Mattingly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF PAUL WHELAN: We've heard back regularly from the embassy staff and essentially they've been updating us if there's anything to update. We spoke to them yesterday. We heard about the detention on the Internet over news wires.
And so we contacted state and we contacted the embassy and they've been keeping us up to date. And there's just a blackout period until anyone can give him consular services. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that blackout period, if I
understand it correctly, is about 72 hours. Do you have any idea what happens once that mark is hit? Or what you'll be able to find out.
[01:34:57] WHELAN: Well, my understanding is that the 72 hours is a period that once it is told, the embassy will be able to get access to Paul and we'll be able to confirm what his status is; whether he's healthy, what happened during his arrest.
He'll be able to speak to consular officials about his status, essentially. And then they'll be able to give him some of information that he'll need to select a lawyer for example to try to respond to the allegations that the Russian government has set.
MATTINGLY: And along those lines, do you have a sense, I can't imagine this coming to someone's plate, the first step you would take -- but in terms of hiring a lawyer, in terms of bringing somebody on to help with this besides the U.S. government, are you in the middle of that process right now or have you been walked through what needs to happen?
WHELAN: Well, we've tried to do an assessment but the reality is that you can't assess lawyers on the ground in Moscow from -- I'm in Canada, my family is in the States. There's just really no way for us to know who is competent and who can provide the representation that he needs. So we are working on that.
And we are going to rely on the embassy's list of recommended lawyers. Hopefully that will get us started. But I think as important is to hit the congressional representatives, the senators from Michigan, the representative from Paul's district in Michigan, and whoever else we can in the American government to try and help get Paul out of the situation regardless of whatever legal jeopardy he's in in Moscow.
MATTINGLY: And if that is any indication, those representatives will certainly be engaged very quickly if they aren't already.
I was wondering if you could share just some background about your brother. Obviously he was a Marine. He served tours in Iraq and had been to Russia several times is my understanding. How would you best describe it?
WHELAN: Well, Paul is a kind soul. He's very generous. He's notorious among my kids for his huge belly laugh. And he often has stories that make your eye roll. He's just -- he's that sort of a personality.
He's very loyal to family and friends. And I think that that is part -- partly how this worked out. He had a request from a friend and he thought he could help out because he had been to Russia and could maybe help other Americans from the family who hadn't been to Russia to navigate their way around and get on the metro -- that sort of thing.
But he's a very kind person. MATTINGLY: And I know that family has addressed that. But just for
-- for you to say it, I suppose, the allegations made by the Russian government, they don't ring true in any way to you at this point?
WHELAN: They don't. Paul is a very capable person. He's physically a large person. So -- he has a background in law enforcement. He was a Marine. He does corporate security. And he travels regularly.
So he's not the sort of person who would stumble into a strange environment or make poor choices that could cause him risks. But particularly he wouldn't have made choices that would have gotten sideways of the Russian government and its espionage act.
MATTINGLY: Yes. And that's my last question for you and thanks again for your time. But given his past, given his work in corporate security, he's keenly aware of risk mitigation. I've read some of the stuff that he had written for the firms he worked for.
Was there any mention at all, particularly given the current tension between the United States and Russia of any concern, him to his parents or anything like that leading into this trip?
WHELAN: No. There wasn't. Paul was mostly worried about the family golden retriever who has a vet appointment last week and about his parents slipping on the ice in the Michigan winter. He was not concerned about his trip to Russia.
MATTINGLY: All right. David Whelan -- I know this is a difficult time for you and the family. Thank you very much for coming on and obviously sharing the story of your brother. Please keep us updated if there's anything you learn going forward. We really appreciate it.
WHELAN: Thanks very much -- Phil.
VAUSE: CNN intelligence and security analyst and former CIA operative, Bob Baer is with us now from Washington.
So Bob -- the theory here is that, you know, Whelan was arrested to be traded by the Kremlin at some future point for Maria Butina. She's the Russian spy who infiltrated conservative groups in the U.S. including the NRA. This happened in 2016 before the election.
So if Whelan is being effectively held hostage by Putin, that's a very stark message to the United States and Americans who might be in Russia right now.
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, exactly -- John. Because first of all, I can tell you right now that we do not operate, the United States, in Moscow using private citizens to take -- you know, carry out espionage. Never. It's not going to happen.
So this guy was framed. He was taken as a hostage. And Putin is furious about indictments of -- you know, he's been furious about indictments of oligarchs and the rest of it. And things are not going his way vis-a-vis Trump.
[01:39:58] And he's letting us know. Do not let the Department of Justice and the FBI start coming after Russians or we're going to grab more Americans. I think that's the message.
VAUSE: You know, U.S. officials should have been with Whelan by now but, you know, the partial government shutdown in the U.S. has forced embassies to reduce staffing levels. And this is just another complication and the case -- you know, this could take months to resolve.
Baer: Well, it's really up to Putin. I mean he could give access. We could get a consul in there very fast within hours after notification. But I think really it's up to Putin.
He's -- he's going to wait to see what Trump does. I mean, this Butina problem, in Putin's eyes it was not justified. She was not properly a spy. She was not out getting secrets. She was simply nosing around the NRA and the National Prayer Breakfast in Putin's eyes, saying so what. Americans come over to Russia all the time and nose around and we don't arrest them.
So you know, he's partially right here. This was a real reach rolling her up and indicting her and sending her to jail. I mean even if she gets a minimal sentence, in Russian eyes they don't think that's fair and it's unjustified.
And this is a question of reciprocity for Putin.
VAUSE: Sorry. I was going to say we know a little more about Paul Whelan now. He traveled to Russia before. He works in corporate security. He was a former Marine.
Back in 2007, he was featured in a military magazine. There was a change in the rules (INAUDIBLE), you know, take part of his leave in Moscow in St. Petersburg.
On his personal Web site back then he posted about meeting nice people, pleasant excursions. His Russian language skills were improving. He was posting on Russia's version of Facebook for about 13 years. So if his arrest had been in the works for some time and that seems to be the assumption, the Russians certainly knew when to expect him and knew when he was coming.
BAER: Oh, absolutely. They know. I went to Moscow a couple of years ago, and they knew exactly who I was by the time I got off the airplane and got to customs. They knew I was ex-CIA. They took a close look at me but it was very efficient, got through.
They know before you get there. They have a very advanced system. They probably got on Facebook, looked this guy up, figured out he was ex-military, fits the profile of a spook in a lot of ways. And it would be an easy case for them to make.
And again - but I'm saying, he wasn't a spy. I'm sure of that. So they're framing him. But they're going to produce some piece of information, you know, taken out of context that makes it look bad. That's what I imagine is going to happen.
VAUSE: You mention Maria Butina. Here's part of a report in the "New York Times", you know, basically they're backing what you've been saying.
"The Russian government, while strenuously denying that Miss Butina is a Russian agent has organized a social media campaign to win her release."
There's also been reports that, you know, the Russian foreign ministry has been making, you know, multiple inquiries about her, more so than any other Russian who's been detained. So clearly she is of value to Putin, which I guess means what.
This ultimately plays out as some kind of classic Checkpoint Charlie move. Except for there's that problem with the Trump administration when it comes to Russia and it's a total lack of credibility.
If Butina is released, you know, many will just see that as another concession to Putin.
BAER: Well, exactly. I mean not only that, half of Americans believe the Russians put him in the White House and that he's somehow been blackmailed by the Russians. And he just essentially gave Syria to Russia which has caused all sorts of problems right and left.
So he's being compromised by the Russians' previous business deals and the rest of it in this bizarre meeting with Putin in Helsinki. You know, he's in a tight spot. He does not look like a neutral, objective player in all of this.
So what is he going to do? I mean this is, you know, one hell of a way to open the new year in a crisis with Russia.
VAUSE: Happy 2019, Mr. President.
Bob -- thank you. And happy new year to you, as well.
BAER: Thanks -- John.
Next on CNN NEWSROOM we head to India where hundreds of thousands of women have formed a 600-kilometer human chain. We'll explain why in a moment.
[01:44:08] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
VAUSE: Well, in a mass protest over gender equality, hundreds of thousands of women in India formed a series of human chain spanning over 600 kilometers across the Indian state of Kerala. The protest lasted just 15 minutes but it's part of a decades' long battle for equality in one of Hinduism's holiest temple.
In September, the country's highest court overturned the ban on women between ages of 10 and 50 from entering the temple. But enforcing that ruling has been hampered by ongoing religious protests. CNN's Nikhil Kumar is live this hour in New Delhi with more on this. Nikhil, there seems a whole lot more going on here than just a woman's right to enter this temple. That is essentially the rule of law. This is all mixed with the prime minister's nationalist Hindu agenda who opposes that ruling by the court. And this is all now becoming a political issue in the lead up to general elections in a few months' time.
NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: That's right -- John, it is. It is a mix of issues as you said.
Starting with the law and rule of law. The highest legal authority in the country, the Supreme Court as you mentioned earlier, in September said that this temple should be open to everybody who wants to pray regardless of gender, regardless of age.
For many, many people who are devotees of the dead enshrined in this temple, that's a very emotive issue. They have been calling for this for a long time. And they've been agitating ever since, including the many protesters who formed this human chain to be able to do that.
This morning we had news that two women had in fact managed to enter the shrine. The first two to do so since that Supreme Court order.
But on the other side, there are many who oppose it. Many, many people including many women in the state of Kerala and beyond. And there's of course the politics that then comes into this. As you mentioned this country is only months away from a very important general election which will decide whether or not Narendra Modi returns as prime minister. His BJP political party has traditionally struggled in the south of India in states like Kerala where this temple is.
And so they have been supporting the devotees saying that this is a matter of tradition and not a matter for the courts to intervene and they -- you know, the commentators have been saying that that's the strategy to try and rally the orthodox Hindu base in that state ahead of the election.
So a mix of issues that -- that has really captivated the whole country's attention. This temple has been in the news ever since September. And for many people it just ultimately boils down to that women should be allowed to have the same rights as men but again as I say, many people opposing that -- John.
VAUSE: Nikhil, thank you for the update. We appreciate it. Nikhil Kumar there in New Delhi.
At least 15 people have died and 20 are missing after a series of landslides in Indonesia. Heavy rain is believed to have triggered the slides in west Java burying dozens of homes in one village and hindering rescue efforts. More rain is expected.
So with that we head to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri with more details.
So Pedram -- what are we looking at.
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, John -- what a rough past year for our friends across Indonesia the last couple of weeks. Of course, when you take a look at the island chain here, across the Indonesia archipelago -- 70,000 islands, a lot of fertile plains, a lot of mountains across this region.
And unfortunately this is climatologically the time of year you have the monsoonal trough in place meaning the wet season is upon us. So heavy rainfall has been the theme in the last couple of weeks and will be -- will be the case really for much of January into February as well before we see conditions improve just gradually at least for the following few months after that.
[01:49:59] But that's been the pattern here. And unfortunately the mudslide here has been so significant. Now we have as much as four meters deep of mud in some areas making really heavy machinery hard to get into the region and making the rescue effort and search efforts also very difficult as well after some 30 homes buried with this mudslide.
And of course, this occurred -- happening right there on New Year's Eve. So folks were actually getting out, getting ready for the festivities as the sun was setting and this sort of a pattern takes place with all the heavy rain that we've seen across this region.
But with all that said, as you said, rainfall is still in this forecast. And we expect the showers to at least continue the next couple of days.
But another element that has led to all of this is the heavy deforestation across this region. Of course, we've covered this extensively on CNN and Indonesia certainly no stranger to deforestation and so once you remove that vegetation, the heavy rainfall easily leads to mudslides as we've seen in recent years across this part of the world.
And notice the showers are in the forecast. But fortunately, the heaviest of the rainfall is not in the immediate area of this particular mudslide. So I mean take a look at the forecast the next couple of days, 20 to 30 percent chance for showers and increases a little bit come Saturday afternoon and we do have a disturbance in this vicinity as a tropical storm that will eventually push into the gulf of Thailand bringing some showers across that region and at this point, it looks to be a heavy rainmaker.
And again being the wet season, John, it is not unusual to see this sort of a pattern across this part of the world. But again, a hard go here for the last couple of weeks across Indonesia with the tsunami and now the mudslide there.
VAUSE: There have been a lot of challenges to say the least. Pedram -- thank you.
JAVAHERI: Thanks. VAUSE: Well, that nuclear test which was conducted in September 2017 by the North Koreans was so powerful, apparently it is still causing earthquakes. South Korean monitors say a small tremor struck on Wednesday about 11 kilometers east of the Punggye-ri test site where a sixth nuclear test occurred more than a year ago.
There are no major fault lines in North Korea so the presumption is the quake is a result of that test. North Korea claims to have closed Punggye-ri after the test but questions remain if the site was fully shut down.
Buried alive for more than a day, the incredible rescue of a baby in Russia trapped in a debris of a collapsed building. All the details whether we come back.
VAUSE: Well, Netflix has given in to demands by Saudi Arabia to pull an episode of "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj" after complaints from the Kingdom but this is only within Saudi Arabia. The show was sharply critical of the Saudi government over the murder of journal Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen. Minhaj also took on the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASAN MINHAJ, HOST: And it blows my mind that it took the killing of a "Washington Post" journalist for everyone to go, oh, I guess he's really not a reformer.
Meanwhile, every Muslim person you know was like yes, no (EXPLETIVE DELETED). He's the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Netflix issued a statement saying quote, "We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and only removed this episode in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request and to comply with local law."
Rescuers working in freezing conditions have found a baby alive in the rubble of an apartment building which collapsed in Russia. A little boy was rescued more than a day after a suspected gas explosion in the building killed at least eight people.
Details now from Michael Holmes.
[01:54:55] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dramatic footage of rescuers trying desperately to remove pieces of rubble from a collapsed apartment building. Behind all of that debris, a baby boy. Wearing hard hats, gloves and using a power tool, the workers attempt to free the trapped child.
Finally the boy is pulled to safety after being trapped for 35 hours. The temperatures are freezing. He's covered in dust and dirt and wearing a shirt and pink socks but he's alive. The infant described as less than a year old is wrapped in a blanket before being taken for medical treatment.
Russian officials describe the boy's condition as serious. Doctors say the infant's mother also survived the explosion and was able to see her son at the hospital.
It happened in the Russian city of Magnitogorsk, an industrial town in the country's south near the Kazakhstan border. And explosion thought to be caused by a gas leak destroyed 48 apartments in the 10-story building. The blast tearing through the apartment complex before dawn while many residents were still asleep. Dozens are said to be still missing.
President Vladimir Putin visited those injured in the hospital and met with local authorities.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I would like to express my condolences to the families of the victims and to assure those affected that we will do everything to help and support them.
HOLMES: There have been a number of similar incidents in the country in recent years due to aging infrastructure and poor regulation around gas usage.
Michael Holmes, CNN.
VAUSE: We'll finish here with not the best of starts to the new year at a carnival in France. Eight people left stuck for about eight hours on a ride 50 meters above ground. The rescue operation was complicated, involving 12 vehicles, a helicopter and 25 firemen. The last person was rescued Tuesday morning.
(INAUDIBLE) Next year, he will stay home with champagne and biscuits, which sounds like a very good plan.
You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.
Stay with us as the news continues here on CNN after a short break.
[01:57:05] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)