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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Spends Birthday in China for Summit with Xi Jinping; Saudi Teen Leaves Bangkok Hotel Under U.N. Protection; Former Child Sex Trafficking Victim Granted Clemency; Pink Floyd Cover Band Asked To Not Play Israel; Countdown to Brexit; Former Nissan CEO Hears the Charges against Him; Bolton Set to Meet with Turkish Officials. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 8, 2019 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Back to Beijing: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un returns to China for his fourth trip there in less than a year.

Presidential address to a nation that's dealing with a government in dysfunction, Donald Trump is taking his message to prime time.

After spending almost two months in a Japanese jail, the former CEO of Nissan tells a judge he's been wrongly accused. We are live in Tokyo.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world. I am Rosemary Church and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


CHURCH: Kim Jong-un has arrived for an unannounced visit to China as preparations continue for a second summit between the North Korean leader and U.S. president Donald Trump.

Neither Beijing nor Pyongyang has announced an agenda but Kim is said to be a guest of President Xi Jinping. Meantime, sources tell the U.S. is scouting locations for that Trump-Kim summit, including Bangkok, Hanoi and Hawaii. CNN's Matt Rivers is live this hour in Beijing, joining us now.

Good to see you, Matt.

So why is Kim Jong-un in China at this time and what does it tell us about Xi Jinping's influence over North Korea and its leader?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We can't say for sure why Kim Jong-un is here at this moment. Neither side will publicly confirm that. But I think we can make an educated guess, saying it has everything do with the potential summit you just mentioned between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. And that would be the second time they met. The fact Kim is here follows a precedent he set last year before the

first summit between the North Korean and American leaders. Remember Kim Jong-un came and met -- came to China and met with Xi Jinping twice before his first summit with Donald Trump in June of 2018 and so it really makes a lot of sense then that he would do the same thing coming here to China and kind of getting on the same page with Xi Jinping before a second summit with Donald Trump that could take place sooner rather than later.

I think, though, to your second question about Xi Jinping's influence in all of this, I think there is no question that China has massive influence at least in this process. We know that North Korea wants to chart its own foreign policy path and they have their own initiatives they like playing the United States off of China.

But the fact that Kim Jong-un has taken the time to come to China for the fourth time in basically 10 months and keep in mind that's not Xi Jinping going the other way, it's Kim Jong-un making the trip here.

He knows China is his economic lifeline, he knows that China has diplomatic prowess at the United Nations and he knows that he will need China on his side if he wants to, you know, really achieve his foreign policy aims.

So if you're looking for any indication of how North Korea feels about China, well, the fact that he is here for the fourth time in 10 months, shows you how important the Chinese relationship is to the young North Korean leader.

CHURCH: Indeed.

And what does this visit by Kim Jong-un to China reveal about where things stand right now when it comes to negotiations with the United States?

RIVERS: I don't know how much it gives us any insight into the negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea that we don't already know in the sense that we haven't seen any signs of total and verifiable complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as was agreed to in that June 2018 summit between Trump and Kim.

I think what it really just confirms more than anything else is that there will be a second summit or at least North Korea is planning on that. I think the fact that Kim goes out of his way to make this trip here to Beijing at this time I think gives you an idea that they're planning on a summit happening.

What it really tells you about the status of North Korea and the United States in terms of their bilateral negotiations over the nuclear program, I think the only real takeaway is that anything that happens on the Korean Peninsula with North Korea, China is going to be involved in. Nothing will happen bilaterally between North Korea and the United States. China will have a serious role in this, as will South Korea moving forward.

CHURCH: Indeed, our Matt Rivers bringing us that report. Many thanks to you.

With no progress in the impasse over the government shutdown, U.S. president Donald Trump is taking his case straight to the American people. He will make a nationally televised address Tuesday night to appeal for funding for the border wall with Mexico, Democratic leaders are demanding equal air time.

CNN will air the address and the Democratic response. Democrats refuse to fund the wall and an aide --


CHURCH: -- says they may block all legislation in the Senate until there is a vote to reopen the government. Pamela Brown has the latest now from the White House.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump now considering an unprecedented move to get his border wall.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I may declare a national emergency dependent on what's going to happen over the next few days.

BROWN: Trump suggesting to reporters he could declare a national emergency to bypass Congress to get the wall funds he requested.

TRUMP: We have a absolute crisis and criminals and gang members coming through. It is national security. It's a national emergency.

BROWN: Arguing for those emergency powers, the president quoted Democrat Adam Smith, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, tweeting: "Yes, there is a provision in law that says a president can declare an emergency."

The quote from Smith's ABC appearance on Sunday where he also said:

REP. ADAM SMITH (D), WASHINGTON: In this case, I think the president would be wide open to a court challenge, saying, where's the emergency? You have to establish that in order to do this.

BROWN: Smith telling CNN today:

SMITH: I think it would be a huge mistake to declare a national right emergency. There is no national emergency.

BROWN: Trump is now planning a prime time address on Tuesday and a trip to the border on Thursday, in hopes to persuade Americans to support his border wall proposal.

But a weekend of staff level negotiations led by Vice President Mike Pence didn't bring either side closer to a deal, sources tell CNN, the White House outlining its requests in a letter, including more money for urgent humanitarian needs, extra attention beds, additional law enforcement personnel and changing the wall from concrete to steel, something some Democrats prefer.

TRUMP: They don't like concrete, so we will give them steel.

BROWN: But on day 17 of the shutdown, it doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon, with both sides pointing the finger at the other.

TRUMP: Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and myself can solve this in 20 minutes if they want to. If they don't want to, it's going to go on for a long time. There's not going to be any bend right here.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Here we are in the third week of the Trump shutdown.


It's only because of one person and that is President Trump.

BROWN: But as negotiations continue at a stalemate, the pain inflicted by the shutdown will get worse for those federal workers who won't get a paycheck on Friday.

TRUMP: I can relate. And I'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments . They always do. And they will make adjustment. People understand exactly what's going on.

But many of those people that won't be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I'm doing.

BROWN: The president continues to say that he could declare a national emergency over the border wall funding and we have learned the White House counsel's office has yet to determine if he has the legal standing to do so -- Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.



CHURCH: CNN political analyst Michael Shear joins me. He also covers the White House for "The New York Times."

Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: Now we don't know what exactly President Trump is planning to say in his address to the nation Tuesday night, but what we do know is that he has said he may declare a national emergency to get military funds for his border wall. How likely is it that in the eight minutes he plans to speak that he will, indeed, declare an emergency and what would be the ramifications of just such a move?

SHEAR: So, look, I mean, I think one of the dangers over the last two years has been trying to predict an unpredictable president. So, perhaps, anything is possible.

I think it would be unlikely that what we're going to hear tomorrow is, in fact, a declaration of a national emergency which would, you know, create a both political and legal firestorm.


SHEAR: I think you could imagine legal challenges almost immediately to what he wanted to do and political firestorms on both sides of the aisle.

I think, what's more likely is going to be the President attempting to go over the heads of the members of Congress to put pressure on them by trying to ratchet up in a very national visible way this argument that he has been making that there's a crisis at the border and by delivering one of the few national addresses that he has ever made as President, to kind of, you know, put that message so dramatically out there that it will put pressure on the Democrats to cave to his demands for a border wall, which I think is the ultimate goal.

CHURCH: All right. So that is one possible scenario, but I do want to go back to this possibility that has been raised by the President himself. Does President Trump have the power to declare a National Emergency and gain military money to fulfill a political campaign promise, which is what the border wall is?

SHEAR: Right. So there is a couple of different ways he could go --


SHEAR: -- about it. There is the generalized use of executive power that he could -- he could say that his inherent power as President gives him the right to make a determination that a border wall is needed and he could direct the agencies to go get money to do it. That would probably be the legally most challenged approached.

There are, however, several already enacted pieces of legislation that the Congress over the years has seen fit to say in the event of an emergency the President has the following powers and a couple of those powers that have been delineated have been the power to direct the military to actually construct things that are necessary for the country's defense.

You can imagine if there was an invasion of the country from a foreign power that the President would have the ability to declare an emergency and to tell the military you have the power to erect defenses against that invasion.

And so, there are some legal theorists who believe that the President could invoke those specific already delegated powers that the Congress has said the President can have in the case of an emergency and now apply it to this idea that there is a crisis at the border and direct the military to build a wall.

Legal experts have said that is still somewhat questionable and would have to be tested in court almost certainly, but that would maybe be the strongest basis that he would have.

CHURCH: Of course, meantime, the shutdown continues, no deal has yet been made. What would it likely take to end this partial government shutdown and who gets blamed if this continues for weeks, possibly months?

SHEAR: Well, you know, the traditional -- you know, traditional political theory would have you believe that that's what both sides want to do is to avoid being blamed for this and in previous government shutdowns that's been the real dynamic, is both sides trying to deflect blame.

Now, this President has, of course, on occasion and over the last couple of weeks claimed that he was proud that there was a government shutdown and said that he would proudly accept the blame for it.

But in reality, I think that's what tomorrow night is going to be about and then also on Thursday when the President visits the border and according to the White House, he plans to go down there and making a big show of being at the border himself.

Maybe both are an attempt ultimately to, as I said before, put pressure on the Democrats, but also to escape blame, to sort of deliver the message to the public that he is actually -- that this government shutdown isn't just for a whim, or you know, some sort of personal vendetta, but then it is rather for something that is a political emergency for the country, a real emergency for the country. And whether or not people believe him, you know, based on what's gone on for the last couple of years, it's really going to determine whether he ultimately gets blamed for this or whether the Congress does.

CHURCH: All right. We shall see what happens. We're all watching this very carefully. We don't know what he is going to say, of course, so we will just wait it out. Michael Shear, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

SHEAR: Sure.


CHURCH: Well, it might just be a date with disaster. The British Parliament is set to vote next week on the prime minister's Brexit deal, a vote she's currently expected to lose. As CNN's Nina dos Santos reports, the government is preparing for a worst-case scenario.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In British politics today, all paths lead to Brexit. And with just over two months to go before the U.K. leaves the E.U., the roads to and from the country's biggest trading port are clogged in a dry run to prepare for a possible return of customs checks.

Parliament is gridlocked, too with MPs returning from their winter break, support for various solutions to the Brexit impasse is split multiple ways, as the PM once more prepares to put her unpopular deal to a vote next week, one which may include some concessions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I've been speaking to European leaders in the intervening periods, speaking to colleagues. I'll be continuing with that, talking to colleagues, listening to colleagues and speaking to European leaders.

DOS SANTOS: More than 200 MPs have written to Theresa May demanding that she rule out a so-called hard or no-deal Brexit or some vocal members of her own party suggested that only a clean break with Brussels will deliver upon the results of the 2016 referendum.

THERESA VILIERS, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, CONSERVATIVE: I don't see how it's got the numbers to pass, unfortunately the deal on the table that's been put forward by the government just isn't in the national interest. And it doesn't respect the vote to leave, which is why I feel that I can't support it.

DOS SANTOS: And support for a second referendum is also growing, even though it's unclear as to whether the U.K. would have time to hold one before Britain leaves the E.U. in March.

DOS SANTOS (voice over): The leader of the opposition accused the government of wasting precious time by delaying December's vote with little to show for that decision.

JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: The government is trying --


CORBYN: -- to run down the clock in an attempt to blackmail this house and the country into supporting a botched deal.

DOS SANTOS (voice over): For Downing Street, the New Year begins with a charm offensive, opening its door to doubters for drinks on Monday before the Brexit Secretary unveils a new information campaign set to hit the press on Tuesday.

Debate resumes in the House of Commons on Wednesday and MPs will cast their ballots on the 15th.

If May's deal still doesn't pass, she may have to return to the E.U. for further changes; otherwise, scenes like this could soon become a way of life in Brexit-era Britain -- Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.


CHURCH: A fire on board an oil tanker en route to Hong Kong has left at least one person dead. Police say the vessel was transporting kerosene and the fire broke out a few hours ago as it passed near Llama Island. The crew jumped into the water as flames engulfed the ship. Marine police rescued 21 crew members. Nearby residents said they heard a loud bang that shook their windows.

Well, from the boardroom to the courtroom. Auto industry executive Carlos Ghosn proclaims his innocence against allegations of financial wrongdoing. Details from his first hearing coming up. Plus a president, a national security adviser and a secretary of state

walk into a room but they all seem to have very different ideas about how to get out of Syria. We try to make sense of it all. That's still to come. Stay with us.




CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

The economic slowdown affecting businesses around the world has hit Samsung. The world's large smartphone maker just announced its fourth quarter profit is set to drop 30 percent from a year earlier.

Samsung blames slow demand for its memory chips and increased competition in the smartphone industry. Last week, Apple had a similar story, saying it would sell fewer iPhones and expected blaming lackluster demand in China caused by the U.S. trade war.

For the first time, Carlos Ghosn has appeared in court pleading innocent to the charges that landed him in jail. The former head of Nissan, an icon in the auto industry, is accused of financial --


CHURCH: -- misconduct.

Ghosn told a judge he did not underreport his income or transfer personal investment losses to the company. Ghosn has been in a Japanese jail since November 19th, when he was arrested.

Kaori Enjoji is with us now live from Tokyo with more on all of this.

Good to see you, Kaori. So Carlos Ghosn's lawyer gave a news conference just a short time ago.

What all did he say and what more did we learn about these allegations against Ghosn during the course of the hearing?

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, Carlos Ghosn's lawyer, Mr. Otsuru, is giving -- continues to give the press conference behind me.

But he made it clear that he feels the prosecutors flatly do not have a case against Carlos Ghosn, it's become much clearer through this press conference what exactly the points of contention are that has riveted the nation and the world since Carlos Ghosn was arrested seven weeks ago.

The main point of contention seems to be around the third arrest for possible embezzlement, using Nissan money for his own personal gain. So let me just backtrack a little bit and explain what we are talking about here. We now know that we are talking about foreign exchange swap contracts.

Because Carlos Ghosn was paid in yen but he's a dollar-based guy, he took out these foreign exchange options. These are options that he took out a long time ago, more than 10 years ago. But because of the gyrations in the markets due to the Lehman crisis, he faced a major threat on his collateral on these options.

So at the time, the lawyers say that he had two options: he could either quit Nissan and get his retirement pay, put that towards the options or temporarily transfer those contracts to Nissan under the agreement that Nissan would not incur any losses.

And once Carlos Ghosn was able to find money for the collateral he would take on the contract himself. And the lawyer is saying, that's exactly what happened. And he says that he has personally seen the minutes from the board meeting at Nissan that says that there is an agreement between Nissan and the bank that specifies that Nissan will not incur any financial losses as a result of the temporary transfer of these contracts.

So this seems to be a flat-out rebuttal of the prosecutor's case. We are also hearing a little bit of detail what the conditions have been like for Carlos Ghosn as he faces life in jail for the last 50-plus days. His lawyer says that it was clear that his cheeks were sunken today in court. He has probably lost a lot of weight.

But in that process he was transferred to a slightly larger room and he's sleeping on a bed instead of a futon but he says, as of now, he has not been granted any visitation rights from his family.

The lawyer is saying this detention process can be very long in Japan and he's trying to get him out on bail, especially because another Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, who was arrested at the same time, was granted bail on Christmas Day.

He didn't give us any indications whether or not he thinks he will be successful but the latest detention period goes until January 11th, on Friday, after which the prosecutors have to decide whether or not to indict him, excuse me, or rearrest him on separate charges.

So this is the first time that Carlos Ghosn in court today and his defense team, three members of his defense team are meeting the public today.

And asked why it took them so long, why it took them seven weeks to appear in front of public, when there has been a slow and steady drip feed of information for the prosecution, he says basically because he feels he now has seen clear evidence that exonerates his client from the claims made by the prosecutors.

I should point out the trial for Carlos Ghosn, it could take months before we actually go to trial. And bear in mind the conviction rate in Japan is exceptionally high. It is more than 99 percent.

So not only is Carlos Ghosn under scrutiny today but also the Japanese -- the criminal justice system is under scrutiny, particularly the process in which these trials are made. And the long -- the lengthy detention process and the interrogation which is done without the lawyers present -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Good point there, Kaori Enjoji, joining us live from Tokyo. Many thanks to you for that report.

Well, top U.S. officials are trying to reassure Middle Eastern allies about a U.S. withdrawal from Syria. National security adviser John Bolton is expected to be meeting in Ankara with Turkish officials. He said the U.S. wants protection for Kurdish forces but that may not sit well with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


CHURCH: Mr. Erdogan considers many of those Kurds terrorists. Here is some of what he wrote in a "New York Times" op-ed.

He said this, "A military victory against ISIS, a mere first step, the lesson of Iraq, where this terrorist group was born, is that premature declarations of victory and the reckless actions they tends to spur create more problems than they solve.

"The international community cannot afford to make the same mistake again today."

The White House has been sending lots of mixed messages on Syria. CNN's Michelle Kosinski explains.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's abrupt plan for quickly bringing home some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria appears to have morphed again. National security adviser John Bolton in Israel Sunday, laying out what needs to happen first.

JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: To do so from northeast Syria in a way that make sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to provide itself and become a threat again and to make sure that the defense of Israel and other friends in the region is absolutely assured and to take care of those who have fought with us against ISIS and other terrorist groups.

KOSINSKI: Those sound like complex conditions to meet before U.S. troops leave Syria. And compare that to Trump's various pronouncements on the troop withdrawal just in the last few weeks.

TRUMP: They are all coming back and they are coming back now. We won.

So, let's get out of Syria. We can't have anymore time. We've got enough time. We have knocked them out. We have knocked them silly.

KOSINSKI: That decision came only days after his own aids told reporters ISIS had not yet been defeated and prompted the resignations of both Defense Secretary James Mattis and U.S. envoy to counter ISIS, Brett McGurk.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WASH.), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: He is changing course like a drunken sailor, OK?

You know, there's no thought behind it.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is such a bizarre spectacle. I mean, what you've really seeing is a new U.S. policy on Syria every single week. We have gone from the troops will pull out now which the Pentagon briefed reporters, meaning within 30 days and then the next week, Trump said, no, no.

They said it will be more like four months and now, both of them seems to be saying they're not going to come out until those conditions are achieved which we're not going to be achieving any time soon.

KOSINSKI: Just yesterday, the president himself walked back his initial comments about a rapid withdrawal.

TRUMP: We are going to be removing our troops. I never said we are doing it that quickly.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president is slowing down and reevaluating policies. I think this is the reality setting in that you've got to plan this out.

KOSINSKI: OK, so the president declared ISIS defeated. Now John Bolton is saying, no, U.S. troops have to stay in Syria at least until ISIS is really defeated.

The president said now Iran can do whatever it wants in Syria. But today the secretary of state said, no, the U.S. commitment to countering Iran absolutely has not changed.

And now Pentagon officials are telling CNN, in order to get U.S. troops out of Syria safely, first they might have to send additional hundreds. And again, they are not mentioning any kind of timeframe, saying this is going to have to be based on multiple factors -- Michelle Kosinski, CNN, the State Department.


CHURCH: And we'll take a short break here. Still to come, getting through airport security in the United States could soon take longer. The impact of the government shutdown on air travel. And how the Transportation Security Administration is dealing with it.

And the latest on the Saudi teen who barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room. We will explain why she fears for her life and what is being done to protect her.


[02:31:08] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. This is CNN Newsroom and I'm Rosemary Church. Let's check the headlines for you at this hour. Kim Jong-un is on a surprise visit to Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The trip comes as U.S. officials are said to be scouting locations for a second summit between the North Korean leader and President Trump. The ousted former head of Nissan was led into a Japanese courtroom in handcuffed just a few hours ago.

Prosecutors accused Carlos Ghosn of financial misconduct including underreporting his income by millions of dollars. He has been in a Tokyo jail for nearly two months. In a statement to the judge, Ghosn proclaimed his innocence. U.S. President Donald Trump will make his pitch for funding a border wall in a televised address Tuesday night. He will follow that up with a trip to the southern border Thursday. Democrats refused to fund the wall.

The dispute has caused a partial government shutdown now in its third week. Well, more Americans are going to be feeling the effects of the shutdown especially at major airports. Hundreds of officers with the Transportation Security Administration called out from their shifts last week and more call outs are expected as long as this shutdown drags on. Rene Marsh reports on how the agency is responding.

RENE MARSH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On Monday, TSA held a call with agency security directors from airports nationwide discussing TSA employees calling out sick, that according to a source who was on the call. Now, the agency also said on this call that they will now start tracking sick calls nationwide. The agency also discussed the need for incentives to entice employees to show up to work. A source on the call said that TSA Head, David Pekoske, vowed that the agency security standards will remain the same.

And he also said he wanted to be transparent with the public about the number of sick calls so that travellers will know just how much time they will need to get through security. This all comes as the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee sent a letter to the agency on Monday asking for data on how many employees have called out sick and asking the agency what is its plan for dealing with short staff if the shutdown drags on.

Now, TSA does acknowledge that callouts began over the holiday and they have increased. But they maintain that the call outs have not been significant enough to impact wait times or even security screening. Now, TSA officers in the field they are warning that more call outs are coming and it's mainly because many of these employees are calling in sick to find cash-paying jobs outside of the government. Rene Marsh, CNN Washington.

CHURCH: It has been two years since Donald Trump was briefed about a secret dossier compiled on him and his campaign by former British Intelligence agents -- agent Christopher Steele. The allegations in that dossier remain a source of controversy and concern to this day. CNN's Jim Sciutto reports key parts of the intelligence have proven to be true.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: After endless debate in Washington and countless denials and dismissals by President Trump. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fraud of the phone of

the fake dossier, the phony dossier.

SCIUTTO: Parts of the now infamous dossier on Trump have proven to be true. The dossier began as opposition research on Trump first funded by his Republican opponents and then Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was then retired British Intelligence Officer Christopher Steele began to take part. Later compiling a serious of raw intelligence leads which formed the 35-page document.

[02:35:01] The dossier included salacious and unverified claims about Trump as well as broader allegations of a potential conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and Russian nationals tied to the Kremlin and Russian intelligence which Trump has repeatedly denied.

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia.

SCIUTTO: However, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as well as probes by committees on Capitol Hill have in face corroborated some aspects of the dossier. Take the claim that Russians tried to develop a closer relationship with Trump by offering him fruitful real estate business deals.

TRUMP: I have nothing do with Russia, folks, OK.

SCIUTTO: During the campaign, Trump repeatedly and emphatically denied that he had any deals in or involving Russia.

TRUMP: Zero. I mean I will tell you right now, zero. I have nothing to do with Russia, zero. Zero.

SCIUTTO: Despite denying it for months, Trump's one-time fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen testified in December that he and Trump were in fact negotiating potential deal with a Russian company that would bring a Trump Tower to Moscow. The efforts continuing as late as the summer of 2016 as Trump was clinching the Republican nomination for president. With his earlier denials proven false, Trump now brushes the project aside.

TRUMP: I decided ultimately not to do it. There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it.

SCIUTTO: Claiming the deal was well publicized at the time. Though it was not and suggesting that the negotiations were merely part of his obligation to run the Trump Organization.

TRUMP: This deal was a very public deal. Everybody knows about this deal. I wasn't trying to hide anything. When I run for president, that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to do business. I was doing a lot of different things when I was running.

SCIUTTO: Despite Trump's claims of little to no contact with Russia prior to his election victory and inauguration, we have learned that in fact at least 16 Trump associates had contacts with Russians either during the election campaign or the presidential transition. One such interaction took place in June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York when Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort all met with several Russians who were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, President Obama sending a message to Russia essentially we're coming for you.

SCIUTTO: A further allegations in the dossier relates to U.S. sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration. The dossier includes the allegations that former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page met with the president of a Russian state-run oil company and discussed lifting the sanctions. In 2017, Page testified before the House Intelligence Committee that he did visit Russia in 2016 and met a different senior official of the oil company. And that the campaign was fully aware of the trip.

However, Page claims that he visited Russia as a private citizen and that his meeting was not specifically about sanctions though the topic was discussed during his visit.

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: A few people might have brought it up in passing. But, you know, again, it's a major economic issue. And so, you know, there may have been a loose conversation.

SCIUTTO: Still unresolved allegations and a potentially explosive one if proven true, the dossier also claims that Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in the summer of 2016 to coordinate with Russian officials on covering up Russia's interference in the election. Cohen has consistently publically denied any such trip. And all the while the president has stood firm insisting.

TRUMP: No collusion. After two years, no collusion.

SCIUTTO: Some of the dossier's other allegations remain uncorroborated including the allegations that the Russian government has damaging highly salacious material on President Trump which the Kremlin could use as compromising material (INAUDIBLE) in Russian.

TRUMP: And I have to say, if they had it, it would have been out long ago.

SCIUTTO: Throughout, President Trump has had one very public companion in his denials, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (via translator): I'd like to add something to this after all I was an intelligence officer myself and I do know how dossiers are made up.

SCIUTTO: Whom didn't meet that another allegation in the dossier is true that he preferred Trump to win the election over Hillary Clinton.

PUTIN: yes, I did. Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.


CHURCH: CNN's Jim Sciutto reporting from Washington. Well, actor Kevin Spacey has pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual assault. He was in court Monday in Massachusetts accused of groping an 18-year-old busboy at a bar in Nantucket in 2016. The judge ordered Spacey to stay away from his accuser. The two-time Oscar winner is known for his roles in The Usual Suspects, American Beauty, and the popular Netfix series, House of Cards.

But his career has collapsed following multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. Coming up next on CNN NEWSROOM, why this Saudi teen barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room for two days and why she's fearing for her life.

[02:40:00] Plus, a woman sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16 for murder is now free. We will explain why she was released.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been a Supreme Court Justice for a quarter century. And on Monday, she missed oral arguments for the first time. The 85-year-old is recovering from lung cancer surgery she had last month. The nodules were found during tests after she broke three ribs in a fall. The court's chief justice said she would participate in cases by reading transcripts. Ginsburg is the oldest and the senior liberal member of the court. She has been treated for cancer twice before.

A Saudi ten who claims her life is in danger if she's forced to return home is now under U.N. protection in Thailand. The 18-year-old barricaded herself inside a Bangkok hotel room using social media to make desperate pleas for asylum. The U.N.'s refugee agency is now assessing her asylum claim and says it could take several days to determine the next step. CNN's Alexandra Field has the latest.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A Saudi teen who says she fears for her life if forced to return to her home country is now under U.N. protection. Monday night, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun left the Bangkok airport hotel room where she had been holed up for two days while threatened with deportation. On Twitter, she had begged to the world for help.

RAHAF MOHAMMED ALQUNUN, SAUDI TEEN SEEKING ASYLUM: I am not leaving my room until I see UNHCR. I want asylum.

FIELD: She later says I need any country to protect me as soon as possible. I require asylum. And then, I cannot leave the airport because my passport has been taken away and they won't give me a visa. Human rights groups in contact with Alqunun demanded Thai officials put an immediate stop to the plan to send her home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She stated repeatedly that she is deathly afraid of being sent back to Saudi Arabia. She believes at that her family will kill her.

FIELD: Now, Thai authorities are reversing course allowing the U.N.'s refugee agency to determine whether she needs refugee protection. Previously, officials said they were deporting her because she didn't have proper documents. Thailand's immigration chief also said Alqunun was trying to escape an arranged marriage.

LT. COL. SURACHET HAKPAL, COMMISSIONER, IMMIGRATION BUREAU (through translator): We will talk to her and do whatever she requests. Since she escaped trouble to seek our help, we are the Land of Smiles. We will not send anyone to their death. We won't do that. We will adhere to the human rights principles under the rule of law.

FIELD: Al-Qunun says she never planned to stay in Thailand. She says she was changing planes in Bangkok on her way to Australia when she was stopped.

Before Thai authorities blocked her from going further, al-Qunun says she was intercepted by officials from the Saudi embassy who took her passport. On Twitter, she said it had since been returned.

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry has denied the claims. Saying the teen was being deported for violating Thailand's immigration policies. And that its officials remained in touch with her family. The family could not be reached. They have not made any public statements. Alexandra Field, CNN, Hong Kong.


CHURCH: Well, an update now on a story we first reported in CNN's "FREEDOM PROJECT". A woman serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex when she was 16 has been granted clemency. Cyntoia Brown will be released on parole in August after serving 15 years in prison.

Tennessee's governor said, this was a complex and tragic case and, "imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh." Here's a look back at Cyntoia Brown's fight for justice.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Nashville, Tennessee. A group of protesters interrupt the governor. Demanding clemency for a woman whose fate lies in his hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does he want?

ALL: Cyntoia.

KINKADE: Only weeks before the end of his term, the activists join a growing chorus pleading mercy for Cyntoia Brown. She's serving a life sentence in prison for murder. She was a victim long before she was a convict.

CYNTOIA BROWN, SENTENCED TO 51 YEARS FOR MURDER: He was holding a gun pointed at me, hit me, choked, dragged.

KINKADE: An in-depth documentary tells the story of a girl who is exploited, abandoned, and abused. Allegedly forced into prostitution by a pimp named Cutthroat. She describes being sex trafficked at a young age and raped repeatedly.

BROWN: The first time he did something to me is when he choked me and I passed out.

KINKADE: In 2004, when she was 16 years old, Brown killed a 43-year- old man that had bought her for sex. The prosecution said it was premeditated. She shot him dead, took his wallet and fled the scene. Brown claimed she feared for her life.

BROWN: If he does something to me. I'm sitting here thinking what can I do?

KINKADE: Although a teenager at the time, a juvenile court found her competent to stand trial as an adult. She was sentenced to life in prison, more than a decade ago.

STACY CASE, ANCHOR, WZTV: Here in Tennessee, we've had laws change. So, if Cyntoia Brown were tried today, the legal experts say she would not have been tried in the same way. Our courts today would view her as a child sex slave. They would view her as a victim.

KINKADE: The 2011 documentary revealed new evidence suggesting Brown suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause brain damage. Something the jury that convicted her never saw. Her mother also admitted to drinking heavily while pregnant.

DERRI SMITH, FOUNDER AND CEO, END SLAVERY TENNESSEE: Cyntoia's story is heartbreakingly common. Traffickers are master manipulators. They're looking for vulnerabilities in the young person that they can exploit, and no ones in more danger than the child of an addicted parent.

BROWN: Sometimes I didn't want to have sex with him. He'd still -- me. I'd be crying and everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, how come you stayed with him?

BROWN: You're not listening, I made him money. He wasn't going to let me go anywhere. He told me he'd kill me.

KINKADE: Now, 30 years old, Brown has been incarcerated for nearly half her life. The story gained national recognition after support from celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian-West. During her time behind bars, Brown's advocates say she's trying to transform herself.

SMITH: She is mentoring even while she's in prison through the juvenile justice system. Troubled youth, she is working on her college degree. She's planning on a nonprofit.

BROWN: I've learned that my life was -- and is not over. I can create opportunities where I can actually help people.

KINKADE: Despite attempts to appeal the case, the Tennessee Supreme Court recently affirmed that Brown would not be eligible for parole until she's 67 years old. An announcement that renewed debate and outrage.

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: I cannot find a case where there has been such a harsh punishment imposed on a similarly aged person, who was after all in the process of being raped as a child when this crime happened. We can't take that out of this equation.

[02:50:02] JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The basic facts are no one can take a life. And so, if no one -- if you take a life and it's not deemed to be self-defense that is you're not in immediate fear for your life, right? It's not deemed to be immediate and you didn't act out of that fear that it becomes problematic, no matter what age you are.


KINKADE: In a statement today, Cyntoia Brown thanked everyone for the second chance. And said she will commit the rest of her life to helping the victims of sex trafficking. We'll be right back.


CHURCH: A state of emergency has been declared in Southern Germany after a winter storm dumped more than half a meter of snow there. Many roads blocked and schools have been closed, and the avalanche warning level has been raised in some areas. More heavy snow is expected in Southeastern Europe this week.

So let's turn to our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, who joins us now. So, Pedram, how much more snow we're talking about here?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: You know, in some areas, still another half a meter or even potentially more than that in the forecast. So, it's really an incredible pattern that has shaped up across this region, the persistence of it is as impressive as it gets. And, of course, only just a couple of weeks into the winter season but already seeing seven fatalities much of it related to avalanches or just plain heavy snowfall that has occurred across the Bavaria region down towards Austria as well, where, of course, schools have been closed in parts of this region. But also, road closures, train line disruptions, as well.

Because of the significance of the amount of snow that has come down, in fact, one of the ski resorts, this kind of speaks volumes to the dangers of what's happening because one of the ski resorts there in portions of Austria has had to ask residents and also visitors to exit that region because of what has come down again over the past several days across that region.

But, take a look at what's happening across portions of Germany, this is south of Munich in the past 24 still hours where we've had additional heavy snowfall. Last check across this region, snow still coming down at this hour, and folks finally beginning to get as much as they can out of the way before the next round of wintry weather sets up shop across this region. But a red warning has been issued across portions of Austria, which, by the way, climatologically, you see about 30 or so avalanches every single year and dozens of fatalities that go with it and you had already seen upwards of seven across this region associated with the snow, and also avalanches.

But, look at that system, as clear as a day here, it begins to dive to the south and unfortunately, it aligns itself right there towards the Southeast of Europe. Precisely, where the heaviest snow has been coming down in recent days and that's an area of concern right here, Rosemary.

So, watch that here over the next couple of days for the additional heavy snowfall in the forecast.

CHURCH: Yes, we must definitely will keep an eye on that. Thank you so much. Pedram. Appreciate it.

JAVAHERI: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: Well, a U.K. Pink Floyd --cover band found itself in an interesting situation. The group booked a gig in Israel but Roger Waters former leader of the actual Pink Floyd group, said the musicians should boycott Israel instead.

And then lawyers got involved and the cover band came up with a way to resolve the situation, at least, musically. Ian Lee, explains.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want from me?

IAN LEE, CNN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: What do you want from me? Well, if you're Roger Waters from Pink Floyd that answer is simple. To boycott Israel or stop play its music.

U.K. Pink Floyd experience, a group of super fan musicians became the latest target of the legendary rocker after they announced their tour in Israel. Waters took to Facebook. Urging the band to cancel because of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

His voice has divided the music world. Lana Del Rey and Lorde both canceled shows after facing pressure from boycott advocates. While radio had ignored it, playing in Tel Aviv.

[02:55:29] ZIV RUBINSTEIN, PROMOTER, EGOEAST PRODUCTIONS: Every third artist that we are connected will said, no Israel. And not because the policy of Israel, because they're afraid from that what's happening in Facebook and what's happening, you know, in the Internet.

LEE: Having Waters call them out, put U.K. Pink Floyd Experience in a tight spot. So, they canceled their three shows. Only to abruptly reverse that decision, lawyers apparently winning the argument. "We're obliged to fulfill our contractual obligation to perform." Ran a statement from the band with the concert's profits going to UNICEF.

RUBINSTEIN: You know, we won. Let's face it, we won.

LEE: Maybe. But with Waters disapproving stare still hanging over them, the band came up with a fix. The Experience would not play any of the Pink Floyd songs he penned. So, no money time, or another brick in the wall. Instead, those tunes were played by an Israeli cover band who joined them on stage.

DAVID POWER, SINGER AND BASS GUITARIST, U.K. PINK FLOYD EXPERIENCE: I saw these guys on YouTube and so on, and I thought blimey they good. So, we asked, could we do something together to kind of cement U.K. and Israeli relationships and make music with power of love.

LEE: Some fans though weren't feeling the love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came for Dark Side of the Moon. And that was already played by an Israeli band. Looks like weird.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The heck of band from Israel was the better of the guys coming from U.K.

LEE: Is that why you're leaving earlier or --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want my tears? What do you want?

LEE: It may not have been the performance they wanted, but it's the performance they got. And from the reaction of the crowd, at least, for many, it was worth the money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for making us so welcome again. Good night.

LEE: Ian Lee, CNN, Tel Aviv.


CHURCH: And thank you for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with another hour of news in just a moment. Do stick around. You're watching CNN.