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British Prime Minister May Survives No Confidence Vote, Urges Compromise; ISIS-Claimed Bombing Kills 19, Including Four Americans; Interview with Maj. Gen. Mark MacCarley; Kenya Hotel Attack Claims at least 21. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 17, 2019 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Theresa May lives to fight another day, surviving a no confidence motion in Parliament and she will continue to lead the U.K. as she faces an existential crisis of its own making as the clock ticks down to the Brexit deadline.

About an hour after the confirmation that ISIS killed four Americans in Syria, the U.S. Vice President told diplomats this.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.


VAUSE (voice-over): And whose House is it anyway?

The Speaker of the House of Representatives tells the president either delay his State of the Union address or do it someplace else because of security issues caused by the partial government shutdown.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: Britain's prime minister now has just days to do what she could not get done in years, coming up with a plan for the U.K. to leave the European Union, which has the support of a majority of Parliament and the approval of European leaders.

"The New York Times" is calling her British Lady of Perpetual Crisis. She survived a no confidence vote in Parliament on Tuesday.

This is the day after lawmakers rejected her Brexit plan with a vengeance. The biggest parliamentary loss for a sitting government ever in British history. Come Monday, somehow the prime minister needs to ride that Parliament again, this time with another Brexit plan which has the support of lawmakers.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I believe it is my duty to deliver on the British people's instruction to leave the European Union. And I intend to do so. This is now the time to put self- interest aside.

Now, over 2.5 years later, it is time for us to come together and put the national interests first and deliver on the referendum.


VAUSE: The prime minister has invited the other parliamentary party to talks and the Labour Party leader issued an ultimatum.


JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. LABOUR PARTY: Before there's any positive discussions about the way forward, the government -- the government must remove -- must remove clearly, once and for all, the prospect of the catastrophe of a no deal Brexit and the chaos that would come as a result of that.

I invite the prime minister to confirm now that the government will not countenance a no deal Brexit from the European Union.


VAUSE: CNN business reporter Hadas Gold is live outside 10 Downing Street.

What a couple of days it's been. It seems that the prime minister is actually right, others need to put self-interest aside. Lawmakers need to work together regardless of party. It is just a chance we don't do that in the last 2.5 years.

So how does she expect to make it happen in the next five days?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question. If I knew the answer, I would be inside Number 10 behind me --


GOLD: -- and not out here. But I do love the title from "The New York Times," because that's what it feels like we've been in for the last few months, for the last 2.5 years since that vote was taken.

That's also what we hear from a lot of MPs. They say why is Theresa May now standing up and saying I'm going to invite all these different people to come and listen to them?

Why didn't she do this before getting her deal for the withdrawal agreement done with the European Union?

It seems like she's trying to ram through her deal or no deal or the highway. Now she's capitulating and admitting she needs them. While it is hard to find consensus among MPs for anything, one thing you do find is that most don't want to crash out in a no deal scenario.

If you talk to business leaders, they say this could be the worst possible thing for the economy. And you could have all the ports of entry backed up. You already have the supermarkets stockpiling food.


GOLD: The question is, what is the thing that gets everybody on the same page and get the European Union to agree to?

Right now it seems nobody has the answer to that.

VAUSE: They see all of this as maybe working into a chance that somehow the E.U. will relent and come back with a few more concessions to help Theresa May. But listen to the French president on that very question.


EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Maybe we'll make improvements on one or two things. But I don't really think so because we've reached the maximum of what we could do with the deal. And we won't just to solve Britain's domestic political issues stop defending the European interests.


VAUSE: It seems to be a pretty big "fat chance" from Macron. This is the guy who has a very influential voice in all things E.U.

GOLD: He does. And another country that has an influential voice is Ireland, the only country that shares a land border with the United Kingdom. And the country whose issue with the border and the insurance policy in the current withdrawal agreement seems to be holding things up.

But the European Union is not going to cater to what the U.K. wants over things like the Irish border and avoiding a hard border there with a link to the customs union. They'll do more about what Ireland wants because Ireland is staying in the European Union.

So why would you help somebody who's divorcing you?

Why not help out the person who's staying in your family?

And that is the conundrum we're coming up against.

VAUSE: Interesting way of putting it, Hadas, thank you. Hadas Gold live outside Number 10. Appreciate it.

Let's go to Los Angeles and CNN's European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas.

Possibly the worst part about this crisis that Britain is facing right now is that the vote in Parliament wasn't the end of it all. In terms of the Brexit reckoning, this is early days in a crisis which ultimately could see the break-up of the U.K.

We could see England and Wales going their own way and Scotland and Ireland basically heading off to the E.U.


DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Joining up. I think what we've seen over the last few weeks is extraordinary violence really over voting. And predominantly run by what we could argue is the problematic component of the equation, which is the Brexiteer wing, the right-wing, some would say the far right wing of the Conservative Party.

First of all in December, within their own party, this vote of no confidence, which was a vote they had no real vote of getting through but demonstrated that over a third of her constituents, a third of her MPs could potentially vote against her.

In the last two days, we've seen them come out and absolutely humiliate her on her Brexit amendment and then wake up the next day and support her and keep her in power while at the same time sending a strong message, you really are serving and based on the confidence that we provide you with.

The irony of the situation is that the closest, the closer Theresa May goes towards satisfying the needs of that fringe of her political party, the least likely she's to strike a deal with the center or any kind of cross-party constituency or get anything out of the European Union.

And yet if she moves to the center to strike a deal with the opposition or get some kind of concession out of the Labour Party, she faces a potential vote of no confidence again in the Houses of Parliament where these 100 or so may this time around side and push for a general election or something along those lines.

So we're in an extraordinarily difficult and mathematical situation here. But the Brexiters have been heard loud and clear over the last few days.

VAUSE: We're also hearing a lot from European leaders, too, to this parliamentary defeat of the deal. It actually proved this deal as well. This is a sample of what they've been saying. Listen.


ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): It seems we still have time to negotiate where we think the British prime minister will suggest.

MICHEL BARNIER, E.U. BREXIT NEGOTIATOR (through translator): Ten weeks away, the risk of a no deal has never seemed so high. Our goal is to avoid such a scenario though we also have a responsibility to remain clearheaded. GUY VERHOFSTADT, ALLIANCE OF LIBERALS AND DEMOCRATS FOR EUROPE: I think it's time now to tell our British friends that, for the sake of Britain itself, it is time for cross-party cooperation in Britain as we do here in this parliament from day one.


VAUSE: What a great idea from that guy from Belgium. He's basically telling Britain and the prime minister to try to work out what they want first, reach an agreement and then talk to the E.U., which would have been a great strategy about two years ago at the start of this process.

THOMAS: It would.


THOMAS: And this is absolutely the way that they should have gone. But all along it has been driven by the pressure from the Brexiteer wing to essentially not have some kind of a negotiated settlement that would keep the U.K. with obligations and aligned with the European Union. That's just one particular position.

But the European Union is absolutely right here. And the rest of that town hall meeting with Emmanuel Macron, he was actually quite clear and demonstrated a real understanding of what was at stake here.

There was no point in going back to the E.U. until you know what it is back in the U.K. that you want to negotiate and what will get through the U.K. Parliament.

The second aspect for the European Union is they're united; the 27 countries came together and signed off on this withdrawal agreement and political declaration. They've also been very honest in speaking and responding to this by saying the real problem is in the U.K. and we know where the problem is, within your party.

You need to sort this out before you come back to us and you can't expect us to compromise the integrity of the European Union on our rules and regulations and values until you come back with something.

The other concern for the European Union as well is they have got elections coming up in May. If an extension is granted to the U.K. or if they haven't resolved this issue then, this could negatively impact the outcome of so many of the votes within the very structure of the E.U. parliament.

This could have implications as well in terms of future negotiations. For the E.U., this is extraordinarily disruptive, what is going on here. They would like this to be put on the back burner, so to speak, or dismissed.

VAUSE: Clearly, again, we saw that point, where there's no clear road forward. It kind of is but not an increase on it. Dominic, we will talk to you next hour. Thank you.

THOMAS: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: ISIS has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack Wednesday which killed four Americans in Syria, including two U.S. service members. Journalists say a total of 19 were killed when a man brought a suicide vest in the northern city of Manbij. This is four weeks after U.S. president Trump declared ISIS defeated and said the U.S. forces would withdraw from Syria.

Now some are questioning whether the president's words actually emboldened them to carry out this strike. We get more now from CNN's Barbara Starr and a warning, her report contains some disturbing images.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Without warning, a suicide blast on the busy streets of Manbij in Northern Syria, U.S. troops and civilians killed and wounded, people suddenly thrown to the ground, devastation in this commercial area where U.S. troops had been on what the U.S. military originally called a routine patrol.

CNN has learned from U.S. officials the troops had a civilian intelligence expert with them actually hoping to collect information about security and adversaries in the area. Two U.S. troops, along with that civilian intelligence expert and a contractor, were killed. Three service members were wounded.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan offering condolences.

PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Allow me to extend on behalf of the Department of Defense our thoughts and prayers to the families and team members of those killed and wounded during today's attack.

STARR: The U.S. has not said who is responsible, although ISIS quickly claimed responsibility.

The military, for its part, has told the president ISIS is not defeated, pushing back against Trump's claim in recent weeks.

TRUMP: We have won against ISIS. We have beaten them and we have beaten them badly.

STARR: But the consequences of the withdrawal now becoming more clear.

SETH JONES, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Losing territory does not end groups historically. It just means they have to shift strategy to a guerrilla-style campaign. And that is exactly what ISIS has now done.

STARR: U.S. officials say currently there's no plans to change the president's strategy to bring U.S. troops home from Syria -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


VAUSE: U.S. Army Major General Mark MacCauley is with us from Los Angeles.

Mark, it has been a while. Thank you for coming in. Good to see you.


VAUSE: Just to follow up on that statement from Senator Graham about an emboldened ISIS and a demoralized U.S. ally, here's what the president Turkey said after the attack.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY (through translator): ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack and this may affect the decision that the U.S. and Mr. Trump has taken. But because I saw honorable Trump's determination on this point, I don't think he will step back against this kind of terrorist attack.



VAUSE: He also basically said this would -- this was to be expected because of that decision to leave. The idea is the same, let's leave the armchairs behind for a moment. I want to ask you as someone that has confronted a terrorist insurgency.

Was this something you expected and would say is a direct result of that presidential tweet last month, announcing the U.S. troops would be coming home from Syria?

MACCAULEY: John, the short and direct answer is yes. It is something that is anticipated. It is a tactical error for any leader to come forward and tell an enemy that has not yet really been defeated that we're evacuating from the battlefield.

What it prompts is the type of terrorist activity that we saw today. It creates this vacuum and within this vacuum rushes forth ISIS and rushes forth what we saw this afternoon.

Something I wanted to bring this up and -- and it is an appropriate statement that describes what took place.

Our Secretary of Defense, our most recent Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, who is a man of multiple words, had a lot of aphorisms, a lot of little statements that, if you listen to them, resonated with truth.

One thing I recall him saying was -- and I have to apologize for the manner in which I'm delivering it -- but the statement was a war ain't over until the enemy says it is over.

If you dissect that, that's exactly what we've seen today. We can declare, our leadership can declare that we have completely crushed ISIS and the caliphate is no longer and we have pushed the terrorists out of Syria.

Yet there's been no negotiation. There's been no resolution with ISIS. And ISIS has not stood up and capitulated and surrendered and accepted the fact that we have prevailed on the battlefield. ISIS is there. ISIS will continue. It may have been pushed out of Raqqah, Manbij, parts of Syria. It still has significant areas and it is still a war that we have to continue to engage.

VAUSE: Yes, the enemy gets a vote in this as well.

MACCAULEY: That's exactly right.

VAUSE: But also, after we had the public confirmation that ISIS actually carried out the attack in Syria, the U.S. vice president when he had a gathering of diplomats at the State Department and said this.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are bringing our troops home. The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.


VAUSE: No word about the dead or the wounded. Your point about what U.S. leaders can say as much about winning the tour as they want. This can have insistence and a hope that if you say it is enough time, it may come true. But Lyndon Johnson tried that strategy during Vietnam and it didn't work out.

MACCAULEY: It didn't work out in Vietnam. It didn't work out, interestingly, in 1989 when we -- we Americans assisted the mujahidin in Afghanistan and routed the Taliban -- the Russians at that particular point in time.

The all of a sudden into that vacuum flooded the Taliban. It didn't really work in 2011 when President Obama made an arbitrary decision and that was to come out of Iraq. I remember, a personal recollection. It was the -- it was the last week of December 2011 and all American combat troops were supposed to be out of Iraq.

I was physically standing real close to the border between Iraq and Kuwait as our American armed forces were coming across the border. I talked to my boss and we basically said, yes, we're not going to be out of here for very long. It'll be another year or so and we'll be back because what was taking place in Iraq was not resolved.

We may have made inroads and had a temporary lull in activity. Sure enough, if you call that thing a prophecy, a year or so later, we have the rise of ISIS and all the debacle that resulted from 2012-13-14 up until most recently with ISIS as a resurgent power that is nothing more than a further extension of Al Qaeda, which is nothing more than a resurgent entity of previous terrorist groups.


MACCAULEY: -- keep your eye off the ball. VAUSE: I want to -- I want to get back to 2017, this map, the parts in red, that's territory ISIS --


VAUSE: -- was in control of. They've been on a roll, seizing real estate across Syria and Iraq. Here is ISIS of 2019. You see it as just a small sliver of red there. But for the terrorist group, territory may be tactical management. It is not like World War II, they lose enough land, they run up the white flag.

They're an ideology. They have cells all around the world. Losing territory is not the end game.

MACCAULEY: Absolutely. You are addressing a nonstate adversary. And holding land, although that was the express intention of Baghdadi as the current -- then and current leader of ISIS, to hold this caliphate, at the end of the day it is about an ideology and the propagation of this ideology around the Middle East and even further afield, as we see Al-Shabaab in Kenya in the last days with the explosion and terrorist activities.

So it is not something that is immediately crushed merely because the technical map that you put forward shows that the red blotches have somehow dissolved or disappeared from the map.

It doesn't say anything about the thousands of ISIS supporters and -- and soldiers who have, while evacuated from Raqqah and other major cities in that northeastern part of Syria, have not gone away. They still maintain that further. They're still going to be out there and they still constitute a threat, which is why our continued presence is an absolute necessity.

VAUSE: Of course we heard from John Bolton saying I'll stay there and I'll continue to fight ISIS until the job is done. So I guess we'll have to see how this plays out.

But Mark, thank you for walking us through and we appreciate that and all of your experience as well.

MACCAULEY: Thank you, sir.

VAUSE: Still to come, a brazen attack on a Nairobi hotel has left 21 dead and hundreds running for their lives. A video shows that terrifying situation as terrorists reveal what they say prompted the deadly violence.

Also the Speaker of the U.S. House tells the U.S. president, put the State of the Union on hold until the government is back up and running. Nancy Pelosi said it is about security but some say it is a political power play in the works.




VAUSE: Al-Shabaab militants say they attacked a hotel complex in Nairobi as retaliation for Donald Trump's decision for the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Surveillance video shows the moment that one of the terrorists detonated a suicide bomb. A warning: the images you're about to see are graphic. At least 21 people have been killed in this assault but the death toll could climb and CNN's Sam Kiley has details on how this started and the response from government security forces.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trapped by terrorists in a luxury hotel compound, gunmen pick off victims. Dozen of civilians flee the carnage claimed by the Somali- based terror group, Al-Shabaab.

British special forces were training Kenyans and rushed to help. But many people were trapped in the Dusit hotel complex, using their phones to call for help.


SAM MATTOCK, HALLIDAY FINCH SECURITY: I got the call. I jumped in a vehicle with two of friends and work colleagues and went across to 14 Riverside, where we got right to the front of the gate.

KILEY: How did you get your guys out?

MATTOCK: The GSU got into the building we were in and got the -- all of the whole crew in that building out. Everyone was helping everyone, the security professionals, the Kenyan Red Cross. They were in there, in every single building with and without armed protection.

KILEY (voice-over): Rescues went on throughout the 20-hour gun battle that ended when terrorists were finally killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY (voice-over): In the end 700 people escaped the complex. At least 21 did not. Among them two friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY (voice-over): Faisal and Abdullah was shot dead inside the hotel over lunch.

Both were ethnic Somalis. Both worked for an aid agency serving Somalia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY: So he's expecting his first child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), yes. KILEY (voice-over): Ahmed, like so many other Kenyans caught in the tragedy, is left to mourn and pray that another attack never comes -- Sam Kiley, CNN, Nairobi.


VAUSE: Trump's Syria policy getting another sharp rebuke, this time from one of his closest allies after four Americans were killed in Wednesday's suicide attack in Manbij. Meantime, the president is also facing more pushback over the partial government shutdown and Democrats are trying a new tactic to shut down his upcoming State of the Union address which is delivered from Capitol Hill. CNN's Jim Acosta has this report from the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In response to ISIS taking responsibility for the suicide bombing in Syria that claimed the lives of U.S. service members, just weeks after the president declared he had beaten the terror group, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham called on Mr. Trump to rethink his strategy.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: My concern about the statements made by President Trump is that you'd set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we're fighting. So I would hope the president would look long and hard where he's headed in Syria.

ACOSTA: The attack in Syria appeared to catch the White House flatfooted. Even after the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS had announced the deaths of U.S. troops, Vice President Pence delivered a speech that stated the organization had been defeated.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to the leadership of this commander in chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, we're now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners; and we are bringing our troops home. The caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.

ACOSTA: Later in the day, Pence released a statement that was more carefully worded, saying, "We have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities."

Ever since the president said he was withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, he's been touting a military victory over ISIS, tweeting last month, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency."

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have won against ISIS. We've beaten them and we've beaten them badly. We've taken back the land and now it's time for our troops to come back home.

ACOSTA: A message he repeated during his visit with U.S. troops in Iraq over the holidays.

TRUMP: We're no longer the suckers, folks. And people aren't looking at us as suckers. And I love you folks, because most of you are nodding your head this way. We're respected again as a nation.

ACOSTA: The lack of clarity on the president's Syria policy comes as tensions are flaring over the government shutdown, after House Speaker Pelosi told Mr. Trump to reschedule his upcoming State of the Union address, writing in a letter, "I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th."

Pelosi cited security concerns.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is an -- requires hundreds of people working on the logistics and the security of it. Most of those people are furloughed or victims of the shutdown.

ACOSTA: The Department of Homeland Security rejected that argument, tweeting the department and the U.S. Secret Service "are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union."

The president is signaling he's not budging over his demand for a border wall, telling supporters on a phone call, "We're going to stay out far long time if we have to."

But the White House is just beginning to get a sense of the economic damage caused by the shutdown.

KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS: We made an early assessment right at the beginning of the crisis that was a little bit lower than the estimate you just cited and have been studying it hard as this has gone on.

And it found that, actually, the damage is a little bit worse because of government contractors, something that was excluded from our first analysis.

ACOSTA (voice-over): One part of the government that's still up and running: the White House spin machine.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we are focused on the long term economic goals of the administration.

ACOSTA: As for the Vice President declaring in that speech that ISIS had been defeated, a White House official tried to explained that saying the White house had not yet publicly confirmed the deaths of the U.S. soldiers in Syria, at the time Pence was speaking. But we went back and found that the U.S. coalition against ISIS did tweet a message about those deaths, a full hour, before the Vice President's speech.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Dear, Mr. President. North Korea's top nuclear negotiator heads to Washington, hand-carrying a letter from Kim Jong-un, addressed to Donald Trump. It's all meant to try and restart the stalled nuclear negotiations. But haven't these guys heard about telephones?


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody, thanks for staying with us. I'm John Vause. An update now on the top stories this hour, British Prime Minister Theresa May, urging all political parties to come together and work on a compromised Brexit deal, she survived a no-confidence vote Wednesday after her Brexit plan was overwhelmingly shut down. Mrs. May is expected to lay out an alternative plan by Monday.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack Wednesday in Manbij, Syria, which killed at least 19 people, including 4 Americans, 2 of whom were service members. This comes just a few weeks after the U.S. President said ISIS had been defeated and U.S. troops would start coming home from Syria.

Al-Shabaab militants say their assault on a hotel complex in Nairobi was a response to Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A warning, these images you're about to see are disturbing. Surveillance video shows the moment one of the terrorists detonated a suicide bomb in the hotel, at least 21 people were killed in the hours-long attack.

First, comes the exchange of letters, then maybe a confirmation of the date, and it seems the U.S. and North Korea maybe a step closer to a second nuclear summit. A source tells CNN North Korea's lead negotiator in these nuclear talks will be hand carrying a letter from Kim Jong-un, written to President Donald Trump, and he'll have that for Donald Trump when he arrived in Washington on Thursday.

A meeting with the Secretary of State and the U.S. representative to North Korea is also scheduled for Friday. Over the weekend, a letter from the U.S. President was delivered to the North Korean leader, so much writing, so much penmanship.

Paula Hancocks joins us now, live, from Seoul. This is just -- such a kind of -- and it's intimate and it's also a very bizarre way it seems for these two leaders to be carrying out, sort of, you know, these communications.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is, John, but then, you are actually talking about North Korea. It's not a country where the leader picks up the telephone and calls another leader. This is the way that it should, and it has been done when it comes to the U.S. President Donald Trump.

There have been letters going back and forth, since he took power, really, or at least since Kim Jong-un decided that he was going to have this outreach to the rest of the world. And we have seen, certainly from Kim Jong-un's point of view, it has worked. [00:35:11] We have heard the U.S. President Donald Trump talking about great letters, wonderful letters, the North Korean leader has written him. So, certainly, he's been charmed by whatever has been in these letters. And what we're doing now is we're really seeing a pattern emerging. Of course, there has only been one previous summit between the U.S. and North Korea, but you saw Kim Jong-un going to China.

You saw talks stall and Kim Yong-chol went to Washington with, at that time, the rather oversized envelope. And then, the summit went ahead. We could be seeing the exact same thing happen here. John.

VAUSE: Thank you. Paula Hancocks there, basically, sort of, interpreting what all the letters actually mean. We appreciate it. Thanks, Paula.

Well, as the Russia investigation moves on in the United States and despite his denials, questions continue about whether the American president possibly acted as a witting or unwitting agent for the Kremlin. As CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports now from Moscow, Russia, it may not be of any help, though, to him, is actually coming to the defense of the U.S. president.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Russian officials defending President Trump against those in the U.S., raising questions about his relationship with Moscow, a top Kremlin aide, sounding a similar note to the White House and ridiculing the question about Trump possibly working for Russia, and the foreign minister even arguing that the U.S. Congress is illegally trying to hamper the President's foreign policy agenda.

SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): The U.S. constitution gives the president the right to determine and execute foreign policy. We do know that this right has been coming under attack from the Congress. The issue is covered extensively. However, this does not make these attacks constitutional, and it does not make them less illegal, either.

PLEITGEN: As the Trump administration grapples with the ongoing government shutdown and one of America's top allies, the United Kingdom, faces a messy exit from the European Union, which President Trump supported on one of Russia's top political talk shows and analysts claiming President Trump is in a battle against the so-called deep state in the west.

ARAIK STEPANYAN, POLITICAL EXPERT (through translator): All of the Western world is in a deep crisis. This liberal and capitalistic world is in a deep crisis. Trump and his actions, is a saving grace for America, because there's that deep state or the Democratic Party, wanting to make the U.S. say a global policeman and stick its nose anywhere. But Trump says the American people do not need that.

PLEITGEN: All of this is as the Mueller investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign increases in tempo. A top Russian senator telling CNN, he believes his country is the victim of political infighting in the U.S. and of President Trump's critics.

ALEKSEY PUSHKOV, SENATOR OF RUSSIA: Russia is a victim of this anti- Trump campaign. Because I think it is the first time that the -- that the interests of those who would like to bring down the American president (INAUDIBLE) with the interests of those who would like to have a better relationship with Russia.

PLEITGEN: And while improvement in the relations between Russia and the U.S. hardly seems in sight, Moscow vowed that American pressure would never make it change its policies.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


VAUSE: Well, ahead, breaking bad, a new report says our oceans are breaking all records in terms of being the warmest ever, and having the fastest ice melt ever, so tired of winning yet? Huh?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: in the committee room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an outrage. Shutdown (INAUDIBLE)


VAUSE: Demonstrators there in Washington, creating a nominee for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, as he arrived to meet his confirmation hearing. Andrew Wheeler who's been acting head of the EPA since his boss resigned of its scandal. And Democrats say, Wheeler has continued with a rollback of environmental protections and shows no signs of stopping.

He was a lobbyist for the coal industry before he had this job, and just last month, the EPA announced plans to cut restrictions on new coal power plants. Wheeler told senators that climate change is not the greatest crisis facing the planet. But scientists who studied the threat, disagree, almost all of them. Two new reports (INAUDIBLE) warning, we get one now from CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray.


JENNIFER GRAY, CNN NEWS METEOROLOGIST: A pair of dire new reports shows that right now, the world has both the warmest oceans and the greatest loss of Antarctic ice, ever measured. The 2018 record for ocean temperature, breaking the one set, just the year before continuing a dramatic and dangerous pattern of warming water temperatures, according to international scientists.

Also, University of California at Irvine researchers say, Antarctica is now losing 252 billion tons of ice per year, a huge jump from about 40 years ago, when it lost 40 billion tons a year, most of the increase occurring in just the last 20 years.

ERIC RIGNOT, SCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: This is just the beginning. We know that the system will eventually lose more and more ice with time, so this is sort of a wake-up call.

GRAY: Scientist Eric Rignot helped author the report and says the most significant discovery is where the ice is melting. Ice loss has been well documented in west Antarctica, but now, the east, once thought to be less vulnerable to climate change, is melting too.

RIGNOT: Imagine a big balloon of water above your house, and you find a couple of leaks, and some years later, you realize there's not just a couple of leaks, there are leaks almost everywhere. And at some point, that balloon is going to fall apart.

GRAY: The result could be catastrophic. Antarctica holds the majority of the world's fresh water. If melted, the average sea level would rise more than 180 feet, enough to drown the Brooklyn Bridge. To help save up more melt, Rignot says we must take significant steps to reduce our carbon foot print.

RIGNOT: And do it as soon as possible to alleviate the worst case scenario. It can still be done.

Jennifer Gray, CNN, Atlanta.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us for "WORLD SPORT" with Kate Riley. That's after the break. You're watching CNN.


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