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British Prime Minister May Survives No Confidence Vote, Urges Compromise; ISIS-Claimed Bombing Kills 19, Including Four Americans; Interview with Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt; Kenya Hotel Attack Claims at least 21; German Spy Agency to Surveil Far-Right Political Party. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 17, 2019 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to the viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church with your next two hours of CNN NEWSROOM. Let's get started.

After surviving a confidence vote, Theresa May is back to square one, trying to sell an unpopular Brexit plan as the country faces a looming deadline.

ISIS says it carried out a deadly suicide attack that killed several Americans in Syria.

Will it impact troop withdrawal plans?

And claims of a hefty bribe to a sitting president, the stunning revelation made in open court at the trial of El Chapo.


CHURCH: Thanks for being with us. We're 24 hours after a stunning defeat for her Brexit deal in the British Parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May lives to fight another day.

On Wednesday she survived a no confidence vote called by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. But the road ahead will not be any easier. Somehow she must forge another deal with the European Union and get that through Parliament before the end of March. Otherwise the U.K. will crash out of the E.U. in a no deal Brexit.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: So now MPs have made clear what they don't want. We must all work constructively together to set out what Parliament does want. This is now the time to put self-interests aside. It will not be an easy task. But MPs know they have a duty to act in the national interest, reach a consensus and get this done.


CHURCH: The question, what happens next?

Ms. May says she'll hold a series of cross-party talks with Parliament in the coming days and return to the house by Monday with an amendable motion and a statement about the way forward. Britain is still scheduled to leave the E.U. on March 29th with or without a deal.

The U.K. could try to extend that deadline but it would require approval by the other E.U. members.

CNN business reporter Hadas Gold is live this hour outside 10 Downing Street and our Melissa Bell is standing by in Brussels.

Good to see you both.

Hadas, let's go to you first. While Theresa May and the government won the no confidence vote, Brexit remains the real challenge.

How is the prime minister going to come up with a compromise Brexit deal given all the political divisions that still exist?

And will she take a no deal Brexit off the table as Jeremy Corbyn is demanding?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, Theresa May did win the no confidence vote last night here in London but just by 19 votes. While it was a win, it was a slim win and it helps illustrate what she's up against in trying to find consensus in Parliament.

People are just not happy with her and her deal. But Jeremy Corbyn, as you said, and Theresa May are at some sort of a standoff. He said he's not willing to come talk with her unless she takes possibility of a no deal off the table. Take a listen.


JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, LABOUR PARTY: Before there can be 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 of the E.U. and all the chaos that would come as a result of that.


GOLD: What Jeremy Corbyn is trying to say, a no deal would mean crashing out on March 29th without any sort of deal struck with the European Union. That means they would fall back onto World Trade Organization rules. That could lead to things like backups at the border, food not being able to come in on time.

There's a lot of issues there. That's what Jeremy Corbyn said he's trying to avoid. But so far Theresa May has not taken that off the table. That's partly because of the hard right of her party, the Brexiteers, who want to leave without a deal. They actually prefer a no-deal scenario.

You also get frustration from MPs across the parties who say it took Theresa May 2.5 years after that initial vote to come to them and say, OK, now let's talk about a consensus. They say it was time wasted. They could have been having these conversations long ago. Now we're barreling closer and closer to that deadline, just 71 days to go.

CHURCH: Melissa, to you. Theresa May said she will go back to Brussels if necessary for talks with the E.U. But European leaders aren't happy about that. They want Britain to figure this out.

So what happens next?


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a sense of frustration on some of the back benches, as Hadas just referred to, that's shared throughout Europe and by European leaders, a sense of time wasted that might have been better spent.

We are where we are. Instead, the message coming from Europe now is one of absolute clarity and a fairly united voice. Essentially, it is up to London now to come up with the next step to say what it wants very clearly before coming anywhere near Brussels again with the suggestion of another plan.

When and if those cross-party talks do lead to some kind of consensus around something, there is a sense here in Brussels that all the British are likely to get is the possibility of an extension.

Even then, what we hear from European leaders and the French, she's been speaking out and saying we may consider it. But the British would have to be clear. The question of the backstop was not renegotiable. That was a red line.

So it is the Europeans that are showing a great deal of firmness now, expecting the U.K. to move its red lines but vowing not to move its own. This is all about protecting the interests of the Irish Republic who will remain a member of the E.U.

It won't bend over backwards to go in the direction of the Northern Irish province or what the headline Brexiteers want on the backstop. So these two options for Theresa May, either looking at a sunset clause on the backstop, that doesn't seem like an option, or what clearly is seen to be on the table. Once the United Kingdom comes up with consensus, it's a possibility that perhaps that 29th of March deadline might be extended.

That would take several things. It would take the unanimity of the 27 remaining members of the European Union. It would take a summit here in Brussels to agree on that and then there would be the question of how long that extension needed to last.

Would it need to go beyond the meeting of the European parliament in July or not?

All these questions up in the air. First, they say, let us hear from London what they want.

CHURCH: So little time to get this done.

Melissa Bell reporting from Brussels and Hadas Gold at 10 Downing Street. Many thanks.

Well, ISIS claims it was behind a deadly attack in Manbij, Syria, on Wednesday that killed four Americans, including two U.S. service members. A warning: the video of the suicide attack is very disturbing. Syrian observers say 19 people were killed in all; just four week ago Donald Trump declared ISIS defeated and said U.S. forces would withdraw from Syria. The U.S. vice president repeated that same line even after this attack.

Our Clarissa Ward knows the area where the attack took place.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We were right around the corner from where this took place, just a few days ago. And I can tell you there was absolutely an air of tension.

That could be for a number of reasons. Partially it's because the people who are now implementing security are Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces, as they're called.

The city of Manbij is an Arab town. It was liberated from ISIS back in September of 2016 but undoubtedly there's still going to be elements that remain that are sympathetic to ISIS, that are deeply imbedded in their underground networks. This is something that is very difficult for a Kurdish led militia or frankly anyone to try to contend with.


CHURCH: It's worth pointing out the amount of territory controlled by ISIS has shrunk to almost nothing over the past two years. But U.S. commanders warn the militants haven't been eradicated and still pose a threat.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is covering this story from Istanbul.

Good to see you, Jomana. The images, of course, horrifying and disturbing, ISIS claiming responsibility for the deadly attack.

Is there any reason to doubt that they were behind the suicide bombing and what more are you learning about the attack?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, ISIS claiming responsibility for an attack doesn't necessarily mean they're responsible for it, that they're behind this. We've seen this in the past, the U.S. military hasn't said who they believe carried out this attack.

But if you look at how this explosion took place, this attack unfolded --

[02:10:00] KARADSHEH: -- it does bear the hallmarks of an attack that is carried out by ISIS or other Islamist militant groups as we've seen in the past, whether in Iraq or in Syria, targeting a busy commercial area in a marketplace and coalition forces.

Then you have the timing of this, coming about four weeks after that announcement by President Trump. So some in this region, some security experts and observers, saw this as perhaps a message from ISIS that, while the U.S. president said they have been defeated and the U.S. won the war against ISIS, they're not yet defeated.

As you mentioned earlier, yes, they have lost territory. They do no longer have that so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. But they do still possess the capability of carrying out these sorts of deadly, devastating attacks and even in areas that are far from ISIS controlled pockets -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: That is a critical point, of course. The suicide bombing killed nine people, including four Americans.

What is the reaction across this region to this attack?

KARADSHEH: This is -- Rosemary, as you expect, quite terrifying for people in the region. You heard condemnations of the attack from various countries in the region and beyond.

Of course, the Kurdish forces there and the U.S. backed forces and Syrian Democratic Forces seeing that as a reminder that ISIS is still there, the fight is still ongoing.

ISIS has not yet been defeated as some, including the U.S. president, have said. Very notable reaction that we have seen has come from the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, yesterday, saying he doesn't believe this will change Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces.

This is important because it was a few weeks ago that phone call between the two presidents, their various conversations that is believed to have prompted President Trump to decide to pull U.S. forces out because Turkey for a long time has had issues with the Americans backing Kurdish forces on its border with Syria.

Turkey sees them as an existential threat and they've objected to that. So it was during their discussions that President Erdogan offered that Turkey would take over the fight when it comes to remnants of ISIS in Syria.

Again, yesterday President Erdogan saying that he doesn't believe that President Trump is going to change his mind, saying that based on the conversations and just a few days ago President Trump is determined to pull out forces from Syria. And we've heard this also from the White House officials, yesterday saying so far there has been no change in plans to withdraw and Erdogan warning, saying if the U.S. would change its decision, this would be considered a victory for ISIS.

CHURCH: Jomana Karadsheh, covering this story in Istanbul, many thanks. I want to bring in retired brigadier general Mark Kimmitt to talk more about this.

General, thank you so much for joining us.

This deadly terror attack in Syria comes in the wake of President Trump announcing that ISIS has been defeated in Syria and that U.S. troops are coming home.

Is this ISIS' way of telling Mr. Trump that is very wrong, that he is very wrong about defeating the militants?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, first of all, it hasn't been established that ISIS was in fact the perpetrator of this attack. It could well be other groups that have great reason to keep the Americans inside of Syria.

So we should not jump to the conclusion that ISIS conducted this attack.

CHURCH: Right. They have claimed responsibility but you're saying don't take them at their word on that.

KIMMITT: ISIS has claimed responsibility for every attack that's happened around the world for the last five years; in many cases, that's correct. In most cases, it's not.

CHURCH: And a big problem perhaps is these U.S. soldiers were going to a restaurant on a regular basis. It was a known hangout for American service members. There was also a civilian from the Department of Defense there and a contractor.

Is it dangerous when you're in Syria and you make a particular restaurant the place that you're going to all hang out?

KIMMITT: I spent most of my time in the Middle East. I just got back from Baghdad two days ago. I would simply tell you that standard procedure is that you vary your routine, you vary your routes, you vary your location.

Anytime you're predictable, you become a target.


CHURCH: All right. I do want to go back. We're talking about President Trump declaring that ISIS had been defeated and that the U.S. and its allies had reclaimed the land of ISIS and the troops were coming home. Let's listen to what Senator Lindsey Graham said about all of this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R). SOUTH CAROLINA: My concern by the statements made by President Trump is that you set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we're fighting. You made people we are trying to help wonder about us and, as they get bolder, the people we're trying to help are going to get more uncertain.

I saw this in Iraq. And I'm now seeing it in Syria.


CHURCH: General, is Senator Graham right?

Do the statements of Mr. Trump embolden ISIS and worry those that the U.S. is trying to help?

KIMMITT: I sort of see it as a false analogy. I don't really understand how you could link one event to the other. I think it's important to understand that ISIS has been greatly reduced. The caliphate no longer exists. Their ability to operate as a military force no longer exists. So in many ways this could simply be an attack by ISIS or another perpetrator to simply say we're still viable and we're still a threat. Don't count us out. We can still come at you.

CHURCH: So you do think that this is a message, whether it comes from ISIS or not, it's a message to say we're viable.

I just want to go back to those statements from President Trump.

Do you stand by Trump when he says ISIS is defeated so let's bring the troops home?

KIMMITT: I think we're getting hung up on terminology. From someone with a military background, we would way that the enemy is defeated. The enemy no longer has its capability to conduct its primary mission, which is to occupy terrain and conduct military operations.

But I don't want to get into that discussion. The fact remains is that the president made this decision based on the fact that ISIS has been degraded to the point that it is no longer an existential threat to the United States of America. His view is, it's time to pass that mission on to other countries that bear more of a responsibility and bear more of a threat from ISIS than we do.

CHURCH: So you would support President Trump bringing the troops home from Syria?

KIMMITT: I've written numerous articles saying that I could have gone either way. But I believe that if the president makes the decision, he has sound reasons for making that decision. Despite the chattering class in Washington, D.C., many that condemn the decision simply because Trump made it, sadly, I think the death of the four Americans today ought to cause people to wake up and have a serious discussion, not a superficial discussion, of what we're doing in Syria and should we be staying.

CHURCH: General Kimmitt, thank you so much for joining us.

KIMMITT: Thank you.

CHURCH: After a very short break, stories of survival and loss from that terror attack in Nairobi. We'll hear from the victims of the deadly assault.

Plus why Germany's spy agency is putting elements of a far right political party under surveillance.





CHURCH: Al-Shabaab militants said the deadly attack on a hotel complex in Nairobi was a reaction to Donald Trump's decision recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Surveillance video shows the moment one of the terrorists detonated a suicide bomb.

This warning: the images are graphic. At least 21 people were killed in the assault, among them an American who survived the 9/11 terror attacks in New York.

We go live to Nairobi now to our Sam Kiley.

So Sam, at least 21 people killed in the deadly attack and now Al- Shabaab revealing what motivated the assault.

What are you learning?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the first thing to note is Al-Shabaab hasn't had any kind of international agenda, although it is part of the broader Al Qaeda ideological family.

Al-Shabaab's efforts have been focused on attacks here, Western targets, Western associated targets here in Kenya and in fighting government peacekeepers deployed against the inside Somalia, where Al- Shabaab has been having some success, recently attacking the U.N. compound with mortars, forcing evacuation of all but essential staff.

They had been suffering attentions, too, of American airstrikes. But in response, this attack to those airstrikes is much more likely than in association to the Palestinian cause.

Clearly, it was very, very meticulously planned. Part of the road behind me is still the car that some of the attackers arrived in. Locals say that they'd seen that doing reconnaissance on this target for at least a week beforehand and this in my report explains just how that attack unfolded -- Rosemary.


KILEY (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 --


KILEY (voice-over): -- serving Somalia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY: So he's expecting his first child.


KILEY (voice-over): Ahmed, like so many other Kenyans caught in the tragedy, is left to mourn and pray that another attack never comes.


KILEY: Rosemary, Kenyans remain defiant. This is yet another terrorist attack and I think this headline essentially sums it up, "We're still here."

But there's no real hope that these attacks will ever really end -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: That's the big concern. Sam Kiley reporting there from Nairobi, many thanks to you.

A man in the U.S. state of Georgia is behind bars, charged with plotting to blow up the White House and other federal buildings in Washington. Authorities say Hasher Jallal Taheb planned to attack the White House using explosives and an anti-tank rocket. They executed a search warrant at his home Wednesday night.

Law enforcement had received a tip from the public suspecting Taheb had become radicalized. He was arrested Wednesday after he tried to trade vehicles for weapons with an undercover FBI agent.

Germany's domestic spy agency is putting sections of a far right political party under surveillance for its opposition to immigration and Muslims. The Alternative for Germany Party or AFD responded with outrage and says it will take legal action. CNN's Atika Shubert has more now from Berlin.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This puts the AFD on notice. Germany's domestic intelligence agency is now monitoring two specific sections of the party, its youth wing and the faction led by controversial politician Bjorn Hocke.

He is notorious for his remarks criticizing the way that Germany has tried to reconcile its wartime history. The agency said these two sections showed, quote, "clear evidence of anti-immigration and particularly anti-Muslim attitude," contrary to Germany's democratic values.

In fact, the whole AFD platform does have specific anti-immigration and anti-Muslim elements. The AFD will continue as normal as a political party, including its MPs in parliament; however, the AFD has said it will pursue legal measures to challenge this.

I do think this is more of a delayed reaction to the street violence we saw in East Germany last summer, when far right extremists hijacked a lot of the public anger over the killing of a local resident by refugees.

They took over the streets of the town of Chemnitz for two nights. Some of them were side by side with AFD party members in the streets. These are scenes that really shocked the country, mobs of people shouting anti-immigration slogans; several individuals flashed Nazi salutes in front of police, despite it being illegal to do so in Germany.

And some foreign residents were actually chased down. So since then, there has been a concerted effort to apply more pressure to extreme far right groups and I do think that this may be one such measure -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.


CHURCH: We'll take a short break here. Still to come, Donald Trump's State of the Union address could be the next casualty of the U.S. government shutdown as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells the president he should not deliver his speech on Capitol Hill.

And North Korea's top nuclear negotiator heads to Washington with a letter for President Trump. What it means for a second summit.


[02:31:16] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. I want to update you now on the main stories we're following this hour. ISIS has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack Wednesday in Manbij, Syria which killed at least 19 people including four Americans, two of whom were service members. Now, this comes just a few weeks after President Donald Trump said ISIS was defeated and U.S. troops would start coming home from Syria.

Al-Shabaab militants say their assault in a hotel complex in Nairobi was a response to Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. A warning these next images you'll see are graphic. Surveillance video shows the moment one of the terrorists detonated a suicide bomb at the hotel. At least 21 people were killed in the attack. British Prime Minister Theresa May is urging all political parties to work together on a compromise Brexit deal.

She survived a no confidence vote Wednesday after her Brexit plan went down in flames. Mrs. May is expected to lay out an alternative plan on Monday. Well, joining me now from Brussels, Steven Erlanger is the New York Times chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe. Thanks so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So Steven, many of the lawmakers who voted for the government to survive Wednesday with the very same people who voted against Theresa May's Brexit plan, what politics are at play here? And will these divisions push Britain into crashing out of the E.U. without a deal on March 29th or can Theresa May somehow come up with a compromise?

ERLANGER: Well, she's very stubborn, but the politics are extremely tribal. The same people who voted actually (INAUDIBLE) party leadership voted yesterday that they had confidence in her. And I'm sure there were a general election which I don't expect the same people would throw her out as prime minister in about 10 seconds. So it is really about the survival of the conservative party first of all. I think the deadline of March 29th that she insist for the moment, she will not ask for an extension of that deadline which pushes Britain out of the E.U. deal or no deal.

That create a kind of pressure prefer deadline which she's hoping will convince parliament to come up with a solution. So I think there is lots of discussion left before that date comes. And it is possible that there will be some kind of deal even if not the deal that got voted down so spectacularly the other night.

CHURCH: Right. And of course, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, he's refusing to take part in any of these compromise talks until Theresa May rules out a no deal Brexit. How likely is it that she would be pushed to do that?

ERLANGER: Well, parliament may do it for her. But I mean the reason she won't do it is that's what I said which is it creates a deadline pressure on legislators of all parties to come up with some kind of conclusion whether that is a different kind of future relationship with the European Union, whether it's a second referendum, whether it's something else, we don't yet know. But the deadline is useful and I think she's not going to get rid of it until the very end even if she does then.

CHURCH: And, now, European leaders want the British government to figure this out before going back to the E.U. --


ERLANGER: It's certainly do.

[02:35:03] CHURCH: And they're particularly worried about the risk or the possibility of a no deal Brexit. They think it's highly possible. What more can the E.U. do at this time apart from offer an extension if indeed that's what Theresa May ends up asking for though she said no she won't?

ERLANGER: I think strategically, they are best off offering nothing. I think they have thought they think Theresa May has lost control of the process. I think they want to see what British democracy ends up proposing and any concessions now which I think would be difficult anyway, any concessions would just disappear into a mess into the current mess. So I think watching and waiting is the best. And of course, no one wants a no deal Brexit.

They believe -- Brussels believes there's a majority in parliament to prevent a no deal Brexit. So for the moment, they're watchful. They're worried. But I think they're not going to do anything until something clear comes out of the circus in Westminster.

CHURCH: We'll see what comes out of the talks and we'll see what she says on Monday. Steven Erlanger, thank you so much for joining us.

ERLANGER: Thanks, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Well, Donald Trump's Syria policy is 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 facing more pushback over the U.S. government shutdown. And now, Democrats are trying to shut down his upcoming State of the Union address on Capitol Hill. Our Jim Acosta is at the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: 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 to set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we're fighting, so I hope the president would look long and hard for he's headed in Syria. ACOSTA: The attack in Syria appeared to catch the White House flat

footed. 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, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to the leadership of this commander-in-chief and the courage and sacrifices 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're 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 crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities. Ever since the president said he was withdrawal 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, 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 Nancy 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 day 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-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This requires hundreds of people working on the logistics and the security of it. Most of those people are yet furloughed (INAUDIBLE) 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 for a 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 COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: We made an early estimate right at the beginning of the crisis that was a little bit lower than the estimate you just cited and have, you know, been studying it hard as this has gone on and found that actually the damage is a little bit worse because of government contractors or something that was excluded from our first analysis.

ACOSTA: 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 focus on the long-term economic goals of the administration.


[02:40:00] 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.

CHURCH: Talks between the U.S. and North Korea have been stalled for months. But that could change. North Korea's top negotiator is travelling to Washington with a message. Plus, a shocking claim in the trial of notorious drug lord El Chapo, why Mexico's former president is having to defending himself. We'll explain.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Venezuela's foreign minister says U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is shamelessly promoting a coup in his country. Pompeo tweeted his support for the National Assembly in Caracas where opposition leaders have declared Nicolas Maduro's presidency illegitimate. The foreign minister says Mr. Maduro is seeking respectful dialogue with the United States. But he claims Pompeo and others are inciting violence.


JORGE ARREAZA, VENEZUELAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (via translator): There is a nonstop onslaught from the United States of America from its government, from its leaders, and from satellite governments who are (INAUDIBLE) in the orbit of the United States of America to try and engage in regime change through force through an intervention ignoring (INAUDIBLE) over the constitution. This morning, Secretary of State Pompeo cited articles of this sacred constitution of Venezuela and using our constitution.

He's trying to promote a coup d'etat in Venezuela.


CHURCH: Sources say U.S. President Donald Trump is considering recognizing the National Assembly Leader Juan Guaido as Venezuelan's legitimate president. Well, the U.S. and North Korea maybe a step closer to setting a date for a second summit. A source tells CNN North Korea's lead negotiator in the nuclear talks will be carrying a letter from Kim Jong-un to President Trump when he arrives in Washington Thursday. He is to meet with the Secretary of State and the U.S. Representative

to North Korea on Friday. Over the weekend, a letter from the U.S. President was delivered to the North Korean leader. Our Paula Hancocks joins us now from Seoul, South Korea. Good to see you, Paula. So, it is a very traditional way of communicating, but it seems to be working and a second summit appears to be on the agenda. What more are you learning about all this?

[02:45:23] PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Rosemary. We seem to be following a pattern that we followed last time back in June when there was that, that Singapore summit between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump.

We saw Kim Jong-un going to China. He met with the leader Xi Jinping. And then when talks stalled, you saw Kim Yong-chol go to Washington with a letter from Kim Jong-un. And then, we had a location and a date set for the summit. So, it really does appear at this point as they were following the pattern that we had last time around.

Now, of course, it's more significant this time the fact that Kim Yong-chol, the top negotiator from North Korea is going to be spending a night in the United States, as well. That's not something that usually happens. But certainly, what we're hearing at this point from U.S. sources, U.S. officials familiar with the organization behind this is that Hanoi and Bangkok appear to be certain possibilities for the location of this, this summit. And the talk at this point is sometime in February.

There doesn't appear to be any sense that this won't go ahead as planned. As we've seen, the U.S. President Donald Trump being delighted with, with letters from Kim Jong-un in the past. There's no reason to suggest that this time would be any different. Rosemary?

CHURCH: It's so interesting. So, we're looking at a possible time frame of February. You said, Hanoi, Bangkok, maybe it's down to those two. What other things need to be worked out before this summit takes place?

HANCOCKS: Well, in the past, when summits like this take place, you have a lot of working-level talks. You have a lot of meetings to figure out exactly what is going to be discussed at the meeting, and effectively, what will be decided at the meeting. And then, the leaders go along and they sign along the dotted line. And they say this is what we have agreed. That is the exact opposite to what happened in Singapore last year.

There weren't these, these working-level talks. Things weren't set up before those two leaders walked into the room and met each other. This is really not the way that the U.S. President Donald Trump works. So, of course, this has many critics, it has many longtime North Korean watchers concerned as to what could come out of this meeting.

The first meeting, there was a very vaguely worded statement. And many critics believe that the U.S. president gave away more than he gained by giving up certain joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea that North Korea doesn't like. So, there is some concern as to what will come out of this summit.

CHURCH: You certainly moving along quickly at this point. Paula Hancocks, bringing us the latest details from Seoul in South Korea. Many thanks.

Well, bomb shelled testimony in a Brooklyn courtroom. A former top aide to the infamous drug lord, El Chapo Guzman, says the former president of Mexico took a $100 million bribe from El Chapo himself. Brian Todd, reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was the notoriously violent leader of the world's largest drug cartel. Believed responsible for thousands of deaths including allegedly taking part in the killings of 30 people himself.

U.S. officials say Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman who is now on trial in New York City, carried a monogrammed diamond-encrusted handgun and a gold-plated assault rifle.

But now, it's the cloud that he allegedly carried with at least one Mexican president that is shocking observers at his trial. Alex Cifuentes, a trafficker who once served as a top aide to El Chapo, testified Tuesday the drug lord once paid a $100 million bribe to former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, who was in office from 2012 until last year.

CARL PIKE, FORMER ASSISTANT AGENT IN CHARGE, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION: When you consider fact that this was if not -- in my opinion the largest, you know, transworld organized crime group, probably ever. And the amount of cash, just free-flowing cash that they had it's, you know, the more money you have, the higher you can buy up the food chain.

TODD: His former aide, Cifuentes, says El Chapo told him it was President Pena Nieto who came to El Chapo to solicit the bride. To say the drug lord wouldn't need to hide if he paid the money. What might El Chapo have asked for in exchange?

PIKE: The most important thing he probably asked for was information. What exactly are the law enforcement groups doing? What does the military doing?

ROGER NORIEGA, FORMER ASSISTANT UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: He would have gotten is the complicity of policymakers. The kinds of decisions that they make about putting resources that get in the way of his ability to operate in the various Mexican states.

TODD: A spokesman for Pena Nieto, vehemently denies Cifuentes's claim. Cifuentes's testimony comes roughly halfway through El Chapo's trial. With the accused drug lords former beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel in attendance.

He's charged with international drug trafficking, conspiring to murder rivals, gun charges, and money laundering. El Chapo has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer says, he was a "Leader of nothing."

The U.S. says he was the leader of a worldwide crime operation who eluded police for years. He broke out of a high-security Mexican prison in July 2015 through an elaborate tunnel. And he once escaped police through a trap door hidden under his bathtub. In a dramatic raid three years ago, recorded by Mexican Marines with

helmet-mounted cameras, El Chapo escaped through a sewer drain and stole a car. But was finally captured and extradited to the U.S.

Analysts say the man whose nickname means "Shorty" makes famous criminals such as Pablo Escobar, John Gotti, and Al Capone looked like small-time thieves.

[02:50:46] PIKE: You have Chapo everywhere. You have Chapo in the Far East, the Middle East, Europe, all of them. All on the Western Hemisphere. He was truly worldwide. Truly a transnationally organized crime king.

TODD: A spokesman for the former Mexican President Pena Nieto calls the testimony of Alex Cifuentes, "False, defamatory, and absurd." The spokesman points out, it was Pena Nieto's government which captured and extradited El Chapo.

Officials under the current Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have not commented on the account of the enormous bribe. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: The Mormon Church continues to find converts all over the world. And now, they are setting up shop in the very heart of the Catholic Church. Details on that, coming up.


CHURCH: Welcome back. Well, the Mormon Church is a uniquely American religion founded nearly 200 years ago. But its missionary outreach has helped it spread around the world. And for the first time, a Mormon temple is now opening in Rome. CNN's Delia Gallagher has the latest.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Move over Pope Francis, there's a new church in town. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. Also known as the Mormons, have built their first temple in Italy, on the doorstep of the Vatican.


GALLAGHER: Elder Ronald Rasband, one of 12-men known as apostles, who've govern the Mormon Church, says the Pope in the Vatican have nothing to fear.

RASBAND: So, we're very familiar with them, consider them our friends and we hope they consider us their friends also.

GALLAGHER: The 38,000 square foot building is made of Italian marble and granite. And while the church won't reveal the cost, no expense has been spared with sparkling Swarovski and Murano glass chandeliers set in 24-karat gold.

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints is an American religion. It was founded in New York in the 1820s. And church leaders say that today, their membership reaches some 16 million people worldwide. But there are more Mormons today living outside the United States than inside.

The temple is a sign, church leaders say, that their membership is growing. And Rome, the eternal city of temples ancient and new, welcomes them all. Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


CHURCH: Well, a series of powerful winter storms will bring flooding rain and heavy Mountain snow to California. Let's turn to our meteorologist Derik Van Dam for more on this and for California. I mean, they haven't been now to take a break. Have they all these extreme weather conditions?

[02:54:59] DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANCHOR: They haven't. Just this week, and for example, this is the second of a series of storms that are moving in, the strongest of the two. And this is on top of a very active fire season. We get the heavy rainfall on these burn scars in Los Angeles County and parts of Northern California. And it has the potential over there for mudslides and debris flows as well.

Get to some of the video coming out of this region, you'll see what they're dealing with in Los Angeles County. Streets have been turned into rivers. We've got water levels bringing right up to the doorsteps of these homes in the Long Beach area. And it is obviously not only just the heavy rainfall that's causing havoc, the thick clouds and some of the mountain overpasses.

Let's bring it to Cajon Pass because you can see that this caused a 19-car pileup, in fact. Just a few minor injuries coming out of this area. But nonetheless, very dangerous conditions as the low cloud settles in. And it's -- this is just a slew of problems that they're dealing with across California. Blizzard conditions throughout the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and heavy rainfall leading to localized flooding.

Check out this satellite imagery. I mean, you don't even need to be a meteorologist to pick out where the center of this storm is. It is just funneling in abundant amounts of moisture wind and rain as this cold front spreads inland.

And that here are the main threats. We're expecting rainfall in excess of 100 millimeters in some locations. Especially as you make your way closer to the foothills in the mountains. The mountain snows will be measured in feet or meters this weekend. Especially for some of those high elevations and the wind gusts there in excess of 100 kilometers per hour means blizzard conditions will set in. So, mud and debris flows, we could down some power lines and trees. And the potential for coastal flooding exists with the very high waves expected as this cold front moves in.

Here's a look at the latest watches -- flood watches from Los Angeles all the way San Francisco. That shading of red across the Sierra Nevada mountain range our blizzard conditions. And that dark red across the Sacramento Valley that is where we're expecting wind gusts in excess of 100 kilometers per hour.

Rainfall totals throughout this area, they've been excessive. Of course, this is the rainy season for Los Angeles. And by the way, just a heads up for the East Coast, this storm is going to move towards New England and bring snow to the New York City and Boston.

CHURCH: Wow. OK. A lot to cover there, a lot's of extremes.

VAN DAM: It is.

CHURCH: Thank you so much, Derek.

VAN DAM: All right, Rosy.

CHURCH: We'll to talk to you soon.


CHURCH: Well, thanks for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with another hour of news in just a moment. Don't go anywhere. You are washing CNN.