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Bombshell Report Rocks the White House; Prime Minister Theresa May Proceed with Plan B; Prince Philip Unharmed After a Car Crash; Shutdown Showdown, Trump Denies Pelosi Use Of Military Plane; Interview With Former Gov. John Kasich (R-OH); 800,000 Employees Impacted By Shutdown; Battle Against ISIS; North Korea-U.S. Relations; Yellow Vest Movement, Tackling Protest With Talks; Snow In The U.S. East, Avalanches In The West; Dog With A Bone. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 18, 2019 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: -- accusation. A new report alleges the U.S. president told his long-time attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.

A plan B for Brexit, British Prime Minister Theresa May reaches out to the opposition for talks, but the Labour leader is a no-show.

Also, ahead this hour, a royal car crash. The Duke of in Edinburgh ends up in a car accident. Prince Philip emerged unharmed but one car ended up flipped on its side.

We're live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. And we welcome our viewers all around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN Newsroom starts right now.

We start this hour with a bombshell report in the Russia investigation. BuzzFeed News reporting Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build the Trump tower in Moscow. BuzzFeed citing two federal law enforcement officials involved in the investigation.

CNN, though, has not independently verified the report.

Our Sara Murray has the details for you.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is a wild story because you know, if this is accurate, and as you pointed out, CNN has not independently confirmed it, it's an indication that the president was in fact trying to obstruct justice.

Now, the way that BuzzFeed has put it, they cited two federal law enforcement officials to say that President Trump directed Michael Cohen. It basically says the discussions about the Trump Tower Moscow project ended earlier that they did. So, it wouldn't look like Donald Trump was trying to negotiate this project while he was the GOP nominee in 2016. Now, the story also sites this line. It says, "The special counsel's office learned about Trump's directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company e-mails, text messages, and the case of other documents."

And you can bet if the special counsel is planning on relying on this, if this is true, they would have to have documents to back it up because everyone knows at this point that Michael Cohen is a witness with a lot of problems.

He is a guy who has already pled guilty to lying before Congress who's shown he's been willing to make things up to protect the president. And so, in this case, you know, could certainly be making things up to protect himself if, in fact, this is somehow traced back to him.

We don't have these documents that can corroborate these conversations at this point. What we do though have tonight is a comment from Rudy Giuliani to CNN and other outlets. It says, "If you believe Cohen, I can get you a good deal on the Brooklyn Bridge."

And I think this is what we're going to see from the president's legal team, essentially saying that Cohen is a liar and you can't believe anything.

HOWELL: Murray, thank you again. Democrats in Congress are already reacting saying that if President Trump did direct Cohen to lie to Congress, that that is obstruction of justice.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, tweeted this, quote, "The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and to cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date. We will do what's necessary to find out if that's true."

Let's talk more about this now with David Katz. David, a criminal defense attorney and former assistant U.S. attorney, joining this hour from Los Angeles. David, thank you for your time.


HOWELL: Let's start, David with this latest reporting from BuzzFeed alleging that the President of the United States directed his attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. That is a federal crime if true. And there is so many incremental and important stories that we've covered around this president, but I imagine you would agree this is a big one.

KATZ: This is a bombshell. This is a potentially a day that we'll remember in the Trump presidency and in the congressional investigation, and perhaps, in the impeachment of the president of the United States. You know, there was the famous tape of President Nixon that really doomed him. And if this is true, you have two law-enforcement officials saying that this happened. You only have Cohen later confirming it. This is not from Michael Cohen. This is not a Brooklyn Bridge that he wants us to buy. This is two law enforcement agents who said there are internal Trump documents from the Trump organization that show that this happened and that there are texts which also back it up, and all of it goes to the same effect.

If true that President Trump told Michael Cohen, his fixer and then attorney, to lie to Congress to impede the investigation, that was the first article of impeachment against Nixon as I say that doomed Nixon, obstruction of justice and suborning perjury of Nixon officials who went in front of the Congress and lie.

[03:04:55] If that's what President Trump did with Michael Cohen, this thing is moved to a whole different level. And I do agree that I think that the Democrats would feel that they had to impeach, that is both articles of impeachment, and I think they would be confident if this is true that 20 Republicans would vote to remove the president from office if this can be proven.

HOWELL: David, you touched on this and it's important to point out this information that was brought up by our own Sara Murray that the special counsel's office learned about Trump's directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump organization and from internal company e-mails, from text messages, and a cache of other documents.

So, as you point out here, there is apparently evidence that goes beyond Michael Cohen who does have a spotty history when it comes to truth.

KATZ: Again, nobody would be asking either the House members in voting articles of impeachment or the Senate in convicting and removing the president from office. Nobody would ask to rely on Cohen.

I've been a federal prosecutor. I've dealt with cooperators. You have to watch them all, take them with a grain of salt, always corroborate them. But this is not from Cohen according to the allegations. This is from Trump Organization officials, from e-mails, from internal text.

And apparently, special prosecutor Mueller has been sitting on this for quite a bit of time calculating it, making sure that he has enough evidence, and then when Cohen finally came in to cooperate with him, he allegedly, according to the two law enforcement agents, surprised Cohen and said is this all true.

And according to the BuzzFeed report, Cohen said, yes, it is true. That's what he did. And that he worked closely with some Trump attorneys. I hate to be in the position of any Trump attorney that Michael Cohen worked with on that testimony. It's extremely troubling, George. It really is.

HOWELL: You know, given this reporting that's come out it is very interesting, David, to hear the president's attorney general nominee, William Barr, facing questions during his confirmation hearing, specifically when it comes to the issue of obstruction. Listen to what he had to say about that.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA: You wrote on page one that a president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?



BARR: Any -- well, you know, any person who persuades another --

KLOBUCHAR: Any person.

BARR: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. You also said that a president or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction. Is that right?

BARR: Yes.



HOWELL: All right. That's normally Barr right there, David. Your thoughts, is this a matter of potential obstruction?

KATZ: Well, this allegation is very important because it was very material too. You can't argue that this was trivial or this was some payoff that may be a federal crime, but does it rise to the level of impeachment?

The public, the voters, would've been extremely interested to know that candidate Trump was still in 2016 while he was about to get the nomination and during the campaign was still negotiating with the Russians about having a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Apparently, the cover-up and the attempt to have Cohen testify different from the facts was that they wanted Cohen to say, and apparently he did say, and admitted he lied when he said, that the negotiations basically ended in January 2016. If they went on through June 2016, that's a whole different kettle of fish. It's extremely important. It would've been important to the voters.

That's what Michael Cohen confirmed. If this is other information is true that President Trump told him to lie to the Congress about -- and you know, the irony from the Nixon thing, everyone says it wasn't the crime, it was the cover-up. Can you imagine if history repeated itself, and it wasn't the crime that got Trump removed? It was the cover-up with Cohen and with allegedly suborning perjury before the Congress of the United States.

HOWELL: David, it is very interesting to see this new reporting, important to point out it is based on sources. We will have to see you as it's borne out, where it goes. But it is a big, big story that we're following around Russia investigation.

David Katz, again, thank you for your time.

KATZ: Thank you very much.

HOWELL: And there's another story we're following regarding the U.S. president's attorney, Rudy Giuliani. A new claim that he's making where he's now saying Mr. Trump did not collude with Russia but he can't say that if anyone else involved in the 2016 Trump campaign and whether they did or didn't.

Our Jessica Schneider has this.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some Democratic leaders jumping all over the stunning statement from the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani on CNN Wednesday night.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Yes, you have.

GIULIANI: I have no idea if -- I have not. I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC.

[03:10:05] SCHNEIDER: Giuliani seeming about-face comes days after revelations in what was supposed to be a redacted filing from former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, that Manafort provided private polling data from the Trump campaign to Konstantin Kilimnik, a man with ties to Russian intelligence.

It was a bombshell that exposes how Mueller's team is finding potential contacts between at least one Trump campaign official and the Kremlin.

GIULIANI: If the collusion happened it happened a long time ago, it's either provable or it's not. It is not provable because it never happened.

CUOMO: What do you mean it if happened? I thought you used to say there was absolutely no chance it happened?

GIULIANI: I'm telling you there's no chance it happened with the president of the United States.

CUOMO: How do you explain Manafort. Bu it's his campaign, Rudy. Doesn't it matter?

GIULIANI: I have no idea -- I have no idea, I never have what other people were doing. SCHNEIDER: But the president has repeatedly vouched for his campaign staff consistently denying that he or the campaign colluded with Moscow.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.

There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign.

There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians.

There was no collusion between the Trump campaign the Russian people.

SCHNEIDER: The conflicting statements now have Democrats demanding even more answers.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: It's a tangled web. It just makes no sense. It either reflects his client, who maybe leading or misleading him, or his own musing as to what might have occurred here. I don't see any clear statement from him credible, consistent statement that I would want to take him to a court with.

SCHNEIDER: And House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff saying this.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: He had said quite the contrary earlier. This is an attorney who has continued to issue misleading and false representations about his client's actions from the very beginning.

SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, sources tell CNN the White House counsel's office and outside groups have started laying the groundwork for a political and public relations response to Mueller, including planning to beef up the White House press teams to field inquiries related to the investigation.

Giuliani, though, continuing to call for a quick end.

GIULIANI: What's going on here is an investigation that should be reported on now. It's gone far enough. Let's see if he's got anything.

SCHNEIDER: Rudy Giuliani told our Dana Bash he did not intend to send any new signals about the Trump legal team's understanding of the investigation. He put it this way. "The president did not himself nor does he have any knowledge of collusion with Russians. If anyone was doing that, he is unaware of it and so am I. But neither he nor I can possibly know what everyone on the campaign was doing." End quote.

But even if that's an attempt to clean up his statement from Wednesday night, Giuliani is still seeming to leave the door open that Mueller might find collusion coming from the campaign.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: In the midst of this political storm on the Russia investigation, let's not forget that a partial U.S. government shutdown lingers on. And the battle between the U.S. President, Donald Trump, and the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been described as King Kong versus Godzilla by one White House advisor.

The U.S. president fired the latest shot refusing to let Pelosi and the congressional delegation use a military plane for a trip to visit American troops in Afghanistan.

CNN's Abby Phillip has details.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump's feud with congressional Democrats over the government shutdown taking a dramatic turn.

Late today, the White House issued this new letter responding to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's request that Trump postpone his State of the Union address because she claimed the federal workers weren't getting paid, and thus, it could be a security issue.

Now, the White House using that same excuse, citing the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay in order to pull authorization for Pelosi's planned congressional trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan just hours before she planned to leave, calling the official trip that includes a stop in a war zone a public relations event even though Trump also traveled to Iraq early in the shutdown.

The letter coming after more than a day of silence from the White House in response to Pelosi.

NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: That's why I said to the president let's -- that's -- if you don't open up government, if that doesn't happen, let's discuss a mutually agreeable date, September or -- or January -- this is the date of the State of the Union is not a sacred date. It is not constitutionally required.

PHILLIP: Trump and congressional Democrats locking horns for the 27th straight day trapped in a cycle of stalemate over the government shutdown.

[03:14:54] TRUMP: While many Democrats in the House and the Senate would like to make a deal, Speaker Pelosi will not let them negotiate.

PELOSI: What negotiating table we're now at? The last one we went to, I think, was a set up by the president pounded as he gave himself leverage to leave the room.

PHILLIP: Behind the scenes, the president's frustration is growing. According to the New York Times, Trump telling aides we are getting crushed in news coverage of the shutdown, the paper reported, why can't we get a deal, he asked aides, as Democrats turn up the heat.

PELOSI: That the economist even the president's own people are saying that GDP will not grow as long as this is shutdown is there. PHILLIP: But sources tell CNN that White House aides are still unsure of how to proceed and are weighing alternatives to a traditional State of the Union, including a campaign style rally or another speech in the Oval Office.

One Trump advisor telling CNN that some around the president expect that Pelosi will fold and allowed Trump to deliver his speech in the House. The source describing the battle between Trump and Pelosi as King Kong versus Godzilla.

Meanwhile, in response to a lot of criticism the White House had been getting, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced that a delegation of senior Trump administration officials will no longer be traveling to Davos, Switzerland for an economic convention.

Three cabinet level officials were scheduled to go to this convention, all three under a Secret Service protection and much of the Secret Service is not being paid, but that trip has now been called off.

Abby Phillip, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: All right. Abby, thank you again for that report.

Now to the United Kingdom. For the first time, the British Prime Minister Theresa May is holy cross-party talks with opposition leaders about Brexit. Now, they are having to come up with a plan B. But Ms. May's office is clear that does not include a new referendum, despite opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn saying a new vote to consult the people is on the table.

The biggest hurdle facing Brexit negotiations is Northern Ireland. It's part of the United Kingdom, but it shares a border with Ireland, which is part of the E.U. The issue of a hard or soft border is complicating things quite a bit.

Let's bring in CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, in Northern Ireland, live with us this hour. Nic, again, no doubt the threat of the no deal Brexit it only makes the delicate matters their even worse.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Absolutely. And the concern would be that if there was a no deal Brexit then one of the things that would happen very quickly is you would immediately begin to necessarily have to see, you know, customs inspections potentially controls the people crossing this border between the north and the south of Ireland.

And of course, people here are regularly -- the border is just a few miles away from where we stand -- regularly cross over the border, perhaps to go see a friend or a doctor. A young lady I talked you last night, she said, you know my sister lives just on the other side of the bridge and the bridge is over the river and that's the border. She said, what, would I need a passport to go and see my sister? So, concerns here do mount. It's 70 days more or less now until the date Britain supposed to leave the European Union. If there is no deal then technically at the moment you could potentially see the border here with a change in its nature.

It was an open border. This was something that was agreed, it has been for a long time, but it was on the second international treaty by a peace agreement here that ended decades of sectarian fighting. That peace agreement was 20 years ago today.

So, this is sort of one of the things that Theresa May and the European Union contend with. And this is why the European Union has said, we have a backstop clause, an insurance policy, that even if we can't agree we don't go back to a hard border.

But the conditions around that backstop are what prevent the Northern Irish MPs that prop up Theresa May's slender majority, prevent them giving her -- them her wholehearted and open support. They want countenance -- they want countenance at the moment the backstop in the form it's in.

HOWELL: Nic, so the clock is ticking. In fact, let's take a look at the clock. The countdown to Brexit, we have it there. Seventy days, 14 hours, 40 minutes, 57, 56, 55 seconds.

Nic, the question here, the British Prime Minister is certainly under a great deal of pressure for this plan B. The E.U. has made it very clear there will be no renegotiations of this plan. So, how different can plan B really be?

ROBERTSON: What Theresa May said to get to this plan B she's going to reach out across party lines. We've heard from the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, say he won't do it because Theresa May won't agree to rule out this no deal Brexit.

So, she's reached out across some of the party lines. She's heard from leaders there. Many of those have said, look, we would like to see a second referendum. The governments laid out its understanding of what it would require to have a second referendum.

[03:20:00] And that very short paper we're told says that it would take over a year to get a second referendum. So, essentially, she seems to be ruling that out. The clock is ticking. You were just going in for the seconds of it there

The sort of next week or so, Monday, she has to come up with a plan B. The 29th of January they're going to -- parliament and will discuss this plan B, presumably some who were in the middle maybe Theresa May goes back to Brussels to talk to E.U. officials there.

But the reality is that even before the next significant decisions get made, we're going to be at a moment two months and less to a -- to the -- to potentially a no deal Brexit.

So, the feeling here is that the clock is ticking very fast. She certainly doesn't have time to open up and renegotiate a whole new deal. I mean, this one is taking two and a half years to get to. It was already a year and a half overdue. It hasn't been agreed to.

So, I mean, when you look at this what you realize and recognize is, is that British politics right now is in a state of chaos and disarray that hasn't been seen potentially in generations. It's in a very, very, very difficult position, George.

HOWELL: CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, on the story for us live. Nic, thank you.

Prince Philip's family is breathing a sigh of relief. He is safe, he is unhurt, this after that serious car crash that you see right there. We'll have details on it for you, coming up.

Also, North Korea's top negotiator is back in Washington, D.C. and attention is on a special delivery. He's expected to bring from the North Korean leader to the U.S. president.

Stay with us.


HOWELL: Buckingham Palace says that Prince Philip was in a car crash on Thursday. Police say that he was not injured, but the driver and passenger of the other car were treated for injuries at a nearby hospital.

Palace officials say the 97-year-old Duke of Edinburg was driving a Range Rover when the crash happened.

Let's go live to our London bureau. Our Max Foster is following the story. And Max, what more do we know about Prince Philip following this accident, and how this happened?

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was out on a public road. He is 97 years old and just a few months had been 98 years old. So, the big debate here is should be driving that age, particularly on a public road, and this is an example of what can go wrong.

[03:25:04] But he is a fiercely independent character. He is very fit and well. He's not breaking the law. We spoke to the palace. He has a valid driving license. He keeps up to date with all the requirements for drivers. So, there is no great concern from the palace side of things, particularly when a doctor checked him over and said he was fine.

We should point out that there were two other people involved in this accident and they had injuries in the other car, but they're not serious either.

But there's lots of speculation about, you know, whether or not he should be out and about like this, and also, how resilient he is. He got out of the car according to eyewitnesses. He looked pretty shaken, but he was conscious and he was fine, physically well. So, no great concern, but it does sort of raise this debate about whether or not royals should be driving, particularly when they a fleet of chauffeurs who can do the job for them.

HOWELL: Certainly, there's no question. Our Max Foster following the story. And Max will of course be up next hour with CNN Newsroom. Max, again, thank you for your time and the reporting.

Still ahead here on Newsroom, U.S. allies say they will keep pushing ISIS out of Syria. They'll do it one town at a time. CNN takes you to the front lines, next.

Plus, a new report says thousands more migrant families were separated in the U.S. last year than the government has admitted. The question, though, how many? The answer no one seems to know.

Newsroom right back after the break. Stand by.


HOWELL: A warm welcome back to our viewers all over the world. You're watching CNN Newsroom live from Atlanta. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May is starting talks with opposition lawmakers to come up with a plan B for a Brexit deal. Her government is set to outline a next step statement on Monday. Lawmakers will debate and vote on a new Brexit plan provided there is one come January 29.

In Columbia, officials say a car bomb outside of police academy has killed at least 11 people, its wounded dozens more. A high-ranking official telling CNN the blast appeared to be a suicide attack. Columbia's president has condemned the incident as terrorism.

BuzzFeed News reporting Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build the Trump Tower in Moscow. CNN has not corroborated the report which comes from two sources familiar with the investigation. Democrats say if true it is clearly obstruction of justice.


In the meantime, Mr. Trump is refusing to let the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi use a military plane for a trip to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It comes one day after she asked the President to delay his State of the Union speech, because of the government shutdown.

Let's talk more about this now with the former Republican governor of Ohio, Governor John Kasich, a CNN Senior Political Commentator, joining us this hour from Los Angeles. Governor, a pleasure to have you on the show.

FMR. GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks, George. You know, I've been a former governor for like, you know, three days. I am former. You're right.

HOWELL: We appreciate having you here to give us some insight here on all things politics specifically, let's start getting your thoughts on the President's actions this day, postponing Nancy Pelosi's overseas trip with Congressional Delegation after she threaten to derail his plans State if the Union. Are you surprised by Mr. Trump hitting back this way and is this a matter of how low do we go here? Where does it go from here?

KASICH: I don't know, but everybody looks at it and just shakes their head and rolls their eyes and, you know, we pay them to solve problems in this country, and it almost looks like tit for tat, and you know, you do this and I do that.

I mean, this is -- isn't this kind of, George, I think, we used to do in the schoolyard. You know, and it's beneath the institution. It is beneath the presidency. It is beneath the Congress. I mean, come on, sit down, put the country first and begin to work this out, that's for has to happen.

I've been involved in shutdowns before, but we were never anxious to prove a political point to some particular group or whatever. We wanted to reopen the government, but we wanted solid negotiations. I was a Congressman and evolved -- I was chairman of the Budget Committee and we ended up coming out of a shutdown and achieving something remarkable. But it was our love for our country, not who the heck was going to applaud us and who wasn't.

HOWELL: You touch on this school-yard politics you could describe it as, but let's look at the optics, the overall optics here, the congressional trip to Afghanistan. During a shutdown, Mr. Trump saying, for his part, no one from his administration will travel to Davos. Your thoughts there?

KASICH: Let's get this solved. I mean, I don't have particular thoughts about this or that, you know, Billy did this and Sally did that. Just get it fixed.

HOWELL: Yes, you know, I have a toddler, and we do run into discussions like that --


HOWELL: -- in the school-yard, it is unfortunate to see it playing out in politics.

KASICH: Yes, it's just -- it's not good, no matter where we see it. If we see it in sports, right? We see it there. You know, one player, I'm not getting enough passes, and you know, I'm not going to practice today. And we see it in business, you know, people can't get along. I mean, look, we know this, when human beings work together and they have unity, we achieve so much more than when human beings fight with one another.

Now, there's a difference between Republicans and Democrats and Conservatives and Liberals and all those kinds of things, but you have to look for those things that we agree upon. What are those things? Things like, you know, we love our country. It should be country over party. It should be -- I can't play all of this politics all the time that I need to show respect for somebody who doesn't share my views. I mean, those are some of the fundamentals that you have to have, not just in politics, I think, but also in life.

HOWELL: Well, you talk about Billy did this and Sara did that, but in the middle of all of this, the government shutdown continues to linger on, some 800,000 workers still on the sidelines. They're either furloughed, Governor, or working without pay.

But given the petty politics we're seeing on display, the only people really who can get this thing fixed and get it done. Where does it leave everyday Americans, the people who have any real power here to push these politicians to do something?

KASICH: Well, first of all, you know, we have to feel very badly for those folks who are not being paid and particularly those who are showing up and continuing to provide service. I mean, they're struggling, I'm sure with medical bills and mortgage payments and -- it is just -- it is unbelievable, right?

And so, I think that's something that we have -- we have to really think about. And in the long run, though, this just -- this cast such a bad image for us, America, you know, across the globe. Like, what are they doing over there? And that's -- it's really important and that's why it's really critical to get this thing over soon.

HOWELL: The question here is, without people willing to take what seems to be a political risk, how do the two sides come together here, and how do you see this shutdown ever coming to a resolution?

[03:35:02] KASICH: I've been very disappointed with what I've seen. I was a member of the House of Representative for 18 years. I worked with the leadership. I was chairman of the Budget Committee. I worked with Senators. I worked with the Clinton administration. I worked in a lot of different people.

It's just a disappointing thing to see, but I have the sense that we will come out of this and I hope we learn from it. And I hope that the public will put pressure on their elected officials to say, please get this done.

HOWELL: Governor Kasich joining this hour in Los Angeles. Governor, thank you again for your time.

KASICH: Thank you very much.

HOWELL: The United States says ISIS carried out a deadly suicide attack in Syria, an attack that killed 14 people, two U.S. troops among the dead. It shows that ISIS can still be quite lethal despite President Trump claims that ISIS has been defeated. A U.S. official telling CNN the suicide bomber belonged to an ISIS sleeper cell.

In the aftermath of the attack, Syrian fighters back by the U.S. promised to step up their military operation against any remaining ISIS strongholds.

Our Clarissa Ward took the very dangerous journey to bring you this story from the front lines.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The battle against ISIS is still raging, as the U.S. Allied Syrian Democratic Forces, known as the SDF, push in on the last sliver of territory under the militant's control. Here the fighters prepare to move into the Village of Shafa. Flares turned the dark night into day. The coalition aircraft circle overhead, providing crushing air power.

By daylight, they push further in. This is where ISIS ends, SDF Commander Sinko Shikaki (ph) tells his men. Moments later, panic breaks out. ISIS has launched a counter attack. The SDF fired back and Shafa is quickly liberated.

We travel down to the front line as they approach the next village. Our escorts insist on taking an armored vehicle. Even liberated territory is far from secure.

These roads are still dangerous especially early in the morning, because there are ISIS sleeper cells in the area. They come out overnight and they plant roadside bombs.

We stop at a house that the SDF took from ISIS just days earlier. Mortars are fired off in militant position. Commander Shikaki (ph) takes us up onto the roof to show us the front line.

So the next village over Susa is where the front line is now and they're hoping that they will be able to liberate that by tomorrow. American forces provide assistance from just a few hundred yards away. The commander warned the battle is not over.

The pressure we had militarily is ending he says, but the fundamental war is eradicating the ideology of ISIS.

That will be a much tougher fight to win. Support for ISIS still lingers here. On the way back, we passed through another recently liberated area. This is what is left now of the town of Hajin (ph). You can see it's basically been completely obliterated. And to many of the people who were living in areas like this and others, this is what liberation looks like, miles and miles of rubble.

Many here fear that buried in the destruction, the seeds are being sowed for another war. Clarissa Ward, CNN, Shafa, Syria.


HOWELL: Clarissa, thank you.

A new watchdog report suggests the U.S. lost track of exactly how many migrant children were separated from their families last year. The report says that the total number could be -- could be thousands more than what the government has acknowledged. Our Nick Valencia has this.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The report is stunning. The HSS Office of the Inspector General found that the Trump administration has no idea how many children were separated from their parents or guardians, but what is clear is that it's potentially thousands more than the number that was previously reported of 2,737. A part of this report indicates that the reason they don't know how many children were separated was that there wasn't a proper data collection system in place.

Not only did we learn that headline, but also that more children are being held for a longer period of time in U.S. custody than the public is aware. And if you remember, it was last summer that a federal judge ruled that there must be a unification or reunification deadline.

[03:40:07] CNN previously reported that children were still being separated after that deadline passed. But what we learned on Thursday from this OIG report is that there was a total of at least 118 children that were separated, they say mostly because of a criminal history with a parent or guardian.

Now this report was part of a two-week fact finding mission and collection of data, where this inspector visited a total of 45 sites. But here is what HSS is saying in response to the OIG report.

The effort undertaken by HHS was complex, fast moving and resource sensitive. OIG's report provides a window in to the herculean work of the HHS career staff to rapidly identify children in ORR Care who have been separated from their parents and reunify them.

Right now, we don't know, as I mentioned how many children were separated. OIG say they're working on another report and we will potentially learn more at a later date.

Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta, Georgia.


HOWELL: Nick, thanks. The Health and Human Services Department says officials have accounted for all of the children who are separated and suggest the Watchdog Report provides no evidence that authorities lost track of the children.

North Korea's top negotiator is expected to meet with the U.S. Secretary of State and could see the U.S. President this week, setting the stage for a possible second summit between Mr. Trump and the North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-un. But it comes just hours after President Trump rolled out a new missile defense strategy, and the Pentagon said, North Korea remains a threat to the U.S.

Our Paula Hancocks has this report.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: North Korea's top negotiator, Kim Yong-chol, is in Washington, D.C. Right now. He was seen leaving Dallas International Airport with the U.S. Special Representative to North Korea, Steve Biegun. Now, Kim Yong-chol will have meetings on Friday. He is expected to meet U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, potentially the U.S. President Donald Trump as well. We don't know for sure, but he did last time. Last year when he came, he met with Mr. Trump and he came with a rather oversized envelope carrying a message, a letter from the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

This time as well, he will be delivering a message from the North Korean leader. The intention of this clearly from the North Korean side is to try and break the stalemate in the denuclearization talks and try to push towards that second summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

Now date and location is still being speculated on. Hanoi, Vietnam, appears to be the front runner. At this point, Bangkok has not been ruled out. And so certainly, we could be hearing an announcement on that very soon.

But the timing of Kim Yong-chol's visit is also interesting because it comes just hours after Trump rolled out a missile defense strategy and this missile defense review at the Pentagon explicitly states that North Korea is an extraordinary threat to the United States.

Now, this is consistent with what U.S. Military and Intelligence assessments have been stating all along. It is not however consistent with what the U.S. President has been saying all along. He has explicitly said that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. He said this back in June after that summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore. He touched down in the U.S. and he tweeted that, just landed, a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.

Now potentially this could be about timing. It could be about strategy with North Korea. We simply don't know. We also herd from the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday and he said, that the U.S. is still waiting on concrete steps from North Korea to denuclearize.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


HOWELL: Paula, thank you. A gamble from the French President, Emmanuel Macron, after weeks of Yellow Vest protests. The French President tries to counteract the violence by launching the great debate. We'll go live to Paris on that story. Stay with us.


HOWELL: Ten weeks ago a Grass reef -- roots movement started in France. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest a gas tax hike. The demonstrations then became rallying cries against the president of that nation, Emmanuel Macron's government. Now, the French president hopes a new tactic, countrywide debates will help. Let's bring in our Senior International Correspondent, Jim Bittermann, who's following the story live in Paris. And Jim, among these protesters there is a strong dislike of the French President. Does this strategy stand the chance to truly build a bridge and get people on board in discussions?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big unknown, George, and in fact they we're watching, as this strategy kind of unfolds, he outlined -- the President outlined this last week in a letter to the French people and then kicked it off with the -- kicked the national debate off, which will be a kind of an extraordinary adventure in direct democracy.

Basically, he is encouraging the mayors and Regional Councils and associations and everyone to debate about what irks them, what's their -- what their problems are and to bring those forward and then present them eventually to the President himself. And he launched this earlier this week. Here's the way it looked in Normandy.


BITTERMANN: For a few hours, the pleasant little Normandy town of Bourgtheroulde was the political flash point of France. It was here that French President Macron, in an attempt to diffuse months of sometimes violent street protests, chose to launch what he is calling the great debate, an extraordinary nationwide exercise in direct democracy that will continue from now until March 15th.

To kick it off, the President met with 600 mayors who spent two hours telling him about the grievances and complaints of their fellow citizens. Centuries before the launch of the great debate, town halls have maintained grievance books where citizens can write down their complaints.

Since the Yellow Vest Movement began, thousands of gripes have been collected. Chief among them seems to be the decline in purchasing power, but they range from the inequality of the tax system to the speed limits on rural roads.

In Bourgtheroulde, about 100 of the town's 3,800 people have taken time to complain. The mayor says local citizens are most concerned about taxes and mobility, the lack of public transportation, for example, and the expense of maintaining a car. He is not sure how much residents will take part in the great debate, but he will organize meetings anyway. At a local florist shop, the owner who has lost time and money because of the Yellow Vest protest thinks the great debate will help ease the crisis.

CEDRIC DESHAYES, FLORIST (through translator): You have to take matters in hand, dialogue with people, get close to them and try to find a way to unblock things, because if it goes on like this then we're heading for chaos.

BITTERMANN: But a few miles away at a traffic circle that has been occupied since the beginning of the Yellow Vest Movement, factory worker Olivier Bruneau says, he is not participating in any debates. Macron, he said, has shown contempt for the movement.

OLIVIER BRUNEAU, YELLOW VEST PROTESTER (through translator): He does exactly what he intends to do without taking into account the complaints he already has and without even looking at them.

BITTERMANN: That kind of resentment is more visible here in rural France where the feeling is that people are second class citizens.

[03:50:00] Professor and author Denis Lacorne says Macron's emphasis on modernizing France has left many here feeling like they have been left behind.

DENIS LACORNE, PROFESSOR AND AUTHOR: So it created a resentment, a kind of president who favored the wealth, the rich, the American ways of doing things, particularly from Silicon Valley and forgot the lower middle class.

BITTERMANN: The president's grand experiment in direct democracy is meant to address that sensitive exclusion, but much depends on what conclusions are drawn at the end of it.


BITTERMANN: That in fact, he is going to do another -- President Macron is going to do another one of these kind of town hall meetings with 600 mayors in the Southwest of France later on this afternoon.

After that first meeting, the mayors gave him a standing ovation. He was on his feet answering their questions for more than 6.5 hours. And it may had been related to his stamina as much as anything else. But in fact, we'll see how it goes this afternoon with the mayors that are already threat a protest before he arrives in the village where he is speaking down in Southwest France. George?

HOWELL: Question, will people see this? Will they feel like their concerns are being heard and addressed? Will it resonate among these people who had been protesting on the streets? Jim Bittermann, live for us. Jim, thank you.

A huge winter storm takes aim at the U.S. East Coast. While on the West Coast, avalanches endanger the lives of skiers. More from the International Weather Center, as the newsroom pushes on, stay with us.


HOWELL: An avalanche in New Mexico seriously injured two skiers. Crews had to dig them out of the snow. Both are now in hospital. One is in critical condition.

Our Derek Van Dam is following all of this in the International Weather Center. Derek, this is some serious weather.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, you know, George, there was an extensive search and rescue effort after the avalanche took place, this is in Taos Valley in New Mexico. And the avalanches here are quite rare. Last avalanche to actually injure or fatally kill a skier was back in 96. So, it has been several decades since that happen, but you can see just how steep the mountain sides are across that area.

Another part of Western U.S. that's been impacted by avalanches in -- is across Utah. Look at this slide that crossed over one of the highways and overpasses here, closing the road, no cars stuck underneath this, fortunately. But there was a 30-foot pile of snow that block the roadway within that region. You can see just how dangerous avalanches are.

This is the storm system that is evolving from the Colorado Rockies all the way through the Midwest and it's moving into a full-fledged snowstorm across the Midwest and into the Northeast, and the exact track of the storm is going to be critical. It is going to determine who gets rain, who gets snow, who gets sleet and who gets ice.

Lots to talk about here, we will try to wrap it all up for you. But of course, the East Coast here, they got a little bit of a curtain raiser this morning and an opening act per se preceding what's coming for this weekend. We have over 100 million Americans under some sort of winter weather advisory, warning, or watch stretching from Boston to New York, all the way to Omaha.

Look at the evolution of the storm system. Let's not forget about the potential of heavy snowfall for places like Chicago and Detroit, Columbus, Cincinnati, Rochester, but New York City, 8 p.m., we know how many millions of Americans live right along that I-95 corridor, 8 p.m. Saturday night, that's when the snow settles in.

Then the warm front lifts north and get a little bit of influence from the coastal waters here and we transition to a rain and snow and ice mix. The potential for icing -- significant icing exists along that I-95 corridor, causing all kinds of travel headaches this weekend.

[03:55:07] In terms of snowfall, the highest elevations of upstate New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine could easily top 50 centimeters. In terms of ice, we have the potential for an up to half to -- 1.5 centimeters of ice, just outside of the New York City region and into Boston.

And by the way, George, the coldest air of the season will settle in behind it, temperatures drastically falling off early next week along the East Coast, so even bad (ph).

HOWELL: Bundle up. Derek, thank you.

All right this next story is about Fletcher, the dog. Getting up there in age, but that's not stopping him from making his daily trip to the butcher for a bone. And there's no stopping him once he gets started.

Seven Network, Sarah Greenhalgh, has more from Brisbane, Australia.


SARAH GREENHALGH, REPORTER, SEVEN NETWORK: He truly is a dog with a bone, a persistent pooch who will never give up his daily pilgrimage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the same thing all the time. So, he'll just disappear.

GREENHALGH: Same path, same time, ever since he showed up as a pup out of the back of the local butcher shop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: he wouldn't go, so, we gave him a bone and off he went and the next day he turned up again. Ten years later, he is still doing it.

GREENHALGH: Fletcher loves lanb. He isn't too fast on chicken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) too lazy.

GREENHALGH: Basically the bigger the better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're receiving big bones here, bigger bones. We could give him. And every time I would say he's getting too fat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it didn't work, because he would still go over there and then he wouldn't leave.

GREENHALGH: It can be confusing to avid customers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he is lost. And I'll say (ph), no, no, it's just Fletcher. He just comes for a bone.

GREENHALGH: He's their most loyal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got to pay for it (ph).

GREENHALGH: These days, Fletcher's trip to the butcher takes a little longer. He's got arthritis and his hearing isn't great, but he's sense of smell and direction are still spot on. Don't be fooled, the 13 year-old can run when he needs to. On his way home, there's strictly no stopping or detouring especially not for our cameraman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't get in there. He's gone through the barbed wire.

GREENHALGH: An old dog who doesn't need new tricks.


GREENHALGH: Sarah Greenhalgh, Seven News.


HOWELL: Sarah, thank you. And thank you for being with us this hour. For CNN Newsroom, I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The news continues with my colleague Max Foster, Newsroom live from London. You're watching CNN, the world news leader.