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Berlin Wall 30th Anniversary; Testimony: Mulvaney Was Point Man on Quid Pro Quo; "Anonymous" Tell-All Depicts Trump as Cruel and Unstable. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired November 9, 2019 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): That is Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, and Mr. Gorbachev did just that. It has been 30 years since the Berlin Wall was torn down. And leaders are gathering to commemorate the event and we are live in Berlin.
Also this hour we'll have the latest in the impeachment inquiry in the United States. We have details about with what was said behind closed doors.
Also, an arctic surge is expected to sweep through the United States. Experts say the icy temperatures could break more than 200 records.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen in Atlanta, Georgia. And CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
ALLEN: Thank you again for joining us.
We begin with Germany, pausing to mark a milestone in its history: 30 years ago, cracks in the Soviet Union led to the toppling of the Berlin Wall. The moment is remembered as the symbolic end of the Cold War. More live video for you here.
Multiple European leaders and as well as young people are on hand for what is turning out to be low-key commemorations. A church service and lighting of candles are also part of the day's events. Fred Pleitgen is covering it for us. He joins us live from Berlin by the little slice of the wall that is still left.
Let's begin by reflecting back how difficult it was to bring down this wall. It was a lot of chipping away there for a while.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was. And I think one of the things, Natalie, that was very surprising in those days in 1989, I do remember that very well, that there were these demonstrations that were taking place all over Eastern Germany in Leipzig and also here in Berlin.
And they kept growing. And there was a lot of social anger among a lot of people who felt that their lives obviously weren't going on the same trajectory as people in the West. But still no one ever thought that the wall could be breached or that the wall would come down anytime soon.
And then there was that fateful night, when the East German government announced that there would be a new travel law, that people could travel where they wanted.
And someone in that press conference asked, when is that effective?
And the spokesman for the East German government announced, well, I think it is effective immediately. That was wrong.
But of course, thousands of people then went to the wall and the border guards simply opened the gates, even without any orders. And then people began chipping back at the wall, getting their pickaxes, hammers and all these other things taking the wall down.
And it did take a long time because it was a border that had taken such a long time to come up and had been so fortified. If you look at the wall, it is quite interesting. This is the East German side. And so this wall had several layers to it. There was the backward part of the wall where people already would get intercepted and then the part you had saw on the West and then a big strip in between where people were shot and killed or arrested.
And so this was more than just a wall, it was a giant border fortification that, of course, led to the deaths of many people. And that is something that is also being commemorated today, the people who, in the 28 years that the wall was up, attempted to flee, didn't make it, a lot of them killed in the process of doing so.
And it is still something that, of course, is very painful to a lot of Germans and still something also on a day like this. And you do have to remind people all the time.
PLEITGEN: And Angela Merkel did it in her speech today, how deadly this wall was to people who lived on both sides of it and both sides of the Iron Curtain.
ALLEN: And we have seen those terrible historic photographs of people running for the wall and then not making it. So incredibly sad. Fred Pleitgen there for us. I want to ask you one more question.
The young people, the people that weren't alive during the fall of the wall, how much are they paying attention to this and does it resonate with them?
PLEITGEN: I think all things history, of course, after a while, they start fading. But if you look, a lot of young people here are taking pictures of the wall. And for me, not that young anymore, for those who remember when the wall came down, it is strange to talk to people who weren't alive when the wall was still in place or when the wall came down.
Obviously there is still a lot of historical work that needs to be done.
What was life like in East Germany?
What was it like for the people who then managed to take the wall down?
So you're right, people I think are still very interested. Of course for a lot of the folks here now, it is a tourist attraction. But it is also very important through that to then get people hooked in and to then teach them what the wall actually meant, what divisions mean.
And then on the back side of that, very important, what freedom also means and what it means to fight for freedom. And no better place does it than right here. I've been speaking to people who fled East Germany, people who said that, for them, freedom was the highest good. And it is certainly something they can celebrate right here.
ALLEN: All right. Thanks so much for your reporting.
The physical barriers separating the country are long gone but some divisions still remain. And we want to talk about that with Steffen Mau, a professor of macrosociology at Humboldt University.
Thanks so much for joining us.
STEFFEN MAU, PROFESSOR, HUMBOLDT UNIVERSITY: Yes, hello.
ALLEN: Let's begin by looking back. It was a seismic event when the wall came down. Talk about what it signified inside Germany kind of versus outside of Germany.
MAU: Also it was a global event. And for Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a strong change in the European situation, so many joined the European Union. Also, it was an end to the bipolar world. And for Germany in particular, of course, many years of having the wall as a country.
So I come from East Germany and so I was living behind the Iron Curtain. It was such a surprising and unexpected event. So it took a while to realize what has happened and to go on with history.
ALLEN: Because we heard in a report earlier that many East Germans came, looked through the wall and went back and continued their lives. Reading that, for many East Germans, they were pitched overnight into capitalism. And in some ways it was kind of brutal, it was such a change. MAU: Yes, I mean there is a double picture if you look back today, on the one hand, of course, enormous gains in freedom but also living standards. So people are quite positive overall about the process of unification.
But at the same time, there is some resentment and even frustration about how the process went, remembering the '90s, mass unemployment in East Germany, privatization, destruction of the old industries.
So for many this was a transformation shock and with a long-term imprint on political habits and mentalities. And it was not that easy as it seemed at the beginning.
ALLEN: Well, 30 years later, let's talk about that now, because there is somewhat of an invisible barrier. I was reading that some East Germans still feel like they are second class citizens.
MAU: Yes, we have a survey saying 50 percent consider themselves second class citizens. They complain about the remaining inequalities between the East and West in pensions and also incomes.
But there is also a very strong wealth gap given the history. West Germans are richer than East Germans. And many people thought that, yes, maybe we could have gone a different way.
MAU: So merging east and west in a specific way or maybe asking whether you can take all the good things that existed into a joint or unified Germany, that did not happen.
And there is one thing that is particular to East Germany, compared to other Eastern European countries, that is a massive transfer of West German elites to East Germany. So in the 1990s and even now, the higher social position is the more influential position, it is more likely that it is occupied by West Germans.
And this has also led to a very loose connection between the overall population and the social and political elites.
ALLEN: We thank you so much for joining us and giving us your insights, Professor Steffen Mau. Thank you.
MAU: Thank you.
ALLEN: We'll have much more on the ceremonies marking the fall of the Berlin Wall later in the hour, including Angela Merkel, set to take part in a church service. There she is, arriving a short time ago.
All right. Back in the United States, the impeachment investigation is coming into sharper focus. Now it has been revealed President Trump's top aide was calling the shots in the Ukraine scandal. Details ahead on that.
Also, the anonymous author of a new tell-all sounds the alarm on Donald Trump claiming top administration officials considered a mass resignation. More details from that book just ahead here.
ALLEN: Former White House national security adviser John Bolton snubbed the impeachment inquiry Thursday. But that doesn't mean he is not willing to talk. On Friday Bolton's lawyer sent a letter to Congress, saying that Bolton had relevant information about the Ukraine scandal that hasn't yet been made public.
Bolton earlier had signalled he would not testify without a subpoena. But House Democrats decided not to issue a subpoena, choosing instead to focus on next week's public hearings with more cooperative witnesses.
It could be that Congress already has enough impeachment evidence without Bolton's testimony. The latest is newly released transcripts that spotlight Mick Mulvaney as the point man in the Ukraine scandal.
ALLEN: CNN's Jessica Schneider has more about it.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Testimony unveiled from two key witnesses point to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as the one who coordinated the quid pro quo demand with Ukraine.
Fiona Hill, the White House's former top Russia adviser telling lawmakers last month that E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland made Mulvaney's instructions clear when they met with Ukrainian officials July 10th at the White House.
Hill testifying, ambassador Sondland, in front of the Ukrainians as I came in, was talking about how he had an agreement with chief of staff Mulvaney for a meeting with Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations.
The White House's top expert on Ukraine, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, echoed that, saying investigations by Ukraine were "the deliverable," coordinated by Mulvaney. Sondland just said that he had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney and this is what was required in order to get a meeting.
Vindman adding there was no ambiguity that a White House meeting was contingent on Ukraine opening an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Several witnesses have testified that the holdup of military aid for Ukraine was also directed by Mulvaney.
Hill recounted how the proposed deal alarmed then national security adviser John Bolton, who she said immediately stiffened and ended the July 10th meeting. Last month, Mulvaney admitted there was indeed a quid pro quo before he later walked it back.
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MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I have news for everybody, get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.
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SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Vindman also discussed how he drafted talking points ahead of that July 25th phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky and said his suggestions definitely did not include anything about investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens or Burisma.
When Fiona Hill finally read the rough transcript of the president's call with Zelensky, she said she was very shocked and very saddened about Trump's pretty blatant push for politically motivated investigations.
Hill also reacted how Gordon Sondland made clear he was in charge of Ukraine affairs, describing a blow-up with him when she later asked, who put him in charge, he said the president, Hill testified. Well, that shut me up because you can't really argue with that.
Fiona Hill also disclosed that she received death threats and hateful calls during her year at the National Security Council before she left in August. And she said many of those threats have continued, now that she is front and center as a key voice in the impeachment inquiry -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
ALLEN: Natasha Lindstaedt is joining me now, a professor of government at the University of Essex in England.
NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Nice to see you. Good morning.
ALLEN: It is quite disturbing from Fiona Hill how people have continued to threaten her over this, these brave people coming forward and giving testimony. But Trump's close adviser Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, they will not testify.
Without their input, does that damage the inquiry?
LINDSTAEDT: No, I don't think it does damage the inquiry because we have had testimony after testimony corroborating what the original whistleblower said, that the Trump administration and Giuliani were working to try to get the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden and the 2016 election.
There has been no one that has come forward to dispute that. And even Gordon Sondland, who was supposed to be almost like a crony of Trump and originally was stating the party line, there is no quid pro quo, has even stepped back on that.
So all we have is testimony moving in the direction, proving that this quid pro quo did happen, that Trump was operating some sort of shadow foreign policy led by Giuliani, his personal lawyer, who was basically de facto in charge of one of the most strategically important regions of the world, not advancing national interests but advancing Giuliani's own personal interests and Trump's own personal interests.
So it is probably challenging for the Democrats that they can't get some of these big names. I think it would have been helpful if they were able to get John Bolton to testify because he is such a staunch conservative; that may move the needle more in favor of impeachment if he was able to reveal information.
As had already been reported about his disagreements with all these different things going on. But clearly there has been a lot of testimony that has been very damaging to the president already.
ALLEN: Absolutely. And it seems like Bolton is even kind of teasing the committee, saying I've got new stuff but you'd have to take me to court to say it.
ALLEN: Next week the public hearings get underway.
Will it cause a fundamental change in the impeachment inquiry when the United States citizens are open to it?
LINDSTAEDT: I think it might move things slightly more in favor of impeaching and removing the president but not by a lot. Trump's base is not really moving. They really do support the president.
You can see at the campaign rallies, everybody has T-shirts on that say, read the transcript. They don't really care what the president did. They totally believe in him.
But the whole point of having these public hearings, people will get a chance to hear and see people instead of just coming from reports. And you will see that the Democrats will try to put together a very clear narrative about what took place.
And it also refutes the Republican argument that everything is taking place in a non-transparent way, behind closed doors. Now it will be all in the open for all citizens to see and think for themselves.
ALLEN: Right. And it looks like it is still neck and neck, being just a couple percentage points of more people who want to see him impeached than don't want to see him impeached. So interesting to see if those numbers move as this gets underway.
I want to talk about how they will begin it. Ambassador William Taylor is expected to be the first witness. He is seen as very credible, in part because of his explicit understanding that there was a quid pro quo, linking military aid to Ukraine investigating Mr. Trump's political rival. So do you think that he will set the tone in a significant way?
LINDSTAEDT: I think that he is setting the tone for the way in which the shadow diplomacy was taking place and why it was wrong and that the shadow diplomacy, back door efforts led by Giuliani to get the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens.
And he will go into the details about how extensive it was, how many people were involved, how premeditated it was, how long Giuliani had been working on this for months and months in advance and how assertive Giuliani, Volker, Sondland were in trying to get the Ukrainians to do this.
And we heard testimony from George Kent, a top State Department official, that they were trying to get Zelensky to publicly declare on TV that they were officially investigating the Bidens and even drafting a statement to help him.
So we will learn more about the process of shadow diplomacy and why this is just so much against -- it goes so much against the way diplomacy normally works and functions.
ALLEN: So we'll be getting a look at that and we're also getting a look at a new bombshell book, we'll talk about that now. But we want to thank you for joining us.
LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.
ALLEN: And as I mentioned, we're getting a first look at the bombshell allegations about President Trump in a new book by an anonymous author, said to be in the administration. It depicts the president as unstable, cruel and paranoid. As Brian Todd reports, this could lead to an obsessive hunt to unmask the author.
TRUMP: We're kicking their ass.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His top officials would wake up in a full-blown panic over his tweets.
Working for Donald Trump at the White House is "like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pants less across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants tried to catch him. Only your uncle doesn't have to lead the U.S. government once he puts his pants on."
These quotes are from the explosive new book, a warning, written by an anonymous Trump administration official, excerpted by "The Washington Post," excerpts which some say will likely drive the president crazy.
GLASSER: Donald Trump, as we know, is pretty loyalty-obsessed and he is in particular concerned with this idea of treachery inside the White House. This is a moment where Trump is going to be particularly worried that he is surrounded by people he fundamentally can't trust. TODD (voice-over): The author is the same unnamed person who wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" last year, claiming to be part of a so- called resistance to Trump within the White House ranks. It's not clear if the person is still working for the president or has left.
According to "The Post," the new book says senior Trump administration officials considered resigning en masse last year in a "midnight self- massacre" to warn the public about President Trump's behavior.
MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If it was pretty senior people and it was a lot of them, it would not only have affected the actual operations of the government, but it would have underscored and made very real one of the big concerns about this administration, which is that people are concerned about the president's very erratic nature and I think it could have had a big impact.
TODD (voice-over): The author says the officials decided against mass resignations, fearing it would destabilize the government even further. The book depicts Trump as incompetent, a danger to the country, paranoid of those around him, including note-takers and profoundly cruel.
TRUMP: Be quiet. Quiet.
TODD (voice-over): The author says Trump once spoke with a Hispanic accent in the Oval Office to make fun of migrants crossing the border. And when discussing women, "He comments on makeup. He makes jokes about weight. He critiques clothing. He uses words like 'sweetie' and 'honey.'"
GLASSER: That's the kind of amazing thing about Donald Trump. He makes racist remarks in private and he makes racist remarks in public. He says anti-woman things in private and he says anti-woman things in public.
TODD (voice-over): The White House is calling the author a coward, saying the book is nothing but lies, a work of fiction. One Trump biographer warns the pushback won't stop there.
D'ANTONIO: God help you if you occupy an important position in service to the president and you evidence any lack of loyalty. He's going to come after you hard and there's no threat that he won't make.
TODD: Last year, when that same author published the anonymous op-ed, the White House went on a mole hunt, a furious effort to out that person with Trump said to be obsessed with uncovering the person's identity. Analysts say that's likely going on now as well. But according to "The Post," the author claims to be ready to reveal his or her own identity in due course -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
ALLEN: After a short break, we preview next week's public impeachment hearings on the Ukraine scandal. Also ahead, we're staying on top of the commemorations going on right
now marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
ALLEN: We are following events in Germany, marking 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before it fell, people who tried to cross the wall into West Berlin risked their lives. East German border guards would shoot to kill.
Ceremonies today have been subdued, as people reflect on the meaning of that historic day three decades ago. People now have gathered for the church service. Fred Pleitgen is back with us now. He is standing outside a section of the wall that is still kind of a tourist draw.
And tell us how many people are taking part there, Fred.
PLEITGEN: Actually a lot of people. You see the pictures of the official ceremony with all the politicians there. The real place where all the celebrations are happening is right here.
You have this CNN Trabant, the East German car that was the epitome of East German automotive engineering. And this is fully made of PVC plastic, which means that it is very light but not good if you actually have an accident. So you don't want to have an accident in that car.
But as you see, our car is the attraction. But in general, a lot of people are coming out here today to what is the longest still remaining segment of the Berlin Wall that is still in place. It is sort of an outdoor art gallery.
There was some controversy over the past couple years that some of these paintings were in disrepair and some developers wanted to build high-rise buildings here. So it is still an important landmark to many folks here and many tourists as well.
Of course for many folks, this is a good chance to get a snapshot but, of course, it also draws them into the history of what was the Berlin Wall, where was the Berlin Wall, how deadly was the Berlin Wall and what did it mean to the people in the city that it divided, to the East Germans and West Germans, who lived with this every day of their live in the 28 years that the wall was up.
So today the crowds here, as you see, a lot of very happy, curious people having a look at the car and the wall. But also, of course, a lot of people who are learning about the history of the division of the city and, of course, more importantly of the people especially in East Germany overcoming those divisions especially on November 9th. ALLEN: Absolutely. What a change it was. And those changes still evolving.
Fred, thanks for that live shot. And, yes, it is cracking me up. At least 10 people have gotten into your car there now since you've been talking.
PLEITGEN: They have taken it over. That is what we want.
ALLEN: Fred, thank you.
Well, Matthew Chance is joining me now from Moscow.
Of course, Matthew, Russia likely has quite a different view of this anniversary because the fall of the wall meant the fall of the Soviet Union.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It preceded the fall of the Soviet Union by a year or so. But, yes, Vladimir Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.
In fact, Vladimir Putin, it was about a year ago, said that if it was one thing in history that he could change, it would have been the collapse of the Soviet Union. So it gives you a sense of much more negative perspective that people in this country have of those dramatic and historic events.
It plunged millions into economic turmoil; people woke up one morning, as is often said here, citizens of a different country. And so there was a lot of sort of chaos and turmoil politically and economically that followed.
Also, you know, the figures in the West who sort of are celebrated as being the heroes of the fall of the Berlin Wall, people like Mikhail Gorbachev, held back from deploying forces; 300,000 Soviet soldiers in Eastern Germany at the time that the wall came down. The Soviet leadership could have intervened militarily and prevented that.
But it decided not to. The Politburo here in Moscow voted to not use military force to intervene.
CHANCE: And so it allowed the developments to take place. Equally Mikhail Gorbachev didn't stand in the way of Germany reunification, Germany joining NATO. In retrospect, the current political leadership in Russia sees that German policy as naivete, as weakness on the part of the then Soviet leadership because it opened the floodgates to the expansion of the Western institutions like NATO and the European Union eastwards into lands and countries that were previously under the sway of Moscow.
So it really undermined the power of Moscow in the world. And I think one of the features that we've seen of President Putin's nearly 20 years now of leadership in this country is sort of an attempt to restore that prestige, regain that influence that was enjoyed by Moscow during the Soviet Union.
Russia is much more active these days in Eastern Europe. Its intervention in Ukraine, for instance, it has a much bigger role in the Middle East; its backing of Bashar al-Assad in Syria has kind of reasserted Russia back on to the stage in the Middle East and also other areas like South America and Africa.
And that is all about Moscow and Vladimir Putin trying to recapture some of that lost Soviet era prestige.
ALLEN: And also, interesting that Vladimir Putin was serving in Germany, in Dresden for the KGB when the wall came down. So that is a personal experience that he had.
CHANCE: That's right, he was a KGB officer, a lieutenant colonel in fact in the KGB in Dresden. And was sort of primarily responsible for liaising with the East German secret police. And so he oversaw sort of the destruction of East German files in that KGB headquarters in Dresden.
And there was actually a confrontation, I don't know whether it is true or not, but it is often spoken about by Putin and people who have written his biographies, that there was a confrontation that he witnessed as the wall came down during that period.
He was in Dresden remember, not Berlin. There was a mob that gathered outside; they ransacked the Stasi headquarters and moved on to the KGB headquarters. Putin apparently asked the Soviet army to come protect the KGB headquarters and they didn't do that.
And he had to go out and talk down the crowd and prevent them from entering the building, which apparently was successful. And, of course, he has a personal bitter experience of this period.
ALLEN: As I read, he threatened people that he would use force if they did anything. But then he had to pack up his bags and go home after that, very interesting stuff from you. Thanks so much, Matthew Chance, for us live in Moscow.
We'll have more on the events in Berlin as Germany marks 30 years since the fall of the wall.
In Washington, weeks of closed door depositions in the impeachment inquiry are about to give way to public hearings. They begin on Wednesday with Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, and U.S. State Department official, George Kent. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch is set to testify Friday. For more about how this will play out, here is Manu Raju.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: For several weeks it has all been behind closed doors. Democrats have gathered testimony from more than a dozen witnesses who have provided evidence about what they view, many of them of serious concerns about the handling of Ukraine policy and the push by the president as well as his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to pursue investigations that could help the president politically, push the Ukrainian government to announce these investigations into Joe Biden and as well as the 2016 campaign.
Now we'll see this in public. Starting next week, we will see three witnesses, the first two come Wednesday, that is Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine. And also, the senior State Department official in Washington, who in charge of Ukraine policy, George Kent. Both of them testify Wednesday.
And on Friday, it will be ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Maria Yovanovitch, someone who had been targeted by Giuliani and his associates because she had raised concerns about what they were doing.
The theme that you will hear throughout the different testimonies is what they view as an abnormal, highly unusual process in which Giuliani carried out foreign policy at the behest of the president and at a key time in relations with Ukraine.
RAJU: And in which Ukraine was seeking vital aid, roughly $400 million that had already been approved by the U.S. Congress but then delayed by the administration, also the new president of Ukraine, Zelensky, had sought a meeting with President Trump in Washington to essentially show support for Zelensky. But the White House put that on hold, too.
According to testimony that you will hear next week, because of this effort to have the Ukranians announce this investigation. Essentially the White House, the president wanted the announcement to be made before moving forward with Ukraine.
Also you will expect to hear major questions about why the aid was withheld. Bill Taylor for one has testified that the aid had been withheld from what he had been told because the president was waiting for Zelensky to announce the investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
All this will play out as Republicans will try to push back and say that there was no direct linkage to what the president said and no one heard the president actually say that himself.
And Democrats will point out that numerous witnesses who could provide that firsthand testimony, like Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, are being blocked by the White House. They contend it is obstruction of Congress not providing the key evidence that they ultimately may need.
But at the end of the day, Democrats say the facts are clear, everything points to the president's direction in withholding that aid and that, undoubtedly, the president sought these investigations into his political rivals, which they view as an abuse of power -- Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ALLEN: Much of the United States is facing a bitter cold snap. It is causing a lot of trouble and it is not even winter yet. We'll have an update from Ivan Cabrera on this record-breaking chill right after this.
ALLEN: The ceremony is underway in Berlin for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Chancellor Angela Merkel is speaking; let's listen in.
ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): -- that Europe has faced freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, human rights. These are not to be taken for granted.
We always have to defend them and live them and you. In future, Europe will fight for human rights, tolerance and democracy. And this in times of global changes. So this is a pressing issue.
Each contribution may seem small; however, we must not be discouraged. We have to be reminded of Vaclav Havel's words, the freedom as it is in the sea. And the quote is, "Single waves may not help a lot. However, all of it together will make it."
The wall is now history. And we learn that no wall is as large to divide people that it cannot be broken. Anna Kunz (ph) wrote about the wall, when we shaped it, we didn't imagine how high this wall is inside of us. We got used to it and --
ALLEN: Reflections from Angela Merkel, talking about the wall, its significance and encouraging unity not just, of course, in Germany but around the world. We'll continue to follow the commemorations.
But right now, we want to talk about the cold freezing weather in the U.S. much colder than usual. Over the next week, arctic blasts will break records across the country from the Midwest to the Deep South with temperatures that feel more like January than a little November chill.
ALLEN: We continue to follow the commemorations in Germany. The latest on how Germany is marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. That is next.
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ALLEN: Live video here, Germany marking the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with various events, including a church service. Among those attending, Chancellor Angela Merkel, she lived in East Germany as a child and well into her adulthood.
The pivotal moment in 1989 led to the reunification of Germany and ultimately the end of the Soviet Union.
Thousands of people risked death to escape East Berlin during the years the wall was there. Thomas Drescher was 21 years old when he and a friend attempted to escape using nothing more than a ladder. This is his story.
THOMAS DRESCHER, EAST BERLINER (through translator): In January 1989, I tried to cross the wall. My attempt failed and I was arrested and put in prison for nine months. And the West paid a ransom for my release.
I was released 16 days before the wall came down. I climbed back down the ladder. At that point, we no longer had any chance. You could hear them moving before a border guard stood there, pointing a machine gun at us.
If you lose your freedom, you notice it. If you have freedom, you quickly get used to it. That is what I learned. I always said to myself, how would it feel if I had to live without freedom again now?
DRESCHER (through translator): Or how did I manage to get through that with my desire for freedom?
I took this strength with me and carry it to this day and try to pass it on.
ALLEN: On a bitter November day 56 years ago, Hubert Hohlbein submerged himself in East Berlin's icy waterways and set off on a journey that would ultimately help bring freedom to dozens of people.
HUBERT HOHLBEIN, EAST BERLIN ESCAPEE (through translator): In 1963, I snorkeled, swam and fled from Potsdam in the east to Bansin (ph) in the west. And then I got to work straight away, helping other people flee. And I helped build the tunnel. It was a tremendous feeling to take part, helping your relatives and
friends come over. But at the same time, it was a strain because I had only just survived the border crossing myself. I thought, if something happens to me here now, then it is twice as bad.
Then my mother came through. She was a bit nervous. She was already older than 50.
ALLEN: Amazing. Brave people back then.
Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. If you are joining us from the U.S., "NEW DAY" is just ahead. If you are an international viewer, I'll be right back with our top stories.