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Pro-Iranian Protest At U.S. Embassy In Baghdad; New York Stabbing Suspect's Journals Seem Anti-Semitic; Wildfires Rage In New South Wales, Australia. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 31, 2019 - 05:30   ET



ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so, you had hundreds, if not more, members of this paramilitary force carrying forward this funeral procession-turned demonstration all the way into this still heavily-secured part of the green zone that houses the U.S. embassy and a number of other embassies, as well as key locations, managing to get all the way to the gates of the U.S. embassy. Among those in the crowd are leaders of some of the more powerful, if not the most powerful paramilitary units.

This protest so far has by and large been, to a certain degree, peaceful -- but we have seen videos that we're trying to confirm. We are getting information that we're trying to confirm that the protesters were throwing rocks, breaking the security cameras, trying to perhaps breach the back wall of the U.S. embassy.

Looking at all of this, for these protesters to reach this area, the security forces who are protecting this area either had advanced information and allowed them through or chose not to try to attempt to stop them.

Remember, from the perspective of the Iraqi government, this strike that was carried out by the U.S. was not carried out against a militia as the U.S. calls it, but actually against members that make up the broader Iraqi security forces. You have senior members within the Iraqi government saying that they now need to review the relationship that Iraq has with the United States.

But all eyes, right now, waiting to see if this situation escalates. If this does escalate, that could potentially have very, very severe consequences not just for America's relationship with Iraq, but also for the very stability of Iraq which, right now, is already incredibly unstable.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely. You continue to monitor what's happening there and check through those videos and come back to us if you have any more details.

Arwa Damon in Istanbul for us, thank you.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN ANCHOR: Handwritten journals and the Internet search history of the New York Hanukkah stabbing suspect seem to express anti-Semitic sentiments. His journal refers to Adolph Hitler and Nazi culture, and the searches include one for prominent companies founded by Jews in America. He is now facing federal hate crime charges on top of several state counts.

CNN's Sara Sidner has the latest from the scene in Monsey, New York.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Leyla, the suspect in this vicious stabbing attack at a rabbi's home during a Hanukkah celebration is now facing at least 11 charges. He has pled not guilty to five attempted murder charges and a burglary charge but he is now facing even more charges -- federal charges -- federal hate crime charges. There are now five of those.

After investigators combed through his handwritten journals, they also say they are looking through his electronics as well. And in those handwritten journals they found references to Nazis and Hitler, as well as a Star of David and a swastika. They also found searches, when they looked through some of his electronics, for synagogues in New York and New Jersey.

Now, according to the complaint against Grafton Thomas, he also appeared to make a reference to the black Hebrew Israelite Movement, which is linked to one of the attacks and the attackers in the New Jersey attacks that left four people dead in a kosher market.

Now, while investigators say there is evidence of anti-Semitism here, his attorney and pastor say this is simply a man who suffers from mental illness.

The attack has left the large Hasidic community here in Monsey, New York reeling. We spoke with Josef Gluck. He was inside of the home when a man wielding a huge knife or sword came walking in.

JOSEF GLUCK, SURVIVED STABBING IN RABBI'S HOME: There were kids in there so I decided to run back in. So I came back in through the front door and he was still in the kitchen.

And I heard people screaming hide, hide. One baby was pushed into a coat closet. There was a boy -- a 5, 6, 7-year-old boy hiding beneath a pile of coats.

SIDNER: Was he saying anything?

GLUCK: Nothing -- he didn't say a word to anyone inside. He just spoke to me outside, once.

SIDNER: What did he say?

GLUCK: Hey, you, I'll get you, after I threw the table at him.

SIDNER: Eventually, the suspect left the home and started walking next door towards the synagogue that is right next door. Gluck decided to follow him at a distance, concerned he would get in there. But, indeed, he went to his car and that is when Gluck had the

presence of mind to take down his license plate. He shared that with police and about an hour later, the suspect's plate was picked up by a plate scanner on the George Washington Bridge going into New York. Soon after, the suspect was arrested. He now faces, again, 11 charges in this case -- Christine, Leyla.



ROMANS: Sara Sidner for us in New York. Thanks for that.

To Australia now where breaking overnight, dangerous wildfires raging in southeast Australia. Two people in Cobargo, south of Sydney, found dead after they were reported missing when a fire ripped through that town. Smoke darkening the sky to an eerie orange color and an evacuation center in Batemans Bay up the coast.

Thousands of people are trapped on a beach in Mallacoota after fleeing their homes. A resident tells us there's no way in or out.

SANTIAGO: And the Rural Fire Service warning people along the coast taking refuge are facing a long, difficult, dangerous night. Across New South Wales more than 100 fires burning with reports of people unaccounted for and feared dead. As the day wore on, the sky lightened to a very bright, almost ominous orange as the fires spread.

Our Simon Cullen is there.


SIMON CULLEN, JOURNALIST: Christine and Leyla, this is a fire crisis that continues to get worse every day. As you can see behind me, the air is thick with smoke. There is bush fire ash falling from the sky. In fact, the nearest fire front is just a few miles behind me over the hill.

Now, this is a state, New South Wales, where dozens of fires are continuing to burn out of control, tragically claiming more lives, including that of a young fireman who died when the truck he was in flipped over in hot, gusty winds. He sadly leaves behind a young, pregnant wife.

Now, further south in the state of Victoria, thousands of people there have been forced to flee their homes and seek shelter on the beachfront. Now, there is nowhere for them to go because major roads have been cut and authorities are saying it is too late to leave. Now, these people are gathered on the beachfront just watching and waiting to see what the weather conditions bring, but it's a very scary time on New Year's Eve.

Nationally, of course, many states have imposed total fire bans, which has forced the cancelation of New Year's Eve celebrations. Fireworks in many towns and cities have been canceled tonight. But, Sydney has applied for and been granted an exemption despite public pressure for them to be canceled as well. They will go ahead tonight.

But the thick smoke that's in the air, it's just an eerie reminder that this bush fire crisis is far from over -- Christine, Leyla.


ROMANS: All right, Simon Cullen. Thank you so much for that.

All right. If Joe Biden is the nominee, would he turn to a Republican running mate to beat President Trump? We'll hear from the former vice president, next.



SANTIAGO: Security will be tight today as crowds descend on Times Square and pack New York City for New Year's Eve. You are taking a live look at Times Square from EarthCam.

The weather expected to be relatively mild tonight in the low to mid- 30s. For the northeast and New England, snow and ice early today, ending later.

So, what to expect once the new year begins? Let's go to meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.


IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, better conditions this year for New Year's Eve in New York City. It's not going to be pouring rain or snowing.

Temperatures actually comfortable, 40 degrees. We'll be in the 40s across the eastern seaboard. These are temperatures in the forecast at midnight.

So we'll be looking at teens and 20s across the Midwest. And then, the new storm system that's moving into the Pacific Northwest. So those are the wet areas we're looking at, Portland and Seattle, for midnight.

But this is what we're going to get rid of for today. So these winter storm warnings and the ice storm warnings, those will expire later on today. We still have some leftover snow and that will be accumulating a couple more inches but not going to be a huge deal as things begin to improve as this low begins to lift up to the north and leave us alone here. So we'll be in much better shape by midnight.

And, in fact, over the next several days, where is winter, right. The arctic outbreaks, not seeing those. In fact, temperatures going in the other direction. Ahead of the next boundary, we'll have some showers but temps back in the 50s for the weekend. And then heading into early next week another front comes in, into the lower 40s.

Happy New Year, Christine and Leyla. Back to you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right -- you, too. Thank you, Ivan.

One month, three days to the Iowa caucuses Joe Biden is signaling how far outside the box he might go to beat President Trump.

One woman in New Hampshire told the former V.P. he'd have to pull out all the stops. Then she relayed a question from her 21-year-old son.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wonder if Joe Biden would consider choosing a Republican as a running mate.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is I would but I can't think of one now.


BIDEN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Look -- no, I'm serious. No, here's what I mean. Let me explain that.

You know, there's some really decent Republicans that are out there still, but here's the problem right now of the well-known ones. They've got to step up.


ROMANS: Let's bring in "Washington Post" White House correspondent Toluse Olorunnipa. Good morning, Happy New Year.

Is he really going to pick a Republican running mate or is he trying to show, Toluse, that he is -- he's the guy who has worked with this other party for years and can get things back to normal and get things done?


I do not expect Vice President Joe Biden to select a Republican running mate. I think this is some signaling trying to show some moderate voters -- trying to bring over some potential previous Trump voters and show them that he's not one of these far-left progressive Democrats who is going to upend the system.

He's going to continue to try to work with Republicans and he's going to make verbal decisions to try to reach out to them with his words, with his rhetoric, even if it doesn't mean he's going to actually take the action of choosing a Republican running mate.

I do think this is something where he's trying to differentiate himself from the rest of the field and show that he's a moderate. Show that moderate lane that he's been in from the beginning of the year continues to help him remain at the top of the polls, at least nationally. He's stuck in that lane even as the race has shown several Democrats going further and further to the left.

He's managed to keep his top position in the national polls --


OLORUNNIPA: -- in part by staying moderate. And I think he's doing that with the language as well about working with Republicans -- even potentially putting one on the ticket with him as vice president.

SANTIAGO: OK. So you mentioned the need to differentiate himself -- for Biden, anyway. Let's take that same thought process to Sanders and Warren.

Warren has a big night tonight. She has a speech that will be on the one-year mark of her exploratory committee.


What will she need to say to sort of see that momentum we saw in the summer -- that surge that we saw during the summer months? And do you think that the new year will bring a new strategy in differentiating herself from Sen. Sanders?

OLORUNNIPA: That's a really good question because I think over the course of the last year she has gone through a few different phases of her campaign where she has been very consistent in putting out a large number of plans, being very detailed about policy. But it's run into a little bit of a struggle in the later part of the year as she went into health care and her campaign started to stall out, at least when it comes to the polls.

So this is a bit of reset. It allows her to try to have a new fresh start going into 2020 and present a new face -- a new phase of her campaign to voters right before the voting starts.

It will be very interesting to see if she does decide -- over the past year she has decided to go against Sen. Sanders in any major way. They've been simpatico on policy and they haven't gone after each other on tactics.


OLORUNNIPA: So it will be interesting as we get closer to voting if either of those candidates decide to take the gloves off against their fellow liberal.

ROMANS: And we're getting closer. I mean, Iowa -- the Iowa voters are getting -- you know, they're back home. They're listening to these candidates. I mean, you can't go to the grocery store -- I keep saying you can't go to the grocery store without seeing a campaign bus in Des Moines or Davenport these days.

And there will be five on the debate stage -- five on the debate stage January 14th to really kind of give their final messages to the American people. Let's talk a little bit about year-end. I mean, it has been kind of a rough divided year. Give me something to be optimistic about, Toluse, for 2020.

OLORUNNIPA: Well, 2019 was very divisive. We impeached the president, there were all kinds of political machinations going on.

But in 2020, we are going to see the political experiment of this country play out -- democracy playing out in its purest form. People are going to go out in the primaries, they're going to go out and caucus. We're going to see the messy process.

But we're going to see it take place and the American people are going to have their choice as to whether or not they want to keep President Trump, who has in some ways been divisive, himself, or whether or not they want to have a new president. But that entire process is going to be left up to the American people and that is something to look forward to.


OLORUNNIPA: As messy as it is, it's our democracy and it works, and it's something that every country around the world looks to in terms of a model. And we're going to be able to watch it play out in its purest form over the next 12 months.

ROMANS: We sure will.

SANTIAGO: Ending on a good note -- all right.

ROMANS: All right, Toluse. Nice to see you. Have a great -- have a great day.

OLORUNNIPA: The same to you. Happy New Year.

ROMANS: You, too.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: Breaking news this morning. Hundreds of pro-Iranian protesters trying to storm the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Sources say they tried to go through the embassy's gates and climbed the outer walls. Security personnel kept them out by firing tear gas.

They're angry about airstrikes by the U.S. against militia groups in Iraq, backed by Iran. More on "NEW DAY" in just a few moments.

SANTIAGO: And the man who stopped the Texas church gunman within seconds says that he had eyes on the shooter right away. Jack Wilson is a reserve deputy and head of security at West Freeway Church of Christ. Wilson now being called a hero for stopping the gunman almost immediately. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK WILSON, STOPPED CHURCH SHOOTER: My training says that if I see a weapon, especially in that scenario because that is my job -- you train but you hope you never have to go to that extreme. But if you do, your training will kick in and that was evident yesterday.


SANTIAGO: The senior minister at the church says that he knew the gunman and ministered him -- ministered to him, rather, on more than one occasion, even giving him food.

ROMANS: The minister honored both men killed in the shooting, Anton "Tony" Wallace and Richard White, whom he called his best friend.


BRITT FARMER, SENIOR MINISTER, WEST FREEWAY CHURCH OF CHRIST: We're choosing to step over the line of death, whether it's physical, spiritual, sinful, and we proclaim Christ's name to a fallen world. We will not be swayed by evil speech or evil acts and we will stay strong in the midst of the adversity that we know came on us because we know that God is with us.


ROMANS: The gunman had several arrests and convictions over the past decade and lived on the streets for a time, according to police and his sister. In a phone interview she expressed sympathy for the victims and said they were caught in the crosshairs of childhood trauma.

SANTIAGO: Seven people have been arrested in connection with last month's LeBaron family massacre. Three women and six children, all members of a Mormon community holding dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship, gunned down in three cars on a remote dirt road south of the U.S.- Mexico border.

Mexican officials say that the arrest warrants were issued December 26th against three men, and because of the secrecy of the investigation, more on the four others will be revealed later.

ROMANS: The U.S. Army calls the hit social video app TikTok a security threat. It's joining the Navy in barring the app from government-issued phones. The Army sent a message to soldiers telling them to delete the Chinese-owned app to prevent any exposure of personal information.

Senate Republicans and Democrats warn TikTok could be forced to cooperate with Chinese intelligence agencies, but the company says all -- no U.S. user data is subject to Chinese law.

SANTIAGO: A Chinese national has been arrested for allegedly going into a restricted area at a naval base in Key West, Florida and taking some pictures. Court documents say he passed a security fence with numerous warnings and continued to walk after being warned.

He told officials that he reads English better than he actually speaks it and gave military police permission to look at the actual camera. They found images of government buildings and he is now facing charges.

ROMANS: Microsoft is suing a mysterious North Korean hacking operation, claiming it steals highly sensitive information from computers in the U.S. This new lawsuit alleges that Thallium tries to access high-value computer networks run by the government, universities, think tanks, and groups that work on nuclear issues and human rights. Microsoft wants companies that host Web domains tied to Thallium to hand over control of the sites.

SANTIAGO: A Kansas police officer has resigned after fabricating a story about a McDonald's employee writing an insult on his coffee cup. There has been a string of incidents involving servers writing derogatory words on the to-go cups and this week, an officer claimed that someone wrote an expletive on his cup. But, the Herington Police Department admits this report was false.


CHIEF BRIAN HORNADAY, HERINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, HERINGTON, KANSAS: The duty of every police officer is to protect and serve with the highest level of integrity and trust. This incident has been an obvious violation of that public trust.


SANTIAGO: And according to the chief, the officer made up the story, he says, as a -- as a joke. McDonald's says it glad that none of the employees were involved.


ROMANS: Let's get a check on "CNN Business" this morning.

Taking a look at markets around the world closing out the year here. The Hang Seng closed lower but it is up nine percent this year. Hong Kong markets up nine percent despite being rattled by the trade war and by the city's ongoing protests. That hasn't been enough to erase these big gains of earlier in the year.

Japanese and South Korean markets were closed for New Year's Eve.

On Wall Street, for the last trading day of the decade, futures are leaning a little bit higher here. I'd call it noncommittal. After stocks finished lower Monday, the Dow down 183 points. The S&P and the Nasdaq fell, the worst one-day percentage drop for all three averages since the start of the month but who cares about that?

The S&P 500 on track for the strongest year since 2013, up 28.5 percent. All three major U.S. averages up at least 20 percent this year. The Nasdaq, the real winner there. A very big year for tech stocks. Some good news for the Chinese economy. Government data shows China's factories performed slightly better than expected in December as easing trade tension with the U.S. boosted demand. The data points to signs of some recovery in China.

The world's second-largest economy has struggled as trade talks with the U.S. continue. The White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said phase one -- phase one trade deal would be signed next week at the earliest.




ROMANS: In a year of huge hits, "MURDER MYSTERY" was Netflix's most popular release in the U.S. for 2019. It beat out some impressive titles including "THE INCREDIBLES 2" and "THE IRISHMAN."




ROMANS: So why wasn't "STRANGER THINGS" higher on the list? Well, Netflix based its list off the number of subscribers who watch at least two minutes of a series, a movie or a special during its first 28 days on the service.

Netflix is celebrating a big year with 158 million subscribers worldwide.

SANTIAGO: I think they both agree here. President Trump and former President Obama really couldn't be more different but here's something they now share. They're tied as Gallup's Most Admired Man in 2019. Both men scored votes from 18 percent of the U.S. adults.

It's Barack Obama's 12th time topping the list and President Trump's first. Mr. Trump came in second place the last four years.

And then, there's former first lady Michelle Obama. She took the top spot as America's most admired woman.

ROMANS: Fascinating.

All right, this is the time of year, guys, to really give thanks, really, for the people who put this program on the air every day -- team no-sleep. The people who are these talented and dedicated professionals.

Leslie Zeigler, Phyllis Parris-Borum, Nicolena Marrero, Dean Baxter, Jimmy Marsek, Mike Stein, Robin Wallace, John Rappa, Robert Melendez, Judy Hunter, Roseanne Jennings, Paul Cutting, Jamie Vogt. Oh, and there are more. Hanna Guerrero, Ryan Miller, Jorge

Mitssunago, Mallory Leonard, Andrew Seger, Emily McNulty, Ale Freitas, Kwegyirba Croffie, Mark Friedman, Brian Seligson, Jake Perez, Isabella Rivera, Joanna Preston, Veronica Marin, Tim Curran, L.J. and your anchors.

We love you guys and thank you so much for the hard work you do for us every year -- every day, quality journalism.

SANTIAGO: Yes, there's applause back there. Yes, you deserve applause.

ROMANS: And thank you for coming on board the last couple of days. It's been great to have you here.

SANTIAGO: How lucky I was to work with that team.

ROMANS: I know.

SANTIAGO: Team no-sleep -- I like that, by the way. That should be a hashtag.

ROMANS: Team no-sleep.

Thanks for joining us. We are off tomorrow. My new partner, our friend and colleague, Laura Jarrett -- Laura Jarrett will be here on Thursday, so we'll see you then.

Happy New Year, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

SANTIAGO: I'm Leyla Santiago. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, December 31st, last day of the year.

I'm Jim Sciutto along with Poppy Harlow. Nice to be here on this Tuesday morning.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: John and Alisyn are off.

SCIUTTO: We begin with breaking news.

Hundreds of Iraqis tried to storm the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. This after funerals were held for 25 fighters from an Iranian-backed Shiite militia. They were killed by U.S. airstrikes on Sunday.

HARLOW: The protesters are gathered right now outside of the United States' largest embassy in the world. It is in the Iraqi capital. There are reports of tear gas being fired at demonstrators.

Let's find out exactly what is going on on the ground. Let's get to our Arwa Damon. She joins us with all the breaking details.

This is in response to those U.S. airstrikes. What can you tell us about what is happening right now?

DAMON: Well, Poppy, these are not your ordinary demonstrators. These are mostly individuals who are part of what's known as these popular mobilization forces.