Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Signals De-escalation in Iran Crisis; Iraq Wants U.S. Out; Prince Harry and Meghan Step Back From Senior Roles; Questions Surround Ukraine Plane Crash in Iran; Smoke Clears Enough for Firefighting Helicopters to Fly; Carlos Ghosn Speaks Publicly after Escape from Japan. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause at CNN World Headquarters.

Hanging up their tiara and crown, Harry and Meghan want out of the family business and say they want to be Mr. and Ms. Ordinary People.

A limited Iranian missile strike offers Trump a way out of an escalating military crisis, a short term reprieve while underlying problems continue.

And a passenger jet crashes on takeoff from Tehran after Iran sends 15 ballistic missiles into Iraq. The two events are unrelated however it got our attention.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE: We begin this hour with a heated debate over Iran's military strike on Iraqi military bases which house U.S. troops. Did they aim to miss or try to kill. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Joint Chiefs chairman Mark Milley says Tehran's intent was to kill Americans.

But others in the administration suggest the strikes avoided U.S. targets on purpose and were meant to send a message. CNN's Alex Marquardt begins our coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The American people should be extremely grateful and happy,

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Surrounded by his national security team, the president today announced a de-escalation for now, in the crisis with Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT (voice-over): The Pentagon waited until there was daylight in Iraq before determining officially that Iranian missiles harmed no Americans and left no major damage at either of the two areas targeted.

According to the Pentagon, over a dozen ballistic missiles were launched from inside Iran towards two parts of Iraq in the west and north where U.S. troops are stationed. In Irbil, one missile at least landing at the international airport but didn't explode. And another hitting near the U.S. consulate.

Most were directed at the sprawling al-Asad air base, 140 miles west of Baghdad home to hundreds of U.S. troops. Satellite images show the before and after. Here a number of buildings appear to have been destroyed or damaged, next to a row of helicopters.

Other buildings were also hit. Of 16 missiles launched, sources say that four appear to have failed in flight, the president gave credit to an early warning system, that the short range missiles were incoming, U.S. intelligence satellites had picked up early signs that they had been fueled up and then launched.

Iran had also warned, the Iraqi government likely knowing that it would be passed on to the Americans which gave U.S. troops a chance to take cover. Some Trump administration officials now telling CNN, that they see Iran's strike as intentionally missing areas, where Americans were housed so that they were not killed. But a clear message was sent.

SEN. TOM UDALL (D-NM): We have a pause, we should be trying to de- escalate in any way we can. De-escalate the situation on both sides.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Immediately following the attack, Iran's foreign minister tweeting that Iran had concluded its response but the regime later warning of crushing responses in case of new U.S. aggression.

And today the supreme leader Ali Khamenei claiming, "We slapped them in the face," but saying it wasn't enough.

MARQUARDT: As U.S. was scrambling to figure out the damage from the Iranian attack and how to respond, Iran was also reaching out to say that they were done retaliating. A source telling my colleague Pamela Brown that Iran used at least three back channels, including the Swiss and other countries, to convey that message.

But multiple officials in the U.S. also telling CNN that they are still concerned about Iran's proxies in a number of Middle Eastern countries and the Department of Homeland Security, along with the FBI, has just put out a bulletin, about possible cyber attacks -- Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: For the latest, Jomana Karadsheh, standing by for us in Baghdad, but we begin in Tehran with Ramin Mostaghim.

Let's just start with the supreme leader there, seems he's not a fan of what's being describing as an off ramp, describing it as a slap in the face, the attacks on the military bases in Iraq.

[00:05:00]

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, "L.A. TIMES": Actually, John, we are in a downhill de-escalations mood and then and once the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and their companions, happened in Iraq, then escalation just gain momentum and the mourning service and rallies, to respect Soleimani as a national hero and a revolutionary hero. Just appease people and at the same time, impose an agenda, on IRGC and officials to have what they call, harsh response or harsh strike to the American interests, American military interests as they said.

And once it happened, according to their calculations, it hit the targets and now we have, we can see that appeasement, is going on, and de-escalations to the tension between Iran and America, is going on underway, because assassination, created a crisis in the region, in particular, a crisis on the brink of war, between America and Iran, now we are a bit out of the brink. And the war is not imminent. At least we can say now, all out war. And the people appeased and satisfied that the revenge has been taken by the Iranian forces.

And now we are still in the mourning mood and people are sad, because of losing their heroes, at same time, the de-escalations of the tensions and de-escalation of the crisis, between Iran and America, is underway now. John

VAUSE: We go to Baghdad.

Jomana, we heard a lot from the U.S. president on Wednesday but not a lot about the Iraqis. They're the ones caught the middle of all this. And you had a warning of sanctions if Baghdad pushes on with this plan to oust U.S. troops.

It must be very odd feeling for the Iraqis, who they thought they were the ally of the U.S.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know John, almost everyone you speak to here says, it's not just President Trump, they say the United States, various administrations that have come and gone, really did not or do not understand Iraqis despite spending nearly two decades in this country.

They still do not understand the Iraqi people. And you know while you saw that de-escalation in the tensions between Iran and the United States for now, there are still, of course, concerns about what is going to happen here.

There's still no clarity about the future of U.S. troops, as we know the Iraqi government began this push, to work on getting all foreign forces out. We've heard from the various Iranians backed proxies here, the different paramilitary groups, really changing their language, pretty much calling for restraint right now, calling for their followers to be patient.

You know we went out to the streets of Baghdad shortly after the Iranian strike to see how people here felt about this crisis, John.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARADSHEH (voice-over): You can hardly tell ballistic missiles struck Iraq just a few hours earlier. But Iraqis have seen it all. Here seems to be one endless cycle of war. Hamed (ph) has lived through an American invasion and civil war and the terror of Al Qaeda and ISIS.

"We are nation used to bloodshed," he said, "we are not afraid of anything. Whatever happens, we are not afraid. But we want the Iranians and their militias to leave Iraq."

Checked by decades of war, Iraq is now trapped between its two allies facing off in a dangerous confrontation on its soil.

"We're emotionally exhausted. Why should we be dealing with their problems," she tells us. "Iraq is not the only country with U.S. bases, go target them elsewhere."

KARADSHEH: Here in downtown Baghdad when you speak to people, some blame Iran for the current situation, others blame the United States, for this escalation but the one thing, almost everyone here agrees on, they want Iraq left out of it.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): But for years now Iraq is where the bloody proxy war has unfolded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a mafia war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

KARADSHEH (voice-over): A passerby interrupts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want everyone to be silent and to leave this country in peace.

[00:10:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to raise my grandchild, I don't want him to die. We know this game. We know, the educated people in Iraq, they know this is a game.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): But it's a game so many Iraqis have already paid for, in blood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARADSHEH: And you know, John, last night even after we heard from President Trump, even after it seems that there was some sort of easing of tensions between Iran and the United States, two rockets hit the fortified green zone here, while this is not unusual, of course, the green zone is where the U.S. embassy is housed, some wondered if this was a message from some elements here, that this is not over for them yet and they are keeping an eye on what the U.S. does next .

VAUSE: It is not over yet, that's very true. Thank you Jomana Karadsheh, live in Baghdad.

Joining us now from Washington is Brett Bruen, former director of global engagement for the Obama White House and now president of the Global Situation Room.

Brett, thank you for coming in it's been a while.

BRETT BRUEN, FORMER U.S. DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT: Great to see you.

VAUSE: There seems to be a consensus now that the Iranian response was an attempt to de-escalate. But a week ago, the U.S. president was warning if Iran attacks an American base or an American, we will be sending some of the brand-new, beautiful equipment their way and without hesitation.

There was a warning of a disproportionate response to whatever Iran did. So given what Iran could've done, the damage it could have inflicted, the end result is seen as good news.

But the best news of the day is relative to the rest of the news of the day. If you look at the facts as they stand, more than a dozen ballistic missiles were fired by Iran at U.S. soldiers in Iraq, an open act of warfare, and what was a low level conflict is being fought out of the shadows.

Would a better description be a shot across the bow?

BRUEN: I think was this was an orchestrated outrage. Iran was showing for domestic consumption, it had the capacity to hit the U.S., to hit these targets, with some degree of precision.

But at the same time, Iran surprisingly, was the adult in this equation, trying to dial back the rhetoric, dial back the temperature in the room. And Trump, mercifully, responded in kind.

I think he heard from members of Congress, he heard from his own advisers, saying, take this opportunity, take this off ramp.

That being said, he, in his typical fashion, had to get a few shots in. And both against the former administration, here in the U.S., as well as the current administration in Tehran.

But all in all, I think this was an acceptable outcome; that being said we are not out of the danger zone.

VAUSE: That's a thing too, if you listen to the president's national address, on Wednesday morning, it was brief, it was filled with half truths and long debunked allegations, the usual bellicose language about America's military might, here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: U.S. armed forces are stronger, than ever before. Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast. Under construction are many hypersonic missiles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So if Iran is in fact offering this diplomatic off ramp, what's the impact of having a president who is, essentially not exactly ramping up the rhetoric here but certainly this element of menacing of threats of half truths and all the rest of it.

BRUEN: It's saber rattling and this is Trump trying to throw some red meat at his base. Saying look at how tough I am. Look at how I was able to back Iran down. There is a problem however because he hasn't shown the roadmap forward.

OK, we got ourselves into the situation, precisely because of that kind of rhetoric. And because of the maximum pressure campaign that the Trump administration has been implementing with minimal planning and minimal support from Europe, Russia, China.

And so are we going to end up in the situation again just a couple months down the road?

I think it's an open question.

VAUSE: There's also this crisis now which is erupting in Iraq, the interim government clearly wants U.S. out, they want U.S. forces to go. And here's the point of view from the Iraqi militia leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What happened if the U.S. military doesn't leave?

MOEEN KHADEMI, IRAQI PARAMILITARY COMMANDER (through translator): It is possible that some Iraqis will once again confront a combined force like they did from 2003-2011. If they go back to that time, it will be a violent confrontation.

[00:15:00]

KHADEMI (through translator): And the Americans are vulnerable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The conflict in Iraq which has cost the lives of more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers, more than 20,000 have been wounded since 2003, tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens have been killed, if the Iraqi government does go down the road and legally asks the U.S. to leave, what happens to Iraq?

It's a civil war all over?

Again

BRUEN: This is the real casualty of Trump's careless foreign policy, our counter-terrorism efforts, at this hour are frozen in Iraq. We are not able to operate.

And what does that mean?

That extremist groups are able to repair some of those relationships to their structures their strategies. They are taking comfort from this distraction by Trump with Iran.

And also I would mention, I served a year in Tikrit, outside of Saddam Hussein's hometown, alongside those service members, many of whom were wounded and others who gave the full measure of devotion.

I think there are going to be a lot of questions here in Washington about what Trump is giving up with his new strategy, of, well, we will just pull out and send Iraq the bill. There are going to be some significant consequences. There is going to be a whole lot of soul searching here in Washington, about whether or not Trump actually gave up far more than he should have.

VAUSE: Very quickly, we've seen this movie play before; it was North Korea and Kim Jong-un was standing alongside the president, it's called escalate to de-escalate, it just hasn't worked with North Korea and is not working with Iran.

BRUEN: And this is a precisely the point, show me an example during three years of his presidency, where Donald Trump has successfully managed to negotiate a national security outcome.

The one thing that he can point to, are two fairly easy trade deals with U.S.-Mexico and Canada trade agreement, as well as a first phase trade agreement with China.

However, when it comes these national security negotiations, he has not fared so well.

VAUSE: And on that point we will finish it, Brett thanks so much good to see you.

VAUSE: Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex are breaking up, not with each other but with the royal family, the official Megxit announcement was made on the couple's Instagram page.

"After many months of reflection and internal discussions we have chosen to make a transition this year and decided to carve out a progressive new role within this institution."

They intend to step back as senior members of the royal family. And word to become financially independent. While continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.

In this modern version of Edward and Mrs. Simpson -- that is the last time a British royal decided to bolt Windsor Castle in the name of true love for an American woman, Harry and Meghan plan to divide their time between the U.K. and North America.

Joining us now is CNN's royal commentator Victoria Arbiter.

Thank you. It's good to see you, thank you being with us.

VICTORIA ARBITER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) Instagram (INAUDIBLE) and thought we should let you know we are quitting the royals.

(CROSSTALK)

ARBITER: This is a stunning announcement and this time of the year tends to be quiet on the royal beach. Now last February Prince Philip had his car crash which was completely unexpected. This is a crash of a different nature for the royal family and everybody is reeling behind palace walls.

VAUSE: To their credit, they say they plan on being financially independent. Does it mean he will be looking for a real job anytime soon? He's worth 45 million ?

But there are more expenses that come from being a royal even if you say I am not a royal anymore?

ARBITER: The financial conversation is the biggest conversations to be had with the British government, the host country government and the royal family at large. Not forgetting the metropolitan police who are responsible for protecting the royal family.

Harry and Meghan released a website today as well, which includes a wish list of how they see everything unfolding. They say they're going to do away with their 5 percent of the sovereign grant, which funds their office at Buckingham Palace.

But in return they want to keep their 95 percent of the allowance they get from Prince Charles, which comes from the Duchy of Cornwell. I think Harry and Meghan are both independently financially successful and viable. Companies will be throwing money and endorsements and opportunities at them.

But if they plan to keep their HRH status they will have to be very careful in terms of how they proceed because they cannot be seen to be commercializing the institute of monarchy.

[00:20:00]

VAUSE: For the time being in the foreseeable future will they keep the titles?

ARBITER: I think they will be keeping them for the foreseeable future. No reason to do away with them at this point. Doing away with the sovereign grant is the interesting point because, by doing away with that, that is their government funding, that means they're not restricted by the confines of monarchy. So they could get slightly more political, they could go after causes

that wouldn't have been seen as appropriate before. But still by maintaining a royal status of sorts, they've always got to be thinking about how that reflects on the queen.

Down the road they made say we want total freedom or do away with the HRH, I don't think they'll be doing so for the foreseeable future.

VAUSE: There has been a vaguely worded statement coming from Buckingham Palace after this announcement. There were discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach but these are complicated issues that we will take time to work through.

This was an unsigned royal document but it seems Harry and Meghan don't have a lot left to talk about. That statement put out by the Duke and Duchess was pretty affirmative. They're out of there. The only discussion now is how should William and Kate wait until they have a party to celebrate.

ARBITER: Well, Harry and Meghan's statement, yes, was very clear in terms of how they see the future unfolding. The Buckingham Palace statement was very curt. And it addressed the core issues of, yes, we understand Harry and Meghan want to do something differently.

There is no question something had to change for this couple. They've expressed numerous times how unhappy they are with the things unfolding. But Buckingham Palace quite correctly is saying, there are so many elements that have to be addressed.

Number, one security. Number two, you want to continue to support the monarchy.

But how does that unfold as such?

Do you still come to Trooping the Colour? But you're not really senior members of the royal family/ What about Prince Harry's ceremonial military roles?

I could go on and on. These are all the final points and yet each one is massive in of itself, so all of these details have to be ironed out before Harry and Meghan can pack their bags and get on a plane.

The question is what is Harry and Meghan's timeframe?

How soon are they hoping to get going?

VAUSE: We should have seen this coming because they did a series of interviews last year about how difficult it is to be in a spotlight as a royal. (INAUDIBLE). These guys have been through hell with the tabloids, especially Meghan and in some ways you don't blame them.

ARBITER: There's no question they've had a difficult time. People have referenced that the Duchess of Cornwall was public enemy number one and had a wretched time and it's taken her 20 years to rehabilitate her character but at the same time Camilla was not dealing with social media, digital media, 24 hour news that exists today.

And much of that has been vicious. When a negative story is put out there, whether or not it's correct, it's beamed around the world in a matter of seconds. There is no question something had to give for Harry and Meghan.

Something that struck me about this statement. That is the element of finality about it, that said we're stepping back from our senior position, which is effectively resigning from the royal family and we plan to spend our time abroad in North America. So I think that's what was so surprising, it wasn't a baby step. It was a massive step.

VAUSE: It also raises a question, were they treated differently in another country or whether it just increases the frenzy and that's something to talk about in another time. Thank you.

ARBITER: Thank you.

VAUSE: On the same night the Iranian missiles were in the air, the other big news was breaking. A Ukrainian commercial airliner crashing on takeoff. That seems too much a coincidence for many. Also ahead the view from above on the Australian bush fires.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:25:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE: Air crash investigators in Iran apparently recovered the data recorder from a Ukrainian airline which trashed on takeoff from Iran killing all on board. Apparently they are refusing to work with investigators from Ukraine and Boeing. They're also refusing to release any details about the cause and if there's any possible link to the missile strikes launched hours earlier. CNN's Tom Foreman has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Ukrainian Airlines jet loaded with 176 passengers and crew takes off from Tehran before dawn. Minutes later an eyewitness records it coming down, a bright streak across the sky trailing flaming debris as it plunges to the ground in a ball of fire with no survivors.

"God, help us," he says.

Quickly, the Iranians say a mechanical issue was to blame and the Ukrainians post an online notice saying terrorism was not involved. But then it all goes sideways. The Ukrainians delete that message and their president says a special investigative team is being sent to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe. Part of the sudden suspicion may flow from the timing. The plane came

down just hours after Iran fired retaliatory missiles at U.S. military posts in Iraq. A source tells CNN American intelligence agents, while not necessarily drawing any connection, are taking a look at the crash. Part of it is also practical.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This gives me the shivers.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Former federal crash investigator Peter Goelz says that eyewitness video in particular just does not look normal.

GOELZ: If that were simply an engine failure, it would be a much less intense light. There's an explosion in air just before it hits the ground and to top it off there were no emergency mayday calls from the crew apparently. It is very disturbing.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Other factors: the crew was so experienced the Ukrainians are saying we do not even consider pilot error a chance. The plane was only three years old and the Iranians, despite having reportedly covered the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, so far are not letting anyone else look at them.

They're refusing to allow Boeing, which made the jets, to join the investigation.

FOREMAN: Boeing, Ukraine, the United States, Iran, it's as if a whole year of tumultuous events somehow collided around this one calamitous moment and the mystery potentially complicates discussions about all of that -- Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Still to come here, an exclusive look at the massive bush fires burning across Australia and we will explain why some of these smaller outbreaks are in fact a bigger priority for firefighters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Communities ravaged by deadly bush fires in New South Wales will receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the state government to rebuild. And it's official but not surprising: 2019 was Australia's hottest, driest year on record there, and that made the conditions, which have been like rocket fuel for hundreds of fires which started burning September last year.

[00:31:42]

The smoke has become so heavy and thick that helicopters, which are used by emergency crews, have been grounded at times. But the choppers were back in the air on Wednesday, and CNN's Anna Coren was on board.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A break in the weather: visibility at 900 meters. This Bell (ph) long-range helicopter was finally given clearance to fly.

IAN JAUNCEY, RFS AIR ATTACK SUPERVISOR: Zero, three for departure.

COREN: On board, Ian Jauncey, the air attack supervisor for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

JAUNCEY: Because it's been so smokey, we've got very little intel on exactly what's the fire's doing.

COREN (on camera): Yes.

JAUNCEY: So I've been trying to just get some eyes in the sky.

COREN (voice-over): Since the border fire that crossed from Victoria into New South Wales, rolled through parts of the far south coast over the weekend, decimating townships, firefighters have been unable to get an aerial view of the monster they're battling, until now.

With a front stretching more than 60 kilometers wide, it's burned all the way to the sea, engulfing one of Eden's largest employers, the wood chip mill.

But as the smoke billowed, and will continue to four weeks, possibly months. This enormous wood pile nearby lies untouched, as does the jetty.

JAUNCEY: I've protected that well.

COREN: The priority for firefighters isn't the massive blaze burning out of control, but rather the smaller files that have jumped containment lines, posing new threats to homes and townships.

JAUNCEY: There will be a lot of hot, you know, smoldering stuff near the edges of the fire there. As soon as a hot dry wind comes in, all that could light the fire again and it will start moving.

Now we're airborne over top of the township. Visibility is a bit better down here. We can go ahead and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COREN (on camera): This is the first time the rural fire service has been able to take to the skies here on the far south coast of New South Wales, to assess the full extent of the fire damage. Smoke has just been too thick, grounding all aircraft for days. Well, those water bombing aircraft have just been activated, allowing them to hit those fire hotspots as much as possible before conditions deteriorate on Friday.

(voice-over): Two Black Hawks soon appear, as Ian and pilot Kennedy directed them to nearby dams to fill up their 3,000-liter buckets with water and extinguish identified hotspots.

JAUNCEY: Turn to your 2 o'clock, and you'll see some (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COREN: But it was Georgia Peach, the Ericsson sky crane, that made the biggest impact. JAUNCEY: It's like clockwork.

COREN: Sucking up 9,800 liters of sea water at a time, she got to work dousing the flames.

JAUNCEY: Isn't that sexy?

COREN: After two hours in the air, it was back to base to refuel before heading out again.

JAUNCEY: The fire, from my opinion, is a bit closer than what I originally thought from Eden. So we'll continue to be monitoring and working with the ground crews.

COREN: For the specialized pilots who have been part of the aerial attack in this ongoing bushfire crisis, there's nowhere else they want to be.

MICK KENNEDY, PILOT: No one likes to see houses burn. No one likes to see property or life lost. But the guys that are here they just want to help, they just want to get to work.

COREN: Anna Coren, CNN, Marimbula, New South Wales, Australia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: For more on how you can help the victims of Australia's bush fires, please visit CNN.com/impact.

[00:35:07]

Still to come here, he's on the run but hardly laying low. Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn talks to CNN about his escape from Japan. Now he's facing criminal charges of financial misconduct.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: What was it like in the packing case?

CARLOS GHOSN, FORMER NISSAN-RENAULT CEO: Don't go back there.

Look, freedom. Freedom, no matter the way it happens, is always freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: More from that interview in two minutes from now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Well, Carlos Ghosn it's hardly laying low these days. More than a week after a dramatic escape from Japan, where he's facing criminal charges of financial wrongdoing, he seems determined to tell his side of the story. This former titan of the auto industry claims his arrest was part of a

plot to oust him as the boss of the giant Nissan-Renault. Ghosn says his decision to Lebanon was a matter of life and death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GHOSN: I did not escape justice. I fled injustice and persecution. Political persecution. Having endured more than 400 days of inhumane treatment in a system designed to break me and unwilling to provide me even minimal justice, I was left with no other choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And after that news conference, Ghosn sat down with CNN's Richard Quest for more on his dramatic escape.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GHOSN: There are many rumors, and they are not all in line with one or the other. I want to tell you something. For example, at the beginning, they said that there is a band, which came to my house in Tokyo for Christmas. And, you know, this band, somehow, was a kind of rehearsal. Then I went into the box that came, took me from the house, et cetera.

The whole story is wrong. Why? Because the prosecutor now went to my apartment. There is a monitoring of all the people who are in the house. And they said no.

QUEST: So I'll clarify. The rumor and suggestion I'm talking about involves a train trip to Osaka, a hotel, a box, and a flight, and of two private jets via Turkey. Is that substantially accurate?

GHOSN: I will make no comment on this. I'm going to tell you why, Richard. Because, obviously, I was lucky to have people who supported me in this. Because, you know, when you are in the situation, where you're in trouble with justice, you don't have too much candidate to help you. I was lucky, and I need to, as much as possible, protect them.

QUEST: Right. Those people, some of them, are facing criminal proceedings, potentially, in Turkey. How do you feel about that?

GHOSN: I feel bad about it

QUEST: But there's not much more you can do, really, is there?

GHOSN: Well, you know, we knew from the beginning, what are the risks, you know, involved into an operation like this. We all knew that. I knew what were my risks. I knew what are the risks of all the people who supported the operation. So we all knew that, and we obviously know how much we can do to help, but not more.

[00:40:14]

QUEST: OK what about Mr. Kelly, who remains in jail? He's on bail -- I beg your pardon -- in Japan. There's a sort of feeling of you got out, and he's left behind to carry the camp (ph).

GHOSN: Well, at first I was not able, as you know, in Japan to contact Greg. I was forbidden completely. My bail condition and his bail condition, forbidding completely any contact between us. So the on contact possible was through our lawyers. So even if I wanted to help Greg, I couldn't. Because there was no contact.

QUEST: But is there a feeling -- Can you understand the feeling that you've left him behind to face the music alone?

GHOSN: I'm not sure about that, because I didn't leave Japan to hide somewhere. I left Japan because I'm looking for justice, and I want to clear my name. Which means I will be looking for a country where I could have this case tried, but with a trial respecting the rights of the defense.

QUEST: So to clarify this, you are willing to stand trial for these allegations?

GHOSN: Yes, I do.

QUEST: And have you had discussions with jurisdictions yet as to where that might be?

GHOSN: No, because as you can imagine, that if I'm in Japan, and I start to discuss this kind of topic, this would attract the attention.

QUEST: But -- but -- but would you accept that any trial would have to be under Japanese law, in the sense of that's the law that you broke? Maybe the system of justice that delivers it would be different. I'm thinking of the -- there's a good precedent you may be with familiar with, of course, the Lockerbie bomber, who was tried in the Hague under Scottish law.

Is that the sort of thing you're thinking of?

GHOSN: No, I'm thinking about, you know, depending on the country where this would take place, every country would accept a different kind of trial. The only thing I'm looking for is a trial where the rules, or the rights of the defense, would be respected. Which I thought in Japan was not the case.

QUEST: One thing seems clear, is that you are regarded as a fugitive by -- by others in the world. And that's not going to change, is it?

GHOSN: Well, you have to explain. You know, people don't like a fugitive when the fugitive is escaping justice. It's a different opinion when a fugitive is escaping injustice.

You know, I don't think that people look at people who run from North Korea, or from Vietnam, or from Russia, under the communist regime, as people who are running from justice.

Well, frankly, I can tell you, that in the system in which I've been through -- I've been through, I consider that there was practically zero chance I would get a fair trial. With zero chance of getting a fair trial, I don't think this is justice. I was not running from justice; I was looking for justice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: A lot more from Richard's interview with Ghosn next hour. It seems authorities in Japan has been watching, and they're less than happy. The country's justice minister says Ghosn "has been propagating, both within Japan and internationally, false information on Japan's legal system and its practice. And that is absolutely intolerable."

And we're done here. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. WORLD SPORT is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:45:03]

(WORLD SPORT)

[00:57:26]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END