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Prime Minister Says Iraq Got Advance Notice Of Attack; Prince Harry And Meghan Step Back From Senior Roles; Questions Surround Ukraine Plane Crash In Iran; Trump Signals De-escalation in Iran Crisis; Ghosn Defends Escape, Wants His Name Cleared. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 9, 2020 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Studio 7 at CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta. Ahead this hour, back from the brink at least for now. Iran offers the U.S. an off-ramp and Donald Trump seems more than relieved to avoid a disaster mostly off his own making.

Call it exit. Harry and Meghan calling it quits in the waiving and smiling business, announcing they're stepping back from royal duties. And nothing to lose, the fugitive former car executive Carlos Ghosn speaking out on everything from his trial to how he escaped from Japan.

We begin with the latest on the crisis between the United States and Iran. And it seems Washington may be a lot closer to a military strike on Wednesday than first thought. Trump administration officials have told CNN a single American casualty from Toronto missile attacks would have triggered a U.S. attack on Iran.

Iran launched 15 ballistic missiles causing only moderate damage and no casualties. Notably, Iraq's Prime Minister says he was given advance notice of the strikes by Tehran and warned the United States. After days of threatening annihilation, President Donald Trump took a sober tone at the White House on Wednesday, still bragging about U.S. military power but at the same time, making no threats.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.


VAUSE: Some U.S. officials are suggesting Iran's missile strikes missed areas popular by Americans and that was the intent, that the attack was in fact meant to send the message. Senior U.S. military leaders though say Iran intended to kill American troops. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is live this hour in Baghdad, Ramin Mostaghim is standing by for us in Tehran, and our International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson is in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

But first to Baghdad, Jomana, the U.S. says the heavily fortified green zone there in Baghdad came under attack from Katyusha rockets. Is it known yet if this is linked to the killing of General Soleimani, a militia group perhaps launching their own retaliation?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's not unusual for the green zone where there are Iraqi government headquarters and offices in the U.S. Embassy is base for it to come under rocket attack, certainly, over the past couple of weeks. We've seen somewhat of an increase in these rocket attacks.

I think what's interesting here is the timing of this coming after what seems to be this crisis heading towards de-escalation. Following President Trump's remarks, we had these reports of these two rockets that caused no casualties. Now, there's no claim of responsibility for that strike, but it's usually believed that it is the Iranian backed paramilitary groups proxies here on the ground who are responsible for these attacks.

So perhaps a message from them that, yes, while they are toning down the threats that we've heard in recent days, they are still standing by their demands that they want us forces out of the country. And when you talk to people here, John, they know this is not over and they know that it is the Iraqis who are trapped in the midst of this.

VAUSE: Yes, they're the victims as often is the case. Jomana, thank you for joining. Jomana Karadsheh in Baghdad. We'll head to Tehran now. Joining us Ramin Mostaghim. So is there at least for now an overall sense of relief there in Tehran that, you know, both sides here are stepping back from the brink?


VAUSE: Ramin, can you hear me. It's John in Atlanta. So is there a sense of relief right now in Tehran that maybe the sides are stepping back?

MOSTAGHIM: OK. Yes, I can hear.

VAUSE: Great.

MOSTAGHIM: I can hear you. I can tell you that here the narrative is that the escalation is on the way and Iran has legitimately targeted American base with due respect to the Iraqi sovereignty. And now enough is for -- from the Iranians angle, if Trump administration doesn't try to retaliate or target Iranian interest, otherwise, de- escalation is on the way.

And fortunately, from Iranians angle, their narrative says that Iran is one step distant from all-out war with America, but it's still everybody is on alert to see the reactions from American side. From the Iranian aspect, everything is done well. The harsh response was correct or legitimate, and at the same time, accurately targeted American base with minimum human casualties because it was reformed -- I mean, informed to Iraqi officials.

So Iran did a very humane proportionate response to the brutality of American attack. So that's foreign -- I mean, so far, everything is good and de-escalation mood is underway, John.


]VAUSE: OK, Ramin, thank you. That's the latest there from the Iran capital in Tehran. Let's head to the Saudi capital now, Riyadh. That's where we find CNN's Nic Robertson. So Nic, you know, we just heard from Ramin, and we're hearing from a lot of people this consensus that Iran's response was an attempt to de-escalate this off- ramp from the U.S. president. But you know, this weekend, Donald Trump warned should Iran strike on any U.S. person or target, United States will quickly and fully strike back, and perhaps in a disproportionate manner.

And you know, the reality is Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. soldiers based in Iraq, and nothing else what was a low-level conflict which is fought in the shadows for years, it's now out in the open for all to see. This does not seem like a de- escalation.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The real test right now is has Iran accepted that the rules of the game have changed. And that's exactly what the killing of Qassem Soleimani was. The United States saw that when they put up increased sanctions, its maximum sanctions on pressure on Iran, they increased the sanctions. Iran wanted out from under those sanctions.

They attacked tankers in the Persian Gulf in the Straits of Hormuz and sanctions were increased again. they attacked a Saudi oil facility, sanctions were increased again, their proxies attacked U.S. bases in Iraq, and then the United States, and what many people saw was a massive escalation took the strike on Qassem Soleimani. Iran takes its response. So in a way the situation is back to square one.

Yes, the region now knows that Iran has these ballistic missiles, that it can fight with some accuracy, but the region was aware of that. Iran is trying to create an off-ramp here, but it's, it's really an open question. President Trump has now responded to Iran's response with more sanctions. So how does Iran respond to that next? It is, if you will, military, diplomatic ping pong here. How does Iran respond?

And if their response comes in the same vein as the things -- the violence that led to the death of Qassem Soleimani, you can see you get back to a military escalation track very quickly. So it does seem the ball is back in the Iranian court. What -- are there -- are there backchannels behind the scenes to discuss potentials for further de- escalation of tensions, it's not clear we're quite there yet.

President Trump has said it looks like Iran wants to de-escalate. But, you know, the big broad assessment in this region is that Iran's retaliation may not be done. This may be revenge comes much further down the line. There's an opportunity now, but it begs huge questions, John, whether it can actually be grasped.

VAUSE: That's the thing because it seems all too clean and nice and all done and dusted and tied up in a bow and everything's all put away after 24 hours. And these things usually rarely ever play out in such a neat manner. So the question obviously is, will there be other proxies who take up the fight that Iran obviously says it's got nothing to do with us, but it really does?

Will the United States come up with a diplomatic solution which involves just simply more than placing economic sanctions or Iran actually come up with a strategy as opposed to a tactic? And we haven't seen any indication that either side is willing to go any way down that road.

ROBERTSON: You know, it's not clear that President Trump has a more structured approach to dealing with Iran. And look, just a few months ago, we know that he was entertaining the idea with the help of the French to get into a face to face conversation with President Rouhani. It seems that that is so far off the table right now.

But we know President Trump, his ideas of doing business one to one with leaders, and that's -- that in his book becomes a win for him. The stakes go up this year, because it's an election year Iran could really make his election campaigning difficult if they started needling in some way with the proxies. It's going to perhaps take them a little time to get their proxies A, back in line to act precisely at Tehran's will, and it may be that the proxies also look at the situation and reconsider their level of engagement, particularly that might be said for the Houthis in Yemen.


But you know, does President Trump have anything else to bring pressure to bear on Iran, other than increasing sanctions. The only other option seems to be that military escalation and he took one massive step towards it, really clearly understood what the next step of military escalation would look like and is given an opportunity to step back. But it but that does not really make a long-term strategy here.

Iran is demanding U.S. troops leave the region. President Trump is talking about NATO having a greater involvement in the region. Is there some quid pro quo there? President Trump is saying that France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China, the other five international powers will still sign up to the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, should pull out of the deal. They've had no inclination to doing that until now.

Why should they do it now? Because they the theory would, therefore, be that because they're afraid that President Trump could really spin the situation in the Middle East so far out of control, they will finally pull out of that deal too. That doesn't seem to be on the cards at the moment.

So, what's President Trump's strategy and plan to convince -- now convince in a new way, these co-signatories to that deal that they should pull out of it? And again, heat pressure on Iran? There's a lot that's missing in what we understand publicly at the moment that could make any of this work and make it significantly different to where we were a week ago.

VAUSE: Yes. Very quickly, because what was a bit like the half-truth and the old allegations in the outrageous claims that, you know, the President made on Wednesday during his national address on Iran, he also called for NATO to have a bigger role, you know, try to bring about, you know, some kind of peaceful resolution on this.

NATO, this organization which the U.S. president has spent the best part of three years undermining and ridiculing, I mean, is there any serious response there from Brussels?

ROBERTSON: Jens Stoltenberg has made it his mission at NATO to keep President Trump's sweep because Europeans generally view -- NATO members generally view it's hugely -- the Transatlantic Alliance is hugely important, and the United States is a massive player in it kicking in a massive amount of the finance -- the military commitment that keeps it going. And the European partners have been woeful in making their commitments.

Stoltenberg has really going out of his way to make Trump feel good about his demands to get more money. I mean, there was the leaders' summit -- leaders meeting in London, just outside of London in December last year, and Stoltenberg set it up for a slam dunk for President Trump to say, hey, I've succeeded. I've got more money out of NATO.

So I think the answer is that Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary-General at NATO is very predisposed to see NATO survive, is very predisposed to try to do within reason what President Trump is asking, and is already been in communication with the Iraqi leadership when they've said that foreign troops should leave to try to mitigate what's the impact of President Trump's actions and ameliorate it perhaps by spreading the image and making it look less like the United States and more like an international organization, NATO, of course, in its mind stands for peace.

VAUSE: It just seems there would be a big case happening right now among some NATO members given everything that has happened over the past couple of years between this U.S. president and those NATO allies, but maybe for another time. Nic, good to see you. Nic Robertson live for us this morning in Riyadh.

We had to Britain now and a stunning announcement from Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. On the return from a six-week holiday in Canada, they released a statement. Here it is. "After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as senior members of the royal family."

They went on to release a media rulebook stating they're opting out of the Royal pool coverage which is great deal to U.K. media. And as CNN's Max Foster reports, it all appears to come to a surprise to the rest of the royal family.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex aren't saying they want to leave the royal family all together, but they are saying they want to step back from their senior roles within the institution and all the official duties that come with that. And they want to start deciding what they do themselves. They want to start earning their own money as well, work towards financial independence.

In order to do that though, they have to work and collaborate with the rest of the royal family. And the issue here is that they don't seem to have discuss this with anyone in the royal family at all before they decided to announce it. I'm told that senior members of the royal family are hurt.

Behind palace walls, there's a mood of deep disappointment, I'm told and shortly after the couple issued this statement, Buckingham Palace followed up with a statement saying these are complicated issues that will take time to work through. So read into that, that this couple might have decided what they want to do, but we haven't yet cleared it.


And when you consider these sorts of decisions are normally cleared by the head of state, the Queen, before they're announced, you can understand the level of upset within the palace and how there's a lot to work through here. This is a family business after all. If senior members are going to step back, someone else has to pick up the slack or the wider institution has to decide to pull back a bit on what they do.

So what the Sussex's have decided today will affect the wider monarchy. And I think that's one of the issues here. The couple say they want to split their time between the United Kingdom and North America. Many people assuming that means Canada, it could mean the United States as well.

And the way they see their future is collaborating with other members of the royal family while they work on big issues that they care about. And they've got a big following. They've got a lot of support out there in the public. So, we'll see which way the public goes on this one. But certainly, within the institution, there are some severe tensions. Max Foster, CNN London.


VAUSE: Still ahead, more on the mysterious crash of Ukraine Airline as we find out more about those who are on board who did not survive. Also, the death toll from Australia's bushfire emergency continues to rise. This sign the state of Victoria now extending a disaster declaration.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Good day. I'm CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Time for a quick check of the weather across North America. Well, the eastern two-thirds of the United States will be basking in above-average temperatures for your Thursday, while the western parts of the country continue to remain below average and rather unsettled with chances of mountain snow and valley rain.

We do have a developing storm system across the central parts of America that will bring some heavier precipitation over the next few days, something we're going to monitor for the potential of flooding and even some severe storms as we head into the Friday and Saturday timeframe.

In the meantime, you can see the National Weather Service preemptively putting flood watches in effect for portions of Missouri, and to Illinois, Indiana, and southern Michigan likely to see those get expanded over the coming hours. So you can see the snowfall piling up across the Pacific Northwest right through the spine of the Rockies. We're talking about several feet of snow as we head through the next several days.

Temperatures for your Thursday, six for Denver, nine degrees for Chicago. There's the warm weather for Atlanta, 17 degrees, New York, only at one but you'll see warmer weather slide in for the weekend. You can see the cold air at bay really still bottled up across Canada, but that will change as we head into the second half of January. Here's your forecast for New York City, well above average to round off the weekends.



VAUSE: There have been vigils and services for the passengers and crew who died when a Ukrainian airline crashed on takeoff from Tehran. And an airport in Kiev, mourners held a vigil like flowers lighting candles. There were tears as loved ones lost who are remembered. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was among the mourners. Both Ukraine and Iran have declared Thursday a national day of mourning. But CNN's Matthew Chance reports investigators are still trying to find out what caused the crash.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An eye witness out of breath captures the dramatic moments after Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 dropped from the skies. You can see the burning wreckage of the airliner smashed to pieces strewn across a vast area outside of the Iranian capital.

Another witness seems to have recorded the exact point of impact. God help us, he cries. There's a bright light streaks across the night sky before turning into a fireball and plunging into the ground. Airline officials confirmed there were no survivors. VLADMIR SEMENSHENKO, SPOKESMAN, UKRAINIAN INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES

(through translator): There were 167 passengers and nine crew members on board. Of the passengers, two were Ukrainian citizens, the rest were Canadians, Iranians, Germans, Swedes, and Afghans.

CHANCE: Already, Iranian emergency teams have recovered the black box flight recorders from the crash site essential to explain what went wrong. Ukrainian airlines says the aircraft was one of their best planes, a 3-year-old Boeing 737-800 with what the airline describes as an excellent, trustworthy crew.

It seems to have been a tragic coincidence that the crash happened within hours of an Iranian missile strike on U.S. bases in Iraq. But the Ukrainian embassy in Tehran has now deleted a statement saying terrorism or a rocket attack has been ruled out as a possible cause. Instead, Ukraine's president has now dispatched a team of investigators to Iran to establish the truth in his words, and to find those responsible for this terrible catastrophe. Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.


VAUSE: The death toll from Australia's worst wood fire season on record has risen to 27, more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed. The state of Victoria says the state of disaster will continue until Saturday because of hot weather and significant winds. Last year was officially the hottest and driest year on record in Australia. Those conditions have fueled the hundreds of bushfires which have been burning since last September.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us with more on this. So it's hardly a surprise, you know, that 2019 was such a horrible year in terms of being hot and dry and awful.

VAN DAM: Yes, the driest on record, the hottest on record. December was also the warmest month on record for Australia. So all these figures just stacking up all the evidences there as to why we have seen such horrific bushfires this season.

Of course, there's myriad of other answers too that surround that, but let's focus on what we have going forward. Currently on the ground right now, 150 active fires between New South Wales and Victoria. By the way, we checked out these numbers. This is the latest information we have available to you. There is one red emergency level, that's the highest level from the rural fire service in Victoria. They're ordering people to evacuation across the southeastern portions of the state as an out of control fire continues to burn throughout that region.

There is a cold front that's going to press through. That spikes the temperature ahead of the front. It allows for the winds to pick up as well. But behind it, there will be relief in terms of decreasing our temperatures, decrease in the winds, and also a bit of cool maritime air starting to push in from the ocean. And that will help, of course, increase humidity levels, bring us chances of rain. All of these things we need to see in order to improve the fire conditions. There's the heat for Friday into Melbourne, Canberra, as well as

Sydney, but you can see the dramatic decrease as we head into Saturday and Sunday. But again, with the passage of a cold front, John, comes the potential for erratic wind conditions especially across the coastal communities where we have seen the fires ravaged this region.

You can see the cold front right there indicated with a stronger wind gust. It starts to press through late Friday and into the day on Saturday. Here's our rainfall percentages. We're expecting anywhere between 15 to 20 millimeters of much-needed rain, but of course, we certainly need more than that to help extinguish the flames. John, back to you.


VAUSE: Yes. OK, thanks, Derek. I appreciate it. So much winning for Donald Trump for his big win was over Iran. But winning doesn't mean there's a policy or the strategy. And even senior Republicans are becoming unhappy. More details on that next on CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: Thanks for staying with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour. We have breaking news just in to CNN. Iran now says the Ukraine Airliner which crashed in Tehran had caught fire before it came down. Initial report indicates it had changed direction because of an unknown problem and attempted to turn back towards the airport.

The crash happened within hours of Iran firing missiles at Iraqi bases where U.S. troops, rather, are deployed. And Donald Trump says after Iran launches missile attacks, Tehran now appears to be standing down, and he threatened punishing new sanctions on Iran though in the wake of those attacks.

Let's go to Michael Genovese, the President of Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University. He's with us this hour from Los Angeles. Good to see you, Michael.


VAUSE: OK, on the outside, the U.S. President has decided now is a good time to walk back from the brink of war. At the same time, though, he blatantly lied about his predecessor Barack Obama while addressing the nation on Wednesday morning. Here's part of it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.


VAUSE: That is a reference to the Iranian money which had been frozen under U.S. sanctions and returned to Iran as part of the nuclear deal. Iran had a ballistic missile program long before the money was frozen, long before it was paid back.


In fact, the entire speech was short and you can struggle to find one completely truthful (ph) statement. All this is not new but this hasn't happened before the missile crisis like this one on the eve of a potential military confrontation.

MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right normally in a crisis the President tries to unify the country, bring it together. But Donald Trump is a divider and he tries to divide. And this in repeated references Barack Obama suggests that.

He's got Obama on the brain. He's obsessed with his predecessor, trying to undo many of his policies, trying to criticize whenever possible. And I think what you see is that even, for example, when comparing the inauguration crowds that they had, Donald Trump will lie about things that are obviously not true, if it has to do with Obama.

He is just obsessed with Obama, and it's not a healthy thing because so many times, instead of looking ahead, he's looking in the rearview mirror.

VAUSE: Also it seems that -- well, the President, you know, had these falsehoods, these threats, sort of baseless accusations on Wednesday. He did not have evidence of this imminent attack which justified the drone strike on General Soleimani.

And judging by a Republican senator, the classified briefing they received wasn't a whole lot better. Here's some reaction.

SENATOR MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Probably the worst briefing that I've seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate.

SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: They have justified the killing of an Iranian general as being something that Congress gave them permission to do in 2002. That is absurd. That's an insult.


VAUSE: Both these Republican senators have a history of defending Donald Trump. They are not anti Trumpers. But given the administration has refused to detail the nature of the threat, how killing Soleimani stopped any attack and prevented further attacks. And I think two Republicans broke ranks with the White House, it isn't surprising in itself but rather but maybe it is surprising that only two have the courage to speak out publicly.

GENOVESE: That's right. There was near universal disappointment in what the President and his team said -- the imminent threat. No one, I think came out of that meeting saying oh, yes, we had to act right now. And so I think it was wholly unpersuasive. And why do you want to do this to Congress? Why do you want to wake up Congress? You know, let sleeping Congress just lie. And that Congress is starting to push back.

You're seeing Congress asserting itself. And as you mentioned even Republicans, although only two, it's still unusual to see any Republican stand up against President Trump.

And so you saw them referencing things like this is the worst I have ever heard about in a briefing. This was insulting.

And so it seems like the White House really missed a great opportunity here to bring Congress on board. Instead they alienated Congress.

VAUSE: Senator Mike Lee, who we heard from first in that clip just then, he was especially angry because apparently the White House warned everybody in that briefing not to discuss or debate publicly the details around Soleimani's killing. The rationale would be to do so would endanger the troops.

You know, Republicans are using the same argument against the Democrat bill, which is intended to limit the President's authority for military engagement with Iran.

Here's Senator Lindsey Graham -- a Trump supporter.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm going to let people know that at this moment in time to play this game with the war powers, which I think it's unconstitutional, is that whether you mean to or not, you're empowering the enemy.


VAUSE: Empowering the enemy. And for the record, Mike Lee who was uncertain before the briefing has announced he will vote for the Democrat War Powers Bill on Thursday.

The bigger picture here though is that this bill, I'm wondering in your opinion, is it an attempt by Congress to take back some of the powers which have been taken by the executive branch -- it started under George W. Bush, continued under Obama. Or, you know, this is just a limit to the current Iran conflict but at least to be a start right?

GENOVESE: Well, I think it's a function of a bigger picture. It's the loss of power and also the ceding of power from Congress to the executive. So tomorrow the House is going to take up the concurrent resolution, then the Senate under Senator Kaine are going to take it up

Clearly, President Trump has exceeded his constitutional authority. The War Powers Act calls for prior consultation. Now modern presidents are, not just Trump, a lot of presidents define consultation as informing Congress after the fact. But what you're seeing here is that Congress doesn't accept the constitutional fig leaf (ph) that President Trump has put up -- the 2002 AUMF Act.

That has to do with Iraq, not Iran. And so the President is really on thin constitutional ice here. And so Congress is starting to wake up. Will it take back its power and try to reclaim the authority under the constitution that he has over war? Or will it let a runaway president continue to act unilaterally?


GENOVESE: The one thing we do know here is that the status quo of presidential power regarding war is pregnant with menace. We have an opportunity now to bring that back under some control. It is doubtful that will happen but at least there is a possibility, at least that's what they're talking about.

VAUSE: Yes, it's interesting because Congress didn't want to have any sort of say in wars because that's, you know, risky stuff. Big bad things can happen, leave it to the President to take the fall.

But you know, with all this (ph) faux patriotism if you like, don't ask questions, you know. Look after the troops. This is so familiar from Republicans that it was, you know, a different Republican president and a different conflict.

Listen to this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists.


VAUSE: You know, this -- you're either with us or against us -- you know, that kind of stuff, it doesn't work.

GENOVESE: Nor does it really work in a democracy, a functioning democracy. A gag order on anyone is a bad idea. And you try to sort of paint your opposition into a corner.

Again in a crisis a president is supposed to unity. But when you do that by force or you compel people by saying if you're not with us you are with the enemy -- that's absurd. It's demonstrably untrue and yet there's a lot of pressure. There's a lot of pressure put on members of Congress who don't want to go back to your district and have people say, you know, you did not defend the troops.

So this kind of this rush to defend the troops but doing that means you're going to be defending the President and maybe a policy that you don't like or that's unwise. And so there's tremendous amount of pressure to keep pursuing that policy that way.

VAUSE: Yes. That's a really good point to finish on. Michael -- thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Michael Genovese, live for us in Los Angeles.

GENOVESE: Thanks -- John.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break.

The former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn says he fled Japan, where he's accused of financial wrongdoing, because he wants to clear his name. And he's doing that in a very public way.

More in a moment.


VAUSE: Carlos Ghosn maybe a wanted man but he's not lying low. Last month he escaped from authorities in Japan and now the former Nissan CEO is speaking out, trying to say his side of the story, claiming his arrest and charges of financial wrongdoing -- all part of a plot to oust him as head of the giant Nissan-Renault group.

In an interview with CNN's Richard Quest, Ghosn says he's not running from justice, he is fleeing injustice and wants to clear his name.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: At what point did you decide you have to go?

CARLOS GHOSN, FORMER NISSAN CEO: A few weeks ago -- a few weeks ago. And what led me to that first is that everything I was seeing in the pretrial was leading to the fact that the trial would not be fair.

Second, I was hoping that they will fix the date of the trial. It was not fixed. Until now I don't know. Greg Kelly doesn't know when his trial starts, 13 months after -- 13 months after we've been arrested.

And third, the ban on my wife, which really was something that I could not understand, for nine months I can't see her. I can't talk to her. And they told me that this may continue for another one year and a half.

QUEST: And you then decided that was it.

GHOSN: It's too much. It's too much.

QUEST: Do you accept that you broke the Japanese law in leaving that way?

GHOST: I accept the fact that I broke the Japanese law by leaving this way, yes.


QUEST: Japan has already -- you may already have heard (ph). Today they've said, the prosecutor said, as a result of your press conference here that you failed to justify your act. You were deemed a flight risk, which indeed you were, because you fled. "And his one- sided criticism of the Japanese justice system is totally unacceptable."

GHOSN: It's laughable. It's laughable. and being under their control for all this time I had zero right. They put on me bare conditions which are very strict.

I didn't have a phone. I could not go on the Internet. I couldn't see my wife. I was monitored all the time. I had followers all the time. So in a certain way when they have a suspicion on somebody what they would like is to keep you in prison until he is judged.

QUEST: One ends up with this feeling is that you can't pick and choose the laws you like.

GHOSN: No, I'm sure.

QUEST: You can't pick and choose the jurisdictions you like.

GHOSN: I'm sure. I'm sure. I don't but -- and I'm not picking. The only thing is I don't want to be in a system when there is no justice.

QUEST: What was the moment like for you when you realized you had escaped? Different people will pass judgement moral and legal upon what you have done. That is something you will have to bear in your conscience --


QUEST: -- until death. But for you that moment when -- I want to go into two sections with this -- the moment when you started the execution of the plan, during, and at the end. Tell me.

GHOSN: Yes. Let me put you -- and I'm going to tell you exactly what situation I have. I've never seen somebody escaping the prison in Vietnam who had any bad feeling about doing that. Why? Because he was hostage. And he was not fleeing the rule of law in Vietnam. He said I'm a hostage and I'm here to be punished. I have no fair trial and I'm escaping.

So I am in the same situation. I'm not feeling bad because somehow I put myself outside the control of people who wanted to put me in prison, independently of the two.

QUEST: But were you nervous?

GHOSN: Oh yes, I was nervous.

QUEST: Did you fear it was going to go wrong?

GHOSN: I was anxious but I was not afraid for the very simple reason is frankly I had nothing to lose. That means the situation for me in Japan was so bad, my perspective was so dark and the fact that I lost any faith of having a fair trial that this encouraged me to decide to leave Japan. QUEST: And the moment -- I mean humor me.


QUEST: The moment the plane is in international space and you pretty much know it's going to land in Lebanon. What was that moment like?

GHOSN: Well, as you know it was not going to land in Lebanon. We were going to land somewhere else. But I felt --

QUEST: But then after that.

GHOSN: -- I felt relieved. I felt relieved. Yes. I felt relieved. And you know the first word I said is finally I'm going to be able to see my wife. That's one of the first words.

QUEST: I'm just going to go for this and hope that you'll give me an answer. What was it like in the packing case?

GHOSN: No comment. Just freedom. Freedom. No matter the way it happens, is always freedom.


VAUSE: With that we'll say goodbye.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

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