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Trump Feuds with U.S. Civil Rights Icon; Trump Open to Meeting with Putin; Poland Welcomes U.S. Troops in NATO Buildup; U.S. Invited to Syria Peace Talks; Paris Meeting to Focus on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; Trump Cabinet Picks Have Different Views Than Trump's; Mexico Insists They're Not Paying for Border Wall; Michelle Obama's Eight Years as First Lady; Aired 4-5a ET

Aired January 15, 2017 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:11] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A feud deepens. How Donald Trump is responding to a U.S. civil rights icon who doesn't see him as a legitimate president.

A show of force to Russia. Poland welcomes thousands of U.S. troops as part of the biggest deployment to Europe in decades.

Plus, a new push for peace in the Middle East. Diplomats gathering in Paris trying to revive talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers in United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

It is 4:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast, less than a week away now before inauguration day and a great deal to talk about. Several Democrats say they will not attend. We'll have more on that in a moment. There's also this growing feud between the president-elect and a civil rights icon.

That icon being Congressman John Lewis. On Friday he told NBC's "Meet the Press" he didn't see Donald Trump as a, quote, "legitimate president." Lewis, an ally of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, found himself the subject of Trump's Twitter wrath just days before the U.S. holiday commemorating Dr. King.

Here's how it all got started with Lewis' comments to NBC. Listen.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I don't see the president-elect as a legitimate president.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC'S "MEET THE PRESS": You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?

LEWIS: I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they have destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: Donald Trump then on Twitter firing back, quote, "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime infested rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk, and no actions. Sad."

Trump later seemed to double down on his criticism saying this, "Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get."

A lot to talk about this day. Let's bring in CNN Politics reporter Eugene Scott live for us via Skype in Washington, D.C.

Eugene, it's good to have you with us. So let's -- first, let's break this down into its many different parts. First from the big picture point of view. Donald Trump attacking a civil rights icon saying that he is all talk, no action, despite his very deep history in civil rights, not to mention the fact it was just last June, Eugene, that Lewis arranged a sit-in on the topic of gun control. So on the issue of Lewis' service being attacked, what is the response so far? Did Donald Trump go too far?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Many Democratic lawmakers and just supporters of John Lewis and the Civil Rights Movement and laws and policies that have been proposed since then do believe that Donald Trump went too far. But I don't believe that this is new for Donald Trump and many people are not surprised.

There was some concern about the accuracy of Donald Trump's caricaturing of metro Atlanta and some doubt that Donald Trump actually has a plan that would improve the issues that he finds most alarming.

I do think one thing that's very interesting is that Donald Trump, after saying that John Lewis was all talk and no action, news came out that he plans to spend Martin Luther King Day tomorrow visiting the new Smithsonian Museum focused on African-American history and culture. John Lewis is the one who introduced the bill to get that museum built in 1988.

HOWELL: Eugene, you touched on this, and I want to push forward on it as well because as a matter of fact -- facts do matter her -- Trump called Lewis' district crime-ridden, that district which does include the part of -- the major part of the city of Atlanta. I have to say I live here and no one is denying that there is crime in the city, but to try to define an entire city in 140 characters or less is a massive overgeneralization at best.

In fact, Atlanta has a lot going for it. I'll post some of that on Twitter later today, but this is part of Trump's style, whether it's focusing on people or companies. What will happen when he's in office saying these types of things?

SCOTT: Well, if he continues this, he can expect to be criticized increasingly, but more than that, people really would like to see what his solutions to the problems he arises are. He had a meeting with talk show host Steve Harvey and his HUD secretary nominee Friday saying that they would focus on some of the challenges in inner cities such as housing.

[04:05:11] And if you recall, during the campaign he put out a new deal for black America that he said would focus on high-paying jobs, improving schools and safer communities. All eyes will be on the president-elect to see if he is all talk and no action at this point.

HOWELL: Eugene, I also -- I want to talk about this, this started obviously after Lewis said he didn't believe that Trump was a legitimate president. Still the topic, though, of legitimacy. It came up during Barack Obama's presidency. My colleague Poppy Harlow touched on that speaking with a conservative commentator. Let's listen to this.


BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I also think it's unprecedented that a congressman with his stature was able to come out and say, I don't believe Donald Trump is a legitimate president. I cannot imagine the fallout, the backfire that you would have if a Republican would ever imply that about Barack Obama or Bill Clinton or JFK or anyone else for that matter. That is --

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Ben, Ben, Ben. Ben, that's exactly what many Republicans did.


HARLOW: Including the president-elect for years, questioning the legitimacy of the first black president.


HOWELL: Ben Ferguson making the point and Poppy Harlow fact-checking, really, making the counter point there. Legitimacy has come up before.

SCOTT: It has. And very often from Donald Trump regarding our current president Barack Obama. But we saw Barack Obama produce his birth certificate, proving that he was born in the United States and very legitimate -- a very legitimate candidate for president of the United States.

John Lewis' concern, which may have rooted in Russia's involvement in hacking the 2016 election so that Hillary Clinton would lose and they were effective. And Donald Trump pushed back on that and took it personally.

HOWELL: Eugene, here we are just days before inauguration day. I want to show you, though. There is a growing list of Democrats who say they have no plans of attending the actual inauguration. That list continues to grow.

And also take a look at this, this is Donald Trump's pre-inaugural approval ratings. At this point very low compared to other presidents. In fact, the lowest compared to Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton. What does this say about Donald Trump's ability to build bridges across the aisle, if this is where he is, even before he takes the oath of office?

SCOTT: Well, what it says is there is a lot of room to grow. There are multiple Democrats and Republicans who are looking for a leader who will be more bipartisan in his approach to dealing with issues that affect the United States. At this second, to many critics, it doesn't appear that Donald Trump is that president. But the fact is, as you mentioned, there's a lot of time left. And there are people hoping to see significant change from him.

HOWELL: There are many people who plan to attend saying that they plan to keep an open mind to give this new president-elect the chance once he takes the oath of office.

Eugene Scott, live for us in Washington, D.C. Eugene, thank you for your time.

Also on the international stage, China is responding sharply to Donald Trump's suggestions that he might change the One China policy once in the White House. That is a long-standing policy that means the United States recognizes relations with China and not with Taiwan, which Beijing considers to be a breakaway province.

A spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry said, quote, "There is only one China in the world. Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory and the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China. These are facts recognized by the International Community and no one can change this."

Now with regards to the president-elect's feelings -- thinking about Russia, he says that he's open to that nation seeing how it can lift -- have sanctions lifted, U.S. sanctions. Trump has also indicated that he's open to getting rid of those sanctions. This is if Moscow helps the U.S. He's also said that he'd be fine with meeting with the Russian president Vladimir Putin after taking office.

CNN's Matthew Chance is following the story live in Moscow.

And Matthew, first of all, the simple fact that President-elect Trump is willing to meet with the Russian president, how is that being perceived there in Russia?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, they haven't made an official comment on that prospect at the moment except to say that any meeting between President Putin of Russia and Donald Trump when he becomes president of the United States will be carefully arranged. In terms of the specifics, that's not been -- that's not been made public here in Russia, indeed it hasn't been made public in the United States either. It's a subject to press speculation at the moment.

[04:10:04] But, I mean, clearly, the Russians very much want to see this one-on-one meeting between the Russian president and the president of the United States would be, I suppose, flattering to the Kremlin because it would portray them as being on an equal footing with the United States. And that's been one of the big objectives of the Kremlin for several years now, to be seen and treated as a player on the international stage and to have a seat at the top table.

It's something that it speculated, motivates Vladimir Putin very much. And so yes, I think they'd be very receptive to the idea of a sort of summit between the Cold War-style summit between these two leaders.

HOWELL: But there are mixed messages, Matthew. You hear the president-elect, you know, indicating that he would be open to lifting sanctions, that he would be open to meeting with Vladimir Putin at the same time legislators have a different position. They say the United States should continue a tough stance with Russia. It, in fact, potentially get tougher. How is that being viewed with everyday Russians to try to square the circle with these mixed messages?

CHANCE: Well, I think if we're talking in terms of everyday Russians, then I think they probably believe that it will be the president of the United States who will make the final decision. I mean, everybody is aware here that the significant opposition in the U.S. Congress to closer relations with Russia. I think that's characterized in the Russian public as being the vestiges of a Cold War thinking in the United States. But also equally Russians believe it's the guy at the top to make the final decision.

And indeed, when it comes to this issue of sanctions, they are probably right. The vast bulk of the sanctions against Russia were implemented by President Obama as a presidential decree. And so they could be lifted just as easily with a simple stroke of a pen when Donald Trump becomes president of the United States. And so those sanctions that were imposed predominantly over the annexation of Crimea in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, they could be very easily lifted if Donald Trump, when he's president, decides to do so.

HOWELL: CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance, reporting for us in Moscow. Matthew, thank you for the reporting.

Despite uncertainty about Trump's policies toward NATO, the alliance is pushing ahead with its show of resolve against Russia. Poland officially welcomed some 4,000 U.S. troops on Saturday. It's all part of NATO's buildup to convince Moscow the alliance will defend its members against aggression if pushed. Russia has bristled at that message. It deployed air defense systems to Crimea on Saturday saying it could send more in the future.

CNN's Atika Shubert has more from Poland.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The "Star Spangled Banner" plays in Poland, welcoming the U.S. troops for NATO's Operation Atlantic Resolve. The biggest U.S. deployment in Europe for decades.

(On camera): This is the official opening ceremony for those U.S. troops. And Poland's prime minister Beata Szydlo is here and she made a point in her speech to say that this is an integral part of Poland's national security. That everyone in Poland had a right to feel safe and secure and this is exactly what the arrival of U.S. troops here has done.

(Voice-over): Poland's prime minister spoke to CNN after the ceremony. She said, "This is very important for Poland and the region. We live in Europe where there are many external threats. Russian policy is confrontational," she said. "For states bordering Russia such as Poland, this constitutes a real threat. We are conscious that Poland must strengthen its alliances," she says.

And it's an impressive rollout. Four battalions of 1,000 soldiers each, more than 2,000 pieces of military hardware including U.S. tanks and armored vehicles, all coming from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado.

They are here for nine months, deployed not only in Poland but Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and other NATO allies bordering Russia. It's a show of force to deter Russia from repeating its aggression in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

MAJ. GEN. TIMOTHY MCGUIRE, DEP. COMMANDER, U.S. LAND FORCES IN EUROPE: There's no more powerful combat format in the United States Army and I would say this is very well-trained, well-equipped, well-led brigade combat team. This is another sign of the United States' commitment to deterrence and our commitment to not only our Polish allies but those allies in NATO.

SHUBERT: U.S. tanks in Poland, the Kremlin says, are, quote, "a real threat" to Russian security. Still in less than a week, Moscow will have a new administration to face in Washington and make its case for policy changes.

(On camera): Now Russia may not be happy with this deployment, but Polish public opinion, now that's another matter. Take a look at this. This is just some of the armored vehicles and tanks that have been brought over for this operation here. They have been put on display for the day here Zagan, Poland to show the public some of the hardware that is coming across.

[04:15:04] It's all part of this effort to show that the NATO alliance remains strong, that Poland and other eastern European allies will be collectively defended by this alliance.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Zagan, Poland.


HOWELL: Atika Shubert, thank you so much for the reporting.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, the first major foreign policy task for Donald Trump once he is in office. Coming up, his administration invited to the next roundtable of Syrian peace talks.

Plus, France is hosting a peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Why that meeting is so controversial? Live around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.



HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

Donald Trump may be about to face his first big test on foreign policy. Turkey says the U.S. will now be invited to Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan held just three days after Donald Trump is set to become the next president of the United States.

For more on the talks, let's bring in CNN's Muhammad Lila live for us in Abu Dhabi.

It's good to have you with us, Muhammad. So the U.S. was not part of brokering the peace that we now see in Syria.

[04:20:02] So what does it mean now for the U.S. to be invited to the table for these talks?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if -- well, George, if the United States accepts that invitation, what it means is that they'll have a seat at the table for the first time in months if not years and of course this as you mentioned is going to be Donald Trump's first and major policy -- foreign policy question mark. This is an issue, Syria, that many people would say was President Obama's biggest failure. That he oversaw the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and he allowed al Qaeda to take root in Iraq and Syria.

And now for the first time the United States might have a role in trying to curtail some of that, as well as help determine the future of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. So it's certainly a very big challenge and a big question mark of the Obama administration that Trump is going to have to deal with just three days after being elected -- sorry, after being inaugurated.

And of course the other thing to mention, George, in all of this, is that when the U.S. is invited to these peace talks, you have to remember these peace talks have been led by Turkey and Russia for several weeks if not months now. And so there was a point in time where American foreign policy in the region dictated that America would be able to leave these negotiations, but in this case it seems as though Russia and Turkey have already advanced quite far in what they're hoping to achieve in Syria.

And the question now is if Trump does take that offer and decides to have the United States at that negotiating table, will it be in the position of simply an observer or will they have a meaningful role? And that's something that we just won't know until those talks take place.

HOWELL: OK, you duck-tailed into my second question, so an observer or a meaningful role, obviously this is being led by Turkey, being led by Russia, the U.S. just invited to the talks. It was not invited when it came to brokering the actual peace deal. So the question goes further, Muhammad, would the U.S. be at any sort of a disadvantage in even taking part of these talks?

LILA: Well, there's no question. You have to remember the major players on the ground are Turkey, Iran and Russia, and they all have their own interest in Syria. They all want to see some sort of settlement that give each of those countries what they want. The big test I think for the United States moving forward in these peace talks is, we'll have to see if the United States under the new Trump administration is willing to play a bigger role in Syria or whether they are planning to be more hands-off and essentially let Turkey and Russia dictate the terms of the cease-fire.

And the reason that's important is because it will indicate something of President-elect Donald Trump's foreign policy. Is he planning to fulfill his promise of things he talked about in his campaign in terms of being more hands-off and targeting only ISIS and leaving the other problems in the Middle East to the countries to deal with themselves? Or will he be more interventionist and take a more active role than President Obama did?

So far the indications are that, you know, given the closeness of Donald Trump and the warming up of Donald Trump and Russia, the question is, will the United States try to intervene and, you know, limit Russia's gains in Syria, so to speak, as a result of these Syrian peace talks? And you know, if Donald Trump's words and statements are any indication, it may be the case where he may step back and let Russia play the main role in this, which would effectively give Russia even more control in Syria if a cease-fire and a peace deal would be signed.

HOWELL: Whether they attend or whether the U.S. chooses not to attend, it will be a very important statement for the Trump administration on the U.S.'s stance and leadership in the world.

Muhammad Lila, live for us in Abu Dhabi, thank you so much for your reporting.

Also now to another peace effort that is underway, this one happening right now in Paris. Some 70 countries are meeting to pressure Israeli and Palestinian leaders to commit to a two-state solution. But the Israelis and Palestinians, they will not be attending that conference.

The U.S. is represented but not by the incoming administration of Donald Trump.

CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us now live in Jerusalem following this story.

So the Trump administration, Oren, will not be there. Israelis and Palestinians will not be there. So what, if anything, can truly come from this meeting?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The idea of this conference is that many other countries, 70 -- some 70 get together and talk about different ways to solve different solutions and deal with some of the most complex issues in the conflict. Jerusalem, borders, refugees. And then these become guidelines for recommendations, but that is just it. This isn't the U.N. This isn't the EU, although many of those member countries are represented. This is simply a conference on how to advance the peace process in some way.

Whatever comes out of this, it doesn't seem like it will have any real practical immediate effect. What worries the Israelis is what comes out of this could then be brought to the U.N. Security Council for a follow-up resolution. That's been the Israelis' fears since the first resolution from some three weeks ago. That is the concern the Israelis are looking at right now, not the conference itself.

[04:25:01] It's how this conference plugs into the bigger issue of what's happened the last few weeks. The first U.N. Security Council resolution, the Kerry speech, and now this.

HOWELL: All right. So, Oren, the meeting will be underway. You say more than -- some 70 countries will be there. Will it put pressure on the Israelis and the Palestinians to reach a solution?

LIEBERMANN: That's certainly the intent, to get these sides back to the negotiating table. As much as the statements have been made back and forth and the finger-pointing, the truth is, there simply hasn't been a negotiation since April of 2014, but the pressure has no consequence, which is to say, if one side or both sides ignore whatever comes out of this conference, there's no consequence to ignoring it.

So we'll see what immediate effect it actually has. My suspicion is that it will be very little. We'll see statements I suspect from both sides right afterwards. The Israelis and Palestinians, as you pointed out, aren't invited. This is supposed to be the rest of the world figuring out how to deal with the conflict. And then both sides were invited over the next few days to essentially follow on, a handshake or symbolic support of peace statement. But we'll see, we'll see what recommendations come out of this. It could just be economic incentives for both sides to make peace or to get back to negotiations.

But we'll see. The conference is supposed to last today. The meetings are supposed to last today. So we'll have statements afterwards to see what they came up with, to see if there's some new idea for how to move forward with the peace process.

HOWELL: So eyes will be watching this meeting, but at the same time Palestinians and the Israelis will not be there, neither will be the incoming Trump administration.

Oren Liebermann, live for us in Jerusalem, thank you so much for your reporting.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, it's not just Donald Trump's opponents who disagree with his policies. How the U.S. president-elect might face opposition in his own Cabinet?

Live here in Atlanta broadcasting across the United States and around the world this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


[04:30:21] HOWELL: A warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is good to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you at this hour.

The Polish prime minister formally welcomed thousands of U.S. troops in their country on Saturday. The snow there calling it a great day that would help ensure Poland's security. NATO is building up its presence in the eastern part of the alliance to send a strong message of unity to Russia.

China's Foreign Ministry isn't happy about Donald Trump's suggestion that the United States could change its position on the One China policy once he's in the White House. A ministry spokesperson called the policy non-negotiable and said that Taiwan is part of Chinese territory. Under one China, the U.S. has formal diplomatic relations with Beijing and not with Taiwan.

Also, Donald Trump firing back at Congressman John Lewis after he said that Trump was not a, quote, "legitimate president." The president- elect responded by saying the civil rights icon is all talk and no action. Lewis is one of several lawmakers who say they will boycott Trump's inauguration come January 20th.

John Lewis is not the only one in Washington not seeing eye-to-eye with Donald Trump. His inauguration just days away, still some of Trump's own Cabinet picks seem to disagree with him on key issues.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has this report for us.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump is facing a new round of opposition on Capitol Hill. Not from Democrats but from his own Cabinet nominees. At one confirmation hearing after another, Trump's team is contradicting the president- elect on some of his key campaign trail promises.

On Russia, Trump taking a far softer tone on Vladimir Putin than his pick for Defense secretary, retired General James Mattis did.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: If Putin likes Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin.

ZELENY: On the intelligence probe into Russian hacking, Trump sounded far less certain than Mike Pompeo, his choice to lead the CIA.

TRUMP: As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we get also hacked by other countries and other people. REP. MIKE POMPEO (R), CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: It's pretty clear about

what took place here, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy. I'm very clear eyed about what that intelligence report says.

ZELENY: At Trump Tower Friday, the president-elect downplayed the differences between his views and those of his perspective cabinet.

TRUMP: I told them to be yourselves and say what you want to say. Don't worry about me. And I'm going to do the right thing, whatever it is. I may be right. And they may be right. But I said be yourself.

ZELENY: But his rhetoric before the election, and since is now colliding with governing, sending mixed signals to Americans and allies about where the new Trump administration stands.

On the campaign trail, Trump railed against NATO, while his defense secretary nominee took a different view.

TRUMP: NATO is obsolete. It was 67 years or over 60 years old.

MATTIS: Having served once as NATO a supreme allied commander is the most successful military alliance probably in modern world history, maybe ever.

ZELENY: Senators spent much of their time this week asking the nominees if they agree with Trump's views on hot-button issues, like torture. His pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said he did not.

TRUMP: Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I'd approve it.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Congress is taking an action now that makes it absolutely improper and illegal to use waterboarding or any other form of torture.

ZELENY: And in one of his biggest pledges of all, building a wall on the border with Mexico --

TRUMP: We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration.

ZELENY: His pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, retired General John Kelly, disagreed.

GEN. JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY NOMINEE: A physical barrier it and of itself will not do the job. It has to be really a layered defense.

ZELENY (on camera): And Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson contradicted a view of Trump on climate change this week, saying he believes climate change exists and requires a global response. And Donald Trump has said he wants members of his Cabinet to have their own views. The question is, whose views the Cabinet or the president become the policy of this new administration?

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Jeff, thank you.

And as Jeff just said in his report, Donald Trump says Mexico will ultimately pay for a border wall with the United States. Mexico's president responds, that is not going to happen.

[04:35:04] What the people are saying in Mexico City, still ahead.


HOWELL: Tensions between the United States and Mexico. Mexico's economy minister has a message for the incoming U.S. president. He says that his country will retaliate immediately if Donald Trump carries through on an economic threat.

Trump said that companies manufacturing in Mexico and selling their goods in the United States could face a 35 percent tax. There's also strong opposition in Mexico to Trump's claim that the country will pay for a border wall.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has more now from Mexico City.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have seen uncertainty over the future prompt fear, insecurity among the Mexican people in this very vibrant city. You know, since Trump's election, the Mexican peso has plunged against the U.S. dollar. And add to that, the Mexican government's decision to raise gas prices has sent thousands of protesters to the streets, others to the church.


SANTIAGO (voice-over): In Mexico's holiest shrine where thousands go to pray, the hope is that a higher power is listening. Concerns, worries, fears can be left behind.

Ramon Hernandez worries about the future, his family, the economy. When Ford backed out of plans to build this new factory, his hometown lost potential jobs. And the same administration that calls this a victory says Mexico will eventually pay for a new wall on the U.S.- Mexico border. He tells me the idea sounds crazy and he's not alone.

Pedro Alliano (PH) says President-elect Trump is better off paying for a wall to be build around his own home. Making Mexicans pay for the wall along the border he says is just a threat.

[04:40:08] Council General Carlos Garcia acknowledges his job as one of Mexico's top diplomats in the U.S. has changed.

(On camera): Will Mexico pay for that wall?

CARLOS GARCIA DE ALBA, COUNCIL GENERAL OF MEXICO IN LOS ANGELES: No way. The president of Mexico, President Pena Nieto, and the entire government of Mexico again and again have repeated Mexico won't pay for the wall.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Garcia calls the relationship between the two countries one of the most complex in the world.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I respect the government of Mexico. I respect the people of Mexico. I love the people of Mexico.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Does that improve anything?

GARCIA: Well, it doesn't fix but it helps. We need to change language. It's time now to start speaking with respect.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): And Pedro adds the respect must go both ways, but even he and a lot of his fellow Mexicans recognize this may take an intervention, perhaps from the divine.


SANTIAGO: And we talked to about 20 Mexicans across this city, many echoing similar sentiments, repeating the words humiliation, racism, saying, hey, let's wait and see what happens. But I couldn't find one person who actually believed Mexico will ever pay for this wall.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Mexico City.


HOWELL: Leyla Santiago, thank you so much.

Now to talk about the cold weather that continues to plague many parts of Europe, let's bring in CNN's Allison Chinchar to talk more about that.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. With the cold you often get snow. And unfortunately, some may think, especial he ski resorts, they love to have the snow. But you can have too much of a good thing. Take a look at this. This is from the Downhill Skiing World Cup, which was canceled on Saturday due to too much snow. They picked up about 40 centimeters of snow overnight Friday night. And unfortunately crews just couldn't get to the cleanup process fast enough. Winds around 70 kilometers per hour also hindering. As they would clean it up, the wind would blow it right back over into the same spot so they were forced to cancel that event.


CHINCHAR: But if you have travel plans throughout much of this area, please check with your air travel carrier before you do so.

HOWELL: Absolutely. And of course stay in touch you and our meteorologists as we continue to follow it.

Allison, thank you so much.

Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, the legacy of Michelle Obama. We'll look back at her years as America's first lady. Stay with us.



HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

The end of an era is approaching fast. Less than a week to go now before the Obamas move out of the White House and for Michelle Obama there have been a great deal of changes since moving in.

Our White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski takes a look back at those last eight years in the White House.


MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelle Obama's first steps onto that enormous, exhilarating, terrifying national political stage were reluctant, cautious. Remember the family back then?

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Barack is home at least once a week and we're really doing family stuff.

KOSINSKI: On the campaign trail, young Malia and Sasha talk about the weirdness of seeing their parents in magazines.

MALIA OBAMA, FIRST DAUGHTER: Pretty cool because you see people like Angelina Jolie.

MICHELLE OBAMA: The real important people.

MALIA OBAMA: Real, important -- no offense.

SASHA OBAMA, FIRST DAUGHTER: Mommy is important.

KOSINSKI: And the beginning was not so easy, moving into the White House where the bulletproof windows can't be opened, the Secret Service always there. She recently described that fist day.

MICHELLE OBAMA: I will never forget that winter morning as I watched our girls, just 7 and 10 years old, pile into those black SUVs with all those big men with guns. And I saw their little faces pressed up against the window. And the only thing I could think was, what have we done?

KOSINSKI: And she did face criticism, even before the election.

MICHELLE OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country.

KOSINSKI: Soon after that, portrayed on this "New Yorker" cover. Today, how far she's come. On the cover of "Vogue" three times.

[04:50:03] She's long since found her footing, her causes.


KOSINSKI: By her husband's second term, Michelle emerged much more comfortable in public, polished, but loosening up, in more ways than one.

MICHELLE OBAMA: Turnip, for what? Roses are red, violets are blue, you are the president, and I am your boo.

KOSINSKI: The first lady seemed to not only accept the public eye and the constraints of the White House --

MICHELLE OBAMA: There are prison elements to it. But it's a really nice prison.

KOSINSKI: But to embrace the opportunity to let her voice be heard, including her fashion voice, taking some risks, competing with the best of them and making headlines. Remember the bangs.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We borrowed one of Michelle's tricks.

KOSINSKI: America has seen Michelle Obama, Harvard-educated lawyer and mother, use her humor, her star power, even her viral meme power, occasionally shedding light on what it's like to raise now teenagers in these circumstances.

MICHELLE OBAMA: But we have one who generally stays here and then we have one we call our grumpy cat.

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST: Right, the grumpy cat. Yes?

MICHELLE OBAMA: Our salty biscuit.

KOSINSKI: As her time in office drew down, the once reluctant, now determined first lady drew upon her sweeping popularity to enter the campaign trail as one of the most powerful voices for her party, earning her nickname "The Closer."

MICHELLE OBAMA: I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I've watched my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.

KOSINSKI: She took on Donald Trump's "Access Hollywood" tapes.

MICHELLE OBAMA: It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted. It is cruel. It's frightening. And the truth is, it hurts.

KOSINSKI: Speaking her mind, even after the election.

MICHELLE OBAMA: We're feeling what not having hope feels like, you know?

KOSINSKI: In her final speech as first lady, her emotion raw. She once again urged Americans not to give up, to celebrate diversity, and to use education and talent to better their nation. MICHELLE OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you for everything you do for our

kids and for our country. Being your first lady has been the greatest honor of my life. And I hope I've made you proud.

KOSINSKI (on camera): So does this mean the first lady has come to embrace the public eye and just loves hanging out with and getting to know the press? No, she doesn't do interviews very often. Her staff is extremely protective of her and selective about what she does and when. Post-White House we expect first there will be a vacation. That's the first couple has mentioned many times now is badly needed, and they'll settle into their rented house here in D.C. where they'll stay for at least a couple of years until Sasha finishes high school.

We expect the first lady to keep working on issues she believes in, although she has insisted many times now that she will not run for public office.

Michelle Kosinski, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much for reporting.

Now to a follow-up story that we have been reporting on Kamaya Mobley, the young woman here in the United States who was kidnapped as an infant and only recently found 18 years later. Mobley was taken from a Florida hospital by someone posing as a nurse. She was taken when she was only a few hours old. She met with her birth parents for the first time on Saturday. This is her father, this person you see here. He says that the meeting went well and that he told his daughter that he loved her.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The meeting was beautiful, it was wonderful. It couldn't have gone any better.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did she have to say to you? What's the first thing she said to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was glad to meet us.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you planning to bring her to our city?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it's going to be up to her. Only time will tell. Only one step at a time.


HOWELL: That reunion came after an emotional meeting the previous day when Mobley visited Gloria Williams who raised her. Williams who is in jail. Williams is awaiting a hearing on kidnapping charges.

Well, say it ain't so, the American circus known as the greatest show on earth, it is shutting down for good. Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Show says it is closing more than -- 100-year-old extravaganza, I should say. The last show will happen in May. That circus dropped its elephants as featured performers last year and business suffered significantly.

CEO Kenneth Feld explained the decision, saying, quote, "Ringling Brothers tickets have been declining but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This coupled with high operating costs made the circus an unsustainable business for the company."

[04:55:06] A successful launch and return for a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four, three, two, one, liftoff of Falcon 9.


HOWELL: Wow. It's always so cool to see that. It blasted off from a U.S. Air Force base in California carrying 10 communication satellites. This was the first launch for the private space company since a similar rocket exploded in September. It was followed by a smooth return landing for the rocket's first stage booster. Then glided onto an ocean platform known as the drone ship.

SpaceX and its rivals have been trying to perfect the landing because reusing the rocket is a key to making space travel more affordable.

And from outer space now to your inner peace, this newly-discovered Buddha statue has been sitting undisturbed in a southeastern China reservoir for hundreds of years. Archaeologists say it dates back to China's Ming Dynasty. The top of the Buddha's head appeared when the water level dropped. Wow. Remnants of a temple have also been found below the water.

That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. I'll be back after the break with more news from around the world. Thank you for watching CNN, the world's news leader.