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U.S. Preparing Significant Action Against Iran-Backed Militias; Israel's Defense Minister Hails Military Action in Khan Yunis; U.S. Sanctions Four Israelis Involved in West Bank Attacks; European Union Funds 50 Billion for Ukraine; Ukraine's Top Commander to be Fired by Zelenskyy; Angry Farmers Protest at E.U. Summit; Trump Leads Biden in Latest Polls; Lloyd Austin Admits Fault Over Hospitalization; China Bans And Erases Criticism Of Its Struggling Economy; Items From "The Crown" To Be Auctioned Off In London. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 02:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST: And welcome to all you watching us around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on "CNN Newsroom" --


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're gonna do what's necessary to protect our troops and our interests.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. Defense Secretary promises a multi-tiered response to the drone attack that killed three Americans as their bodies are set to return home to the U.S.

The European Union promises to send more than $50 billion of aid to Ukraine as President Zelenskyy is expected to fire his top military commander.

And farmers across Europe express their anger over regulations and rising costs.

And we begin with the dangerous escalation in the Middle East as Iran and its proxies brace for retaliation and American forces repel new attacks from Houthi rebels in Yemen. A drone and an un-crewed surface vehicle were both destroyed Thursday in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden according to U.S. Central Command.

Iran-backed militants have launched over 160 attacks on U.S. forces since October. And the Pentagon chief has confirmed that a multi- tiered response is coming. Lloyd Austin issued this warning about the escalating attacks in the region.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AUSTIN: This is a dangerous moment in the Middle East. We will continue to work to avoid a wider conflict in the region. But we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our interests, and our people.


BRUNHUBER: Now, in the hours ahead, the bodies of the three American soldiers killed in Jordan are expected to be returned to a U.S. Air Force base during a dignified transfer of remains ceremony.

Israel's defense minister is hailing his forces' progress in southern Gaza. Yoav Gallant met Thursday with Israeli troops in Khan Yunis. He says Hamas has been left severely weakened and the Israeli offensive will continue further south to the city of Rafah.

The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza says more than 27,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, at least 100 just in the last 24 hours. The figures don't distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is leveling sanctions against four Israeli settlers for their violent acts against Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office disputed the need for sanctions, saying quote, "the absolute majority of the settlers in Judea and Samaria are law abiding citizens."

We have CNN's Paul Hancocks standing by live in Abu Dhabi, but we begin with journalist Elliott Gotkine in London. So, Elliott, take us through this move by the U.S. and the reaction.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Kim, it's an unprecedented move by the Biden administration and I suppose it reflects both the pressures that he's under, the president's under in an election year, and given what we've seen with Arab-American voters and young voters increasingly unhappy at the way that it's been supporting Israel in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

And it also reflects frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government for, in the words of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, not doing enough to clamp down on settler violence. And there has been a marked uptick in settler violence since this latest government came into being. And especially since the Hamas-led massacres of October the 7th.

And so, what the Biden administration is doing is they're imposing sanctions on four individuals. They say that these individuals are accused of initiating and leading a riot, setting buildings, fields, and vehicles on fire, assaulting civilians, and damaging property.

Now, some of these individuals have actually already been charged by Israeli authorities, which would lend a bit of credence to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's assertion, his response being that Israel acts against all Israelis who break the law everywhere. Therefore, exceptional measures are unnecessary. So, there is a judicial process going on. And I suppose the other

question is, what is the practical impact going to be on these four individuals, given that they are not American citizens? So, the sanctions mean that they're effectively cut off from the U.S. financial system.

Any assets they have in the U.S. would be frozen and they wouldn't be able to travel to the United States or receive funding from Americans, but it's unclear if there'll be any actual practical impact on these individuals if they don't actually have assets or need to use the financial system in the United States.


And so, what this is likely to do, first of all, it's definitely got the backs of some of Netanyahu's far right colleagues in his coalition. Betzalel Smotrich, the finance minister, saying that this was an anti-Semitic lie to impose sanctions on these individuals.

Now he himself is a settler and a supporter of the settlers as is Benjamin Netanyahu's national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir. And I suppose it's the presence of those ministers and their parties in this coalition government, which appears to have emboldened some settlers in the West, in the Israeli occupied West Bank to carry out violent acts against Palestinians living nearby.

So that's the situation right now. As I say, this is the first round of sanctions on settlers. There could be more to come, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, appreciate the update. Journalist Elliott Gotkine in London. Now, I want go to Paula on the attack against the U.S. forces in Jordan. What more are we hearing about the possible response from the Biden administration?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kim, at this point, we know that it's really up to the final decision. So, U.S. President Joe Biden and the administration do have options in front of them. They are deciding what they should do. We hear from U.S. intelligence, a number of intelligence sources telling CNN that an attack on Iranian soil itself is highly unlikely.

But at this point, we're waiting to see what that response is. Now, the intelligence sources that spoke to CNN also gave an interesting assessment of what they believe is happening in Iran at this point. The U.S. believes that it was the Islamic resistance in Iraq that was responsible for this attack. It's an Iranian-funded, equipped, trained group, an umbrella group, which has a number of different groups beneath it.

And there's a belief in the intelligence community that Tehran may have been caught by surprise by this attack and that they may be worried about the control they have over their own proxies. Now, these intelligence officials do also say they don't believe that Iran and Tehran will be changing its tactics anytime soon. The official U.S. line has been that Tehran welcomes this distraction to U.S. and coalition troops. But there is also an assumption that Tehran does not want direct

combatants with the United States and certainly that's something we have heard consistently from Washington as well. They do not want direct contact militarily with Tehran.

But when it comes to these proxy groups, these Iranian-funded groups, there's been more than 160 attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and in Syria since October, so since the war in Gaza. And certainly, there was a concern that there could be loss of life given the sheer number of these attacks and that's exactly what we saw last Sunday when three U.S. personnel were killed and dozens more were injured. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right, Paula Hancocks in Abu Dhabi. Thank you so much.

Ukraine has released dramatic video showing the alleged sinking of a Russian warship off the coast of Crimea. Ukrainian military intelligence says the guided missile ship took multiple hits overnight Wednesday into Thursday before reportedly going under. Russia isn't commenting yet.

Now, this is the latest in a series of Ukrainian strikes on the Russian Black Sea fleet which keeps (inaudible) hinders Moscow's ground operations.

European Union leaders say the ball is now in Washington's court after Brussels unlocked more than $50 billion in aid for Ukraine. On Thursday, E.U. leaders managed to bring Hungary on board, whose Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has been stonewalling the funding for weeks. Next week, the U.S. Senate is set to vote on a separate $60 billion package for Ukraine, which is held up in Congress. And Washington now faces new calls to act. Listen to this.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: I think we have proven today by these 50 billion euros that we stand by Ukraine. And I think it will be an encouragement for the United States also to do their fair share.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Europe today sends a signal across the Atlantic and the world all over that the international rules-based world order will withstand all challenges. Europe sets the tone for global affairs with its unity.


BRUNHUBER: Well, speculation is mounting in Ukraine about a reported plan to fire its top military commander. Sources told CNN General Valerii Zaluzhny already knows he's on his way out, and President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to make it official by the end of the week. Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukraine's charismatic president apparently engaging in some palace intrigue amid tensions with his top commander on the battlefield.


Two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN Volodymyr Zelensky is pushing out his popular army chief, Valerii Zaluzhny, after Zaluzhny was called to a meeting at the president's office on Monday.

Zelensky's spokesman denies that Zaluzhny is being fired, but sources tell CNN a presidential decree could come within days. It would be the biggest military shakeup by Zelensky since Russia's full-scale invasion almost two years ago. The reasons? Analysts say it could be a political move.

HENRY HALE, PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: The possibility that Zaluzhny could be a presidential candidate sometime in the future, and he's the only person in Ukraine right now that potentially rivals Zelensky in public trust ratings.

TODD (voice-over): Why is the 50-year-old Zaluzhny so popular in Ukraine?

HALE: He was the military leader of when Ukraine rebuffed Russia's all-out invasion of Ukraine back in February of 2022. He was able not only to save Kyiv and mobilize the national defense, but also to push back on a lot of Russian military advances.

TODD (voice-over): Aside from the politics, experts also say Zelensky could be simply holding Zaluzhny accountable for the fact that Ukraine's counteroffensive launched last year has not gone as well as many had hoped.

KEITH DARDEN, PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: This is a way for Zelensky not to take the blame for the lack of progress in the war over the last year.

TODD (voice-over): Zaluzhny even described the war as a stalemate in a November essay in "The Economist" magazine, which was said to have displeased Zelensky and his circle. In a new opinion piece for CNN, Zaluzhny wrote that Ukraine has to adapt to getting less military aid and rely more on technology in the war. Who could replace Zaluzhny as army chief? Two candidates are prominently mentioned.

Ukraine's land forces commander, General Oleksandr Syrsky and Kyrylo Budanov, the young, ambitious head of the Defense Intelligence Directorate, who just spoke to CNN's Frederick Pleitgen about his plans to strike inside Russia.

KYRYLO BUDANOV, HEAD, UKRAINE'S DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE DIRECTORATE (through translation): I believe the plan includes all major critical infrastructure facilities and military infrastructure facilities of the Russian Federation.

TODD (voice-over): According to "The Washington Post," Budanov's plans to strike at Moscow last year made U.S. officials nervous. Ukrainian officials say the Russians have tried to assassinate Budanov at least 10 times. Recently, Budanov's wife and bodyguards became ill from what Ukrainian officials said was a poisoning.

DARDEN: I think that the Russians see him as a capable military leader, as a threat, and they've tried to take him out.

TODD (on camera): What are the biggest, most immediate concerns for Ukraine's next army chief? The analysts we spoke to say he'll have to make some crucial decisions regarding the upcoming springtime phase of the war. He'll have to inspire confidence among the Ukrainian people. And he'll have to not be seen as a political plant of the Volodymyr Zelensky. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: For more analysis, we're joined by Mick Ryan, a retired major general of the Australian Army and the author of the book "War Transformed." He's speaking with us from Brisbane, Australia. Thanks so much for being here with us. So first off, what do you make of this possible move? I mean, it didn't come out of nowhere exactly.

MICK RYAN, RETIRED AUSTRALIAN ARMY: No, it's been a tension between Zaluzhny and Zelensky for some time indeed. One of my visits 18 months ago, the commander-in-chief had been forbidden from speaking publicly without presidential permission.

But my sense is this is less about Zelensky's fears about a Zaluzhny presidency and more about holding someone accountable for 2023's failures, as well as just wanting new and different kinds of strategic advice from a military leader.

BRUNHUBER: All right, so I want to ask you about the possible impact here. How disruptive might this be for Ukraine if indeed it did happen?

RYAN: Well, certainly it will upset a lot of people who regard Zaluzhny very highly. But at the end of the day, generals in military institutions are designed to be replaced. It's just finding the right one to replace him. There are a couple of contenders who are out there publicly. There may be others that we don't know about.

At the end of the day, Zaluzhny is a professional soldier and he will facilitate a handover with his replacement in a pretty professional manner.

BRUNHUBER: So, a replacement, I mean, what effect might it have on Ukraine's relations with its allies, especially the U.S., either real or in terms of the perception of the Ukrainian government's instability here?

RYAN: I think this is more a perceptions issue. I think there are people potentially in the U.S. Congress and other countries who see this civil military tension as a reason to not give Ukraine aid. Civil military tensions are pretty normal in peacetime and wartime in democracies. And I don't really see this as out of the norm.

At the end of the day, whoever replaces Zaluzhny will have an enormous amount of goodwill from Western military leaders and they'll be helping him settle into the new job if that happens.


BRUNHUBER: I mean, they'll be getting goodwill. There's been plenty of glee from Moscow judging from the reactions so far, right?

RYAN: Absolutely. This is a propaganda gift to Moscow, and they'll be using it for all it's worth. But at the end of the day, this is pretty normal in democracies in wartime. There's any number of these kind of civil military crises, but it'll be resolved because at the end of the day, the civilians are in charge, and it's Zelensky's gift to pick his commander-in-chief.

BRUNHUBER: Zaluzhny did say Ukraine may have to get used to getting by with less aid. I want to get your thoughts on this and the aid that it did just get from the E.U.

RYAN: Well, it just got that large package from the E.U., but we should recall that's over a three-year period. So, it's not all coming at once. So, it's not like it's a massive influx of aid that's going to arrive tomorrow. Ukraine is also waiting on a potential military assistance package from the United States. That's yet to be approved.

So, it's only prudent military planning that Ukraine get used to less foreign aid, but at the same time build up its own indigenous defense industrial capacity.

BRUNHUBER: And finally, last word on Zaluzhny. I mean, I know you're an admirer of his in a way, too early now to say how history will judge him, but your thoughts on his tenure.

RYAN: I think he's been an amazing commander at a very difficult time. He anticipated the Russian invasion. He made some appropriate judgments and movements in the days beforehand. And he's done a good job at welding together the people, the Soviet-era equipment, NATO equipment, overseas support, and these kinds of things.

But at the end of the day, if the president wants a change in direction and a change in military strategy, it's his right to change out his commander-in-chief.

BRUNHUBER: All right, we'll leave it there. I always appreciate your analysis. Major General Mick Ryan, thanks so much.

RYAN: Thank you.

BRUNHUBER: Still ahead, as European leaders descend on Brussels on Thursday, so too did hundreds of angry farmers, tractors in tow. Their frustration towards E.U. leaders and their long list of grievances. We'll bring you that next. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: In Kenya, a huge fireball engulfed several houses, businesses and vehicles overnight after a truck loaded with gas exploded in the capital city of Nairobi. Officials say at least two people were killed and more than 200 were injured. Authorities are warning people to stay away from the area to avoid disrupting rescue operations at the scene.

Two of France's major farming unions are calling on their members to end their blockades. Now, a change in strategy comes after the French Prime Minister announced a raft of new measures aimed at supporting farmers and addressing their grievances. CNN's Melissa Bell has the latest from Paris.



MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Italy to Greece, Portugal and France, the anger of farmers has grown and spread. Reaching now all the way to the heart of the E.U. Too restrictive, they say, in terms of regulations, but with little to protect them from unfair competition especially for duty-free Ukrainian meat. Calls for action forcing themselves onto the agenda of leaders gathered in Brussels to discuss aid to Ukraine.

UNKNOWN (through translation): We are asking the leaders to review their laws. They talk about being greener, but if that happens, then there will be land which isn't worked anymore and it's difficult enough as it is.

BELL (voice-over): Concerns echoed by farmers in France who've reached the edge of Paris where the police have drawn a line.

EMMANUEL MATHE, FRENCH FARMER (through translation): We can't earn a living. We're subject to enormous constraints and there are products coming in from outside Europe that compete with us without having to apply the same rules that we're obligated to in order to produce.

BELL (on camera): Scenes like these have been playing out across the European Union, and whilst the grievances are fairly distinctive from country to country, what unites the farmers across the E.U. is in the end frustration with Brussels, the red tape and bureaucracy, regulations that it imposes, and the facts say the farmers that it doesn't protect them sufficiently from competition from outside the E.U.

SEBASTIEN ABIS, FRENCH INSTITUTE FOR INTERNAL & STRATEGIC AFFAIRS (through translation): Why is it that we tell a European farmer that he cannot produce like this, but we allow food products to enter the European market which costs less? They have to produce food and increasingly they have to offer bioenergy and bioeconomy. They have to keep in mind the environment, the landscape and sometimes regulations and standards. Not all measures are compatible or convergent.

BELL (voice-over): The anger has spread across the E.U. and beyond the disruption now represents a political threat, with European elections just a few months away and leaders rushing to announce concessions.

GABRIEL ATTAL, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translation): Our livestock farmers need specific support. That's why I'm announcing that we're allocating 150 million euros to them in tax and social support starting this year and continuing on a permanent basis.

BELL (voice-over): Yet so far little has calmed the farmers united across Europe in their anger at Brussels which they say is killing their livelihoods. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


BRUNHUBER: A new CNN poll shows former President Donald Trump narrowly ahead of President Joe Biden. Forty-nine percent of registered voters in the survey conducted by SSRS backed Trump, and 45 percent backed Biden. Trump's lead is slightly larger than the margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent. Now, that same group backed Nikki Haley over President Biden in a hypothetical matchup by a much larger margin, 52 percent to 39 percent.

Meanwhile, Biden got an enthusiastic reception at a United Auto Workers Training Center in Michigan. Last week, the UAW endorsed the president. On Thursday, he met with union members at a phone canvassing bank for his campaign ahead of the state's Democratic primary on February 27th. He told them that the country's current economic strength relies on organized labor. Here he is.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We now have, in large part because of you and organized labor, the strongest economy in the whole damn world. We do.


BRUNHUBER: Well, Republican Nikki Haley was also on the campaign trail Thursday. She told a South Carolina crowd that she has no plans to drop out of the race, even if she comes in second in the Republican primary later this month.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is taking responsibility after failing to disclose his prostate cancer treatment and hospitalization to the president and senior officials sooner. CNN's Oren Liebermann has more.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 10:30 in the morning, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin walked into the Pentagon briefing room. He moved slowly, visibly limping. In his opening remarks, Austin took full responsibility for the lack of transparency around his prostate cancer diagnosis and hospitalization.

AUSTIN: We did not handle this right and I did not handle this right. I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public. And I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people. LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Austin last took questions from the media on

board the USS Gerald R. Ford more than a month ago. It was two days before he first went to the hospital. He says his diagnosis with prostate cancer shook him and he didn't want to burden others with his problems.

AUSTIN: It was a gut punch. And frankly, my first instinct was to keep it private.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Austin was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center on New Year's Day for complications from the procedure on December 22nd. In a 911 call, an aide asked for discretion.

UNKNOWN (via telephone): Can I ask, can an ambulance not show up with lights and sirens? We're trying to remain a little subtle.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Austin says there was no order given to keep the hospitalization secret.

AUSTIN: To answer your question on whether or not I directed my staff to conceal my hospitalization from anyone else, the answer is no.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Austin says he apologized directly to President Joe Biden for not telling him about his diagnosis, but he says he didn't consider resigning. On January 8th, Austin's chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, ordered a 30-day review of notification procedures.

(On camera): The 30-day review is due in a matter of days now; I think less than a week if I'm not mistaken. Do you commit to making that review public?

AUSTIN: I commit to being as transparent as possible. There will be elements of this that are classified. But we're committed to sharing as much as possible as soon as possible.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Austin's press conference comes as the administration promises to respond to a drone attack Sunday that killed three U.S. service members in Jordan, as well as more than 165 other attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East.

The White House said it holds Iran ultimately responsible for arming and supplying the militias that have launched the attacks. The U.S. has promised a multi-phased response, one that officials say will be more powerful than previous strikes in Iraq and Syria.

AUSTIN: I don't think the adversaries are of a one and done mindset. And so, they have a lot of capability. I have a lot more.

LIEBERMANN (on camera): Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made it clear that a U.S. response is coming against the Iranian-backed militias that have carried out strikes on U.S. forces in the region, including the attack on Sunday that killed three U.S. service members and wounded scores more. Though he wouldn't say exactly what that attack would look like. He did say that the U.S. has already taken away capabilities from these militias, and now it's time to take away more of those capabilities. Oren Liebermann, CNN in the Pentagon.


BRUNHUBER: Government censors in China working overtime to paint a picture of a strong economy by erasing any signs online that things aren't going well. We'll have details after the break.



BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all you watching us all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is "CNN Newsroom." North Korea appears to be strengthening its naval force. State media says, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stressed war preparations and maritime defense while visiting a shipyard. His visit comes as Pyongyang claims it's testing a new submarine launching cruise missile.

And only two weeks ago, North Korea said successfully tested an underwater nuclear capable drone. The leader praised the shipyard, saying it would play an important preparation role for a, quote, new huge plan. He didn't elaborate.

China says its economy was strong and healthy in 2023, but was it really? China is cracking down on any suggestion to the contrary, erasing Internet posts showing the economy, the stock market, and the real estate industry are all struggling.

CNN's Ivan Watson has the story.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The world's second-largest economy had a tough year in 2023. Now, one of Beijing's answers to the challenge, ban and erase criticism of it. In December, China's ministry of state security issued this order: resolutely crack down and punish illegal criminal activities that endanger national security in the economic security field.

Apparently that includes disappearing negative commentary from the already heavily censored Chinese Internet.

On December 1st, this prominent economic professor Liu Jipeng advised people not to invest in the falling Chinese stock market.

Now, all of professor Liu's social media accounts are frozen. And when you click to follow him, you get this message, which translates -- it is forbidden to follow this user due to their violation of relevant rules.

CNN found similar freezes temporarily imposed on at least five other Chinese economic analysts. Also removed from the Internet, this documentary highlighting economic

hardship among Chinese migrant workers.

PROF. STEVE TSANG, AUTHOR, "POLITICAL THOUGHT OF XI JINPING": I think it Chinese economy is at a cliff edge, at the moment. I don't think it has started falling off the cliff yet, but it's getting into a point where things can get much more difficult.

WATSON: Officially, the Chinese economy grew by more than 5 percent last year, but the country's youth unemployment rate keeps hitting record highs. Then there's China's all important real estate sector, which along with related industries, used to make up 30 percent of the Chinese economy.

This is the Hong Kong office of the biggest symbol of China's real estate crisis, Evergrande. Until two years ago, this company was the largest homebuilder in China, employing some 200,000 people. Then the company defaulted on its debt and now a court here in Hong Kong has ordered the liquidation of Evergrande.

Across the country, protests as angry new homebuyers demand completion of unfinished homes that they've already paid for. Perhaps the only other sector gloomier is the country's stock market. In the past three years, the combined Chinese stock market lost more than $6 trillion.

MR. TANG, BEIJING RESIDENT: I haven't made any money out of the stock market at all, so I sold all my stocks.

WATSON: The Chinese economy is strong and it will be stronger, says this Beijing resident.

Perhaps Xi got the message from this recent meeting of the country's top propaganda officials. Their order, amplify bright prospects of the economy as China heads into 2024.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


BRUNHUBER: Well, it's Messi mania in Hong Kong. Lionel Messi and the inter Miami team are now in Hong Kong as part of Miami's first ever international tour. A welcome ceremony and photo ops were held at the Hong Kong International Airport on the team's arrival. They'll play a friendly match with a special invited Hong Kong team on Sunday.

Protesters and police clashed outside Argentina's Congress as lawmakers debated the presence controversial and wide ranging reforms package. Security forces used tear gas and water cannon to clear out protesters in Buenos Aires on Thursday. Workers unions, human rights groups, and left-wing political members are among those opposed the bill known as the omnibus measures include economic austerity, privatization of public institutions, weakening labor protections, as well as increasing the president's power.

President Javier Milei says it's necessary to tackle the country's economic crisis. And while controversial, a recent poll shows 42 percent of the population supports the reforms, and 51 percent opposes.


All right, still to come, how would you like to own a piece of royalty? Your chance to buy some iconic costumes and props from TV's "The Crown" is coming up soon. We'll have details after the break. Please stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Well, if you're a fan of the Netflix show, "The Crown", you could soon get a chance to own a piece of the series. That's because some of the costumes, artwork, furniture, and other props will be auctioned off in London next week.

Here's CNN's Richard Quest.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As I wander through the collection from the series, "The Crown", I can't but help feel a sense of deja vu.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God save the Queen. In days of disillusion. However low we've been. To fire us and inspire us. God gave to us our Queen.

CHARLIE THOMAS, HEAD OF PRIVATE COLLECTIONS, BONHAMS: What's so brilliant about this, it does work. If you've got some horses you can strap them to it and off you go. It's under good authority. This is far more comfortable and you know why.

QUEST: Oh. Did the rituals right now. Here we go.

THOMAS: So it's very well sprung.

QUEST: Yes. So this is -- oh, it's a bit bouncy, isn't it? Which is a lot more than the original. Now who is going to buy this? And for what purpose do you think?

THOMAS: Yes. I mean, I can imagine this in a theme park. I can imagine it as an exhibition in a museum. I can imagine it going to Las Vegas.

So the costumes play a really, really important part in the sale and the exhibition. And this is, this costume here, for example, is possibly one of the most popular in this exhibition. It's of course the dress inspired by the revenge dress.

QUEST: The estimate?

THOMAS: Eight to twelve thousand. But it's just an iconic, iconic dress and, you know, the real one is unlikely coming to market. So why not buy this one?

So this is rather lovely. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She recovered quickly for one last wave.

THOMAS: This is bigger.

QUEST: So it's wider.

THOMAS: They scaled it up because John Lithgow, who played Winston Churchill, is so much taller than Winston Churchill was. So that is the level of detail that they went.

So I think this is one of the important in auction sales. So this is the model that Imelda Staunton comes in in season six, and when she comes face-to-face with her funeral model.


Her scene, I hope it's great to museum. I mean, it is -- you know, this is true to life as well. It was in the show. But this was made after the Queen's royal funeral.

QUEST: The sale of the crowns, artifacts, knick-knacks, and memorabilia will be another test of just how successful and popular was the TV show.

Now we have the chance to own our own little bit of royal and television history.

Richard Quest, CNN, on their way to Buckingham Palace. Drive on.


BRUNHUBER: Well, here's something you don't see every day. Police in Australia were called to help bust a toddler out of a claw machine he was able to crawl into. Now authorities say three year-old Ethan climbs through the machines, dispenser to get his hands on a prize. Well, Queensland police officers asked him to move to the back of the bin and to cover his eyes so that's like a break the glass and set little Ethan free and get him back into the arms of his family.

There's no word if he was able to get a prize in the end.

Well, Sesame Street's Elmo is speaking out about the tremendous responses he got online when he asked a question we ask each other all the time. He posted: Elmo is just checking in. How is everybody doing? On Thursday, the free read muffet told CNN how he felt about the experience.


ELMO: You know Elmo is not really sure. Elmo was surprised because Elmo didn't realize that when you ask someone how they're doing you have to be ready because maybe someone's not doing well or maybe somebody is. But it's an important question to ask, and Elmo has learned a lot about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER: Elmo's question led to some heartwarming comments and conversations about emotional health and the importance of checking in with friends and family, and Elmo had some advice about what you can do and you're not feeling great. Here it is.


ELMO: You know, one of the things that you were just talking about was belly breathing, which is a really important strategy. That's a big word that Elmo just learned, a strategy, and it's belly breathing. So what you do is you put your hands on your belly and you breathe in through your nose like this. And then you breathe out through your mouth slowly like this. And that really helps to make you feel calm and sort of get centered and relaxed.


BRUNHUBER: Great advice. Thanks, Elmo.

And thank you for joining us. I'm Kim Brunhuber. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. I'll be back with more news in about 15 minutes.