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Putin And Xi Speak Via Video, Putin Says Relations Are Best In History; Santos' Claims About Mother And 9/11 Face Scrutiny Amid Other Lies; U.S. House Bans TikTok From All Of Its Electronic Devices. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 30, 2022 - 05:30   ET




VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Which helps ensure our country's security and maintains stability in key regions. We intend to strengthen cooperation between the armed forces -- the Russia and China.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Now, of course, the two nations are, when it comes to the geopolitical front, aligned in terms of those tensions with the West. And that was certainly the message once again from President Putin, saying that the two nations and the relations and cooperation between Russia and China would serve as what he described as a stabilizing factor with the backdrop of increased geopolitical tensions.

He also went on to say that this would serve the goal of creating a fair new world order. So clearly there, a clear emphasis on deepening those relations.

President Xi, for his part, according to Russian state media, said China is ready to increase military cooperation with Russia. And, of course, as we heard from President Putin, he has now extended an official invitation to President Xi to visit Moscow in the spring.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Nada Bashir. Thank you.

In Cambodia this morning, the death toll in that huge hotel and casino fire has climbed to 24. Search teams are now finding the remains of people trapped inside the building.

CNN's Manisha Tank is live in Singapore. Manisha -- I mean, the search and rescue here just has to be completely horrific. The search teams are back out this morning. So what are the continued challenges for those teams?

MANISHA TANK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've been dealing, Whitney, with this horrible, mangled wreckage of a hotel and some really -- it's a really ominous task for search and rescue teams in a situation like this.

What emerged very early on during this fire was that the electric in the hotel shut down, and that meant that key card systems that we're all familiar with at hotels -- they actually stopped working. This meant that people were trapped in their rooms. And so, they've had to go blow-by-blow through each of these rooms to look for the missing. And we know that is one of the reasons the death toll has increased is because they have been finding people who would have died as a result of smoke inhalation.

We also know that at least two people died when they jumped out of windows from the burning building when it was engulfed by this fire that started on the lower level and very swiftly moved up. There is some indication, according to local officials, that potentially, it was high winds as well overnight that resulted in this fire absolutely ravaging this facility.

What happens now remains a little bit unclear. We are at this actual time, with our teams, in the area trying to discern whether that search and rescue effort is going to continue.

There are indications, though -- and, of course, the families that have lost loved ones want to know what caused this fire. We know that the Cambodian government has set up a committee that will investigate this. And so, now the focus is shifting a little bit to answering some of the most important questions around this. The how and the why, Whitney.

WILD: Manisha Tank, thank you.

All right, some quick headlines from around the world now.

The Pentagon says a Chinese fighter jet intercepted a U.S. aircraft using what it called an unsafe maneuver over the South China Sea. The U.S. says the American pilot had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.

The European Union is rejecting Italy's calls for member countries to follow its lead mandating COVID tests for travelers arriving from China. Spain, this morning, also announced mandatory tests for arrivals from China.

A professor in Afghanistan tore up his diplomas live on television to protest the Taliban's recently announced ban on educating women. The Kabul University lecturer had tears in his eyes and said if his mother and sister can't study, then he won't accept his own education.

New accusations of false claims against New York congressman-elect George Santos. State and federal prosecutors already investigating his finances. Now, he's facing questions about what he said after his mother's death.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more.


PROTESTERS: Shame! Shame! Shame!

CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scrutiny is intensifying around congressman-elect George Santos.

CHUCK LAVINE, (D) NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY: You're watching this slow George Santos train wreck take place.

SERFATY (voice-over): Federal prosecutors in New York opening an investigation into Santos' finances with big questions over how the Republican made his money, and that $700,000 he loaned to his 2022 campaign.

Locally, Santos is facing another probe from the Nassau County district attorney's office, calling "The numerous fabrications and inconsistencies nothing short of stunning."

GEORGE SANTOS, (R) NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did, and I'm sorry and it shouldn't be done.

SERFATY (voice-over): And tonight, new questions over Santos' statement about 9/11 having a role in his mother's death.

In this tweet last year, Santos writes, "9/11 claimed my mother's life."

SANTOS: She was in the South Tower and she made it out. She got caught up in the ash cloud. My mom fought cancer till her death."


SERFATY (voice-over): His mother died 15 years after 9/11 in 2016. Santos' campaign says she passed away when she lost her battle with cancer. Many first responders and survivors developed health conditions after the terror attack. But it is not clear if his mother was in the World Trade Center during the attack and representatives for Santos have not yet clarified.

This just adding to the whole slew of new fabrications unearthed by CNN's KFILE --

SANTOS: They sent me to a good prep school, so I -- which was Horace Mann Prep in the Bronx.

SERFATY (voice-over): -- including Santos' claim to have attended an elite private school in New York when he did not.

That he represented Goldman Sachs and spoke out against them at a financial conference he never attended.

That he used his mother's Jewish name Zabrovsky when there is no evidence of that name in his family tree, and claimed his mother immigrated from Europe when she was born in Brazil.

SANTOS: Now, it's going to be incumbent upon me to deliver on those results. And I look forward to servicing --


SANTOS: -- and serving my people -- my district.

SERFATY (voice-over): As Santos attempts to move forward to Capitol Hill --

SANTOS: I'm not a criminal. I committed absolutely no crimes.

SERFATY (voice-over): -- a legal road ahead for him could be treacherous --


SERFATY (voice-over): -- as the federal probe zeroes in on his finances.

HONIG: If you intentionally make a false statement about your assets or anything else that matters, that, too, could be a federal false statements crime.

SERFATY (voice-over): Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, Washington.


WILD: Sunlen, thank you for that.

So, let's bring in senior political correspondent from The New York -- for The New Republic, Daniel Strauss.

So, Daniel, you just wrote a story that sort of broke down how it happened. That this information didn't come out until basically too late -- until after the election. And one of the things that you point out in your story is that some of the opposition -- the people who were handling the opposition research said that people just didn't seem very interested in these -- in these stories and that there was a lot more interest in this narrative that there were two gay candidates.

And I just wonder if you might expand upon that a little bit. What does it say about the state of journalism? What does it say about the state of local newsrooms?

DANIEL STRAUSS, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW REPUBLIC (via Skype): I mean, I think the bigger indication here is that this is an example of what happens when there are fewer local newsrooms and there are fewer local investigative journalists.

The narrative through most of this campaign cycle was on election interference and election denialism, which is not an unimportant thing. But the holes in George Santos' resume did not match or fit into that narrative and there really weren't enough aggressive newsrooms in this -- in and around this district to uncover this until after he was elected to Congress. WILD: It takes a lot of commitment in newsrooms. I mean, I came up through local news. I worked in newsrooms where there really was a commitment to that. I mean, KUSA in Denver, where I worked -- we had someone who was committed to fact-checking. The same thing was true at WUSA-9 where I worked here in Washington.

Newsrooms have to commit to having at least one person who is solely responsible for doing that because you can't let up. You can't take your eye off the ball and then -- I mean, look what happens.

One question I have is how did it happen that it was later on that the national media did start to pick up? What was the catalyst for starting to dig in a little bit more -- at least the level -- at the level of The New York Times?

STRAUSS: I mean, look, the timing was a little odd but it was the times in the weeks after the election. These were both by reporters who are incredibly seasoned in New York and New York beat reporting.

But I really also want to go over one other thing here. Like, these are -- the holes in his resume are not just sort of inconsequential biographical tidbits. These are possibly major campaign finance violations. These are -- I mean, just -- I've never seen anything like this. I've never seen someone fabricate on this level -- just everything.

I'm not really clear at this point what he said that's actually true because every -- because day in and day out we keep learning that he did not go to a prep school. Did not go to Baruch College. Did not work for elite financial companies.

The big question that still is unclear right now is where he got this huge amount of money that he was throwing around only a few years after he was living in a group house in Queens.

WILD: Absolutely. And that's the question, especially when you're asking people to give you money. At what point are you just committing outright fraud? And it's a fine line when you're talking about the political landscape here because the reality is that there is a lot of embellishment in politics. But at what point does that become just a full-blown fraud when you're lying about who you are and accepting other people's money in doing that? So that's the big question.

Daniel Strauss, your story is so interesting. I hope everybody reads it because it's really illuminating. Again, another reminder of why local news matters. Thank you so much, Daniel.


STRAUSS: Thanks.

WILD: Inflation has made almost everything more expensive, but there are some items that actually cost a little bit less.

And, how an app can help your -- how can an app potentially be targeting your kids. That story, next. (COMMERCIAL)

WILD: Welcome back to EARLY START.

The U.S. House of Representatives has officially banned TikTok from all of its electronic devices, calling the Chinese-owned app a security risk. And that's according to an internal memo. The U.S. government also expected to ban TikTok from all federal devices.

Here is CNN's Josh Campbell with more.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beyond the overnight sensations and viral four-legged superstars, a potential threat to U.S. national security. This, according to a growing number of federal and state officials.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: We, the FBI, do have national security concerns about the app.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): The app, the popular global social media giant TikTok, which now boasts more than a billion users.

WRAY: Its parent company is controlled by the Chinese government.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): The director of the FBI spoke at the University of Michigan this month. He says one key threat is the Chinese government's ability to potentially control the platform's algorithm.

WRAY: ...which allows them to manipulate content and engage -- if they want to, to use it for influence operations.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): And the potential threat, officials say, also includes data collection and espionage.

AVRIL HAINES, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It's extraordinary, the degree to which China, in particular -- but they're not the only ones, obviously -- are developing just frameworks for collecting foreign data.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Even in a politically polarized America the Chinese Communist Party's influence in the digital space has garnered increasingly bipartisan concern.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): TikTok is an enormous threat. They can visualize even down to your keystrokes.


REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): The question we have to ask is whether we want to give the CCP the ability to track our location, track what websites we visit even when we're not using the TikTok app itself.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): TikTok says they have been negotiating with the U.S. government on a potential deal to resolve the national security concerns that could include, quote, "content recommendation and moderation and data security access."

Despite those claims, federal legislators have taken action, this week, banning the app from devices used by employees of the U.S. House.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley spearheaded an effort to ban the app from all U.S. government devices. And On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed legislation making the ban law.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: TikTok should not be present on any devices that have -- that are sitting in the hands of the people that we trust to run the government.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): And it's not just Washington. Wednesday, the governor of Kansas barred TikTok from state-owned devices, the latest in a series of state leaders who have vowed to rid their systems of the app.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: It's off our networks. It's blocked off of our servers. Anybody who uses any of our systems no longer will be able to download or utilize this app because of the national security threat that it is. It will be a criminal offense if they do.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM, (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks to the people of this state.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Despite the warnings from the Intelligence Community, some elected leaders across the country continue to maintain a presence on the social media giant, like California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, high priority.

NEWSOM: Thank you very much. Thank you.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): His office did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

Still, the warning from U.S. intelligence leaders remains stark.

WILLIAMS BURNS, DIRECTOR, CIA: It's genuinely troubling to see what the Chinese government could do to manipulate TikTok.

CAMPBELL (on camera): Now, for those who might be thinking who cares if a foreign government is spying on me watching dog videos on TikTok, cybersecurity experts say the vulnerabilities go far beyond the app itself and that you should only download apps from companies that you trust. Because any software you put on your smartphone could open up that device to tampering.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WILD: Yes, and that's really the important thing. Josh, thank you so much for explaining that because that's truly the big takeaway here.

All right. Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," tributes are pouring in for Brazilian soccer legend Pele.

And next, right here, brick-and-mortar stores not dead yet. Companies are opening new stores in the new year. We'll tell you which.



WILD: Inflation has made a lot of things more expensive in 2022, but not everything.

CNN's retail reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn is here. Nathaniel, what got cheaper?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Right, Whitney. So there were a few things that did get cheaper this year.

A good year to buy T.V.s. T.V.s down 17 percent in November from a year ago. We also see a good year to buy a dishwasher or appliances, down one percent from a year ago. And then, some clothing got cheaper. Boys' clothing down 1.7 percent, and then women's jackets and outerwear down two percent from a year ago.

WILD: All right. And then, for the things that got more expensive in 2023 (sic), is that going to slide back down -- excuse me, in 2022 -- things that got more expensive in 2022, will those prices slide back down in 2023, or is this just going to be the status quo?

MEYERSOHN: Well, let's hope because food -- a tough year to go grocery shopping. Food down (sic) 10.6 percent. Eggs down (sic) nearly 50 percent from a year ago. There was a terrible bird flu, and so that drove up the prices of eggs.

Plane tickets, up 36 percent. People were back on planes. They were revenge spending for travel, so that's why plane tickets were more expensive.

And then, a tough year if you owned a pet. Pet accessories and pets up 13 percent.

WILD: And then, real quick before we let you go, brick-and-mortar stores coming back. Who is opening their doors?

MEYERSOHN: Right. So, brick-and-mortar stores aren't dead yet.

We see Dollar General opening up more than 1,000 stores next year. Tremendous growth from the Dollar Stores. We've seen that over the past decade.

Five Below, the discount toy store, opening up 237 stores, filling a void left by Toys "R" Us -- the bankruptcy a few years ago. And then, Barnes & Noble -- Barnes & Noble making a comeback here,

opening about 30 stores next year, including two stores that were in locations formerly occupied by Amazon Books. So that's a role reversal there.

There are some stores that are going to be closing. CVS is closing about 300 stores. You think about CVS -- there's a drugstore on nearly every corner. You don't need that during this era of online shopping.

And then, Bed Bath & Beyond -- Bed Bath & Beyond is on bankruptcy watch. They could file for bankruptcy next year. They're closing 100 stores in 2023. Bed Bath & Beyond has just gotten crushed by competition -- Amazon, Walmart, Target -- so it could be a tough year for them.

WILD: All right, Nathaniel Meyersohn. I don't think anybody had Barnes & Noble on their brick-and-mortar bingo card. Nathaniel, thank you.

All right. Southwest Airlines says it should be back to normal today. We'll check in on that.

And the growing COVID outbreak in China. Why some countries are imposing new travel restrictions, but some are not. That, next.



WILD: The NFL Playoffs are just a few weeks away and the Dallas Cowboys heating up at just the right time.

Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report. Coy, how do they look?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, looking pretty good. Last night it was looking rough, though, Whitney. It's not how you start, it's how you finish, right?

And there was no better example of that than the Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott having a rough first half on the road against the Titans. He turned the ball over three times, including back-to- back interceptions. Prescott now has a career-high 14 of them this year, tying him with the now-benched Raiders quarterback Derek Carr for most in the NFL. And Dak's even missed five games due to injury.

But he comes back and totally redeems himself, throwing two touchdowns in the second half -- both of them to tight end Dalton Schultz from Stanford University.

Dallas wins 27-13 for their first back-to-back 12-win season since '95. The last time they did that they won the Super Bowl.

After this game, Prescott was not about to make any apologies for his slow start.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAK PRESCOTT, DALLAS COWBOYS QUARTERBACK: A win's a win and we're going to take it. And we're going to get better from the mistakes and we're going to make sure that we're improving. But a road win, short week -- you've got to take them all. And the style points and all that -- that's for you all who think games are won on paper.


WIRE: Can anybody stop that man? Mavericks star Luka Doncic, two days after recording the first 60-point, 20-rebound triple-double in NBA history, he shows up again with another triple-double -- this time, 35 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds against the Rockets as Dallas ran its winning streak to a season-best five games. And he did it all before the end of the third quarter.

The superstar scoring an NBA record 95 points in the consecutive triple-double.

The NBA handing out a total of 11 suspensions after Wednesday night's altercation between the Magic and the Pistons. Detroit guard Killian Hayes and Orlando's Moe Wagner were each given multi-game suspensions for their roles in the dust-up. Pistons Hamidou Diallo and eight Magic players were each suspended for a game. Orlando will have to stagger those suspensions, though, so they have enough players available for their next game.

The Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, some of the city's pride and joy, have raised a combined $300,000 to help those hurting in the wake of the devastating blizzard that's taken the lives of more than three dozen people.

Players are stepping up, too. Bills linebacker A.J. Klein helping neighbors clear roadways, along with other players.

They're showing gratitude, as well, for those in the community who have taken food to those who have run out because the grocery stores have been closed.

Star quarterback Josh Allen says it's hard to find the right words to describe what's happening there.

And, Florida State earnings its first 10-win season since 2016, beating Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl. This game was so good I can't even bear it.

Fifty-five seconds to go, a 32-yard field goal for Florida State's Ryan Fitzgerald is gooda. That gives them the lead. Then, defensive end Jared Verse sealing it, sacking Sooners Dillon Gabriel, making it look cheesy.

The best part of the Cheez-It bowl, though, Coach Mike Norvell getting a cooler full of Cheez-Its dumped on his head after the 35-32 win. It doesn't get much cheddar than that, Whitney.

Although you do have today, NC State taking on Maryland in the Duke's Mayo Bowl, where the winning coach - yes.