Return to Transcripts main page
Isa Soares Tonight
Merrick Garland Appoints Special Counsel To Probe Biden's Classified Documents; Battle For Soledar Blazes On; Deadly Protests In Peru Spread To The Tourist Town Of Cusco; California Bracing For More Powerful Storms; Report: Exxon Predicted Global Warming As Early At 1970s; NASA: 2022 Was 5th Warmest Year On Record For Planet Earth; UAE Appoints State Oil Chief As Cop28 President; Anti-Government Protests In Peru Spread To Cusco; Suspect Bryan Kohberger Attends Case Status Hearing. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired January 12, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZAIN ASHER, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to everybody, I am Zain Asher in for my colleague Isa Soares. Tonight, a special counsel
has just been appointed to investigate President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents. We'll have the very latest on that breaking news.
Then, the battle for Soledar blazes on. Ukraine says it's now conducting counter attacks in the town after days of pulling back. Plus, deadly
protest in Peru spread to the tourist town of Cusco. We're live in the capital for the latest on the anti-government clashes. Right, let's get
straight to our breaking news in Washington.
A special counsel has been appointed to investigate President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland
made the announcement just a short time ago. The fallout is happening fast. News only surfaced on Monday that Mr. Biden's attorneys had discovered
classified documents as one of -- at one of his former Washington offices.
Then, today, we learned a second batch was found at the president's Delaware home. Attorney General Garland explained his decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: I strongly believe that the normal processes of this department can handle all investigations with
integrity. But under the regulations, the extraordinary circumstances here require the appointment of a special counsel for this matter.
This appointment underscores for the public, the department's commitment to both independence and accountability, and particularly sensitive matters.
And to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: President Biden himself has confirmed the discovery of additional classified documents in Delaware. Here's part of what he said today,
reading heavily from a scripted statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I said earlier this week, people know I take classified documents and classified materials seriously.
I also said we're cooperating fully and completely with the Justice Department's review. As part of that process, my lawyer has reviewed other
places where documents in my -- of -- from my time as vice president were stored, and I finished the review last night.
They discovered a small number of documents of classified markings in storage areas, in file cabinets in my home and my -- in my personal
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: We're joined at this hour by a former U.S. federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin, and also CNN and White House reporter Kevin Liptak.
Michael, I want to begin with you. We heard Merrick Garland there saying that a special counsel was needed at this time because of the extraordinary
circumstances. And this is all about assuring independence, it's all about assuring accountability. Just walk us through your thoughts on that.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR & PODCAST HOST: I don't think that the law absolutely required the appointment of a special counsel. But
under the special counsel regulations, it says that if there are extraordinary circumstances, that's the language of the regulations, then
the attorney general is in his discretion empowered to do so.
I think so, he made the right political choice here in appointing the special counsel. He gets rid of all the noise that we begun to hear from
Republicans about Biden being treated better than Trump. And so, that ends all that. He's appointed a person to be special counsel who was in the
Trump Justice Department.
So, we eliminate all sort of the possibility of the argument that he's picked someone who's a crony of Biden. So I think that Merrick Garland did
the right thing and we'll see where the chips fall.
ASHER: You know, Democrats have been saying, look, this is not the same as what happened with Donald Trump and it's partly because of the volume,
partly because obviously Biden has been cooperating with authorities. But the fact that you have a special counsel investigating Biden and the
classified documents, and then you also have a special counsel looking at Trump as well. Does that create a certain level of equivalence do you think
in the eyes of the public?
ZELDIN: Well, it creates equivalency in the sense that both presidents, former president and current president are being treated equally, that is,
what they did is under inquiry by a special counsel. On the merits of the case, there's some equivalency. Meaning, Trump is under inquiry for why he
took these documents, Biden is under inquiry for why he took those documents.
But that's where the similarity ends, because that which gives Trump the greatest legal liability is the alleged obstructionist behavior when asked
for the return of those documents. Biden, in his case, affirmatively gave those documents back to the National Archives and is cooperating with DOJ.
Trump, on the other hand fought the National Archives and is fighting the special counsel.
So, there is some equivalency and some matters of disagreement.
ASHER: And special counsel Robert O'Hare has just actually issued a statement saying that he is going to be conducting the Biden documents
probe with fair, impartial and dispassionate judgment. Just because he said that, do the Republicans accusations and the Republican beliefs about
impartiality here, do they all go away?
ZELDIN: Well, it depends on how he conducts this investigation and what he finds. When I was an independent counsel investigating George Herbert
Walker Bush, there were people on both sides of our investigation saying that we were bad or we were good or we were righteous or evil. And then we
issued our report exonerating former President Bush and his close associates. And everybody was happy.
So we'll see what happens here. But I think he's off to the right start, by saying I'm going to do this fairly and impartially and justice will prevail
based on the facts and law that I uncover.
ASHER: I mean, here's the question everybody is asking, not just Republicans, but also Democrats. Why didn't the White House disclose what
they knew about these classified documents sooner?
ZELDIN: That's a great question, I don't know the answer to that. It would seem from a legal standpoint, you want to provide the Justice Department
the opportunity to investigate in private before something goes public. And in fact, if you look at the Trump case, when the National Archives started
asking Trump for those documents, we didn't know anything about that, either.
It wasn't until much later in the process when Trump resisted that it became publicly known. So, I think that the normal course is once something
is referred to the Justice Department, or in this case, the National Archives and then the Justice Department, you try to keep that quiet so
that the investigation is not interfered with.
So maybe, they just did it because it's the normal process by which things are supposed to be done. But of course, there is always political heat in
respect of these things. And people are going to try to make hay politically in whatever way they think is in their best political interest.
ASHER: Right, Michael, Zeldin live for us there, thank you so much. Let's go straight now to CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak. So, Kevin,
obviously, these investigations take months. They can take a very long time. How much of a shadow does this cast over 2024, especially for Biden?
KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I certainly think it will loom over the next couple of months, but two years is of course, an
eternity in politics. So it's not necessarily clear that this will have a major political impact in the 2024 elections, which we have reported
President Biden is preparing to announce he's running for re-election as early as next month.
But certainly, White House aides do understand that this is going to be a challenge over the next couple of weeks or months. It is something that
will loom over President Biden's attempts to talk about his accomplishments, to talk about the economy. And I think that there is some
quiet frustration among some of President Biden's aides that this is happening the way it's happening.
Because certainly, not very many people inside the White House knew that this was an ongoing issue when it first emerged on Monday. It was kept to a
very tight circle of his senior most aides and his lawyers. And so, you do have this drip kind of scenario that they are hoping is over now, now that
the special counsel is in place.
That they sort of believe that because there are you know, two special counsels, one for former President Trump and one for President Biden, that
this will provide sort of a clean comparison to the American people over what happened, and over any potential misconduct. But of course, that is
not going to stop Republicans from making sort of hay out of this situation. And we did hear that from the new House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy.
Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Here's an individual that said on "60 Minutes" that was so concerned about President Trump's documents locked in behind.
And now we find it just as a vice president, keeping it for years out in the open in different locations. I do not think any American believes that
justice should not be equal to all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIPTAK: Now, one thing that we did hear from President Biden earlier today was that he hoped to be able to say more about this situation soon. Sort of
suggesting that he believes the investigation into it would wrap up. That with the appointment of the special counsel, that doesn't appear to be the
We do have a White House briefing coming up in about 20 minutes where we will be able to hear the White House's first on-the-record reactions to
this. If history is any case, they will not say anything substantive.
Yesterday, the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was peppered with questions. Questions like who moved these documents? Did President
Biden move them himself? How actually did they make it from the White House to these locations? Because the special counsel is now in place, because
this process is now underway at the Justice Department, it does give them sort of cover to not answer those questions until this whole situation is
But certainly, this is now a very dark cloud that hangs over the White House at least in the short term. President Biden's aides do believe in the
long term that he will be vindicated. That this will not show any ill- intent on his part, but certainly, it will be painful for them in the weeks ahead. Zain?
ASHER: All right, Kevin Liptak live for us there, and as you mentioned, there is a White House press briefing as he points out in about 20 minutes
from now, we will bring that to our audience live as when it happens, right. Kevin, thank you so much. Despite facing steep odds, Ukraine says it
will keep fighting for Soledar, a small eastern city which Russian forces are trying to capture.
Ukraine's military says that after days of pulling back, they're conducting counterattacks and making a small advance. There has been a lot of
conflicting messaging about who controls the city though? It appears that Russia is gaining the upper hand. As you can see from these satellite
images, heavy fighting has obliterated, basically wiped out much of the town. Some civilians still live there.
Ukrainian officials are telling them to leave now, leave now before it's too late. Ben Wedeman was just in Soledar, he joins us live now from
Kramatorsk. So, Ben, the battle for Soledar rages on. The fact that we now have a shake-up, a shake-up in terms of the Russian military leadership.
What does that tell us about how the approach on the battlefield might change on the Russian side?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It might take some time, Zain, for the situation on the battlefield to change. Valery
Gerasimov who is the -- who's been the head of the military staff of -- since 2012, was the man who commanded Russian forces at the beginning of
the invasion of Ukraine.
He was later replaced, and now he's being put back in that position. So it's difficult to say how things are going to change with the old boss back
in charge. But, what is clear is that, the situation in Soledar at the moment is dire especially for the civilians in and around the town.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Medics load wounded soldier onto an ambulance, another casualty from the embattled town of Soledar.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One day, 2025.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It varies depending on the number of casualties on the front lines.
WEDEMAN: Russian forces mostly troops from the Wagner Group, the private military company, claimed to have control of the entire Soledar territory.
(on camera): The battle for Soledar maybe in its final stages, and it doesn't appear to be going well for the Ukrainians. And if indeed, the
Russians do emerge victorious, the villages around it maybe the next to fall.
(voice-over): Ukraine's helicopters still flying sorties, its forces aren't giving ground easily. One soldier says it's difficult, but we're
hanging in there. Despite the fighting, Ira(ph) is staying put with her pigs and cows in her home in a nearby village. "We won't leave", she says.
"You can only die once. I will not abandon my house."
Her 81-year-old mother, Luud Miller(ph) has lived here for more than 40 years. "We had a good life here", she says. Seriy Gochko(ph) heads the
Soledar military administration. "I'm delivering aid", he says, "and reminding people, they need to evacuate before it's too late." Svetlana(ph)
says, she will heed his call. "Everyone is tired", she tells me. "We can't take it any longer." As soledar burns, there is little time to waste.
WEDEMAN: And as far as the fighting there goes, we understand there from some sources that as many as 4,000 Russian soldiers, that includes Russian
military regulars from the Russian army, and also, fighters, contract fighters from the Wagner private military company, who also know as you
can tell from that report, the Ukrainians are also taking heavy casualties in this battle as well. Zain?
ASHER: And Ben, in terms of the small number of civilians that are still trapped in Soledar, what are the plans to help get them out at this point?
WEDEMAN: Yes, Ukrainian officials, Zain, say that there may be as many as 500 civilians inside there. Evacuation of these civilians is made extremely
difficult by the fact that until recently, there were two roads leading from Ukrainian-controlled territory to the Ukrainian-controlled parts of
One of them as of yesterday was impassable because it is under direct Russian fire. The other one itself, is fairly dangerous as well. So that
job is made all the more difficult. And of course, often times is what we've seen in the past in these towns and cities where most of the
inhabitants have left. Those who are -- stayed behind tend to be the elderly, the sick, the infirm. Which makes it -- makes a rapid evacuation
all the more difficult. Zain?
ASHER: Right, Ben Wedeman live for us there, thank you so much. OK, still to come tonight, the fight to free a man sentenced to die in Iran. We'll
look at Iran's brutal crackdown on dissent up next. Plus, China is accused of under reporting COVID-19 deaths as the country faces a new wave of
ASHER: A dual British-Iranian citizen is facing a death sentence. Iran is accusing Alireza Akbari of spying for the British Intelligence Service. He
once served as Iranian deputy of defense minister. The U.K. government is calling for an immediate halt to the execution. CNN's Nada Bashir has been
watching the story closely for us, picking up the story live from London.
So, U.K. Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, calling for the execution to be halted, saying that it's politically-motivated. He calls Iran a barbaric
regime that has total disregard for human life. Is there anything the British government can actually do, though, beyond tweeting, beyond words
at this point? What are their options?
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Look, that is the key question. That is what we've been asking, really, of the international community since these
protests began. We've seen the Iranian regime taking a brutal and deadly approach to repressing these protests. Now, we are seeing this wave of
This one in particular, unexpected execution of a British-Iranian dual national they accuse of spying on Iran or working with MI6, although he and
other critics have refuted these claims. And we have seen a wave of executions targeting detainees who have taken part in the anti-regime
protest movement. And the question is, what leverage is left really, for the international community?
We've seen sanctions being placed against Iranian officials and entities. We've seen the ambassadors, the Iranian ambassadors of numerous countries,
including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, and the European Union, being summoned over these executions. And yet, despite that, we are
continuing to see this threat, according to human rights organizations of a potential execution, further executions to come.
Now, we've heard directly from the British foreign office, they say they are working on securing Akbari's release as a matter of priority. But they
are demanding consular access, and they still haven't been granted this. And as we've seen in the past with previous cases of dual nationals or
foreign nationals detained in Iran, the Iranian authorities haven't been forthcoming when it comes to those demands.
We've also seen at least in the last few days, a Belgian aid worker being sentenced to 40 years in prison, 74 lashes and a hefty financial fine
penalty -- then Iran -- and the question is, whether or not there will be anything done there to secure his release. The Belgian foreign ministry
says that they've summoned the Iranian ambassador there.
But there are questions over the geopolitical implications and the context around this. The Belgian court now has suspended a proposed bill, which
could have paved the way for a prisoner swap with Iran. So, there are certainly a lot of factors at play here, when it comes to Iran's relations
with Europe and the West overall.
But really, the message we've been hearing from numerous rights groups, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Iran HR which is based in
Norway, we're keeping a close eye on the situation inside Iran, have all warned that we could see dozens more executions in the coming days, if
there isn't an adequate response from the international community.
ASHER: Yes, Amnesty International is saying that Iran is embarking on a killing spree. And when you think about sort of the protests and the sheer
number of people that have been sentenced to death, how much of an impact is that having on the robustness of the protests and the energy behind the
ongoing protests in Iran?
BASHIR: Look, we are still seeing calls for regime change in Iran and outside of Iran. The protest movement is still ongoing. But of course, the
crackdown is growing ever more brutal, as we continue to see these executions. And we are seeing the regime now taking a more hard-line
We've heard just on Wednesday from the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei describing these protests or riots as he terms them, as acts of
treason, perhaps signaling link that there may be a tougher response to any signs of protests on the streets. We've seen now calls for a tougher
response to any women in the streets of Iran who choose to not abide by Iran's already strict hijab laws.
Of course, women there are mandated to cover their hair. And we are now seeing more hard-line chief of Iran's law enforcement. So, we are seeing a
shift clearly in Iran's approach to quelling these protests and gaining a grip over the protest movement and maintaining control over the situation
inside the country.
Despite this, the international condemnation continues, and it continues to be widespread. We are still seeing protests inside the country, despite
that crackdown. But of course, the number of prisoners that we're seeing is growing. The number of deaths is growing, and now, of course, the warnings
of execution still to come. Zain?
ASHER: Right, Nada Bashir live for us there, thank you so much. All right, the World Health Organization is worried about a surge in COVID-19 cases in
China ahead of the lunar new year. The holiday is thought to be the largest annual migration of people in the world. W.H.O. says that Beijing is now
sharing more data about its latest outbreak, but it also believes the number of reported deaths is nowhere near the actual figure. Selina Wang
shows us what it's like on the ground.
SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): COVID lockdowns may be over in China. But for many, there is misery at the end of zero
COVID. The virus is overwhelming hospitals across the country. The sick struggle to get help. Patients crammed into every available space, every
hallway and corner of this northern Chinese hospital.
Not everyone survives the struggle. Rows of bodies fill this funeral home storage room in Liaoning Province, that we don't know how many died of
COVID. In Zhangzhou, families in morning clothes flood the gate, and in Sichuan, families lined up outside right next to coffins, waiting to
cremate their loved ones.
China has only officially reported a few dozen COVID-19 deaths since reopening. But satellite images confirm the different reality we see on the
ground. These images taken in late December and early January show crowds and long lines of cars waiting outside of funeral homes in six Chinese
cities. The images from the outskirts of Beijing show that a brand-new parking lot was even constructed.
We visited that funeral home, rows of cars were already there.
(on camera): I'm now standing in that new parking lot of this Beijing funeral home. This entire parking lot area did not exist a month ago, and
as you can see, the roads are not paved.
(voice-over): One van pulls in, unloads a body, and another follows. A man tells me he waited hours for his brother's body to be cremated, but the
weight is nothing he says, compared to the crowds from a few weeks ago. Experts say Beijing's COVID outbreak has already peaked. In December, we
filmed these body bags piling up in metal crates at another Beijing crematorium during the height of Omicron spread in the city.
This video CNN has obtained was filmed by a man who said his father's body was lying in this overflowing Beijing hospital morgue for days. He said his
father waited hours for hospital bed space, by the time a bed opened up, it was too late. Cities are now scrambling to set up fever clinics and
increase ICU capacity. For weeks, it was nearly impossible to buy cold or fever medicine. They were all sold out because of the huge demand.
(on camera): Drug companies like this major pharmaceutical manufacturer in Beijing, they're going into overdrive to increase supply after there was a
shortage of medicine to treat COVID-19 symptoms. I asked the vice president if they had received any advanced warning from the government that they
were going to abandon zero COVID so they could prepare to ramp up production. Well, he didn't directly answer my question, but it's clear
that now they are doubling down.
(voice-over): The company told us they simply follow government policy. The drug shortage, overflowing hospitals and crematoriums, they're images
of a country unprepared for the sudden end of zero COVID. So many families in mourning are questioning what their three years of sacrifice during
zero-COVID was really all for. Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.
ASHER: Still to come tonight, we are waiting to hear from the White House after the attorney general appointed a special counsel to investigate
President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents. These are live pictures, we will bring you that live event as and when it happens.
ASHER: In a short break between storms, search-and-rescue crews in California are scouring neighborhoods, looking for anyone who might be in
need of help right now.
The unprecedented heavy rains have left at least 18 people dead in just the past two weeks.
The powerful storms created sinkholes, crumbled roadways, and forced thousands of people to flee their homes from gushing sewage.
Gosh, look at that, that image there.
Hundreds of National Guard members are also searching for missing five- year-old, Kyle Dolan. He and his mother got caught in floodwaters in their car while they were on their way to school in central California.
More of the relentless rains are on their way to the region.
CNN's Veronica Miracle joins us live now from Salinas, California.
This is just the last thing that California needs right now. They've been through so much already.
Just set the scene, in terms of what's happening where you are in Salinas.
VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zain, here in Monterrey County, already a significant amount of flooding.
There was just a little bit of rain yesterday ahead of that big storm that you are talking about that is expected to arrive. And it's created an
intense amount of runoff here.
Where you are looking at where all of this water is, that is usually an agricultural field. The water is not supposed to be here. But the river is
so flooded right now, it has spilled all the way onto this property.
Officials right now are concerned that this could spill over the roadway and block this roadway.
There are two other roadways here in Monterrey County. The Highway 101 and 68, and those are major thoroughfares.
And they're concerned that this weekend, when that next big storm comes in, those areas could be blocked off and it would essentially stop people from
being able to travel in and out of the peninsula.
Officials here are warning people, you may be stuck in a peninsula over the weekend. So, if you need to get out, you should do so now.
It's a big concern after two weeks of relentless rain here in California. And then in the next 10 days, four more atmospheric events are expected.
There has been a little relief in between these storms. And it's just created this intense fire hose of water all over the state. There has been
a little time for cleanup and there has been a little time for -- it caused an incredible amount of destruction and damage.
And at least 18 deaths. That five-year-old boy who was swept away from his mother's arms, he's one of those 18 people that have died here during this
It comes, though, after several years of significant historic drought in the state of California. It's been incredibly dry.
All of this, coming and all of this flooding and water, it's coming at a time when the state really need means needs it. The water reservoirs are
filling up. The snow, which also funnels into those reservoirs, they're at historic levels.
So on one hand, it is incredible that there's significant amount of water coming in. But at this pace and at this rate, it's dangerous and it's
deadly -- Zain?
ASHER: All right, Veronica Miracle, live for us there, thank you so much.
And we are just getting images of significant damage in the American south. Storms including tornadoes have hit the state of Alabama. These are the
images from the city of Selma.
One witness says that children were trapped in an upstairs apartment, in one area, but they were able to get out.
Much of the U.S. southern -- U.S. south, rather, is under warnings or watches this hour. We will continue to monitor this story.
A new report published in "The General Science" is revealing shocking details about how the energy industry spent years ignoring and actually
even surpassing climate research.
It shows that scientists at oil giant, ExxonMobil, were predicting global warming as early as the 1970s, but the company still spent decades lobbying
against taking action.
CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, is joining us live now.
So, it's not just that they lobbied against taking action. It's also that they actively misled the public. They spent years casting doubt on climate
science. Where is the accountability here?
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this could play a role in accountability in the courts. There are some 20 lawsuits from states,
cities, regions around the country suing big oil companies, including ExxonMobil, for just that, selling a project that they knew was dangerous.
And this -- for the first time, this study looked at the science internally at Exxon. And they examined a bunch of documents between 77 and 2014,
whittled it down and found that they were incredibly accurate. Between 63 and 83 percent of those projections were right on.
They predicted, with accuracy, what year that climate change through global warming would evidence, how much warming would happen, decade over decade.
So, it's evidence in these court cases. It also adds to the question of social license.
You know, as alternative fuels become more affordable and accessible, renewable fuels, that is, as ExxonMobil made $58 billion profits last year,
how much social license they can hang on to?
The company denies this report. They say, they found out about the dangers of their products along with the rest of science.
But of course, in 2021, and undercover camera caught one of their lobbyists saying on camera, yes, we fought against the science as part of the
business model -- Zain?
ASHER: Oh, my gosh. I mean, it's unbelievable. It's unbelievable. I could say more, but I'm going to hold myself back.
ASHER: When it comes to what NASA is saying about 2022, they are saying that 2022 was the hottest year on record. But apparently, 2023 could
actually be even worse. What can you tell us about that?
WEIR: We have two reports out today and one is cause, one's effect.
This one from NASA knows the effect of a planet heated up by fossil fuels. And that the last nine years are the warmest nine years on record.
What was striking about this one, it's fifth overall. But that really doesn't matter. We want to look at these decade-long trends.
This was a La Nina year. Usually, those ocean current cycles are supposed to cool things off. This is the warmest La Nina on record. So, just another
signpost, as we go up.
But I think more importantly to think about is that at the current rate. This will be the coolest nine years of the rest of our lives. And we should
ASHER: Gosh, that is scary. At least we did get some good news if you days ago about the hole in the ozone layer is shrinking.
ASHER: That was good, but I'm going to hold on to that.
Bill Weir, live for us there, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
WEIR: Thank you.
ASHER: All right, climate activists say they're deeply concerned after the United Arab Emirates appointed the country's state oil chief as the
president of COP28. The global climate summit is due to kick off in November.
Activists are now warning the controversial appointment could undermine the events.
Becky Anderson has more.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The climate crisis is already front and center in 2023. And it is only getting worse.
The past eight years were the warmest on record for the planet, according to the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service.
And after Egypt hosted COP27 last year, climate change will again be a major focus for the Middle East this year as the United Arab Emirates get
set to host COP28 in Dubai in November.
A major oil producing country hosting the Global Climate Conference at a pivotal time with this man, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, appointed as President of
He's the head of Abu Dhabi's National Oil Company, the 12th largest oil company by production in the world. And his appointment has sparked outcry
from some climate activists.
HARJEET SINGH, CLIMATE ACTION NETWORK: He must step down immediately from his current role as the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
And ensure that the outcomes from COP28 are in line with what is needed in terms of climate ambition and to avert the climate crisis that we are
facing right now.
ANDERSON: But drill down and what appears at first to be controversial, is less so, given Dr. Al Jaber's key role in shaping the country's transition
to a cleaner future.
He's been the UAE Special Envoy for Climate since 2020. And he was out front regionally in 2021 with his country's commitment to achieve net zero
emissions by 2050.
DR. SULTAN AL JABER, PRESIDENT OF COP28: The world needs maximum energy, minimum emissions. This is why our leadership decided to be a first mover
renewable energy over 16 years ago.
ANDERSON: Maximizing energy while minimizing emissions. The UAE's delicate balancing act personified in Dr. Sultan Al Jaber as the UAE builds towards
COP28 at the end of this year.
ASHER: CNN's Becky Anderson reporting there.
All right, still to come, police and anti-government protesters clash in a major tourist city in Peru. We will see how the country's worst unrest in
decades is spreading just ahead.
ASHER: Violent anti-government protests in Peru have now spread to Cusco, a major tourist city that's basically a gateway to Machu Picchu.
One protester was killed in clashes with police. At least 19 officers were injured.
CNN's Rafael Romo explains what is behind the country's worst outbreak of violence in decades.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): The violent clashes erupt in the Peruvian city of Cusco, the latest wave of unrest
following the ousting of former president, Pedro Castillo.
ROMO: Anti-government protesters threw rocks at riot police Wednesday, who responded by firing tear gas and moving in with an armored vehicle.
ROMO: Video from the scene shows the injured receiving medical aid, before being carried off.
The turmoil follows demonstrations in the southern region of Punaro. Eighteen people have been killed there since Monday night, including a
police officer who was burned to death by protesters.
Prime minister, Alberto Otarola, condemned the violence during a session of Congress.
ALBERTO OTAROLA, PERUVIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translation): I deplore this aggression against the security forces. And once again, I call for
order, peace, and tranquility for all Peruvians. We can't be killing each other.
ROMO: The unrest began in early December, when then-President Castillo was impeached and arrested after he announced plans to dissolve Congress and
install an emergency government.
He was apparently trying to get ahead of a congressional vote on his impeachment.
Dina Boluarte, Castillo's vice president, was then sworn in to replace him.
Now, Castillo supporters are calling for her resignation, along with prompt general elections, a new constitution, and the release of the former
But last month, the Supreme Court ruled that Castillo had to remain in pretrial detention for 18 months on charges of rebellion and conspiracy,
which he denies.
The new government won a vote of confidence in Congress by a wide margin Tuesday. A loss would've triggered a cabinet reshuffle and the resignation
of prime minister, Alberto Otarola.
Meanwhile, Peru's top prosecutor has launched an investigation into Boluarte and her cabinet members over the deadly clashes, as relatives and
friends of the dead march through the Peruvian city of Haka (ph), carrying the coffins of their loved ones.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): They are killing us. Their people. We are dying. We want justice.
ROMO: It's the worst outbreak of violence Peru has seen in more than 20 years.
Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.
ASHER: Let's get more on these protests now from journalist, Simeon Tegel, in Lima.
Simeon, thank you so much for being with us.
The thing about Pedro Castillo that people loved, or his supporters loved, rather, is that, you know, he had that common touch, you know? He was a man
of the people. He was the first president to come from a rural background, of humble origins.
But how much anger is there among the indigenous community, specifically, in Peru right now?
SIMEON TEGEL, JOURNALIST: I think there's a lot of fury in the country. We are obviously seeing that in these protests.
I think it's not just about Pedro Castillo himself, but rather what he represents. As president, he proved to be really very corrupt. And --
really pretty much forgot all the promises he made on the campaign that got him elected.
What we are seeing is -- so, it's partly a response of his impeachment, but it's also just years, decades of marginalization and discrimination within
Peru against these communities, often indigenous communities and the Amazon, who thought that, you know, finally, they had someone who would
And now he's gone, and they don't see any alternative. Especially not the current government, which has responded to the protests, some of which have
been violent initially, but not all.
But they've responded to those protests with really brutal repression, using live ammunition against protesters. It's now taken them nearly 40
ASHER: And when you think about what a lot of the protesters want, they want elections, they want them as soon as possible.
You know, Dina Boluarte supports the idea of having elections in 2024, moving them up from 2026.
But if a lot of the supporters of these protesters don't get elections right now, as soon as possible, then what happens to this country?
TEGEL: Well, I mean, Peru's -- even if the current wave a protest dies down, Peru will remain simmering, I think. The question is just what will
be the next trigger that makes it boil over? As long as this government is in power, that is going to happen.
The other part of the problem is that Peru really badly needs political reforms. And those need to happen before the next election, which is why
having it in 2024, if that is possible.
But the situation is becoming increasingly untenable, would be better than having them in a few-month's-time.
We have a closed political system here in Peru, with about a dozen parties, which are controlled by individuals who basically nominate candidates
personally, rather than having primaries, and are blocking new parties from registering.
So, for Peruvians, when they come to vote, they really don't have any choice but to vote, as they would say, for the lesser evil.
ASHER: And in terms of compromise, you know, you talk about political reforms that are needed. But in terms of, you know, the standoff between
security forces and protesters, where is the compromise?
I mean, President Dina Boluarte has come out and said, she's going to move elections up, as in 2024, as opposed to 2026. Also this idea of, she
supports the idea of launching an investigation into security forces.
That is certainly not with the protesters want, just overall. They want elections to happen as soon as possible, but it is a step in the right
direction, in terms of meeting their demands ever so slightly.
Is there room for compromise here?
TEGEL: They should be room for compromise, but it's very hard to see where that is coming from, in part, because of the nature of the government and
The Congress has a conservative, ultra-conservative majority, but has just been taking advantage of this crisis to try and concentrate power in its
own hands, to try to replace the electoral authorities.
And the government, many of the government ministers are really not very skillful or experienced politicians, starting with Dina Boluarte.
Being vice president -- she was elected last year. It was her first ever elected job, elected office. So, she appears not to have the political
skills needed to really kind of confront this moment.
And to reach out, extent that olive branch that's kind of the unnecessary first step for both sides to start listening to each other. But above all,
for the government to start listening to the protesters.
ASHER: Yes, that's crucial for the country to heal. We are seeing in Peru, seeing it in Brazil. Healing and division certainly across south America,
Thank you so much, Simeon. We really appreciate you being with us.
All right, still to come tonight, the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students appeared in court again. We will explain where
the case stands right now.
ASHER: A man accused of killing four college students in Idaho in November appeared in court a few hours ago. This was a status hearing. And the next
hearing is set for June 26th.
Ryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old, a PhD student in criminology, is the only suspect in the case for now. He has been charged with four counts of first-
degree murder and one count of burglary.
I want to bring in security correspondent, Josh Campbell.
Josh, just walk us through what happened in court today. Where does this case go from here?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Zain, that hearing wrapping up a short time ago. I was actually in court, seated behind the defendant
here, Ryan Kohberger, the 28-year-old who has been accused of this brutal quadruple homicide.
He was wearing orange prison garb. His feet were shackled. He was brought in by deputies.
And he didn't speak apart from a few times whenever the judge asked him some yes/no questions. His attorney doing most of the talking.
The key piece of information that we gained today is, when the next hearing will be. That is June 26th. This is an important hearing. It's called under
the U.S. judicial system a preliminary probable cause hearing.
What that means is that prosecutors will have to go before the judge and lay out their case to convince this judge that this case should actually go
to trial. Now again, that will be June 26th.
Officials here have already unsealed lots of damning information against this defendant. They say that DNA information puts his DNA at the scene of
Police here also were able to analyze his cell phone records and the movement of his vehicle, indicating, allegedly, that he had traveled near
the home where these for college students were killed at least 12 times prior to that murder.
Now, for his part, he's not entered a plea yet. But his attorney says that he believes that his client will be exonerated. We will have to wait to see
how this moves from here.
Finally, it's worth pointing out that classes here at the University of Idaho just resumed yesterday. We've been talking with students and parents,
They say they have mixed emotions. They are obviously relieved that this threat to the community is now behind bars for now.
But they're also concerned for their own safety. Students saying that they have now changed some of their habits, going out with groups of people,
being more aware of their surroundings.
Certainly, the university community that has been rattled, even as they continue to grieve the loss of these for college students -- Zain?
ASHER: Oh my gosh, how terrifying for those students.
And I'm sure it was chilling for you being in court behind him. He obviously has been charged. We don't know if he did it.
But just explain to us -- you know, he's obviously the prime suspect at this point. Does it seem bizarre to you that somebody that has a PhD in
criminology would make such basic mistakes, in terms of meeting behind the knife chief, for example, if he did it?
And also, you know, the movement of the vehicle. And also, you know, the cell phones being turned off, at least in the run up to the murder.
CAMPBELL: No, you are spot on. That is the key question, Zain, that we are wondering.
Is this someone who went into the field of criminal justice and criminology because he was predisposed to try to gather the information that he would
need in order to sufficiently commit the crime without being caught?
Obviously, as you mentioned, he made several mistakes if that was his intention.
I mean, leaving behind the knife sheath, as you say, which that contained that critical piece of DNA that officials were able to compare to DNA that
they discovered at his family's home across the United States in the state of Pennsylvania, one of many mistakes that the suspect allegedly made.
We will have to see what that connection is, if he actually knew the students. We haven't gathered that yet.
We are waiting to see what prosecutors say as they continue to lay out this case -- Zain?
ASHER: All right, Josh Campbell, live for us there, thank you so much.
And we are still waiting to hear from the White House after the attorney general appointed a special counsel to investigate President Joe Biden's
handling of classified documents. We will bring it to you as soon as it happens.
All right, thank you so much for watching CNN.
Stay with us. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" up next.