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Hala Gorani Tonight

Iraqi Protestors Are Demanding A U.S. Military Withdrawal From Iraq; Benjamin Netanyahu Requests Temporary Immunity From Criminal Charges; President Trump, Considering A public Show Trial In The Senate, May Add More Lawyers To His Team. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 01, 2020 - 14:00   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani.

Tonight, the protests at the U.S. embassy in Iraq dies down, but the rhetoric between America and Iran ramps up.

Then, breaking last hour, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has officially requested parliamentary immunity in the three corruption cases against him:

what it means for Israel's political future.

And a German zoo goes up in flames, all but two animals in an enclosure, lost: details of what zookeepers are calling their hardest day.

It is 10:00 p.m. right now in Iraq. And after a second day of violent protests outside the U.S. embassy, the question is, what happens next?

Here's what it looked like earlier. Supporters and members of a pro- Iranian militia threw stones at the embassy. They were protesting airstrikes launched by the United States. They also set fires. U.S.

forces responded with tear gas. Most of those protestors, though, have now left.

But the State Department says Iraqi forces are still working to clear any stragglers. CNN's Arwa Damon reported earlier, from the scene in Baghdad

as the situation was quickly shifting.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The situation does -- at least compared to the images that we have been seeing coming out --

appear to have significantly calmed down, although it may not necessarily be entirely resolved.

We're standing just outside of this massive sprawling U.S. embassy complex. You can see one of the entrances there. If I'm not mistaken, that is where

you would go through if you wanted to go to consular services. There's another entrance, further down the road, that also has been torched as

well. You can see all of the anti-American graffiti that has been spray- painted on the walls.

Supporters and members of what is known as the Popular Mobilization Force, the PMF, they are the ones that were part of this protest. These are not

ordinary protestors. The PMF came together as a response during the fight against ISIS. And they have continued to be extremely powerful. The

message here, obviously, is very clear.

Even though, now, their spokesperson is (ph) saying that they will be withdrawing from this area, that they also will be pulling back because

they say the message has been received, they continue to demand that the U.S. leave Iraq. However, what they are saying right now is that they are

going to allow time for it to happen within the Iraqi legal process.

Now, what makes this all so very complicated is that this paramilitary force, of which Kata'ib Hezbollah is an element, is underneath the control,

ostensibly, of the Iraqi security forces -- you can hear them chanting now, "Down America."

There is a sense, among those who are here, that they have the upper hand right now, they have won. They managed to come into one of the more

fortified U.S. installations, to its largest embassy, and make this kind of statement.

There is still a lot of concern, though, when it comes to what's happening here in Iraq. Not only have it becoming much more of a focal battlefield

in this proxy war that's unfolding between Tehran and the United States. Many of these groups that are part of the paramilitary force are supported

by Iran, very closely affiliated with it but then you also have the reality that the Baghdad government itself, at this stage, is extraordinarily


So this most certainly, as many who are watching this situation will tell you, another extraordinarily difficult and potentially very dangerous

chapter for Iraq. Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.


GORANI: The U.S. is sending additional forces to the region. And the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is postponing a trip to Ukraine and

several other countries. He's staying home to keep an eye on the situation.

CNN Pentagon Reporter, Ryan Browne is with us now. So what will these additional forces, what is their mission in Iraq right now, Ryan?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, this latest contingent of forces includes about 750 paratroopers, and they have deployed to the region, not

Iraq itself but nearby Kuwait, we're being told, so they could respond in the event of a crisis, if there were some kind of scenario where the

situation were to deteriorate.


Now, of course, these forces were deployed before the -- kind of the dispersal of most of these militia protestors. But they were sent there to

kind of help bolster U.S. forces in the region.

That's addition to, of course, those Apache helicopters that were flown overhead in a show of force -- we just saw images of those -- and a

contingent of 100 U.S. Marines, a crisis response force that was flown into the embassy compound, about 100 Marines trained in security duties, flown

in immediately to help kind of secure that location in the face of those attempts to storm the embassy grounds.

Now that you see Iraqi security forces back on scene, it will remain a question, whether or not the additional thousands of U.S. troops, based in

the United States, that had been kind of earmarked to go to the region if the situation continued to unravel, whether they will actually go now. I

think that's something they'll likely revisit.

But, again, these tensions remain very much in place because we had this thing happened (ph), with these airstrikes against this militia group,

ostensibly part of the Iraqi security forces but seen by the U.S. as closely tied to Iran. They were blamed by the U.S. for a series of attacks

on U.S. bases, one of which had killed an American contractor.

Those fundamental foundational issues have not gone away, so the U.S. will very much remain focused on securing its position. And, again, the -- a

sign that the U.S. is taking this very seriously, Secretary Pompeo, cancelling a very high-profile multi-day trip to Ukraine and other places

in central Asia to focus on this situation. So, again, the U.S. taking this very seriously still.

GORANI: All right. Ryan Browne -- thanks very much -- at the Pentagon.

Let's move on to breaking news. And a big announcement from Israel's prime minister. A short time ago, Benjamin Netanyahu said he is seeking immunity

from prosecution in the corruption cases that he is facing. He just submitted the request to parliament. But because of Israel's political

gridlock, an answer is not expected soon. That is putting criminal proceedings against Mr. Netanyahu on hold.

Let's bring in Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem for details. So what are the implications of this request, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the key question now is, of course, how does this affect the election in March? Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu knew -- or it seemed was aware -- the fact that this could do political damage to him.

A request for immunity, he tried to soften the blow by saying this is only temporary, I'd have to re-request it after the next elections. And then he

tried to hype up not only his achievements, but say that he's requesting immunity so that he can -- to continue to lead the state of Israel and

follow what he calls the will of the people.

And that's how he tried to play this as he requested immunity. He said, "What's being done to me is a field court-martial by misleading the public.

The immunity law is intended to protect elected officials from fabricated legal proceedings, from political indictment intended to damage the will of

the people."

Well, it's not a surprise here that Netanyahu's rival, Benny Gantz, immediately blasted Netanyahu's decision and said voters now have two

options in March. One is the kingdom of Netanyahu or the state of Israel: an immunity government or a broad unity government.

The real question at this point is, first, of course, can Netanyahu's immunity request be heard? That answer at the moment is no. The committee

that has to hear this hasn't been convened since the April elections when there's been a state of political deadlock in Israel. Can it be convened

in the near future? That's a key political question here.

And then of course the second question -- since this is a campaign cycle and we're in an election cycle -- does this change votes, does it swing

votes in either direction? And those will be the key questions here. Netanyahu has, of course, maintained his innocence all along, and he did

say he does want his day in court, a chance to prove his innocence. But made it sound like just not now, as he's leading the country towards what

he calls historic achievements -- Hala.

GORANI: Oren Liebermann, thanks very much.

The leader of the Roman Catholic church has a confession of his own. Pope Francis is apologizing for slapping a woman's hand. The pontiff was

greeting pilgrims in St. Peter's Square when a woman grabbed his hand and pulled him toward her. He slapped her hand, broke free. The pope, clearly


He later apologized during a New Year's Day address denouncing violence against women, saying he set a bad example by losing his patience.

Joining us now from Rome is our senior Vatican analyst John Allen. So we were talking earlier, and you were saying what makes this unusual is the

fact that the pope apologized. Why do you think he did so?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think the juxtaposition of this incident happening on New Year's Eve, and then him

delivering a New Year's Day address, which was almost entirely dedicated to the scourge of violence against women.


And you know, him making the argument that the way a society treats women is an index of its level of its level of humanity. You know, I think it

just became unavoidable, that Pope Francis felt he had to deliver some kind of apology. And he did it in the context of his noontime New Year's Day

address in Rome.

And usual, when Pope Francis has something special to say in that noontime address, he will do it at the end. This morning, he did it at the very

beginning, which I think is a reflection of how important it was to him, to get this out of the way.

GORANI: And he's lost his temper a few times before. I mean, nothing major, but we've seen him sometimes -- and maybe understandably -- lose his

patience a little bit with people gathered to greet him and see him, who kind of become a little too enthusiastic, perhaps physically.

ALLEN: Yes, of course. I mean, look, I mean, you know, Pope Francis is well known for being a figure of deep compassion, deep mercy and so on.

But, you know, he is also an 83-year-old Argentinian male who has a bit of a temper. And we've seen flashes of that before.

When he was in Mexico in 2016, a kind of overly enthusiastic teenager sort of grabbed the pope, actually caused him to fall into a person who was in a

wheelchair. The pope popped up and yelled at the kid, saying, you know, don't be so selfish.

Earlier this year, in March, he was in Loreto here in Italy, visiting the Holy House there. People were trying to kiss his ring, Francis does not

like that gesture. You saw him testily yanking his hand back.

And all this, I think, just ends up humanizing the pope. Of course, in this case, he's apologized for it. But maybe, you know, one of his new

year's resolutions for 2020 will be to try to keep that side of himself a little bit more comprehensively under wraps.

GORANI: All right. Well, I think if someone dragged me toward them in that way, I might also react that way. So I kind of understand how he --

how perhaps irritated he was --

ALLEN: I'm with you.

GORANI: -- at that particular moment. Yes, exactly. Thanks, John Allen.

Coming up, protests and some violence in Hong Kong on this New Year's Day. Stay with us for the latest.

Also, Rudy Giuliani says he's willing to talk about the Ukraine scandal that led to Donald Trump's impeachment, but will anyone actually call him

to testify? We'll be right back.


GORANI: Well, he's arguably one of the most central figures in the Ukraine scandal that led to Donald Trump's impeachment. And there's no doubt the

U.S. president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has quite a story to tell.


Well, Giuliani now says he would be willing to testify under oath at Mr. Trump's upcoming Senate trial. The real question, though, is will any

witnesses be called at all? The top Senate Republican has shown no interest in getting new testimony, and the trial format is still very much

in limbo.

Giuliani spent New Year's Eve at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and this is what he told reporters.


RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I would testify. I would do demonstrations, I'd give lectures and I'd give summations. Or I'd do

what I do best, I'd try the case. I'd love to try the case.


GORANI: Well, let's get more now from White House correspondent Boris Sanchez, live in West Palm Beach. What is the probability that we'll --

first, that witnesses will be called at all, or that we'll hear from Rudy Giuliani on Capitol Hill during the trial?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: On the question of witnesses, Hala, at this point, it is unclear. President Trump has made

obvious that he wants to see live witnesses, some of them very controversial, people like Joe and Hunter Biden, House Speaker Nancy

Pelosi, et cetera. As you noted, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, ambivalent about whether there should even be a Senate trial.

Of course, the question of Rudy Giuliani is an open one. Some may argue that there's a conflict of interest there, given how intimately involved he

has been in the president's dealings with Ukraine. But what you heard there sounded much like an audition or Rudy Giuliani reading out his resume

for the president to see.

Giuliani wants to be involved in a Senate trial. And what we're hearing from sources behind the scenes at Mar-a-Lago is that the president has been

quizzing allies, aides and advisors on how exactly he should handle this Senate trial, what strategy he should employ.

What we've heard from sources is that they've repeatedly been telling the president that he needs to bolster his legal team. There's a belief among

some of his close friends that Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel, is going to need some help, specifically with giving him the TV moments that

he's looking for. Remember, President Trump wants a show. That's part of the reason he wants these live witnesses.

Of course, it's unclear exactly who they're going to bring on board. We've heard some suggestions that perhaps the legal team should add a

constitutional law expert. Noticeably, there was a constitutional law expert at Mar-a-Lago on hand within the last few days, and that's Alan

Dershowitz, someone who's been a frequent defender of the president on cable news.

Still, a lot of open questions about this, but impeachment and a Senate trial is top of mind as the president spends his holiday vacation here in

Florida -- Hala.

GORANI: Well, he was also tweeting at Iran and --


GORANI: -- talking about, once again, his political arrivals as well, here and there. And retweeting Lindsey Graham, among other top Republicans on

Capitol Hill. So he hasn't been taking much of a vacation from social media.

SANCHEZ: That's absolutely true. It's quite interesting, as we were watching the situation at the embassy in Baghdad deteriorate, the president

was tweeting about that. He was tweeting about being in meetings.

And in the middle of all of that, he sent out a tweet, attacking Nancy Pelosi, calling her overrates, suggesting that Democrats don't want a

Senate trial because they're trying to protect Joe Biden.

So he has certainly been busy on Twitter. Though today, the first day of the new year, he's actually been relatively quiet.

GORANI: Yes. I'm checking now, actually, while you're on the air. Last tweet, 16 hours ago. I'm not sure if that's a record, we'll have to --


GORANI: -- fact-check that. Thanks very much, Boris Sanchez.

Donald Trump is facing a host of foreign policy challenges on the first day of the new year, as we were discussing with Boris. North Korea is on that

list, very much so. Leader Kim Jong-un told a meeting of the ruling party that nuclear testing could resume in 2020. Will Ripley has that.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you think about where were were at this time last year, when there was so much optimism, so much hope about

the prospect of diplomacy and then the Hanoi summit fell apart and, well, we know what's happened since: There has been escalating rhetoric for

months between the U.S. and North Korea; North Korea's been testing short- range weapons. So this new announcement doesn't really come as a big surprise.

We've known that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been likely preparing for a major shift in policy, and that's what North Korean state media

announced. They said because the United States hasn't moved on the issue that's most important to them -- sanctions -- they no longer feel obligated

to abide by the issue most important to the United States, which is North Korea's self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.

In fact, North Korea is saying they're going to bolster their nuclear defense, basically reversing course entirely. Because, remember, the whole

reason why the United States and North Korea decided to sit down, why President Trump and Kim Jong-un met in person, was to solve this problem of

a rapidly nuclearizing North Korea.


And now we could be right back there yet again, Kim Jong-un talking about a new strategic weapon that the world will witness very soon, but as usual

being very cryptic, not saying what that weapon is.

This is what North Korea often does. They're very deliberate in the way that they issue these messages. They kind of want the world to be guessing

about what their next move is going to be. And at the same time, they put the information out there and then they wait to hear what the response will

be -- from the United States primarily, but also other stakeholders, including their ally and patron, China, which of course doesn't want to see

any sort of instability on the peninsula.

Kim Jong-un also gave us some insight into why he has decided to do this now. I'll read you a portion of his statement.

He said, "The United States' real intention is to seek its own political and diplomatic interests while wasting time away under the signboard of

dialogue and negotiations and at the same time, keep sanctions upon [the DPRK] so as to weaken [the DPRK]."

Of course, North Koreans need sanctions lifted, they have acknowledged that. But they said -- Kim Jong-un said in his own words, you know, we're

not going to sell out our dignity.

TEXT: U.S.-North Korea Tensions: "It is true that we urgently need external environment favorable for the economic construction but we can

never sell our dignity."

RIPLEY: And that is the key kind of at the heart of all this. The North Koreans feel that they have lost some of that dignity because of the

embarrassment in Hanoi and the subsequent rhetorical escalations that have followed. This might just be their first attempt, as we begin this new

year, to get that back. Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.


GORANI: All right. Thanks, Will.

Tens of thousands of protestors marched through Hong Kong on New Year's Day. The march later was called off. Police said bricks and petrol bombs

were thrown.

Police used water cannon and tear gas to break up the crowds today. David Culver is in Hong Kong for us.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 2020 beginning with more clashes here on the streets of Hong Kong. You can see, behind me, police are now moving

forward towards one of the many barricades that's been set up. They're about to encounter a lot of the debris that was put out on the street from

the protestors throughout the day. Come over here, you can see one of the shop owners actually closing up, looking out to see what's coming her way.

This began as a peaceful protest on this New Year's Day, thousands coming together, families coming together. It has now thinned out into the

frontline protestors, those who have torn up some of the bricks along the street, who have caused destruction to some of the storefronts and who have

created lines like this, that you can see are burning right now.

Police, for the most part, today, have kept their restraint, they've kept a distance. But they set a deadline for those peaceful protestors to leave.

That deadline has now passed and the police, you can see, are moving forward. They're holding signs there. You can see they're warning that

tear smoke will be dispersed.

This is looking similar to 2019, what we saw of six-plus months of protests and clashes, calls for democratic reform and police accountability. Those

protestors, still calling for those demands. 2020, beginning the way 2019 ended here in Hong Kong: uncertain. David Culver, CNN, Hong Kong.


GORANI: Well, still to come, a fire breaks out at a zoo in Germany, home to dozens of endangered animals. Many did not make it. We'll bring you

that story, next.



GORANI: A devastating start to the new year in Germany: dozens of animals were killed when a fire ripped through a zoo in the northwestern part of

the country. Take a look.


GORANI (voice-over): Zookeepers in Germany are calling it one of the hardest days they have ever endured. Officials say a fire swept through

the Krefeld Zoo in the early hours of New Year's Day, killing dozens of animals in an enclosure called The Monkey House.

The zoo director says the loss is staggering because many of the species who died in the fire are under threat in the wild.

WOLFGANG DRESSEN, DIRECTOR, KREFELD ZOO (through translator): For us, it is especially tragic that the tenants of this house, birds and mammals,

were among the victims of the fire last night. Among them were highly endangered animals like orangutans from Borneo, gorillas from Central

Africa and chimpanzees from West Africa.

GORANI (voice-over): On its Facebook page, the zoo says just two chimpanzees, names Bally and Limbo, were able to survive the fire and are

now being treated by veterinarians.

Police say they're investigating reports of sky lanterns flying near the zoo that could have been launched as New Year's Eve celebrations, even

though they've been banned in this region since 2009.

GERD HOPPMANN, KREFELD POLICE (through translator): Some witnesses saw these torches flying close to the zoo and very low, so we can assume they

fell on the ground. We have witnesses saying that it burned as well on the roof.

GORANI (voice-over): A tragic start to the new year for this zoo, that must now try to rebuild after losing so much that is irreplaceable.



GORANI: Well, people in Dunkirk, France have a brisk way of ringing in the new year: a New Year's Day swim. It is a yearly tradition. This time,

about a hundred people took part, braving the chilly waters of the English Channel to celebrate the new year.

It is cold. It doesn't look cold, it is cold, I can confirm -- not that I tried it, but -- they are a happy bunch nonetheless. I'm sure all the

dancing and the champagne helped. Good for them.


Happy New Year, everyone, the first day of the new decade. Hope it's a good one for you. I'm Hala Gorani. We'll have your headlines, next.