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tv   New Day With Alisyn Camerota and John Berman  CNN  December 31, 2019 3:00am-4:00am PST

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are not your ordinary demonstrators. these are mostly individuals who are part of what's known as these popular mobilization forces. this is a paramilitary force that is predominantly shiite and mostly made up of former shia militia members. among those who were just outside the gates of the u.s. embassy are three very prominent leaders of the three most powerful or among the most powerful paramilitary forces within iraq and included among them is the leader of the pro-iranian militia group that the u.s. was targeting in these strikes. these protesters attempted, according to numerous reports, to try to storm the u.s. embassy. they were throwing rocks, taking out the security cameras. they were pushed back not based
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on what we're hearing from the necessarily front area of the embassy but from where they're attempting to breach the wall around the back with the use of tear gas. up until this moment, this situation has not escalated any further, but the fact that they made it to this location means that the iraqi security forces did not stop this protest from moving forward. the area that the green zone encompasses in baghdad has shrunk dramatically, but this particular part of it where the u.s. embassy is located is still fairly well-secured and meant to be fairly fortified. normally, to get in you need a special badge or some sort of an escort, but the iraqi government views this paramilitary force, again, that is made up -- that includes that militia that the u.s. was targeting as being a member of the iraqi security forces. from the government's perspective these strikes by the
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united states were not against a pro-iranian militia, they were actually against their own forces as well. the prime minister yesterday saying that the strikes also wounded some policemen and also wounded some iraqi soldiers as well as members of that militia. so a lot of concern right now, jim, that the situation could escalate, and if it does, those consequences would potentially have very, very severe repercussions. >> arwa damon, thanks very much. spent a lot of time on the ground in iraq. joining me now, thomas pickering the former u.s. ambassador to the u.n., russia, and other countries. he's also a fellow at the brookings institution. based on your experience in the region there, what danger do you see today and going forward to u.s. diplomatic staff in iraq but also crucially to u.s. soldiers there? >> thank you, jim, very much.
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certainly the danger is self-evident that mobs gathered and just couldn't help but recalling that many years ago in 1979 we had a similar event in iran with i hope much different outcome. nevertheless, that kind of danger, we understand the ambassador and the staff have been evacuated and that will be a help in removing high value american targets. one wonders how much consideration was given to the bombing of hezbollah in iraq and the bigger question is our long-term and i think very important relationships with iraq and how and in what way we move ahead. if this is part of an extreme pressure campaign against iran, it doesn't appear it has developed the deterrent function it's supposed to. one hopes that it will. nevertheless, the continued ongoing nature of this particular conflict and one has to call it a conflict now, of
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escalating pressure with no appare apparent basis for finding a way to turn that pressure into a diplomatic outcome does seem to be once again risking something that some of us call the bluff trap. you use military force if one of the sides doesn't back down, and that's the only option, then in fact you keep raising military force, and you know, sooner or later that looks like a war, acts like a war, and becomes a war. >> yeah. and listen, what's interesting here is to you have your allies, iraq among them, on your side as you're raising the pressure here? the protests we've seen and deadly protests often we've seen across iraq in recent weeks, iran had been a target of many of those protesters here. now you have the u.s. as a target. has the u.s. miscalculated here in your view with these recent air strikes? >> jim, your words about miscalculation. i wouldn't disagree with you on
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that. i think the question is whenever you use military force and escalate up a notch, you want to be very sure that the full range of consequences is looked at very carefully, that you know and understand what they are, and you have in mind the plans that take account of those, prepare for that, and are executable when that kind of situation occurs. we had plenty of time if this is in answer to either the killing of an american, which i think we all regret, or indeed something longer term like the shoot down of the drone and the influence that iraq had and iran had certainly in the tanker conflict earlier this year. all of those are things that are obviously not in our interest to have happen, whether using american air power principally against shia militia inside
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iraq. here here here heretofor a country which we have enjoyed important and interesting relationships but not totally negative, that is now turned in a public square against us. do we and have we made the right decision here. one can only question that. >> coming off the story of iraq for a moment, we have the secretary of state mike pompeo visiting ukraine now. he says to deliver a message of american support for ukraine. of course one that has been called into question by the president's own decisions, public comments, and of course withdrawal or withholding of crucial military aid there. i wonder from your perspective, and again, your experience, particularly as ambassador to the u.n., who does ukraine listen to? who does russia listen to? do they listen to what the president says and does regarding ukraine, or do they listen to secretary of state mike pompeo and others who are trying to, you know, issue these messages of confidence there? >> well, jim, it's a very interesting question.
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it appears in a sense that the ukraine/russia/u.s. triangle has never been harmonious as a cacopho cacophony. the other interesting thing is pompeo going there to convince someone that the president argues, president zelensky is entirely on his side on the very sensitive issue of what happened in the july phone call and who was bringing pressure against whom to achieve what objective. pompeo's moving in to try to improve and repair our relationships with ukraine can only mean that they made a conclusion that those relationships are deteriorating and the principal source for that deterioration has to be an event which the president claims is totally supportive of his own activities with respect to ukraine. so it plays i would say a very bad hand in the middle of a u.s. political controversy that
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probably hasn't been equal for a very long time in our history. >> of course in the midst of that, the president speaking to vladimir putin, it was a call we learned about from the kremlin first on sunday that president putin called president trump, the white house finally acknowledging that call yesterday and giving something of a readout. i wonder from your perspective, what's the problem with that when you learn first about a key call between the u.s. and a principal adversary in russia, the leader after those two countries not from the u.s. but from russia, and in light of the fact as well that the white house track record on describing what actually takes place in these calls is not good. i mean, there was a previous readout of a call between trump and zelensky in which the readout said he raised corruption when the transcript showed he did not raise corruption. what's the white house's credibility here? >> for a long time i've worried about u.s. credibility as a whole all around the globe, and one has a sense that it's
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declining, whether it is big demonstrations in the heart of baghdad, pompeo flying to ukraine to three to shore up a relationship there, the telephone call with president putin was clearly an effort by president putin, one, to thank us for something we did but also to open the door to a conversation, which has not seemed to have been possible up to now. a deterioration of u.s., russian relationships, i was there three or four weeks ago is obviously and the more it involves the unhinging and the undoing of u.s. relationships with russia over how and in what way to deal with the nuclear deterrent on both sides, the more important it is that we speak to russia and the more significant it is that something gets started. and the some of the reports of that call have seemingly touched on that important issue, but it is very unusual that the
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secretary of state should be one day headed to shore up relationships with an ally who has been and continues to be in conflict with russia and the president should take ha seems to be a hug em up call with president putin at very much the same time. i do think it's important not that we hug up to russia but that we have contacts with and communications with russia. it's a very important country whether we like it or not. you don't get a chance to choose the people you have to work out the problems with. they're usually the people that at least your public has learned to dislike very greatly, and that's painful, but it is important to be in touch with russia. it's important that our policy has some strategic harmony and it's important that we get off the dime if you can put it this way, and seek to do things that support american interests. >> ambassador pickering, thanks so much for joining us this morning. >> thank you, jim. >> happy new year to you and your family.
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>> happy new year to you and all at cnn and around the world. >> made the comparison to 1979 and iran when of course there was the takeover of the u.s. embassy there 40 years ago. >> and talking about what happens if one side doesn't back down. here just hearing from senator marco rubio writing iran is responsible for the orchestrating the storming of the embassy in iraq and must be held accountable for it. remember, there are americans serving in that embassy and as arwa said, big security question, how did they get that far inside the green zone. >> and soldiers on the ground. prosecutors revealing a trail of clues from the man they say stabbed five orthodox jews celebrating the seventh night of hanukkah. what we are learning about the attacker and his ties to a fringe extremist group.
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stabbing spree at a rabbi's home near new york city has been charged with federal hate crimes as investigators reveal an exten si trail of online journals about hitler. the criminal complaint here outlines an incredibly troubling mind-set. >> reporter: yeah, definitely, poppy, there's a will the lot oe in that criminal complaint. one of those was about increased police patrols at synagogues. that was done the day of this attack. these online searches as you just mentioned along with journal entries are some of the evidence that authorities say they found in thomas's car and his home. thomas appeared in court on those federal hate crime charges yesterday, and he told a judge he understood why he was there. grafton thomas, the man accused of stabbing five hasidic jews at
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a hanukkah celebration now remar remains in custody after being charged with obstructing the free exercise of religion. thomas already pleaded not guilty to state charges sunday of five counts of attempted murder and one count of first degree burglary. according to a criminal complaint, prosecutors say thomas's internet history on his cell phone included searches of why did hitler hate the jews and german jewish temples near me and a search for prominent companies founded by jews in america. the criminal complaint against thomas also says a journal found by authorities shows he expressed anti-semitic sentiments with some entries referring to hitler and nazi culture, with drawings of a swastika. one entry hebrew israelites apparently reverence to the black hebrew israelite movement.
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the complaint also details the moments leading up to the hanukkah attack alleging thomas entered the rabbi's home with his face covered by a scarf and proclaimed to those inside no one is leaving, and then used an 18-inch machete to start stabbing and slashing people. >> i kept on screaming, everybody run, go, go, go the guy's coming. and he said hey, i'll get you. that's the only exchange that he had i think with anyone. >> thomas was apprehended by police two hours later in new york city. police say he was found with blood on his clothes and a smell of bleach in his car with a machete and another knife that had apparent traces of dried blood on them. he's a former marine who suffered from mental illness and claim he had no history of anti-semiti anti-semitism. >> there is no suggestion in any of those ramblings and pages of writing of an anti-semitic
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motive of any anti-semitism. >> reporter: now thomas is going to remain in federal custody, but he does appear back in court this friday on those state five attempted murder charges along with that burglary charge. now to another attack on a house of worship, the man who fatally shot a gunman inside a texas church during sunday services is being credited with taking him out with just one shot. volunteer security guard jack wilson was a former reserve sheriff's deputy as well as an army veteran says he began watching the attacker from the moment he walked into church. lu lucy kafanov live from fort worth, texas. what are we learning about those crucial six seconds where those volunteer security guards took down the shooter? >> reporter: jim, jack wilson says alarms went off in his head the moment the shooter walked in wearing a fake beard and a wig. he is, as you mentioned, a former reserve deputy sheriff.
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he's also a firearms instructor who has trained many members of this congregation to defend themselves, to prepare for just this kind of a worst-case scenario. so when that gunman walked in and opened fire, jack wilson was ready. take a listen. >> my training, you know, says that if i see a weapon, especially in that scenario you train, but you hope you never have to go through that extreme. if you do, your training will kick in, and that was evident yesterday. >> reporter: we're also learning more about the shooter, keith thomas, 43 years old, according to his sister he lived on the streets for a long time. he has a string of arrests and convictions over the past decade including assault with a deadly weapon, also theft. the pastor yesterday telling us that kanunan had been to the church before. he had seen him there. he's been offered food. no word on motive, but the
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sister mentioned this. the pair had a younger sibling who took his life several years ago. sunday the day of that shooting was the anniversary of that sibling's birthday. authorities are still investigating. no confirmation, no new details on the motive but it does seem these personal factors could be at play. >> thank you very much for your reporting. keep us posted as you learn more. the hanukkah attack we talked about outside of new york city. it is just the latest in a string of anti-semitic incidents across the country. next, we will speak to an antidefamation league official about the alarming trend and what is being done to stop it. when you move homes, you move more than just yourself.
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thank you for being here. i wish it were under different circumstances. but let's begin with the journal entries, things like searches of hitler and nazi culture and anti-semitic writings in his journal. what is your reaction to that being found? >> apparently there was also searches for zionist temples nearby. to me that suggests that is not somebody who is spontaneously deciding to go after someone's house who is celebrating hanukkah, that this may have been potentially premeditated. of course we need more information. >> new york city, new york congresswoman knee ta lowry, i don't know if you read her op-ed in the "new york times" it was very powerful. she calls this an epidemic in new york and across the country and writes the resurgence of anti-semitism could be a result in part of the vanishing legacy of.
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ha holocau holocaust. do you agree with her? >> i think that's part of it. this is why adl education programs are very much focused on learning the lessons from the ha holocaust and applying them today. there were a will the lot of by people who did not speak out, people who did not reject anti-semitism at the time of the holocaust. we train and teach kids about how to identify bias and speak out. part of that is to empower them to say they have a role to play in pushing back against hate. >> the saying if you don't speak up, who will be there when they come for you. i'd like to talk about a group that's getting a lot of attention right now in the wake of the jersey city attack and this attack in new york. the suspect's journal referenced ebinoid israelites, they believe that's a reference to the black hebrew israelites that movement.
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the new york attorney general is investigating hate groups including some parts of the black hebrew israelites, what do we know about that group? how does the adl view that group? >> so we've been tracking and monitoring the black hebrew israelites since the '70s and '80s. i should say there are many different groups that make up that movement, offshoots really. many of them have no anti-semitic intent at all. they believe in a very sort of apocalypt apocalyptic, sort of they are the true israelites, but there is a section of them, and many people may have come across them in times square or the harbor in baltimore where there are street preachers expressing antilgbt sentiment. there are pockets of offshoots of the black hebrew israelites. >> one of the attackers in the jersey citigroup is believe to be tied to the movement.
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>> i understand there was a reference that was made in one of his journals. is it possible that he was referring to the jersey city incident, i think more remains before we say there's a direct connection between this individual and the hebrew israelites. >> yesterday we had rabbi jeffrey myers from the tree of life synagogue from the program. of course they suffered the massacre just last year. listen to something that he told john and i that just stunned us. >> i don't recall them selling licenses to have open hunting season on jews, but it sure can make jews feel that way. >> do you feel that way now? that's quite a statement. >> it sure makes you pause and wonder what's going on in our society that people feel that they have a god given right to attack any human being for whatever reason they choose to. >> those words open hunting season on jews, and couple that with him saying that many of his
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jewish friends are hiding their faith. there was a survey in october before the recent attacks that found that 31% of american jews are trying to hide their judaism in america in 2019. >> it's disturbing. the community is suffering, you know, there's a sense of anxiety and fear, whether it's pittsburgh, poway, jersey city, a rise in anti-semitic incidents we're tracking. these are serious issues. the data proves that. i think the narrative can't just be of jews being victimized and feeling unsafe. the jews are coming together, other communities are providing support and alliship, and the narrative has to be overcoming this not just about being a victim. >> i'm glad you make that point. what do we do for the children? joseph glock who's being hailed as a hero for going after the attacker in monsey here's what he told us yesterday?
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>> there are a lot of kids shaking, vomiting blood a few hours later from fear. there was one kid hiding in the entry room, i believe he didn't come out from his home until now. >> traumatized children vomiting blood in reaction to this. they can't comprehend this. they don't understand all of it, but they're terrified. what do we do for our children? >> first of all, i think participants need to hug their children a little bit tighter. need to tell them that the jewish experience is one that's filled with these types of incidents over long periods of time and that the jewish community, the jewish people are resilient and have continued. and in america 2019 it's not the best time for jews, we know in any country around the world, that jews can find a way to make their children feel safer, it's this one. keeping that hope and spirit alive is going to make 2020 safer and better, at least for the children. >> let's hope so.
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thank you. happy new year, we appreciate it very much. jim. breaking news, former nissan chairman carlos ghosn has escaped from japan are where he was facing financial misconduct charges. he's gone on to seek refuge in lebanon. this coming even as a surprise to his attorney. cnn's david culver live in hong kong with this breaking story. do we have any idea how he pulled this off? >> that remains the biggest question. we're talking about a guy who was widely praised as an industry titan. he was seen as a visionary in the automotive business, secretly skipping bail and going to japan. carlos ghosn's attorneys are calling their client's actions inexcusable. they're actually holding onto his three passports. japanese authorities arrested the then chief executive of nissan for allegedly mishandling
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ml millions of dollars and under reporting his own pay. he was released from jail, rearrested and rereleased this past april on $9 million bail. that was one of the highest japan's ever seen. ghosn's called the allegations a conspiracy, he said it's back stabbing from former nissan employees and after his escape to beirut monday, he released this statement through a public relations firm. he says, quote, i am now in lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant and basic human rights are denied adding i have not fled justice. i have escaped injustice and political pers kurgs. ghosn went on to say he's free to communicate with the media which he plans to do next week. japan and lebanon do not have an extradition treaty. it's unlikely he'll be
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returning. they'll enter discussions to figure out how this happened. >> david, thanks very much. we are hours to go until we celebrate the new year here in new york. see how the country's largest pr police force is working to secure tonight's festivities. it is already 2020 in some parts of the world, fireworks kicks off the new year and new decade in new sooe randzealand a few m ago. we'll bring you more new year's celebrations around the world as they happen this morning. end of a decade. (little boy) he's coming! (make-a-wish volunteer) ok, he's coming, c'mon c'mon... here we go... ♪
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welcome back. you are looking here at louvive pictures of times square where hundreds of thousands of revelers will pack the streets of new york to ring in 2020 and a new decade. thousands of police officers will be on the streets and they will be using new technology to protect everyone there. cnn's miguel marquez, he is live in times square with more. i've been there for new year's before. folks don't realize what an
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elaborate security operation it is, particularly during new year's. tell us about some of those resources and how they pull this off. >> oh, this is -- it is a massive, massive effort by nypd from the air, from the land, and from the water here. i mean, this is the stage, this massive stage where they expect as many as many a million people to show up. they will have thousands of police officers in uniform and out of uniform. they will have resources, helicopters in the air. they will have boats on the rivers. they will have vast swaths of the area blocked off by trucks. they will even use drones if the weather permits. they were meant to use them last year but they weren't able to because it was raining so much. they will also have a crew that will watch for rogue drones in the event that others try to fly their drones illegally over this area. these are the pens that will soon be filled. the pens of madness and hell, and look at this. you already have hundreds of
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people who are lined up ready for -- piling into these pens when they allow them to come in. these guys love bts. they've been out here since last night. i've asked what their restroom strategy is, and they said they're basically not eating and drinking anything for the next 24 hours. so people are incredibly excited. it looks like everything's going according to plan, and, you know, nypd puts on a massive effort here, and it should be a great 2020, and let the 2020 puns begin. >> pens of madness and hell, i think, can you copyright that? >> can you say it on morning television? it's like 6:30 in the morning here. who's going to be in bed earlier tonight, you or me? >> reporter: i don't know if you have the morning show tomorrow, but i will definitely be in bed by probably 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. i'm done at that time.
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unless i'm still out here doing live shots which might be possible as well. >> happy new year. so will mother nature cooperate for new year's eve tonight. lets go to our meteorologist chad myers. he has the answer. it's down right balmy in new york. >> it is 36 right now and going to be 39 at midnight. that's amazing. compared to some of the other weeks, the weeks of christmas to new year's where it can be ten below zero. we'll take it. here's your midnight temperatures, the coldest i can find, minneapolis you'll be ten degrees at the midnight hour. this weather is brought to you by celebrity cruises. visit to book your award winning vacation today. maybe that's for minneapolis because you are in the center. of the cold. a little bit of snow across the northeast. it ends by midnight for most of you. over detroit, grand rapids, even upstate flurries into new england. watch as hour-by-hour i move you all the way to midnight tonight. yes, snow through toronto, snow through erie into pennsylvania, also into state college.
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by midnight things truly dry out and temperatures are going to be very nice. in the afternoon we're going to be in the 40s. as the ball drops in new york city, 39 degrees. i've seen a lot worse. >> we'll take it. >> chad, happy new year my friend. don't forget to ring in the new year if you can stay up with anderson cooper, andy cohen. coverage begins 8:00 p.m. eastern tonight live from time kw square and around the world. joe biden says he is open to a running mate the democrats might find surprising. we're going to tell you exactly what he's thinking of next. prescription eyewear can be really expensive.
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you're looking at live pictures. this is afternoon the u.s. embassy in baghdad. massive protests, hundreds of people there surrounding to the point that u.s. diplomatic staff, including the ambassador have been evacuated for their own safety. we continue to monitor this story here, the concern of course that the lives, the safety of u.s. staff there in danger. joining us now cnn political analyst rachael bade, congressional reporter for "washington post," and joe lockhart, president clinton's former white house press secretary. thanks to both of you. happy new year to both of you. joe, let me begin with you, this is potentially a significant moment for u.s. policy in iraq, is it not? this follows air strikes over the weekend, u.s. air strikes on iranian backed militias there, but of course a series of escalating shots back and forth between the u.s. and iran.
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as you watch this here, tell us how concerned you are. >> well, you know, i think this was a situation that wasn't handled very well by the trump administration. obviously, you cannot ignore iranian aggression, and when a u.s. soldier or contractor is killed response is appropriate, but when you're going into iraq and taking out a site in iraq, you have to work with the iraqi government. they have their own politics, and it's very delicate politics, and it just doesn't appear they did the work they needed to do before they launched this strike, and they have created a problem. this is a problem of their making. >> to joe's point, rachel, iraq's prime minister telling the "new york times" that he messaged cabinet members that he had tried over and over again to stop the u.s. from carrying out these air strikes but the united states was consistent.
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we had ambassador pickering on at the top of the hour. he talked about the risk to the united states, and that is a bluff trap. what do you do if one side does not back down. the only public official we've heard from is senator marco rubio and the foreign relations committee. have you heard anything from congress reacting to this? >> well, look, a lot of members are still back in their districts for the holiday break right now, so a lot of folks not tuned in as much as perhaps they should be in an emergency situation like this. clearly there's a problem here with escalation right? now you have people storming the u.s. embassy in iraq. are there going to be other attacks on americans? that is obviously a top concern of the trump administration skprgs that sort of puts the president in this position where he has to decide how is he going to handle that if it continues to escalate, and beyond sort of the foreign policy challenges, this really presents a problem for trump in 2020.
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this is a guy who ran on getting out of the middle east, ending, you know, these quote endless wars he talked about when he ran in 2016, but if you know, things continue to escalate is he going to have to look at potentially doing something more and does that sort of infringe on what he promised in 2016 and how does that affect him going forward politically in 2020? >> we're going to stay on top of the story there as the situation remains dangerous. back here in the u.s., republican leader mitch mcconnell, he's expected to address the current stalemate with democrats. democrats and republicans yet to agree on how a senate trial would look for the president. crucial to that, the question of witnesses. joe lockhart, the "new york times" story yesterday is pretty remarkable here, right? it revealed something that even the house impeachment investigation could not uncover, and that is that the president's three senior most national security advisers, pompeo, bolton, and mark esper, the defense secretary went directly to the president and tried to lobby him directly to release
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this aid to ukraine. for one, that shows they knew it was the president who made that decision there, but i wonder how does the gop resist in light of this a call for witnesses like bolton, pompeo, esper to address these questions, to address their intersectiactions with th president over this decision? >> i think you put your finger on it. i think we knew from the witnesses in the house that there was this effort in the administration to try to move the president, try to get him to release the aid, but what is significant about this, there is a critical meeting in the oval office that no one knew about. despite the work of all these investigators, all these witnesses, we have not gotten to the core corruption here, and it makes it very difficult for senator mcconnell, maybe not senator mcconnell, but some of his republican senators to say we're just going to sweep this under the rug. we've heard enough, the
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president's innocent. i think they now have to make the case that we've got to hear from these three men. >> so i think there's sort of two sides to that coin, depends how you see it. rachel your reporting is that the republican senators don't have an appetite for any witnesses at an impeachment trial largely speaking. that is interesting to me because two-thirds of republican voters in the latest polling say they want to hear from members of the administration. that's one side of the coin. the other side of the coin is why should republicans in the senate and mcconnell agree to do the work they could argue that democrats didn't wait to be done, right? didn't wait for the courts to decide if they should testify or not? >> yeah, three words mutual assured destruction. that is what senator mitch mcconnell told his republican colleagues. this is why he doesn't want to call any witness. you hear the president talking about sort of having this other trial when it comes to joe biden and bringing in hunter biden and sort of use the trial to pivot
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to going after his opponents. the senate majority leader has said he doesn't want to do that, if they do that, this opens republicans up to increased pressure like we're seeing right now to call in these firsthand witnesses about ukraine, mulvaney, bolton, pompeo, and i think republicans know, republicans do know privately when you talk to them, you know, not anonymously that that would be bad for the president and that that would put more pressure on them in terms of an impeachment trial and drag this thing out. so that is not something they want to do. so i know that they're going to continue to feel pressure including today and in had the coming weeks, you know, after this "new york times" story but i mean, again, i think they worry this is just going to hurt the president in the long run. >> yeah, well, we know mitch mcconnell can hold out on things like hearings for supreme court justices. he may be willing to hold his breath on this too. have fun tonight, guys, happy new year. today marks two decades of vladimir putin's reign. he is squarely at the center of
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some of the world's biggest international conflicts. we'll take a look back at his 20 years in power. download now and get your first stock on us. robinhood. because the tempur-breeze™makes stransfers heat. away from your body. so you feel cool, night after night. and now tempur-pedic is ranked number one by jd power in customer satisfaction with retail mattresses.
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so vladimir putin is marking 20 years in power today. he remains a central figure in many of the world's international issues. our fred pleitgen is live in moscow with more. 20 years with such a strong grip on power. >> strong grip on power and a growing confrontation with the west. just to drive that point home, a couple of minutes ago i got a wire saying the russians
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conducted drills with a medium range missile that the u.s. says threatens america's western european allies. you can see that that confrontation is something that's constant and indeed seems to be growing. here's a look back at 20 years of vladimir putin in power. after nearly 20 years in power, vladimir putin continues to polarize praising russia's advances in hyper sonic missile technology which moscow just announced it has deployed for the first time and standing by president trump as america's leader faces impeachment. putin's reign began after his predecessor boris yeltsin announced his resignation in his new year's address on january 1st, 2000. vladimir putin, the new strongman in the kremlin laid out his ambitious plans. >> translator: i've always said and will continue to say that the russian state must be strong. >> reporter: but his presidency got off to a rocky start.
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he was criticized for his handling of the sinking of a nuclear submarine a few months after he took office, the disaster killing all sailors on board. faced with public anger, putin didn't immediately return from his holidays to manage the crisis. he also escalated brutal war in check nia, and putin made clear he was going to be tough on terrorism. >> translator: we'll whack them in the outhouse. >> reporter: russian special forces raiding a moscow theater taken over my rebels in 2002 leading to the deaths of more than 130 hostages, while more than 330 hostages were killed when moscow's special forces raided a school taken hostage by extremists in southern russia 2004. russia's economy and overall stability started improving, thanks in part to high international oil prices
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boosting the president's popularity. after finishing two terms, putin had reached the limit under russia's constitution. a solution, he swapped jobs with prime minister medvedev for four years. he then changed the constitution extending the term from four to six years before putin's return as president. even while he was prime minister, it was always clear putin was the man in charge and the west was put on notice, russia was returning as a force in international politics. in 2008, the russia military invaded georgia. vladimir putin was reelected to his third term as president in 2012, but not all russians were happy. massive protests engulfed the streets of moscow, russian authorities crushing the opposition movement despite international condemnation. his second stint as president has been defined by
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confrontation with the west. in 2014 after an uprising unseated the pro-russian leader of ukraine, the kremlin invaded and then annexed crimea. russia is also accused of fueling and aiding the uprising in eastern ukraine, which has led to thousands of deaths and the downing of a commercial airliner killing everyone on board. international investigators blamed a missile fired from russian military equipment for the tragedy. the kremlin has remained defiant. >> translator: we think there is no proof. everything that was presented shows nothing. we have our own version, but unfortunately nobody wants to listen to us. >> reporter: russian forces are supporting syrian president bashar al assad against a rebellion. russia's heavy bombardment and frequent targeting of civilian areas amount to war crimes. putin's russia is accused of directly meddling in western nations affairs including a broad effort aimed at swaying
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the u.s. election in 2016 in favor of now president donald trump. putin denying he meddled, but acknowledging he wanted donald trump to win. >> translator: because he was talking about normalizing u.s./russia relations. >> reporter: but normalizing relations seems out of the question after britain accused russia of using chemical weapons to poison sergei skripal and his daughter in salisbury in 2018. russia once again dismissing the evidence. nearly 20 years after taking power, vladimir putin maintains a strong grip on the presidency having largely marginalized russia's opposition. but international sanctions ask isolation along with a weak economy have sent his popularity into a nose dive as some russians have grown wary of their long-standing leader. and vladimir putin still has four years left in his term. it's supposed to be his final term in office. he claims it is.
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of course there are questions here in moscow and internationally whether vladimir putin will step down in the coming four years. >> don't be surprised if he changes the constitution again. fred thanks very much. this is cnn breaking news. welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world. this is "new day," and we are following significant breaking news this morning. you are looking at live pictures of hundreds of iraqis trying to storm the u.s. embassy in baghdad after funerals were held for 25 fighters that come from an iranian backed shiite militia. they were killed by those u.s. air strikes over the weekend. >> the protesters gathered right now outside the u.s. embassy in the iraqi capital of baghdad. u.s. military personnel now posted on the rooftop of the embass


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