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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Global Changes; North Dakota Pipeline Ruling. Election send shockwaves through Europe; Italian Prime Minister resigns after losing referendum; Leftist candidate wins Austrian Presidency; Syrian Army moves into rebel-held part of Aleppo; 7-year-old Syrian girl tweets about bombs falling; Trump's intentions questioned in Taiwan call; Ivanka and husband planning move to DC; Philippines: Trump praised Duterte's war on drugs. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired December 5, 2016 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that woman saying that she viewed the warehouse kind of like a church, a way to draw inspiration from one another to create their art projects.
So, Jake, there will be a lot of probing questions about this facility. An investigative team is looking to see whether any crimes were committed, but, right now, of course, the focus remains on the victims and the recovery effort -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Horrible story. Dan Simon, thank you so much.
In North Dakota a decision that blocks construction of that controversial pipeline, but it's only really a small victory for protesters. Their fight against the project may soon be against president-elect Donald Trump. Stay with us.
TAPPER: From fire to ice, the campsite home to protesters against the North Access pipeline is now larger than ever, despite a decision that went their way.
Demonstrators of course cheered the decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that blocks construction planned to cut apart part of the Missouri River, but Energy Transfer, the company behind the pipeline project, says that the announcement changes nothing.
It's the fight ahead, they say, that has demonstrators vowing to remain camped outside in the snow and in temperatures projected to feel like 20 below zero.
CNN's Sara Sidner is at the campsite near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
And, Sara, it seems like it's likely that the announcement will just delay all of this until president-elect Donald Trump takes office and reverses it?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's certainly how people see it here.
One moment, they were celebrating. They felt like they had won a battle, if not the war. They certainly won a small battle to try to keep this pipeline from going underneath the Missouri River. And then they heard from the company that owns the Dakota Access pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners.
SIDNER (voice-over): Drumbeats, cheers and tears, the sound of victory for the Standing Rock Sioux and thousands of others gathered to stop the Dakota Access pipeline.
This mass of humanity living off the grid joined by thousands of military veterans helped exert so much political and legal pressure, effectively forcing the pipeline to be rerouted.
CHIEF ARVOL LOOKING HORSE, KEEPER OF WHITE BUFFALO CALF PIPE: People have said that is -- either we make it or break it, and I guess we made it.
SIDNER: The pipeline was almost to the river when it was halted by the Army Corps of Engineers so it could take another look at the path. Sunday, officials decided it was a no-go.
For months, the Sioux Nation had been demanding the project be scrapped. They were convinced the pipeline carrying crude oil underneath the Missouri River would one day leak, poisoning the drinking water of millions downriver.
DALLAS GOLDTOOTH, CAMP TRIBAL HEADSMAN: This is too much of a risk to the drinking water, to the thousands of people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, too much of a risk for the sacred sites all along that route in this area, and too much of a risk to us as a planet.
SIDNER: The pipeline's planned route did not go through Indian reservation land, but the tribe argued that the water is part of treaty land, and therefore it too must agree to its path.
(on camera): So you were offered $5 million and some land by both the landowners and the Dakota Access pipeline.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SIDNER: And your response to that was?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want the land. We don't want money.
SIDNER (voice-over): Instead, they wanted to protect the water.
North Dakota's governor says the pipeline was 95 percent complete. The company was waiting on that final permit. It's not getting it. It seemed to be a blessing to the Standing Rock Sioux. CHASE IRON EYES, STANDING ROCK SIOUX TRIBESMAN: What we see has never
been seen before in the written history of our people. We have never known a time when non-Native American allies from around the country, around the world have come here in the dead of winter to stand with us, to stand together to call for a new day.
SIDNER: But then Energy Partners responded, saying this is simply a political move by the Obama administration that won't stop the pipeline from going under the river. They contend the latest decision changes nothing, they have every legal right to continue. And, with that, the celebrations could be short-lived.
CHASE IRON EYES: If president-elect Trump could override what just happened today on January 20 and grant that easement, then we're in for a world of hurt. Nothing has changed for us.
SIDNER: So, one of the things that we're seeing with the thousands of people, and there are upwards of 10,000 people that are now here, is that there are thousands of military veterans who have come to support this cause.
One of them is standing right next to me.
Julius Page is from Fargo and is out here in these frigid temperatures.
I have to ask you, this is dangerous weather. It's very, very cold, very difficult to be out here. What made you feel so strongly about being here?
JULIUS PAGE, PROTESTER: I know that I have the skills to endure this, but I also know I have the conviction to take care of the people that are here that don't have those skills.
And part of the job I do is to ensure the safety and security of the people here. I gained a lot of that through my military experience.
SIDNER: What is it like being here with members of the military when you know that there are members of the military on the other side of this line saying that they're there also to protect the people, but they're also protecting those who are helping to build this pipeline?
PAGE: Well, my take on that is, they're not here to protect at any level.
They're here to protect the big money entities that are building this pipeline. That is why we have to do what we do on this side of the line.
SIDNER: You're very passionate about this.
PAGE: Yes, I am.
SIDNER: And you're not going anywhere, even in this weather? [16:40:00]
PAGE: Not as long as we have people that are vulnerable and that need us. I have to be here.
SIDNER: Thank you so much for your service and taking the time to talk to us about this. It's an important issue and I know there are thousands of people that stand with you as well.
PAGE: Thank you.
SIDNER: And that's what we're hearing from many different people here. They went from jubilation to disappointment, but they say they're ready for this fight for the long haul -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Sidner, thank you so much. Please stay warm yourself.
A roller-coaster weekend in Europe, two votes, two different outcomes. Did a candidate with connection to Nazis win?
Plus, under attack, nowhere to go, goodbye -- the mother of a little girl inside Aleppo tweeting that just a few hours ago. Our own Fred Pleitgen is inside the besieged city. He is coming up next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Our world lead, a world that looks dramatically different than it did just a few short months ago. Take a look at this photo from the G5 summit in April.
Since that photograph was taken, British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned following the Brexit vote. President Obama, of course, will leave office next month. French President Francois Hollande says he will not seek reelection in 2017. And Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, stepped aside yesterday after losing a referendum vote. That leaves German Chancellor Angela Merkel, last woman standing. And it's all part of a wave of economic anxiety and political nationalism sparking major change across the globe. CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson is in London. And Nick, Austria held elections Sunday as well. Did this nationalist wave -- did it prove successful there as well?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: No, it didn't, it kind of ran out of steam. And Austrians that are waking up this morning and have asked themselves, "Well, how did that happen?" Because back in May and the annulled election then, the Green Party candidate, who won by 7 percent of the vote, only won by 31 percent back in May. But, of course, what has happened since then, there's been a Brexit vote, there's been the election of Donald Trump in the United States, so the assessment in Austria is people said, "Whoa, hold on, we don't want that level of uncertainty." But that doesn't mean that a mainstream candidate won. The green party candidate is not mainstream, so the message here is for the principal part is still not being listened to. And we've seen that. It's been a real roller coaster weekend all across Europe.
ROBERTSON: Italy's Prime Minister resigns. Europe's roller-coaster relationship with the E.U., takes a dive. Trump-type populism is shaking up Europe's politics. Hours earlier, Austria elected a new president. Europe's leaders rejoiced. Austrians rejected the nationalist candidate with Nazi connections. France's President declaring the Austrian people have chosen Europe. What the Austrians chose, though, was no mainstream politician. Alexander Van der Bellen is Western Europe's first ever Green Party president. He is pro-E.U. But this is the first time neither of Austria's two principal political parties have not held the presidency.
In Italy, Renzi who tried to reform the country's bloated bureaucracy and boost the economy is victim of leftists and nationalists who want out of the European Union. France's hard right nationalist, Marine Le Pen, who is running for president next year, was quick to grab gains for her own campaign from Renzi's loses. She tweeted, "The Italians have moved away from Renzi and the E.U. We must listen to this thirst for freedom and protection of nations."
At E.U. HQ in Brussels, finance ministers dismiss worries of a hit on the euro, but Italy's struggling banks may yet need Brussels' help baling them out. And for Italy's populists, that's a contentious issue.
Meanwhile, here in London, more discord. The Supreme Court is deciding whether or not British lawmakers could potentially block Brexit. It will add to the growing uncertainty about the future of the European Union. Passions here for and against Brexit are high, and every indication now, similar sentiments are spreading.
ROBERTSON: And that's what we're seeing in Italy this evening. The five-star party, the populist party there is demanding new elections right away. Meanwhile, the president of the country is asking the Prime Minister Renzi just to hold on a little bit longer, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Nic Robertson, thank you so much.
In Syria now, there are deep concerns that the City of Aleppo may soon fall completely into the hands of President Bashar al-Assad. Hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in just the last two weeks, thousands more forced to flee their homes.
Among them, the family of seven-year-old Bana Alabed. The young girl's Twitter feed has helped shine a global spotlight on the horrific suffering of the Syrian people. Last night, the count appeared to have been deleted, sparking fears that the worst had happened, but this afternoon it was back and Bana's mother posted, quote, "Under attack. Nowhere to go, every minute feels like death. Pray for us. Goodbye"
CNN's Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen joins me now live from the battered and beseeched city of Aleppo. Fred, what are conditions like on the ground where you are?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, they're pretty much catastrophic in a lot of these areas. I was able to go, Jake, to one area that was just taken back by government forces, which has actually been in the hands of rebels for about four years. And virtually every building in that place that we went through was absolutely destroyed. What we're seeing here on the ground in the past 48 hours or so that we've been here is that the Syrian government, the Syrian army, is really trying to bring massive fire power onto those rebel-held areas to try and deal a decisive blow to the rebels who are left. We're hearing artillery go off pretty much 24 hours a day.
[16:49:58] Also, mortars being launched pretty much all of the time. And jets in the air and jets dropping bombs. And you can only imagine what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of that. Now, we've been speaking to some Syrian soldiers, Jake, and they've been telling us, they believe they could take all of Aleppo in a matter of maybe two months. Some of them also saying they could be there by Christmas. Of course, in a war like that, it's almost impossible to tell whether or not that's possible. At this point this time, it really seems as though the momentum is on the side of the Syrian government and the rebels are in retreat, Jake.
TAPPER: Now, of course, Bana's Twitter account puts a face on the human tragedy, but there are so many children in Aleppo. Tell us about them, how are they?
PLEITGEN: Yeah, you know, that's absolutely right. It certainly is very much -- as you can hear, another mortar that was just being fired there. And that's really one of the things, obviously, that these children are traumatizes more than anything else. We've been seeing so many kids that have lost their homes, so many kids who have to stand in lines to try and get aid, and so many kids who are frightened by exactly what you've just heard right now.
Again, it's one thing to have to hear that. It's another thing to be on the receiving end of something like that. Something like that, and even bigger ordinance is being dropped on a lot of these rebel areas, absolutely traumatizing these people there, absolutely traumatizing especially the children there. That's something we've been seeing. And of course, many of them are among the most vulnerable people in this civil war, and they definitely need help very quickly, and, of course, many of them who are still in those besieged areas simply not getting that aid. It truly is a tragedy, and we've seen, again, a lot of children here in these districts that we visited, and time and again, we could see that they were the ones who were suffering the most and who are most badly in need of help, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Tragic. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. Please stay safe.
Ivanka Trump, a savvy businesswoman, but now new questions about her company's latest deal and at least one high-level meeting she attended with her father as President-elect. That story next.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Back to politics now. We're going to zero in again on possible, possible colliding loyalties between Donald Trump, the President-elect and Donald Trump, the global business man. It's a segment we call "CONFLICT OF INTEREST WATCH". Donald Trump's phone call with Taiwan's leader not only broke protocol, it raised some questions about possible other financial motives. The Taiwanese official told local media that before the election in September, someone claiming to be with the Trump organization had inquired about building a new Trump Hotel there. You could also raise questions about other possible coincidences. President-elect Trump's praise of the brutal ruler of the Philippines, the Philippines where a Trump Tower stands in Manila. There's much more.
Let's bring in CNN Money Correspondent Cristina Alesci. And Cristina, Trump said that he would separate himself from his business, let his grown children run them, but now we hear at least one of the younger Trumps is house-hunting in Washington.
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake, both Ivanka and Jared are looking to move to D.C. And Ivanka was just in a meeting today with former Vice-President Al Gore. Two pieces of information that suggests Donald Trump wants to draw them closer to the administration, potentially roles where they could sway policy, and that means more scrutiny over their own businesses and motives.
ALESCI: New details about Ivanka Trump's own business deal have complicated Donald Trump's efforts to address conflicts of interest. Ivanka's company confirmed it's in the final stages of signing a lucrative licensing deal in Japan for her clothing line. The problem? Her company was negotiating the terms when President-elect Trump included Ivanka in a face-to-face meeting with the country's prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW AT BROOKINGS FOREIGN POLICY PROGRAM: To be in official meetings with foreign leaders does come a little bit too close to the possibility of people seeing her as advancing her own business interests through the mechanism, through the vehicle of the American presidency.
ALESCI: Now, Ivanka, along with her husband Jared Kushner are house hunting in Washington. Adding to speculation that Jared might land a spot in the White House. And then, Ivanka might advise her father's administration. All this makes for a weak so-called wall between the president-elect and his family business. And Donald Trump's informal discussions with foreign leaders isn't helping. The president-elect made history by speaking to the President of Taiwan.
O'HANLON: No American president or president-elect is known to have spoken directly with a leader of Taiwan since 1979.
ALESCI: Almost immediately, reports surfaced about the Trump organization's potential deals there. That left the transition team scrambling to make clear the organization isn't planning any new projects there. But those aren't the only places where potential conflicts loom. In the Philippines, home to a Trump Tower, newly- elected leader Rodrigo Duterte has been criticized for encouraging widespread executions of supposed drug offenders.
RODRIGO DUTERTE, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES: If the criminals there are killed by the thousands, that's not my problem.
ALESCI: The State Department has condemned the killings.
JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We continue to be deeply concerned by reports of extrajudicial killings by or at the behest of government authorities in the Philippines.
ALESCI: But Trump hasn't condemned them. The two men recently spoke. According to a statement from the Philippines government, Trump praised Duterte for tackling the drug problem in, quote, "the right way," and invited him to visit Washington.
ALESCI: Well, Jake, as you know, Trump is set to announce plans to deal with these conflicts next week, and we're going to have to see how far he goes to put these questions to bed.
TAPPER: All right, Cristina Alesci, thank you so much. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and on Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN, we actually read them. That's it for THE LEAD today. I am Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, mistrial after days of deliberations, the Charleston jury gives up. They're unable to reach a verdict in the murder trial of a white police officer who shot at unarmed --