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Netanyahu Summons U.S. Ambassador Over U.N. Resolution; Trump to Dissolve Foundation; 2016 Top 10 Moments in Politics; Russian Plane Crashes in the Black Sea; Trailblazing Senator Mikulski Says Goodbye; Popular Holiday Movies and Songs by the Numbers. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 25, 2016 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: To Pass. Israel also summoned the ambassadors of 10 countries that voted for the resolution. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the meetings were, quote, "to express deep anger and dissatisfaction as a result of the vote of countries that consider themselves friends of Israel."

Now that vote sparked a bipartisan backlash from many here in the U.S. who thought the United States should have backed Israel and voted against the measure which would have killed it.

CNN correspondent Oren Lieberman is in Jerusalem for us now. Now, Oren, explain the significance of the Israeli prime minister summoning these ambassadors especially America's.

OREN LIEBERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a way of expressing anger, disappointment and frustration when there is some conduct by some other country, in this case especially the United States, that angers Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. This is another one of the series of diplomatic steps we've seen unfolding since shortly after this resolution passed.

It is rare. It is considered a fairly major step to summon an ambassador for criticism. That's what we've learned these meetings essentially are. Netanyahu criticizing the decision of these countries to vote in favor of this resolution.

At first, the U.S. wasn't on the list. It was left off because the U.S. at the Security Council had abstained. It had decided not to vote for the resolution. But apparently after consideration, Netanyahu decided to summon the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, for a meeting to express his disappointment about this vote. Again it is a fairly major step.

There is also something interesting about it. Shapiro is a President Obama appointee which means he may have just a few weeks left in office until President Obama leaves office and is replaced by President-elect Trump. Trump has already made it clear who he's picking to replace Dan Shapiro. He's picking David Friedman.

His lawyer also considered far more sympathetic to the settlement enterprise. He supports one of the settlements in the West Bank outside of Ramallah. That is a pick that would make Netanyahu and his government far happier. Netanyahu it seems in these last few weeks wanted to express his

disappointment with President Obama and he did that not only through what he said but also through summoning Obama's ambassador to a meeting where he expressed how angry he was -- Dana.

BASH: Oren Lieberman in Jerusalem for us. Thank you so much.

Now recalling 10 ambassadors over this U.N. resolution vote is an unmistakable, loud and clear signal of anger from Israel. But Palestinian officials are delighted by the vote, calling it a victory for the cause of Palestinian statehood.

I want to bring in now Dr. Husam Zomlot, who is the senior adviser to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, and he's joining me now from Ramallah.

Thank you so much for being with me. First just explain to our viewers what does this vote mean to Palestinians?

DR. HUSAM ZOMLOT , SENIOR ADVISER TO MAHMOUD ABBAS: It means a victory for our legitimate cause. A cause that has sought for many years. That I took self-determination For our state we can call our own, for our home, for our freedom to move and elect our political bodies. We have been deprived this right by success of the Israeli governments particularly this current one that has seen the most extreme right-wing elements in it.

It's a victory for the cause of peace because if Mr. Netanyahu means the two-state resolution, he should be happy and celebrating this resolution. It's a victory for internationalism and the international responsibility to bring about peace and security worldwide. And this is not the resolution against Israel. This is a resolution against Israel's expansion. This is a resolution against the illegal settlement expansion that has been embraced by Netanyahu for many, many years.

BASH: Let me --

ZOMLOT: It is that -- yes.

BASH: Sorry to interrupt. But I just want to -- we're going to talk about more of the substance of it but I just want to ask you a question about some of the behind the scenes mechanics. There are reports that the Palestinians and the Obama administration officials there namely the Secretary of State John Kerry colluded to put this U.N. resolution in motion. Is that true? Was there coordination between you, the Palestinians, and the United States?

ZOMLOT: This is a resolution that was tabled by the U.N. Security Council members. That the U.S. is one of the 15 other members. There has been an concerted efforts by our mission in New York, the Palestinian Mission, by our president here, by our friends worldwide to really do something to stop the daily bleeding of the two-state solution and to stop the daily illegalities so --

BASH: But was John Kerry involved in trying to push for this to happen with Saeb Erekat?

ZOMLOT: No. Saeb Erekat has come officially and denied all these reports. The U.S. has taken its own position. We have had Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and her remarks after the vote and she said that she represents the United States of America. She represents both the Democratic Party and the Republicans. She represents the long-standing, unwavering policy of the U.S. that considers settlements to be illegal and must cease and she quoted from President Reagan to President Obama.

[13:05:10] So the U.S. has just cast its position based on its long- held policy. Nothing has changed. We are just wondering why we are considering this to be the exception. In fact, what the U.S. has done is just in line with its own law, its own policy and with the international law.

BASH: Well, as you well know, the critics -- and there are many of them here in the United States -- bipartisan, argue that it's the forum, it's the U.N. And so my question for you, you obviously won a big political victory at the U.N. on Friday, but the terrain here in the United States will be quite different in a few weeks when Donald Trump becomes president. Is there any fear that that move only antagonized him and his bipartisan allies in Congress against the Palestinians?

ZOMLOT: Well, if the move at the U.N. was really anti-peace, if the move was but to affirm a two-state solution, if the move was but to affirm the quest for co-existence between the two societies, if the move really not to affirm the long-standing U.S. policy, I would understand the question. But the move was just to really save us and Israel and borrow time and craft our way towards the future.

If you read the resolution, will you find out that this is the best for both Palestinians and Israelis. The problem is that if Netanyahu argues and is allowed to argue that the U.N. Security Council, which is the highest political and legal entity in the globe, is a place that should not discuss international issues, then we should dismantle the U.N. altogether.

BASH: Well -- well, the fact that you said that is -- it may not be dismantled, is certainly being discussed, at least the idea of withholding funds from the U.S. which is a big chunk of their budget.

I want to play for you something that Senator Lindsey Graham told me yesterday, saying he's not only going to lead the charge to withhold U.S. funding to the U.N. but also to you, to Palestinians. And he cited a story of something that he said happened to a U.S. citizen from his home state. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Taylor Force was a young man whose parents live in South Carolina, West Point graduate, went to Israel on a visit as part of a graduate exchange program, and was killed by a Palestinian, and the body was sent back to Ramallah, and he was given a state funeral. And his family was paid a big lump sum of cash by the Palestinian Authority because he was a hero in their eyes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: What's your reaction to that, but specifically the idea that there clearly is going to be a move in the U.S. Congress to stop giving the Palestinians financial aid?

ZOMLOT: Well, the first case that the senator just mentioned is very regrettable. We have condemned in the strongest words officially by the president. And second, there are thousands of Palestinians who lose their lives -- throughout this conflict by the occupation and by the boss of the Israeli Army. This is not the call. This is not the issue. The issue is how do we move forward and if the senator and all those who talk about our move in the U.N. to be anti-peace, if they really have any other alternative, we are willing to listen.

We have tried the part of bilateral talks for 23 years. The U.S. has sponsored these peace talks for all these years including the latest round that was invited by Senator Kerry, the Secretary of State Kerry, and then he went back to the Congress and said the Netanyahu government has really -- did not deliver its promises.

BASH: But let --

ZOMLOT: And has made the peace process not work. So the question is, where do we go now? Where do we go?

BASH: Exactly.

ZOMLOT: If we don't have the United Nations as the home for international legitimacy, if we don't the globe to come and sort this situation, if we don't seek international law, what do we do? Actually, to Senator Lindsey, we say the best alternative to this cry of criminal acts on both sides is to the reversion to international legitimacy, is to seek international law, is to ensure that there some sort of a third party that could enforce its will on us because we have tried the two sides to sort it out for too long by our -- and we did not succeed because the imbalance of power and the success of the Israeli governments have tried to grab more land during these 23 years the Israeli settlement --

BASH: Doctor Zomlot --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I want to talk about that important point that you brought up looking forward because it's going to be a whole new world. First about your own leadership. Do you think it is time for new blood inside the Palestinian leadership and even perhaps the man that you advised, Mahmoud Abbas? Perhaps it's time for him to go or at least hold new elections and could that help at least one part of the process of moving forward?

ZOMLOT: This is not the -- this is not the matter for the CNN or for the international community. This is a Palestinian national matter and the Palestinian people will choose and elect those who see fit to lead them.

BASH: What do you think, sir?

ZOMLOT: To lead them. I think the president, Mahmoud Abbas, was voted with the consensus in the last party congress that was held only two weeks ago.

[13:10:09] He has the support of his party and his movement and I firmly believe should he ran the national elections for the president supported by his party he will win a landslide because Palestinians are not just looking for new blood. They are looking for a real blood that would carry us through this bloody turmoil and very difficult time. The Palestinian people at large believe in his strategy of nonviolence and his strategy of making sure that we have international support and it has been paying off and the strategy to make sure that we have stability and security under a very adverse circumstances or occupation and colonization and siege.

BASH: And --

ZOMLOT: I think people vote for his ideas, vote for his success. It was also him, personally, and his credibility with the U.S., his credibility with Europe and the rest of the world that brought the fruits in the U.N. Security Council two days ago, so people are watching that. This is not about old or young. There are some old people with young ideas --

BASH: Dr. Zomlot --

ZOMLOT: -- and there are some young people like me with old ideas.

BASH: Dr. Zomlot, we're running out of time. But I just want to ask one final question about the idea of new blood. There will be new blood in the United States, Donald Trump. He has made it very, very clear that trying to finally find a way for there to be a workable peace process between Palestinian and Israelis is a top priority and he wants to try to get it done. He's obviously not the first president-elect to say that but he is somebody who comes from a really different world.

Do you think it is possible that the fact that he is sort of unshackled with or by the constraints of traditional diplomacy could actually be helpful? Do you have hope?

ZOMLOT: Yesterday I celebrated Christmas and the place where you should celebrate Christmas, in the Church of Nativity, the place of birth for Jesus. I joined the president, the Palestinian president, and he said to hundreds of believers, he hoped that President-elect Trump would really start focusing on us and our hands are extended, our hearts are open, our hopes are high and our prayers in the Christmas Eve is that he is going to be the one who's going to make the deal.

Absolutely we are willing, we are ready to move with him towards the journey of peace. We needed. The Israeli people needed. The region needs it and the U.S. needs it. We just need to really focus on how do we tell Netanyahu that you can no longer have the cake and eat it, too. You can no longer implement all these policies, adverse policies, against the U.S. law, against the logic of peace, and get away with it.

BASH: OK.

ZOMLOT: We either -- either we sit on a table and sort it or you will have to deal with the consequences of illegalities.

BASH: Dr. Husam Zomlot, thank you very much for ending on that hopeful message and thank you very much for joining me on this Christmas Day from Ramallah. Appreciate it.

ZOMLOT: Merry Christmas.

BASH: Thank you. You, too.

And this just in, we just heard from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weighing in on this very issue of the U.S. abstaining from the vote in the U.N. this week. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue. We knew that going there would make negotiations harder and drive peace further away. And as I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don't take friends to the Security Council.

I'm encouraged by the statements of our friends in the United States, Republicans and Democrats alike. They understand how reckless and destructive this U.N. resolution was. They understand that the western wall isn't occupied territory.

I look forward to working with those friends and with the new administration when it takes office next month.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Tough words there from the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. We'll be back with more on this and much, much more right after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:16:49] BASH: President-elect Donald Trump plans to dissolve the Trump Foundation in an effort to avoid any potential conflicts of interest before he's sworn into office. Trump saying in a statement, quote, "To avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as president, I have decided to continue to pursue my strong interest in philanthropy in other ways."

The Trump Foundation was criticized during the campaign amid allegations that Trump used it to settle private legal disputes and it's now under investigation by the New York attorney general who ordered it to stop fundraising.

So let's talk about this with our senior political analyst Ron Brownstein doing yeoman's work on this Christmas Day. Thank you.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

BASH: As well as my other good friend, David Swerdlick, CNN political commentator, also with the "Washington Post."

So, Ron, let's start with you. I want to show you what the New York attorney general said in a statement. Quote, "The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete."

So how big of a challenge does it present for Trump as he's trying to move forward, do what people have been calling for him to do which is try to disentangle himself from potential conflicts of interest?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, this is -- first of all, Merry Christmas to you and everybody watching. This is the secondary front in the -- in the much bigger debate that is going to go on well past inauguration day over the potential conflicts of interests surrounding Donald Trump. I mean, the foundation -- the foundations of charitable operations were limited at best as the excellent reporting by David's colleagues at "The Washington Post" has demonstrated. And the investigation that the New York attorney general, you know, he's made very clear in the quotes that you note that this is going to go on, their investigation is going to continue.

But I look at this decision by Donald Trump as just kind of one small step in the much larger question of what kind of barriers and bright lines he's going to try to draw with his business, which is still a much more, you know, fluid and ongoing challenge for the president- elect.

BASH: You know, that's a good point. And David, I was talking earlier to the historian Tim Naftali who said that he views this as a good first step because it is the first step in acknowledgement in practice that there are conflicts of interest that he's got to deal with. Do you agree with that?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I agree completely with Tim. First of all, also, yes, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everybody out there. I would say Tim is right on the money with that because, you know, President-elect Trump campaigned for a year or more on this idea that he was going to run the country and his adult children were going to run the business. So even though this is a good first step, why is it being treated now as sort of like a first thought or a first step that they have decided oh now, we have to make this move as opposed to saying look, we were planning for this all along. And it's clear that there's got to be a separation between the Trump Organization. Donald Trump's foundation, let's say, Eric Trump's foundation, and the running of the country.

The Trump family now is in the public service business. And it's really incumbent on them to, you know, build a wall or build an area of separation between --

(LAUGHTER)

[13:20:04] BASH: So to speak?

SWERDLICK: Yes. Yes. Right.

BASH: Without that big golden door. Right?

SWERDLICK: OK. Not that wall. Not that wall.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: But, Ron, you know, it -- to be fair to the Trump campaign, to the transition, to the family, it's not that easy when the way that he has made his money is with really tangible things, like hotels, for example.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BASH: The hotel that they just opened down the street from the White House. We're already seeing story after story of questions of diplomats either wanting to go and stay there, to tell the Trump team that they are doing so to curry favor or, you know, maybe something potentially more nefarious than that. So, you know, even if he's technically behind a wall, and not involved, there still is a Trump brand and there still is potentially going to be attempts to use those businesses by people trying to, you know, get what they want in a quid pro quo even if the Trump people aren't really aware of it.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, look, and that is why you have, you know, many ethics experts, including officials from Republican and Democratic White Houses, who have said really the only way to truly deal with this is with something that doesn't seem to be on the table, which is, you know, you know, basically liquidating the business and converting it into a blind trust that someone else would manage and invest.

Anything short of that leaves you -- leaves open the possibility of complications. A foreign government or a foreign interest trying to curry favor with the president by making deals around the world. Not only -- not only in existing products but, like in, you know, new, potentially new. Now they're talking about -- you know, limiting that. And they have backed away from some. But it's just a reminder of how complicated this is and that anything short of that kind of ultimate step does leave you with challenges. They do seem to be trying to take it somewhat more seriously than earlier. But the possibilities just are open-ended, I think. And that is why you do have some experts saying there is no true solution short of that kind of full severing.

BASH: David, 10 seconds, final thought?

SWERDLICK: Being president of the United States is not a branding or marketing opportunity. Donald Trump is now the president of the United States. BASH: Amen. Thank you so much, Ron Brownstein, David Swerdlick.

Again, Merry Christmas to both of you. Thank you for coming in and spending this time with all of us today.

And coming up --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: They go low, we go high.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: David Duke endorsement, I disavow. OK?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Come on, man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: It was an election year for the history books. Next, the top 10 political moments of 2016.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:25:35] BASH: From a fight for the highest court in the land to a presidential race full of astounding revelations, 2016 saw no shortage of showdowns and jaw-dropping revelations from the campaign trail.

CNN's Jake Tapper has a look at the top 10 moments in politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: This year, everything we thought we knew about politics was turned on its head. Political attacks, e-mail hacks, and several cracks in the glass ceiling made for an unparalleled race between the first female major party nominee and a billionaire political outsider.

President-elect Trump will soon take office but, first, let's look back at our top 10 political stories of 2016.

(Voice-over): Number 10, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in February.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Everything is on the line.

TAPPER: And in an unprecedented move, Republicans vowed to block any high court appointments until after the presidential election.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Simply, to turn your back before the president even names a nominee is not an option the Constitution leaves open.

TAPPER: Judge Merrick Garland was nominated in March but never even had a hearing.

Number nine -- B. OBAMA: You want to give me a good send-off, go vote.

TAPPER: In their final presidential year, the Obamas hit the campaign trail.

M. OBAMA: When they go low, we go high.

TAPPER: With more catchphrases.

B. OBAMA: Come on, man.

TAPPER: And less restraint.

B. OBAMA: Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified to be president.

TAPPER: But a different tone after the Democratic defeat.

B. OBAMA: If you succeed then the country succeeds.

TAPPER: Number eight.

TRUMP: I beat everybody. I beat the hell out of them.

TAPPER: Donald Trump won the Republican nomination but struggled to win over the party. Republican leaders distanced themselves.

(On camera): Will you support him?

RYAN: I'm just not ready to do that.

TAPPER (voice-over): But will the party now unify around President Trump?

RYAN: We're going to hit the ground running.

TAPPER: Number seven, Trump's unvarnished campaign attracted extremist support.

TRUMP: I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy.

TAPPER: He was slow to denounce white supremacists.

TRUMP: David Duke endorsed me. OK, all right, I disavow, OK?

TAPPER: And his controversial rhetoric on race continued.

TRUMP: This judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall.

TAPPER: Even targeting the judge in his university fraud case.

(On camera): If you are saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all.

TAPPER (voice-over): Number six, the conventions.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton made history in Philadelphia and a Gold Star family made Trump an offer.

KHIZR KAHN, GOLD STAR FATHER: Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.

TAPPER: In Cleveland, Melania Trump's speech was familiar.

M. OBAMA: You work hard for what you want in life.

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: That you worked hard for what you want in life.

TAPPER: And Sen. Ted Cruz refused to endorse the nominee.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vote your conscience.

TAPPER: Number five, Trump's past went public. There was a former Miss Universe feud.

CLINTON: He called her Miss Piggy.

TAPPER: He responded with a link to her past.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN "ANDERSON COOPER 360": You sent out a series of tweets, including one that told people to check out a sex tape.

TAPPER: Then a crude video of Trump.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

TAPPER: He brushed it aside.

TRUMP: This was locker room talk.

TAPPER: But nearly a dozen assault accusers said it went further than words.

JESSICA LEEDS, TRUMP ASSAULT ACCUSER: His hand started going towards my knee and up my skirt.

TAPPER: Trump denied the allegations and said he would sue.

Number four, Senator Bernie Sanders built a huge movement.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are actually listening to the American people, not the 1 percent.

TAPPER: But was the system rigged against outsiders?

SANDERS: Secretary Clinton received about 450 superdelegates before anybody else was in the race.

TAPPER: "Bernie or Bust" protesters crowded the convention.

SARAH SILVERMAN, COMEDIAN: You're being ridiculous.

TAPPER: And refused to vote for Clinton.

Number three, Democrats were hacked.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: They're under attack.

TAPPER: Stolen e-mails from the DNC revealed bias against Sanders, forcing the party chair to resign.

[13:30:02] SANDERS: There's no question to my mind that the DNC was in opposition to our campaign.

TAPPER: U.S. intelligence points to Russian cyber attacks.

B. OBAMA: Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us because we can do stuff to you.

TAPPER: Number two.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly-classified information.

TAPPER: The FBI recommended no charges for Clinton's use of a private e-mail server. Still, the issue was gold for Republicans.

TRUMP: She's guilty as hell.

AUDIENCE: Lock her up.

TAPPER: She tried to quell concerns.

CLINTON: My e-mails are so boring.

TAPPER: But the FBI announced they'd discovered new ones just before Election Day.

CLINTON: It's imperative that the bureau explain this issue.

TAPPER: The trove contained nothing new but the damage was done. Number one.

BASH: Hillary Clinton has called Donald Trump to concede the race.

TAPPER: Donald Trump won the White House.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The campaign unlike anything we've seen in our lifetime.

TRUMP: I love this country.

TAPPER: As protesters took to the streets, Secretary Clinton bowed out.

CLINTON: We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought.

TAPPER: Now a Cabinet of billionaires, outsiders, and military men will join Trump for an era of who knows what.

(On camera): Those were our top 10 political stories of this year. The question is, who and what will top the list next year?

Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: The FBI warning about possible ISIS attacks on churches in the U.S. We'll discuss.

Plus, the president-elect says fighting terror is his top priority. So how exactly will he accomplish that?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: And now for an update on a tragic plane crash with no survivors.

[13:35:01] It happened off the coast of southern Russia in the Black Sea. A military plane with 92 people on board, most of them members of a well-known military orchestra and choir. Rescue crews found the wreck in the water about a mile from where it took off. The Winter Olympic city of Sochi.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in Moscow following the developments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to Defense officials, none of the passengers or crew on board this Tupolev 154 aircraft operated by the Russian military survives the crash which happened shortly after takeoff from the Black Sea resort of Sochi in southern Russia. A naval recovery operation has been under way to retrieve bits of the aircraft's fuselage and bodies and a formal investigation into the disaster has been launched.

This was an aircraft en route to Syria and to Russia's military base there in Latakia. On board were more than 60 members of the Russian Army's official military choir and dance troop, the Red Army choir or Alexandrov Ensemble. They were due to give a New Year's performance to Russian troops stationed in Latakia.

It's also the exact type of aircraft used by the Russian Defense Ministry to transport journalists to Syria. Me and several of my colleagues have taken this trip in the past. Indeed Russian officials say there were at least nine journalists on board this flight, apparently all from Russian news organizations who had been asked to cover the musical performances in Syria. Well, the Russian president Vladimir Putin has offered his condolences

and declared a day of national mourning for the passengers and crew who lost their lives. He's also appointed his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev to oversee the crash investigation. Russian officials say they're ruling out terrorism at this stage as possible cause and they're focusing on mechanical or pilot error to explain why this aircraft in an apparent smooth weather conditions plunged fatally into the sea.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Pope Francis making his traditional Christmas Day address from Vatican City with message to the people of the world about the victims of Aleppo, saying far too much blood has been spilled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH LEADER (Through Translator): Aleppo, site of the most awful battles in recent weeks. It is most urgent that assistance and support be guaranteed to be exhausted civil populist with respect for humanitarian loss. It is time for weapons to be still forever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: The Pope also urged the international community to actively seek a solution to restore civility in war-torn Aleppo.

I want to talk more about Aleppo, the crisis in Syria and the fight more broadly against terror with Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. He's a CNN military analyst and former U.S. military attache in Syria and the Middle East.

First of all, thank you for joining me. Merry Christmas to you.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you. I want to start with Russia, which has declared that the Assad regime with Russia's help has regained full control with the city of Aleppo. What does that mean?

FRANCONA: Well, it's a severe blow to the opposition. They were hanging on to Aleppo as kind of not only a symbolic place but actually a place where they could set up and run sort of a shadow government. That's not going to happen. They've been absolutely crushed. The Russians with the Iranian, Hezbollah, and Syrian counterparts have just defeated them. The city is in the shambles and now we've got to face this humanitarian disaster.

But as far as the opposition goes, this is just another nail in the coffin. It does not look good for the opposition because with Russia's help, the Syrian regime has been able to not only roll up Aleppo but now they're starting to move south. The next battle is going to be in Idlib. Idlib is, as you recall, is where all of the fighters were allowed to escape to. That will be the next battleground. And slowly but surely, unless the opposition garners some support from the outside, I think it's only a matter of time before they are totally defeated and Assad wins.

That's why you're not seeing a push for diplomatic settlement from either the Russians, the Iranians or the regime because they know that they've got this one if they just stick it out. So I think Aleppo was the first step in that ultimate defeat.

BASH: OK. So let's turn to Iraq. I want to show everybody pictures from the town of Bartella in Iraq. This is a Christian town. And people there are celebrating Christian mass for the first time in two years. There you go. There you see it. It had been under ISIS control for the last two years before being liberated by Iraqi forces. So let's just kind of take a moment and look at this because we just delivered some not-so-great news about Syria but could Iraq be a different story going into 2017?

FRANCONA: Yes, I think so. The Iraqis are on -- they have the momentum here.

[13:40:02] Now they've hit a couple of setbacks in the fight in Mosul but they've committed the proper amount of force to go up there and take that city back. It will happen. It's going to take time. I remember that the Iraqi politicians said they were going to have this done by the end of the year. I think they'll be lucky if they haven't done by the end of January. It's very slow going. ISIS is putting up one heck of a fight because they know that there is no survival for them. There is no escape. They are going to die there. They're going to make it as expensive as possible.

But Iraq could be a success story. Once the Iraqis secure the city and eradicate ISIS, pushed ISIS out of Iraq, they can get back to the business of rebuilding their country. That's where the challenge comes. How do they reintegrate all of the Sunnis and the Kurds back into one country? It's going to be very, very difficult. It's a challenge but it could work. I'm very optimistic about Iraq.

BASH: And now finally, on the heels of the Berlin attack, the FBI and Homeland Security Department, they have warned about new ISIS threats here at home targeting churches and holiday events this weekend. Millions of Americans are obviously celebrating. What do you -- how do you interpret, given your vast experience in these matters, how do you interpret that bulletin?

FRANCONA: I'm very concerned because, you know, that bulletin goes out, everybody goes on to full alert and I think we've been very fortunate now that there's not been any attacks but it's early. It's early on Christmas Day. We still have this whole holiday season to get through and New Year's when you've got the big celebrations like in New York. So I think there's -- we're in a target-rich environment and ISIS may try something.

The problem is, when everybody else is on full alert, then they just sit back. This is how insurgents operate. They will wait until the alert goes away. You cannot be on full alert forever. Eventually we're going to lower our guard and they are going to act.

BASH: Colonel Rick Francona, thank you so much for your time and, again, Merry Christmas to you and your family.

FRANCONA: And Happy Hanukkah.

BASH: Thank you.

And ahead, this is not just the end of the Obama era. It's also the end of the era of the longest-serving female in Congress in U.S. history. My interview with outgoing senator, Barbara Mikulski. A candid conversation about why she thinks Hillary Clinton lost the election and whether America just wasn't ready for a female president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: I'll let the history books analyze that.

BASH: What do you think? You're a female trailblazer.

MIKULSKI: I think that there were a lot of biases against her. You know what we find when you break the glass ceiling? You end up leaving in a glass office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[13:45:54] BASH: Washington is saying good-bye to a living legend, Senator Barbara Mikulski, who has served in Congress longer than any other woman in history will retire after 30 years in the Senate. I recently sat down with her for some of her final thoughts about her time in office and on Hillary Clinton not breaking that final, biggest, hardest glass ceiling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKULSKI: Marvelous and --

BASH (voice-over): When Barbara Mikulski was elected senator 30 years ago, it was really a man's world.

MIKULSKI: When I came to the Senate, you know, senators were Tom, Dick and Harry. Now --

BASH (on camera): Literally.

MIKULSKI: Yes. Now they're Barb, Tammy, Dianne.

BASH (voice-over): When she arrived, Senate women weren't allowed to wear pants. There were only two of them. She is now leaving as one of 20, a bipartisan group Mikulski gathered for monthly dinners.

MIKULSKI: We disagree on issues but what we said was, number one, we were going to be a zone of civility even when we disagree.

BASH: Mikulski is the longest serving woman in the history of Congress. Still, she's retiring disappointed. Her old Senate colleague failed to become the first female president.

CLINTON: The best things really do some in small packages.

BASH (on camera): On a scale of one to 10, Hillary Clinton's defeat for you was?

MIKULSKI: A 52. I mean, really, I couldn't believe election night as I watched the returns. And it was enormously disappointing.

BASH: Do you think America was just not ready for a female president?

MIKULSKI: I'll let the history books analyze that.

BASH: What do you think? You're a female trailblazer. You have some informed opinions, I would think.

MIKULSKI: I think that there were a lot of biases against her. You know what we find when you break the glass ceiling? You end up leaving in a glass office where everything you do is scrutinized.

On behalf of all the women who have broken down barriers for others --

BASH (voice-over): It's not just Mikulski's feminism that makes Clinton's defeat so crushing, it's that her own Democratic Party lost touch with the kind of working class voters this Baltimore native says she never stopped fighting for.

MIKULSKI: There are people right now in Baltimore that have, you know, three part-time jobs. Many of my constituents feel that they're either losing their job overseas or they could lose it to a robot.

BASH (on camera): You know you sound like Donald Trump, right?

MIKULSKI: No, I think I sound --

BASH: Or you sound like you?

MIKULSKI: No, I think I sound like Barbara Mikulski.

BASH (voice-over): She admits the election results make it tougher to leave, worried a lot of her work on Obamacare and beyond may be undone.

MIKULSKI: You cannot take a wrecking ball to the very agencies that are designed to help American workers get on their feet.

BASH: Still, the first woman to ever chair the powerful Appropriations Committee tells us behind the scenes bipartisanship she witnessed in this historic room gives her hope.

MIKULSKI: We sit next to each other and rather than at the head table, our job is to bring together when the best ideas and the most affordable ideas. Not to square off.

BASH: The 4'11" senator made a long career out of people underestimating her. MIKULSKI: I bring my own stool to have longitudinal parody. It's not

easy being 4'11" in an institution like this.

BASH: She has a reputation for sometimes being intimidating, making male colleagues cower.

MIKULSKI: Let them feel the hard landing that my constituents face.

I've suffered this wrath before.

BASH (on camera): Yes.

MIKULSKI: And I think that when women are persistent and insistent, we're viewed as tough. Now I view it as just being effective.

BASH (voice-over): One of her proudest achievements -- legislation giving women equal pay for equal work. The first bill signed by the first black president.

MIKULSKI: He said, "This pen is yours."

BASH: Now it's the end of the Obama and the Mikulski eras, and the trailblazing senator walked out the door, dropping important pearls of wisdoms.

MIKULSKI: Always listen to the people. They really do have the best ideas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[13:50:04] BASH: And a point of personal privilege as they say on the Senate floor, I personally will miss covering Barbara Mikulski in the halls of the U.S. Senate and I know for a fact a lot of Republicans agree.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: It is Christmas and this is the segment where we put the Christmas backdrop up to look maybe like what you're living room, what your family room looks like at this moment as you're celebrating the holiday. And as you're doing so, it might be the last day of this year for holiday music and for holiday films. Well, CNN's Frank Pallotta has a look at some of the season's favorites.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK PALLOTTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's that time of year again. There's frost in the air, snow on the ground, and Jimmy Stewart is wishing old Buildings and Loans a Merry Christmas.

JIMMY STEWART, ACTOR: Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan.

PALLOTTA: The holiday season decks the halls with a potent amount of pop culture, everything from the Grinch to Kevin McAllister.

Just how big is the season for your holiday themed TV, film and music. Billboard ranked the tune that is bound to get stuck in your head its number one Christmas song of all time. Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."

It was streamed almost 44 million times during the 2015 holiday season. Not bad for a song released in 1994. As for the most popular Christmas song recorded by multiple artists that distinction goes to, no surprise, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas."

On-screen holiday television programming reached more than 90 percent of American households in 2014. No doubt a favorite in those households was the Frank Capra-Jimmy Stewart classic "It's a Wonderful Life." However, the film wasn't a theatrical hit after all. And was so forgotten that the rights lapsed in the public domain in 1974. The film was subsequently shown over and over on TV during the holidays, not because it was beloved but because it was free.

[13:55:06] The most lucrative Christmas blockbuster of all time is "Home Alone" which made $285 million upon its initial release in 1990. And that doesn't include the cash that came from constant TV reruns since then. It also spawned a sequel that included a cameo from an unknown businessman.

MACAULAY CULKIN, ACTOR: Excuse me, where's the lobby?

TRUMP: Down the hall and to the left.

CULKIN: Thanks.

PALLOTTA: Ah, the holidays, a great time to spend with friends and family even if they're not real.

CHEVY CHASE, ACTOR: Nobody is walking out on this fun old-fashioned family Christmas. No. No. We're all in this together.

PALLOTTA: Happy holidays, everybody.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And President Obama and the first lady gave their final Christmas address to the nation. The Obamas reflected on the last eight years and also looked toward the future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. OBAMA: So as we look forward to the new year, let's resolve to recommit ourselves to the values we share. And on behalf of all the Obamas, Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo and that troublemaker Sonny, Merry Christmas, everybody.

M. OBAMA: And we wish you and your family a happy and healthy 2017. Thanks and God bless.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: The first couple also addressed military families urging Americans to support the troops not just during holidays but also all year round.

Donald Trump is also wishing the world a Merry Christmas, where else? On Twitter. The president-elect tweeted out, "Merry Christmas," I should say hashtag Merry Christmas, with a photo of him with his right hand raised in a fist and a Christmas tree in the background. Trump also posted a picture of a lighted Menorah for a Happy Hanukkah message.

The next hour of NEWSROOM starts right after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Hello, Merry Christmas and thank you for joining me. I'm Dana Bash in for Fredricka Whitfield. We start this hour overseas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is summoning U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro after the U.S. allowed a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements and that they allowed it to pass.