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Russian Military Plane Crashes With 92 Aboard; Toy Workshop For Children With Disabilities; Faith And The Meaning Of Christmas; Christmas Traditions Around The World; Trump To Dissolve Charitable Foundation; Israel Re-evaluating Relations With U.N.; Christmas Mass In Bethlehem; Queen Recovering From Heavy Cold; Top 10 Political Stories of 2016; Behind the Scenes At Santa University. Aired 6-7a

Aired December 25, 2016 - 06:00   ET




[06:00:15] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: What a voice. Thank you so much for making us part of your Christmas morning. We are privileged to be part of it and so grateful to have you with us. Merry Christmas to you. Happy holidays. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Merry Christmas to you. You are listening to the Spellman College Glee Club right here in Atlanta. They're going to be with us throughout the morning. You're going to love what they have for you a little later.

PAUL: We also have the very latest news for you, of course, and a look at some of the biggest stories of 2016. Want to start with Alison Kosik for today's top stories. Good morning, Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. Merry Christmas to you. Developing news overnight for you, debris from a crashed Russian military plane has been found in the Black Sea. The plane disappeared from radar shortly after taking off from Sochi. Russia's Defense Ministry says 92 people, including eight crew members, were aboard.

Now it's unclear what caused the crash, but one Russian official is ruling out terrorism. For more on this, let's go to CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance joining us now live from Moscow. Matthew, what's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the investigation is now underway, but the first priority, I think, is to recover the debris from the Black Sea. The plane 154 crashed just a couple of minutes after takeoff from the Black Sea resort from Sochi that had been en route from Moscow. It had stopped in Sochi to refuel. It was en route to Syria to the Russian military base, a defense ministry operated aircraft. It took off at 154.

It was ferrying amongst other people members of the Red Army Choir, which is Russia's official music and dance ensemble. It's called the Alexandrof. It's world famous. It was going to Syria to stage a concert for the Russian troops that are based in (inaudible) at the moment.

Of course, Russia is in Syria backing its ally, Bashar al-Assad in the conflict there. We understand there were up to 64 members of that ensemble, mainly singers because the orchestra wasn't going on this trip, singers and dancers believed to have been killed in the crash.

There aren't any survivors as far as we're aware. The death toll, passengers and crew totaled 92 people. That's the latest figure we've got. Already rescue workers in the Black Sea, the Russian Navy has sent ships there, have been pulling bodies out of the sea.

At least six now according to Russian news agencies have been recovered. Take a listen to what the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Mr. Konashenkov had to say earlier.


IGOR KONASHENKOV, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): Now at a distance of 1.5 kilometers off the Sochi coast at the depth of about 70 meters parts of a TU-154 aircraft body have been discovered. A search operation is underway. Four boats and five helicopters are currently operating in the plane search area as well as drones. Reinforcement has been dispatched to the area.


KOSIK: That was Matthew Chance recording live from Moscow. Thanks very much.

President-elect Donald Trump's controversial foundation is going away. Trump says he's doing away with the charity to avoid potential conflict of interest once he takes office. But shutting it down may not be that simple.

You see the foundation is under investigation in New York State for alleged misuse of donations and can't be dissolved until the investigation is over.

DNC deputy communications director, Eric Walker, said the move was what he called a wilted fig leaf to cover up his, quote, "pitiful record of charitable giving." The Trump Foundation has no employees and has about $1 million in assets.

The man who was going to be communications director in the Trump White House, he changed his mind. Jason Miller who was named to the post just days ago says he's declining the job to spend more time with his family. Miller's wife is due to have the couple's second child next month. Miller joined the Trump campaign in June.

President-elect Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, celebrating Christmas in Palm Beach, Florida, today. Last night the Trump's attended a midnight church service to celebrate the holiday. They were greeted with a standing ovation from the congregation. At the Vatican, Pope Francis held midnight mass at St. Peter's Basilica on Christmas Eve. He told the congregation that more humility is needed, not more gifts. Right now, the pope is delivering his annual Christmas blessing. You're looking at a live picture there from the Vatican.

Buckingham Palace says a bad cold will keep Queen Elizabeth from attending a Christmas day service. A statement put out by the palace a short time ago said she was staying home to help her recovery.

[06:05:11]But will still take part in the royal family Christmas celebrations during the day. Her grandson Prince William went to church Sunday morning with his wife, Katherine, and their children, George and Charlotte.

Let's check in on the Christmas forecast right now and an update on the super typhoon bearing down on the Philippines. Our Karen Maginnis is live at the Weather Center. Good morning. Merry Christmas.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Merry Christmas, Alison. We do have a powerful impact on the storm system that is going to move from the interior west across the northern tier. About 11 million people expecting very bad weather, very dangerous driving conditions across the Dakotas, into Minnesota, from Montana into the four corners region of the United States.

We are looking at wind gusts across areas from around Rapid City and Minot to around 55 miles an hour. That will make for whiteout conditions for some of the roadways. Minneapolis will be 36, but there is still a chance for ice. That will produce power outages and trees down.

Kansas City, 64. Atlanta, 72. We might expect some record high temperatures across the southeast today and the south central United States but it comes with the risk of severe weather. In some areas across the northern plains though we could see as much as a foot of snowfall. Certainly across the mountains across the interior west.

Now to tell you about the latest regarding our super typhoon here is Nock-ten. Nock-ten is in the vicinity of the Philippines. It's just about 40 miles offshore from making landfall. It has a wind associated with it of 155 miles an hour. Alison, that makes it nearly a Category 5 equivalent hurricane. This is going to have substantial impact.

KOSIK: All right, we will be watching that one. Karen Maginnis, thank you so much. Throw it right back to Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: OK. So what was your favorite Christmas toy?

PAUL: Don't ask me.

BLACKWELL: I won't. I won't.

PAUL: I had -- I had a Wonder Woman doll and I had all three Charlie's Angels dolls. BLACKWELL: All right. If you had a head band and the cuffs and everything, too --

PAUL: You know I did.

BLACKWELL: I know you did. I know you did. Mine was the He-Man big wheel. I loved that.

PAUL: You were -- do you have a picture of him in a big wheel?

BLACKWELL: Yes. Just that riding. I loved it. There are a lot of kids who love the bikes, kids now who like these rechargeable cars and trucks. For children with disabilities many of those toys are off limits.

PAUL: These kids with physical challenges, they struggle to operate them for one thing. There are some toys that are designed for their needs. They're so expensive.

BLACKWELL: They are. This Christmas some talented students in Florida are changing that. They're tricking out some toys for a few very special kids offering them one-of-a-kind play with a purpose.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): It's a Christmas toy workshop that's thousands of the miles from the North Pole. There's no snow, no reindeer, just sunshine, and palm trees. This is the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

And these students are crafting presents for children that they say no one else, not even Santa's elves are making. They're presents for children like 4-year-old Lucas. In most ways he's like every other preschooler. He watches Peppa Pig, cares for his turtle squirt, and one more thing.


BLACKWELL: Cars, trucks, trains, anything on wheels especially flashing toys that vibrates. You see Lucas has poly microgyria. It's a brain malformation and he's missing a chromosome. Toys have to work double time to stimulate him.

Around Christmas, those toys are hard to find and they are very expensive. Mom Caitlan Bathhurs said she learned of this college toy team from one of Lucas's doctors.

CAITLAN BATHHURS, LUCAS' MOM: His physical therapist a year ago said I want Lucas to have a car.

BLACKWELL: As you might expect, it's not just any car. This is UNF's adaptive toy project. Students are customizing popular kids' rechargeable sports cars and SUVs to suit children with developmental challenges and Professor Mary Lundy says the toys play two roles.

MARY LUNDY, PHYSICAL THERAPY PROFESSOR: Children that have developmental disabilities can't always explore their environment and play, so that's one piece. At the same time, through this increased mobility they learn cause and effect. They learn object permanence. They learn balance. They learn mobility.

BLACKWELL: Juanis Aeros (ph) is an electrical engineering professor and teaming students from very different disciplines he says has not been easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have engineering students taking physical therapy and physical therapy students taking engineering.

LUNDY: It's kind of a clash of cultures. It's a different world for sure.

[06:10:04]UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They work in groups. We give them one single problem. That is they have to provide power mobility to children with a moving car.

LUNDY: Hopefully we're teaching a lot of soft skills in addition to technical hands on skills, team work, altruism, compassion, self- sacrifice.

BLACKWELL: Senior mechanical engineering major (inaudible) this Christmas project stretches back to his childhood in Venezuela. It's not rooted in the nostalgia of his toy car although he loved it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had one with a hole in the bottom like the Flintstones.

BLACKWELL: Instead it's driven by the neighborhood boy in this old blurry photo, Nomita, who could not ride with him.

JUAN MATA, SENIOR MECHANICAL ENGINEERING MAJOR: He was born without any limbs. He only had a couple fingers on his elbow area.

BLACKWELL: Nomita was limited to a skateboard. It was one of just a few limitations.

MATA: I moved out of Venezuela and then when I come back he had actually become an electrical engineer.

BLACKWELL: Juan says Nomita inspired him to study engineering.

MATA: Just seeing this car makes me imagine what he would have been able to do with a little push like this.

BLACKWELL: A little push that Mom Caitlan says Lucas now needs.

BATHHURS: I think this will give him a good confidence boost and open him up to more social situations. I think he kind of avoids other children right now.

BLACKWELL: And just days before Christmas --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job, man. BLACKWELL: The students delivered their cars and trucks to nine children and what does Lucas think of his SUV with the flashing lights and the music?

BATHHURS: He loves riding in it. It might take a little while for him to figure out how to drive it. Once he does, he's going to be all over the place.

BLACKWELL: As for the students, well, what was just another college elective became a life-changing experience. They hope the gift they built delivers not just a good grade but a fresh start this Christmas for their new friend, Lucas.

BATHHURS: Hopefully to improve his quality of life. That's going to be the real reward of all of this.





PAUL: You know, a lot of people are looking for healing from an election that oozed divisiveness and anger and hostility from all sides. Add in the crisis in Syria, Brexit, terrorist threats around the world, hope is hard to find. Can you find it through your faith?

We are talking to a few people who are hoping to get through to you, Canon Phil Ashey, CEO of Americans Anglican Council, Kimberly Jones- Pothier, a senior pastor church of the Harvest, and Raphael Warnock, a senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Good morning.

We're so honored to have you. Being that it's Christmas, we're wondering, Reverend, let me start with you, what is your message going to be this Christmas day to your congregation?

REVEREND RAPHAEL WARNOCK, EBENEZER BAPTIST CHURCH: I'm always excited when Christmas comes around and I think that the message is as powerful as ever. I think it helps us most when we're honest about the larger context of Christmas.

It is a message of hope, healing, love, light, but the message of Christmas is not that we are in denial about darkness, it's that the light penetrates the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

So I'm always excited when this time comes around because it gives us a chance to re-commit ourselves to the work and the message of Christmas, which is a message of peace, a message of justice, and a message of love.

PAUL: Kim, what are you finding people need to hear most? What do they say to you that kind of resonates with you that makes you say, let's address this? PASTOR KIMBERLY JONES-POTHIER, CHURCH OF THE HARVEST: They say they just want to give up. I hear that a lot. I just feel like giving up. My question to them always is, what does that look like? Giving up is not even an option. As long as you have a pulse, God has a plan.

You woke up this morning which means that your best days are ahead. Ephesians 3:20 says he is going to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever ask. It's up from here.

Look forward. Look at that big old windshield ahead of you and realize that God woke you up on purpose. Where are we going? Where are we going? One foot in front of the other. Come on.

PAUL: Isn't that the truth. What are you finding that people in your congregation are saying to you and what do they need to hear most, especially after the last 18 months that we've seen in the country?

CANON PHIL ASHEY, CEO, AMERICAN ANGLICAN COUNCIL: I think there's just a tremendous amount of anxiety, sometimes fear, worry about the future. I think the message of Christmas, it's all about Jesus.

PAUL: Yes.

ASHEY: He is the one, Luke says, who is the sign for all of us. He's the baby who's in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. The message of Christmas is, what child is this? What do you say about God, a God who loves us so much that He enters into our own lives, our flesh and blood, takes it upon himself and says, I come this close to you so that all you have to deal with now is the hang ups and I'm here to love you out of those and into abundant life.

PAUL: Reverend, how hard is it for people who have no hope, who are feeling the anxiety you're talking about to make that baby, as you've talked about, baby Jesus, to make that baby real for them? Because we know the story, right?

WARNOCK: Well, that's the power of the story is that Jesus enters into turmoil. So we're not in denial about how difficult it really is. It was difficult that first Christmas. I mean, we talk about silent night. It was a holy night. I'm not convinced at all it was a silent night.

PAUL: We all know babies are rarely silent.

WARNOCK: We're talking about the massacre. Herod is on the loose even though hope is in the air and the holy family becomes a refugee family seeking asylum in Egypt from the abuses of a despot who was insecure so you see the fear of hope and tension in the story.

So what we're encouraged to do is embrace our hope, resist the fear and embrace the message of the angels who said peace on earth, goodwill toward all. I submit that the reason why we're still struggling to go have peace on earth is because we have a hard time with all, goodwill towards all.

This message is for all people, but it's no accident that it comes to the most marginalized members of the human family, the poor homeless couple for whom there was no room. We embrace those on the margins, we embrace God's vision for all of humanity.

[06:20:03]PAUL: Isn't fear the underlying universal feeling that we all have and that's what drives so much of it, insecurity, and some of the hate. We're watching what's happening in Aleppo with these people and what's even happening with the divisiveness in this country. How do you talk to people to let them know that there's hope?

JONES-POTHIER: Well, you know, fear is paralyzing.

PAUL: Yes.

JONES-POTHIER: And so everywhere you look around the world you find fear. Fear, it can cripple you. It can make you feel like that is the biggest thing in front of you. What you have to realize, I tell people, my message is so simple. My message is, you know what. You're here. God's got you here.

Romans said he's working all things together for your good and so you're here for a reason. What can you do in your world? Where can you be in your world that will help other people find hope? Crawl out of their place of depression.

Where are you in your life that you have something that you can say, I've been there, I've done it, let's do it together. If we all come together as a team.

PAUL: What do you think is the biggest obstacle this year going into 2017?

ASHEY: I think it's fear, and I want to build on what my brother and sister have said here. What was that message of the angels to the shepherds, it was, don't be afraid.


ASHEY: Don't be terrified. Go and look and find this child and the message of Christmas is being curious about Jesus. Who is Jesus, what can he do for you? The angels said he is the Christ, the anointed one. What does that mean?

PAUL: It's OK to have doubt and to have questions?

ASHEY: Yes. Yes, it is. But that's the shepherds, I'm sure they had their doubts. They were wondering, what the heck just happened to us out here in the middle of this field. We were just on the job and God has done this incredible thing. What did we really see? But they went. See, faith is not the opposite of fear. Faith is what you do with your fear.


ASHEY: And this is what these guys did. They went and the Maji, they went and found Jesus.

PAUL: Yes. I love it.

WARNOCK: It's a message of Jesus. It's a message that resonates from Aleppo to Chicago. There's a reason why we're still here because the story continues to resonate. God still shows up in the midst of that. It's not obvious sort of away from the cameras, away from the satellite trucks, God is doing great things, shows up in a barn.

PAUL: Yes.

WARNOCK: God tiptoes down the back stairwell of human experience and enters into our terminal and our job is to continue to spread that message.

PAUL: We thank you all so much for being here. I'm out of time. I know you get to go and you get to get that message out even more this morning. Thank you for taking time to be with us.

ASHEY: Thank you for having us.

WARNOCK: Merry Christmas.

PAUL: Merry Christmas to you as well -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Christmas cheer all around the world. When we come back, we'll give you a glimpse of what some countries are doing to celebrate Christmas.




PAUL: So from dazzling Christmas trees adorned with decorations to gift giving and of course, a kiss under the mistletoe, here in the U.S., we have so many traditions to celebrate the holiday season. What about the rest of the world?

CNN editorial producer, Nadia Bilchik is here giving us a glimpse of what the rest of the globe is doing this morning. Merry Christmas.

NADIA BILCHIK, CNN EDITORIAL PRODUCER: Merry Christmas. I thought we would start off in Japan. Because due to some brilliant marketing, in Japan Christmas has become synonymous with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Brilliant marketing.

In the '70s farmers could rarely get turkeys so they had chicken. Now on Christmas they will line up for their Kentucky Fried Chicken. They might order it two months in advance bearing in mind that most Japanese are religious (inaudible) so Christmas with Kentucky.

PAUL: Who knew Christmas with Kentucky was being celebrated in Japan. That is something totally new. Where are we going next?

BILCHIK: South Africa. Where do you want to go?

PAUL: Let's go to South Africa because that is your heritage.

BILCHIK: South Africa, we have Christmas in the sun, on the beach, having a barbecue or a dry place to cook meat. Some people might roast a lamb and have home brewed beer.

PAUL: So you feel -- do you feel then when you're here in the U.S. and it's cold and maybe you're somewhere where it snows, feels a little out of place or no?

BILCHIK: Yes. I think we should be basking in the sun. There's no white Christmas in South Africa or Australia for that matter. Fascinating. I know your husband is from the Czech Republic, right?

PAUL: Yes.

BILCHIK: So you have interesting traditions to share. If you're a young one and you think you want to get married, you might take a cherry tree twig, put it in some water. If the twig blossoms, it's a good omen. You will probably get married. If it doesn't, bad news. The other thing you might do is throw a shoe at a door and you hope that the toe hits the door, not the heel.

PAUL: Because that means -- does that signify marriage again?

BILCHIK: Very good. Good omen in general, but particularly focused on marriage. So the beginning of the month and then by Christmas particularly if your flower has bloomed then that's the omen and by Christmas day.

PAUL: Are there any omens that mean good or bad that aren't connected to marriage maybe for people who are already --

BILCHIK: Well, I think we should try the shoe thing, you and I. It's going to be a good year. Let's haul our shoes. Not so easy with mine. You have a lovely Christmas tradition.

PAUL: We don't do this but he is from the Czech Republic. There is a fellow there named Gicheck and he brings gifts as well, but before you get to open the gifts he brings, he also brings a list of grievances of everything that you have done wrong all year and you have to read through that list before you're allowed to open your gifts.

My husband said growing up there were many years that his list was quite long and he would be sitting there and his mother was sitting there with her brandy in one hand, a cigarette in the other and a big old smile.

BILCHIK: So what is something that people put on the elf on the shelf? Would he be like your elf on the shelf?

PAUL: No. No. We do obviously have elves on the shelf here which has grown and evolved. You can dress your elf on the shelf.


BILCHIK: And you can (INAUDIBLE) on what you've done to (INAUDIBLE) but I also wanted to take you to Italy.

PAUL: Oh please do.

BILCHIK: Where of course the Pope is and the Vatican, and beautiful Christmas celebrations. But there you might not have a traditional Christmas tree, would you have wooden blocks. And then on the wooden blocks you would put candy or fruit, so something a little different.

But of course, Christi, what is the one Christmas tradition that is universal and that is? Gift giving.

PAUL: Gift giving.

BILCHIK: So I have a gift for you. And by the way, Christmas gifts only became very popular in the late 1800s so I say merry Christmas. It was Hanukkah. The first night of Hanukkah last night. You might say to those people happy Hanukkah...

PAUL: Happy Hanukkah, happy Hanukkah.

BILCHIK: ... or merry Christmas or merry Chrismita (ph) or merry Christmas Hanuk (ph) Kwanzaa (ph).


PAUL: And there's a reason she said that and not me. Merry Christmas.

BILCHIK: Merry Christmas and just beautiful holidays to all and celebrate with good cheer.

PAUL: No doubt about it. And here's to a stellar 2017.

BILCHIK: A stellar 2017.

PAUL: Thank you so much, Nadia. We appreciate you.


PAUL: Victor.

BLACKWELL: We start with a race like no other. Without a doubt it has been an unprecedented year in politics. Up next, we count down the top 10 political moments of 2016 all part of the most divisive elections of our time.


KOSIK: Mortgage rates picked (ph) up (ph) this week. Have a look.



PAUL: You know it is a Christmas edition -- special edition of NEW DAY... BLACKWELL: Yes, there is that.

PAUL: ... when you hear voices like that. It is pretty spectacular. I am Christi Paul. Thank you so much and thank you to Spelman College Glee Club here in Atlanta sharing their lovely voices with us.

BLACKWELL: Very talented. I'm Victor Blackwell. Merry Christmas to you. They are with us throughout the morning. We've got a lot of news to get to this half hour.


So let's go right to Alison Kosik. Alison, good morning.

KOSIK: Good morning, Victor and Christi. And Merry Christmas to both of you.

Let's get a check on the top stories right now.

Russian military officials say no survivors were found at the scene of a military plane crash near Sochi today, 92 people were on board the plane. Some wreckage was found in the Black Sea. And state media is reporting it was carrying a military music group on its way to perform at a Russian airbase in Syria. President Vladimir Putin now ordering an investigation and declaring tomorrow a national day of mourning.

President-elect Donald Trump's controversial foundation is going away. Trump says he's doing away with the charity to avoid potential conflicts of interest once he takes office. But shutting it down may not be that simple because the foundation is under investigation in New York State for alleged misuse of donations and can't be dissolved until the investigation is over. DNC Deputy Communications Director Eric Walker is saying the move was what he called, a wilted fig leaf to cover up his -- quote -- pitiful record of charitable giving.

The Trump Foundation has no employees and has about $1 million in asset.

Israel now says that it's re-evaluating its relationship with the United Nations. After the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, Israel is now canceling millions of dollars in contributions to U.N. organizations.

In Bethlehem the church of nativity is now holding Christmas mass. You're looking at a live picture there. The West Bank town is where Christians believe Jesus was born. Thousands of people are expected to visit sites in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth over the holiday.

Buckingham Palace says a bad cold will keep Queen Elizabeth from attending a Christmas day service.

Ian Lee is in London. Good morning, Ian. What can you tell us more about some information about what's going on here?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison. We learned about this cold a few days ago when she postponed her trip to Sandringham where she spends Christmas with other members of the royal family. She was unable to go via helicopter, not her traditional way of going via train. But her first public appearance was going to be at Christmas service at the church there but it looks like that heavy cold is keeping her at home.

This is what the palace had to say. They said the queen continues to recover from a heavy cold and will stay indoors to assist with her recovery. Her majesty will participate in royal family Christmas celebrations during the day. Alison.

KOSIK: Being described as a heavy cold, but how serious do you think this illness really is?

LEE: Well, the royals are notoriously private about their health, but when you look at other members of the royal family you have Prince William with his wife visiting his in-laws in Berkshire and you have other members of the royal family going to Christmas service either (ph) or as well. And you also have in the statement saying that she's still going to participate in family functions. So it does seem like it isn't terribly serious.

KOSIK: All right. We certainly wish her well. Ian Lee, thank you so much for your report. Christi and Victor, back to you.

BLACKWELL: Well, we're at the end almost of 2016 so it's a good time to look over the year and really ask ourselves how did we get here?

PAUL: The race to the White House, of course, we're talking about. Because it turned the political norms on their heads, defied the odds, the polls, and the experts. So Jake Tapper looks back at what has been an unprecedented 12 months in politics.

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


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

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

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

JOE 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 --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You want to give me a good sendoff, go vote!

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


TAPPER: With more catch phrases...

BARACK OBAMA: Come on, man.

TAPPER: ... and less restraint.

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

TAPPER: But a different tone (INAUDIBLE) Democratic defeat.

BARACK OBAMA: If you succeed, then the country succeeds.


Number eight --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: 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.

Will you support him?

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

TAPPER: But will the party now unify around President Trump?

TRUMP: 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.

TAPPER (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), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: 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 KHAN, 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.

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

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: You work hard for what you want in life.

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

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: 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.

TAPPER (on camera): You sent out a series of tweets including one that told people to check out a sex tape.

TAPPER (voice-over): Then a crude video of Trump.

TRUMP: Grab them by the (expletive).

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 ACCUSER: His hands 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), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are actually listening to the American people, not the one percent.

TAPPER: But was the system rigged against outsiders?

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

TAPPER: Bernie or bust protestors crowded the convention.

SARAH SILVERMAN, ACTRESS: You're being ridiculous.

TAPPER: And refused to vote for Clinton.

Number three, Democrats were hacked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're under attack.

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

SANDERS: No question to my mind the DNC was in opposition to our campaign.

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

BARACK OBAMA: Our goal continues to be the send a clear message to Russia for 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.

TAPPER: She tried to quell concerns.

CLINTON: My e-mails are so boring.

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

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

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

Number one.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hillary Clinton has called Donald Trump to concede the race.

TAPPER: Donald Trump won the White House.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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.


TAPPER: 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.



BLACKWELL: We all know that Santa is a busy man.

PAUL: Oh, yes he is.

BLACKWELL: But Santa's helpers -- I mean, do not think for a second that it's just milk and cookies, and posing for a few photos. Spreading Christmas cheer is serious business.

PAUL: There's a Santa university for all of the Santa's helpers?


PAUL: No lie. Because they need to learn how to do it the way Santa does it.

BLACKWELL: All right.

PAUL: So aspiring Santa's helpers go every year and you might be surprised by what they study. CNN Money gives us a glimpse.


CROWD (singing): Santa Claus is coming to town.

SANTA WADE, BARTON CREEK MALL, TEXAS: Ho, ho, ho. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Welcome to the ultimate Christmas in July. Santa University -- a four-day training camp in Colorado where professional Santas come to hone their craft.

SANTA RICK, ORLAND SQUARE MALL, ILLINOIS: It's more of a calling than it is a job.

SANTA DENNIS, ROCKINGHAM MALL, NEW HAMPSHIRE: And a little boy with no hesitation said that`s Santa Claus.

SANTA WADE: She said your nose, your nose is like a cherry. Ho, ho, ho. That's when I knew that I probably was Santa Claus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Spreading holiday cheer is serious business. It takes the right look, months of dedication and more hair care products than you'd expect.

SANTA RICK: That all the women say it's miracle stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: But aside from some extra hold air spray, what does it take to be the perfect professional Santa?

The experts all had the same answer.

SANTA VAL, STANFORD SHOPPING CENTER, CALIFORNIA: You got to have that Christmas love.

SANTA RICK: Having the curing (ph) heart.

SANTA WADE: First the heart and then all of the other things they will fall in to place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Heart is something that can't be taught, but the rest of it, that's why Noerr Program put Santa University together in the first place.

Every year the Santas come together to train at the company's headquarters called -- you guessed it -- the Noerr Pole.

JUDY NOERR, NOERR PROGRAMS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER: People are amazed that there are four days worth of classes for Santa University but it's true. We have everything from ethics of Santa, how to dress and look your best. How to stay healthy as a Santa and many, many more things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Classes teach everything from beard grooming, to suit fitting to sign language. There are charity toy drives and sing-alongs. It's four days of fun and festivities. Then, when the holidays roll around, these guys are all Santa all the time.

SANTA RICK: I work at Orleans Square mall about 30 miles southwest of Chicago. And I`m from Duluth, Georgia, that`s about 750-mile trip every year.

It's a very demanding job if you do it like you should do it. We are on the set many hours a day. So, you pretty much sleep, eat and work, and you want to stay focused so that you can be all you can be when you are on the set. And be there for the children. And if you are at home, you allow too many other distractions.


And so, by traveling I feel like I can stay focused at what I'm doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: For these Santas, the months of preparation and work are worth it. For them, being Santa Claus in the eyes of a child is the ultimate gift.

SANTA DENNIS: I get far more than I unfortunately can give.

SANTA RICK: If you can say anything every day to try to uplift a child and their family then you go home at night with some accomplishment.


BLACKWELL: Up next, Spelman College's Glee Club's rendition of "Go Tell It On The Mountain."

PAUL: And here is Spelman College and Morehouse Glee Club together, their Christmas concert earlier this month.



BLACKWELL: That is the Spelman College Glee Club performing for more than 50 years beautiful music based here at Atlanta. And they put a special emphasis on traditional spirituals.

PAUL: They travel throughout the country performing for a variety of audiences. Their voices. Here's their rendition, in fact, of "Go Tell It On The Mountain."

SPELMAN COLLEGE GLEE CLUB (singing): Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. While shepherds kept their watching over silent flocks by night.


Behold throughout the heavens that shows a holy light. Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. The shepherd feared and trembled when lo above the earth rang out an angel chorus that hailed the savior's birth.

Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. While in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born and God send our salvation that blessed Christmas morn.

Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born. Go tell it on the mountain over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

PAUL: We are so grateful that you're spending your Christmas morning with us. It means a lot to us.

BLACKWELL: And we're happy to be with you. Stay with us. We've got a lot more to come. We'll be right back.