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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump's Message to Alabama; Russia Investigation; West Bank Clashes and Palestinian Protests; California Wildfires; Brexit Negotiations; Sexual Harassment Claims Cause Franks to Resign; Trump at Civil Rights Museum Stirs Controversy; Savage Santa Letters. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired December 9, 2017 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00]

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it. Do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): U.S. President Donald Trump backs the Republican Senate candidate despite the accusations of sexual misconduct leveled at Roy Moore.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, firefighters in the U.S. state of California are having slow but steady progress fighting six fires around the clock.

ALLEN (voice-over): And coming up later this hour, the case of the former congressman and his $5 million offer. Trent Franks resigns his seat a little earlier than he had planned.

HOWELL (voice-over): Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, we want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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ALLEN: Ordinarily a president endorsing a Senate candidate from his own party is expected. But Donald Trump is no ordinary president and Roy Moore no ordinary Senate hopeful. On Friday President Trump endorsed Moore and that's despite the candidate facing sexual misconduct accusations from several women.

HOWELL: The endorsement is one that many in the Republican Party have refused to make and have, in fact, called for Moore to quit the race. Kaitlan Collins was at the rally where Mr. Trump announced that he was all in for Roy Moore and she has this report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Though the White House has said repeatedly that President Trump would not come to Alabama and campaign for Roy Moore ahead of that Senate election on Tuesday that is highly contested, he did the next best thing when he came to a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Florida, and called it a ring of fire with Alabama resident to get out and vote for Roy Moore.

Not only did he endorse him in person, as he has done on Twitter, the president also hit at his Democratic opponent in that race, Doug Jones, claiming that he's weak on crime and that if he made it to Washington, he would be Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi's puppet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't afford to have a liberal Democrat who is completely controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We can't do it.

His name is Jones and he's their total puppet and everybody knows it. He will never, ever vote for us. We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our "Make America Great Again" agenda, which involves tough on crime, strong on borders, strong on immigration.

So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it. Do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Now though the White House has said that the president finds the allegations made against Roy Moore troubling and concerning and that if they're true, Roy Moore should step aside.

We heard from the president himself on some of those allegations during his rally. He brought up Beverly Nelson, the woman who says she was 16 years old when Roy Moore assaulted her and as part of her proof, she showed where he signed her yearbook.

The Moore campaign has said that it was a forgery and that that was not his signature. And when Nelson said on Friday that she had written the date and the location underneath his signature, the Moore campaign took that as an opportunity to say that she was laying and had admitted it was a forgery.

President Trump brought that up on the stage behind me here in Pensacola, mocking Beverly Nelson over that. So we heard from the president himself on what he thinks of that accuser. We know that sources have said that privately he doubts the women who've accused Roy Moore, comparing it to his own situation in the presidential election last year when he, too, was accused of sexual assault by multiple women.

So though this White House said that President Trump would not campaign for Roy Moore, he's essentially done the next best thing tonight when he said to get out and vote for Roy Moore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Kaitlan Collins was at the rally in Pensacola, Florida.

Another story of the president's close aides, one may have been targeted by Russian operatives looking to gain a foothold in the White House.

ALLEN: There's a new reports says communications director Hope Hicks was repeatedly contacted by Russian officials after the 2016 election. For more, here's Jessica Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've learned that senior FBI officials met with Hope Hicks earlier this year, all to warn her about several introductory emails that she received after the election from Russian government email addresses.

FBI agents, they met with Hope Hicks twice inside the Situation Room at the White House at the beginning of this year. They told her that those emails were not what they seemed and that they may have actually been part of a Russian intelligence operation.

So all of that, according to reporting from "The New York Times," but this was a --

[05:05:00]

SCHNEIDER: -- very specific warning and it shows that law enforcement was alarmed that the Russians were still trying to establish contact with the Trump team after the election.

Reportedly Hope Hicks disclosed her meetings with the FBI to White House counsel Don McGann and we do know that Hope Hicks also met with the special counsel Robert Mueller's team Thursday and Friday as part of their ongoing Russia probe.

Prosecutors for the special counsel are also releasing new details in the Paul Manafort and Rick Gates case. They say that so far they've amassed 400,000 documents in their case and that includes financial records and emails and they've labeled about 2,000 of those documents as "hot," meaning that they could be particularly relevant.

So the government also saying that they 36 electronic devices they seized from Paul Manafort's home. Investigators have also, in this case, issued 15 search warrants. And interestingly in the court filings on Friday, the government referenced that Manafort and Gates have given deposition testimony in another matter.

The prosecutors aren't saying exactly what that means. But this case is moving full steam ahead. The next status hearing for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates is on Monday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: All right. Manafort, Hope Hicks, Roy Moore. Let's talk about it with Leslie Vinjamuri, an associate professor of international relations at the SOAS University of London.

Leslie, thanks for being with us.

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you.

ALLEN: Yes. We just saw President Trump there right across the border from Alabama in Florida telling everyone to get out in Alabama and vote for Moore. He went from silence to being his cheerleader. And now the RNC has fallen behind. It looks like Roy Moore is getting all the support he could want from those in Washington.

What do you make of it?

VINJAMURI: That's right. It's very interesting actually. Of course, as you rightly said, he -- the president did wait. He didn't come out as quickly as he might have. He was clearly weighing this up.

But he's now decided that the thing that matters most is getting that seat in the Senate. He saw how narrow the vote was on tax reform just a few days ago.

And I think the president is very aware that if he doesn't maintain that seat, any prospect for further progress with respect to his legislative agenda will be gravely at risk. This just seems to be the thing that matters most.

The rally more generally, the president is coming up to the anniversary of his first year in the White House with very few victories. He's going back with very low approval ratings. He's going back to that base, right back to the old messages that were on the very divisive messages that he, Trump, did across the campaign trail.

So the rally is sort of a throwback in many ways. But looking to claim victories and talking about the border wall, he's announced the recognition of Jerusalem this week with some very negative consequences on the streets in the Middle East and negative consequences for the security of American personnel abroad.

So I think he's really trying to shore up that base and Roy Moore and this election is absolutely crucial to that. It's upsetting and potentially very worrying because it's going to create a lot of negative politics for the Senate as this case goes forward, a lot of ethics questions.

ALLEN: I want to ask about Roy Moore. Sexual assault allegations aside, his inability to follow federal laws as a judge. Let's remember that. He puts his religious beliefs first. He's staunchly anti-gay. He's basically a bigot and he's proud of what he stands for.

So will that come back to bite Washington and the RNC if their work puts him in there?

VINJAMURI: Yes. I think that there are many people in the Senate that see that this is not going to be good for them. Roy Moore, as you said, he lost his job twice in the state of Alabama, Supreme Court justice, for not following the law. And he's not wildly popular.

So it creates -- it's going to create a shadow over the Senate if he is elected. I think it's really an election to watch in a couple of days. And the president's clearly decided that he's going to cast aside the record of this candidate's past.

And he's going to go for securing that majority in the Senate. So it seems to be far more important than the personal record of the candidate that he's clearly backing now.

ALLEN: Yes. And the other topic, the Russia investigation, Mueller has, what, 400,000 documents from Mr. Manafort. We learned that the FBI has also talked with Hope Hicks, the communications director, that no one ever sees or hears from.

No indication she's done anything wrong but said she should look out for some emails from Russia.

So where is this taking us in this ongoing probe?

VINJAMURI: Well, I think we're just seeing that Mueller's --

[05:10:00]

VINJAMURI: -- very persistent, that he's moving forward. And the question with respect to Hope Hicks is just, you know, it's more evidence clearly that the Russians were trying. And she seems to have been very transparent with respect to that.

And I think Mueller's just looking to see who was potentially, you know, being very truthful about their interactions and who wasn't and how far up does that go. We're still waiting to see, of course, what will happen with respect to Flynn and his cooperation, his apparent cooperation with this investigation.

But this is -- you know, I think the bigger story is, of course, for Trump. This is clearly preoccupying him. It's very clear that this is going to continue to move forward. And it isn't going away. And everybody's waiting to see when the other shoe will drop, what's coming next.

But clearly the intelligence that came out last December is being confirmed on a daily basis that the Russians were very intent on undermining the integrity of the presidential elections.

ALLEN: All right. We appreciate as always, Leslie Vinjamuri, you talking with us. Thanks, Leslie.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

HOWELL: One thing that is for sure, this White House has worked to distance itself from anyone implicated in the special counsel's investigation. That includes this person, George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser during the Trump campaign.

ALLEN: After his guilty plea went public in October, the administration described him as "a coffee boy" and "a low-level volunteer." But his fiancee says that is not true at all. Here's what she told CNN's Pamela Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: What have you seen, what have you read that doesn't square with the George Papadopoulos you know?

SIMONA MANGIANTE, GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS' FIANCEE: George Papadopoulos is everything but a coffee boy. He's an outstanding personality, is very educated, articulate. And even his contribution to the campaign has been much more real advanced than bringing coffee.

BROWN: Why do you think the White House was so quick to come out and call him a coffee boy or a low-level volunteer?

MANGIANTE: I think they wanted to disassociate from the first person who decided to actually cooperate with the government. I suppose this can be quite threatening for some people.

BROWN: You don't believe he was?

MANGIANTE: I know he wasn't.

BROWN: How do you know he wasn't?

MANGIANTE: He shared with me something else about his contribution to the campaign.

BROWN: You say he was consistently in touch with the high-level campaign officials.

MANGIANTE: Yes.

BROWN: What was his interaction with Michael Flynn?

MANGIANTE: He was in contact with Michael Flynn and he worked with Michael Flynn during the transition and he was actively contributing to the foreign policy strategies for the campaign. And he didn't take any initiative on his own without campaign approval.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Pamela Brown there with that interview. Papadopoulos is still waiting for sentencing as he cooperates with the FBI. You can find the rest of that conversation online on our website at cnn.com.

Still ahead here as NEWSROOM pushes on, more protests may be coming to the West Bank after a change in U.S. policy toward Jerusalem. We have live reports from the region ahead.

ALLEN: Plus, towering smoke and fast-moving flames. People in Southern California feeling the ferocious heat from six wildfires that continue to rip through their neighborhoods. We'll have the very latest for you on that. (MUSIC PLAYING)

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[05:15:00]

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HOWELL: The U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is having an impact across that region. Foreign ministers from the Arab League are set to meet in the coming hours after another day of rage by Palestinians.

They clashed with Israeli forces in Jerusalem. You see what happened there on the streets in the West Bank on Friday.

ALLEN: At least four Palestinians were also killed in Gaza. Officials say two of the deaths were due to Israeli airstrikes. Israel says its aircraft targeted Hamas after projectiles were fired at Israeli territory.

HOWELL: The U.S. President Donald Trump announced that change in Jerusalem policy on Wednesday. And it has been slammed by much of the international community including U.S. allies. Here's what diplomats said at a U.N. Security Council meeting that took place on Friday. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW RYCROFT, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We therefore disagree with the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and unilaterally to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel before a final status agreement. These decisions are unhelpful to the prospects for peace in the region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're worried about the new fact that the new position announced by the United States on Jerusalem risks further complicating situation in Palestinian-Israeli relations and in the region as a whole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. decision to reward Israeli's impunity undermines and essentially this qualifies its leadership role to seek peace in the region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: That is some of the blowback from leaders. Let's now get reactions from across the region. CNN's Arwa Damon and Ian Lee are both in the West Bank. Arwa joins us live from Bethlehem and Ian in Ramallah.

Arwa, let's start with you.

Aside from a few Israeli soldiers that we've seen in the background from time to time in your shot, what is the mood there?

Are things quiet?

And what is expected?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're actually expecting a demonstration to start here shortly in that direction. The demonstrators will be coming down this road. The demonstration was called for yesterday by all Palestinian factions. It's meant to make a statement.

And that statement is to express their desire, their demand that Arab countries and, in fact, Muslim countries across the world expel their U.S. ambassadors, of course, in reaction to U.S. President Trump's declaration that the U.S. would be recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

This has not only incensed the Palestinian population here but really Muslims across the world. There is this sense that, by making that declaration, the U.S. has not only completely eliminated, eradicated the Palestinian dream of also having East Jerusalem as the capital of their future Palestinian state but that it is also sending out a broader message to Muslims across the world, that they are no longer welcome in Jerusalem.

Now throughout the morning here, so far, there have been some very small clashes. There are groups of youth are gathered around us. You can see in the background, this road, again, that the demonstrators are meant to be marching down toward the wall --

(CROSSTALK)

HOWELL: The shot there, Arwa Damon in Bethlehem. We're losing the signal a bit. I think we still have her.

Arwa, continue, sorry. We lost your signal.

DAMON: Yes. It does tend to break in and out in this particular area.

However, the demonstrators are expected to be marching down this road. There has been a little bit of rock throwing, there's been a little bit of tear gas back and forth. This is very much the norm. This is the standard of what happens.

In fact, the demonstration that we've been seeing throughout the clashes are nothing new to this part of the world. But when you talk to people, they tell us that this time they do feel as if there's --

[05:20:00]

DAMON: -- something that is perhaps different. And it's different because of that declaration by the United States.

It's different because of the fact that, other than America, no other country has come out in support of the official recognition of Jerusalem as being the official capital of Israel. There's also perhaps a sense that, yes, the two-state solution is dead. Negotiations at this point, you know, what chance do they actually

have?

What chance is there for this elusive peace that so many will say they fundamentally want?

Of course wanting peace is one thing. The reality, the dynamics on the ground, are something else.

These are two populations, the Israelis and the Palestinians, that have grown up amid these tensions that do quite often erupt into violence. And for many, you also get a sense that they're actually exhausted at least on the Palestinian side.

They are exhausted by this back and forth that keeps happening time and time again with, at least from their perspective, no positive resolution; in fact, no resolution at all to decades of grievances -- George.

HOWELL: Important to point out, Arwa, before the declaration by the U.S. president, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has really not been at the fore but it is certainly back at the forefront now. And we're seeing what people are doing, the reactions on the streets. Arwa Damon, live for us in Bethlehem. Stand by. Let's bring in Ian Lee, who's also following the situation on the streets in Ramallah.

And, Ian, from what you're seeing and to Arwa's point, is there a sense among people that you've spoken to that things are somehow different now?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, George, that's the one question we've been asking a lot of people is what is different about this time versus previous times?

Of course, you had that major announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump, declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel. But really we have ventured into the unknown. You talk to Palestinians and ask them, where does this go from here?

A lot of the them have told me that, frankly, they don't know. They think it could go a lot further. You bring up the word -- or the phrase Third Intifada, that's something that Hamas and Gaza has called for. And people say it could happen. It could not happen. And that's the unknown.

Where we are right now, we're expecting protests to come here again today. This is where, Thursday, we saw some of the most violent clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinian protesters.

This area behind me, there was just thick with black smoke, burning tires. There was tear gas filling the air as well as rocks and a back and forth between the sides. And it went on all day and people were saying that they were out here to vent their frustration.

And we're expecting that to happen; we're told that protests are going to -- protesters are going to start coming here in about an hour's time. And, like Arwa said, there's protests planned in Bethlehem. There are protests planned here in Ramallah, in Jerusalem, really across the West Bank, across Gaza and in Jerusalem.

Palestinians don't seem ready to lay down their cause. They're ready -- they're continuing to keep fighting for it and that's what we're seeing today. Really that's going to be the test, George.

If they can keep up these protests on a daily basis, what will that pressure have?

No one can really know. But it will have pressure on politicians in one way or another -- George.

HOWELL: To both of you, we appreciate the reporting as you bring us a look at what's happening on the streets given the declaration by the U.S. President.

The question again, will this day, again, turn into more clashes on the streets?

Ian Lee live in Ramallah. Arwa Damon in Bethlehem. Thank you for the reporting.

ALLEN: We turn now to Southern California. Thousands of firefighters working there nonstop to combat six wildfires. They made progress Friday containing five of the blazes. However, the largest inferno, the Thomas wildfire, grew to nearly 58,000 hectares or 143,000 acres.

At least one person has died in a car crash while evacuating from that fire.

HOWELL: Just to compare it, Natalie, again, it's been compared to the size of Seattle and Orlando together, these fires, just massive fires that are taking place. Nearly 200,000 people have been forced to leave their homes since the fires started this week. Some have returned only to find those homes destroyed. Almost 14,000 in the area don't have power.

CNN's Sara Sidner is on the ground there and has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New information from fire officials on the Thomas Fire, the largest fire that's burning, which is three times now the size of Washington, D.C.

They are now saying that 87,000 people --

[05:25:00]

SIDNER: -- have been evacuated. That's almost half the total number of people that have been evacuated across Southern California because of these fires.

And here's why. This is just one home. But around us, there are within eyesight 20 homes that we can count that are burned to the ground. They look just like this, where basically the chimney is the only thing that is standing.

Here is another vista, a view from atop Ventura, this neighborhood devastated by this fired. Home after home after home, leveled to the ground and many of the folks who live in these homes, the homeowners don't even know what their homes look like yet because they have not been able to make it back after evacuating, some of them with just the clothes on their back or with just a small bag, for example, their prescriptions.

This has been such a difficult time for them and for the firefighters, who are working double and triple shifts, trying to knock this fire back and it's still only 10 percent contained at this point.

I do need to mention how many firefighters are battling this blaze, which is still raging in the hills. About 3,500 fire personnel, 21 helicopters that you have been seeing, of course, dumping water and trying to stop these blazes.

I must say that when you watch the work they do, they are amazingly accurate with dumping that water. But the flames just too strong and they keep on rolling.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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ALLEN: Coming up here, it's been tough to get to Friday's breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations and it's still just the beginning of the divorce proceedings. We'll have the latest for you and we'll have a guest who talks about the significance of what Theresa May has done so far.

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HOWELL: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

And I'm getting a little ahead of myself, Natalie.

I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: We're global. That's what we're trying to say. That's what he meant to say. I'm Natalie Allen. Here are our headlines.

(HEADLINES)

ALLEN: It has been a long, rocky road since British voters decided to leave the European Union.

HOWELL: On Friday, the negotiators from the U.K. and the E.U. wrapped up a phase one of these divorce proceedings. Despite all of that hard work, the toughest challenges are still to come, as our Erin McLaughlin reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After nearly nine months of punishing negotiations, a breakthrough, something to make Theresa May smile. And the all-clear from the European Commission.

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: The commission has just formally decided to recommend to the European Council that sufficient progress has now been made on the strict --

[05:35:00]

JUNCKER: -- terms of the divorce.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): It's a deal many feared might never be done, especially after what happened in Brussels earlier in the week.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Some differences do remain, which require further negotiation.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): May was forced to go home empty-handed after texts aimed at settling what happens to the Northern Ireland border leaked to the press. Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which holds the key to her government majority, nixed the agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will not accept in any form of regulatory divergence.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): It took four more days of intense phone calls between Belfast, Dublin, London and Brussels. Then in the small hours of Friday morning, just enough progress, paving the way for a press conference, unveiling a deal on the breakup, the issues that matter most to the E.U.

The financial settlement, rights for E.U. citizens in the U.K. and vice versa and Northern Ireland. In the 15-page joint report outlining the agreement, the U.K. has made plenty of concessions on those issues, including on money, committing to a formula to pay the E.U. tens of billions of euros and a role for the European Court of Justice to be able to weigh in on what happens to E.U. citizens.

A red line for hard-line Brexiteers who wanted to leave the E.U. to avoid the European courts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole thing's a humiliation.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): But what's seen in Brussels as a diplomatic victory for Theresa May, is also likely to be bittersweet.

DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COUNCIL: We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and (INAUDIBLE) relation is much harder.

MCLAUGHLIN: Friday's deal still needs to be approved here at the European Council in Brussels, something that seems likely. Then the focus shifts to the potential transition, something that the U.K. desperately wants to maintain the status quo for two years after Brexit to give British business more time to adjust. E.U. officials already warning that that, too, will come at a high price -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Brussels.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Let's talk more about Brexit and Friday's developments and where it goes from here. We're joined by Simon Usherwood, deputy director of U.K. in a Changing Europe.

Simon, thanks for joining us.

SIMON USHERWOOD, U.K. IN A CHANGING EUROPE: Great to be here.

ALLEN: First of all, what do you think about what just transpired vis-a-vis Northern Ireland and the border and Theresa May finally working to get this figured out?

USHERWOOD: I think it's a really important development. I think it also highlights the difficult position that Theresa May has been in. As the piece just now was saying, that the Conservative government relies on the Democratic Unionist Party for its majority in parliament.

And they were able to delay this agreement coming together during the week. So I think it's a good sign that the two sides have been able to find common ground. But there is an awful lot left to do if the U.K. is to get an agreement by the time that it's due to be leaving in March 2019.

ALLEN: Let's talk about what the common ground represents. I want to read to you something from "The Irish times," an opinion piece.

It said, "By standing firm against their attempts to bully, cajole and blame it, Ireland has shifted Brexit toward a soft outcome. It is now far more likely that Britain will stay in the customs union and the single markets, also more likely that Brexit will not, in fact, happen."

What's your take on that opinion?

USHERWOOD: Well, there's a real tension here, isn't there?

On the one hand, the U.K. says it will be fully aligned with those parts of the single market and the customs union that relates to the Good Friday agreement that has brought peace to Northern Ireland in the past two decades.

But at the same time, the document also clearly says that the U.K. will leave both the customs union and the single market. And I think what the government here is counting on is that alignment doesn't mean you actually have to be formally inside those arrangements.

So you might be shadowing very closely but you're just on the outside and you can have your own rules labeled as U.K. rules. And so that whole agenda of taking back control is something that the government is going to try and make the case it still has managed to achieve.

ALLEN: So the question is, a hard Brexit, soft Brexit; we're not sure where this will go. Achieving Brexit has been likened to unbaking a cake, nearly impossible or possible. What do you think in the big picture?

USHERWOOD: I think it is really difficult. I think what this has really shown is this is the way in which the European Union entangles states not in a malicious kind of way but just modern government, modern governance just brings together a whole range of different rules and --

[05:40:00]

USHERWOOD: -- regulations that entangle countries. It's really hard to unpick that. The U.K.'s been a member for over 40 years. And if you think about how much has happened in that time, all the rules that it built up, that to unpick that in even two years is a really hard task.

And I think that the one thing that's clear is that this was a difficult deal to reach this week. But that was on the easier parts. That was about tying off some of the most critical issues.

As we move into phase two in the new year, where we're talking about the new relationship, then there's going to be an awful lot more to be discussed and a lot more debate and disagreements.

ALLEN: We will talk with you again for sure. Simon Usherwood, thank you, Simon.

USHERWOOD: Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead, there are new developments in the resignation of U.S. House member Trent Franks. The latest on this scandal -- ahead.

ALLEN: Plus, the NAACP puts out the "not welcome" mat for President Trump.

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HOWELL: There are new details coming to light about the scandal surrounding U.S. Senate Republican Trent Franks.

ALLEN: He admitted on Thursday he spoke to female staffers about surrogacy and said he would resign in January. But he now says he's resigning immediately amid new allegations. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are new allegations and details to those allegations coming out against Congressman Trent Franks.

[05:45:00]

SERFATY: I spoke to a confidante of one of the accusers who detailed her side of the story to this confidante. She says she was a former aide with the congressman and was asked by the congressman to be a surrogate in exchange for money.

The woman says she was asked to look over a contract to potentially carry his child and if she conceived his child, she would be giving $5 million.

Now this account comes from Andrea Laverty. She is president of the Traditional Values Coalition. And she was in the room last week when, along with the accuser, presented this side of the story to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's office. And this of course was first detailed and reported to the Associated Press.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan quickly called for his resignation after a very swift condemnation. He called the charges very credible and very serious. Now the congressman pushed up his deadline for his official resignation. He did that on Friday. Instead of resigning officially on effective January 30th, 31st, he resigned on Friday.

So he is out. And Franks publicly punting a bit to his family. He said that his wife was admitted to the hospital with an ongoing ailment. It's the best thing right now for his family to have him go and resign. But it very clear up here in the halls of Capitol Hill that there was just no appetite for him to stay a day longer -- Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, on Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: In a matter of hours, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is set to open. Normally that would be a cause for celebration, not controversy.

HOWELL: But protests may take place instead. This because the U.S. President Donald Trump will attend. The civil rights icon and U.S. congressman, John Lewis, says he will skip that event, as will Mississippi congressman Benny Thompson. They call Mr. Trump's presence an insult.

In a statement, the NAACP said this, quote, "President Trump's statements and policies regarding the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement."

ALLEN: Derrick Johnson is president and CEO of the NAACP, America's oldest civil rights organization. He's also the former president of the Mississippi chapter. He spoke Friday to CNN's Kate Bolduan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: I will not be there tomorrow. His attendance is a distraction from us having an opportunity to honor true Americans who sacrificed so much to ensure that democracy works.

And it is unfortunate; in fact, it's an affront to those individuals who fought for voting rights to ensure that people had quality education and quality -- access to health care would be celebrated. Those are principles this president do not support.

With his voting commission, he don't support open and fair elections to ensure that all citizens have the right to vote. He don't effect free, quality, public education for all children.

And his most recent attempt with tax reform show he don't support affordable, quality health care. That was the movement. That's why we're celebrating the individuals who sacrificed. And his attendance is an affront.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: But important to point out Johnson's views are not universal. Here's Utah congresswoman Mia Love.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIA LOVE (R), UTAH: I think if anybody should be going to civil rights museums and to learn about the suffering and, I would say, the triumph of black Americans, it should be the White House. And I think that we should welcome that type of participation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: The White House calls the reaction to the president's attendance "unfortunate."

ALLEN: Coming up here, we have one more for you. You know, this time of year, a lot of children are writing Santa Claus. One child wrote quite the scathing letter. We'll share it with us next.

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[05:50:00]

(SPORTS)

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ALLEN: Christmas is coming. That means Santa is receiving thousands, millions of letters as he makes his list and checks it twice.

HOWELL: Some are exciting letters. Some are, well, like the letter from this 6-year-old Santa skeptic who had a list of complaints. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos with that. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merry Christmas.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lot of kids are scared of Santa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aww, sweetie, come on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look, you can pull it --

MOOS (voice-over): Maybe Santa should be scared of the kid who wrote this letter to him. We took the liberty of adding the voice...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Santa, I'm only doing this for the class. I know your naughty list is empty and your good list is empty and your life is empty. You don't know the trouble I've had in my life. Goodbye.

MOOS (voice-over): Give that kid the boot.

Might be a bad Santa's reaction but a good Santa understands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of rejection in this job.

MOOS (voice-over): NPR reporter and mother Sarah McHammond posted the letter, saying, "My 6-year-old Santa skeptic was told to write a letter to Santa at school, so he did."

Mom didn't want to do an interview, so all we have is the now-gone- viral letter, which ends...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love, I'm not telling you my name.

MOOS (voice-over): If there's a hall of fame for Santa letters, this one goes in it.

"Your life is empty, you don't know the troubles I've had."

"Future country songwriter, tweeted one admirer."

Noted his mom, "P.S., the troubles in his life: his brother. Don't call child services."

The letter is adorned with jolly wreaths on one side and skulls on the other. Sure, Santa's used to misspellings that turn him into Satan. This 4-year old is now 13 and went on to win spelling bees.

But it was the bleak nihilism along with the misspellings...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know your naughty list is empty...

MOOS (voice-over): -- that put this on the best Santa letters list. It was compared to the movie, "Elf."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN, "BUDDY": You sit on a throne of lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS (voice-over): As if Santa is nothing but --

[05:55:00]

MOOS (voice-over): -- an empty suit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and your life is empty.

MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not telling you my name.

MOOS (voice-over): CNN...

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MOOS (voice-over): -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Good thing he didn't sign it. So maybe Santa will still give him something to pep him up.

HOWELL: He needs something.

ALLEN: Beat up on his brother.

HOWELL: Maybe like a weapon.

A smile is not a bad thing.

All right.

So we end this hour with a story about the Canadian tennis star, Eugenie Bouchard. She agreed to a date with a college student, this after losing a Super Bowl bet on Twitter.

So a few months ago, she and John Goehrke went to a basketball game. And now -- well, take a look. Looks like they're still in touch. In 2014, the Wimbledon finalist tweeted this, "Look who came to visit."

And another tweet, "Getting in the spirit of Christmas."

ALLEN: Their saga started on Twitter during the 2017 Super Bowl between the Atlanta Falcons -- yay -- and the New England Patriots. Bouchard tweeted that she predicted the Falcons would win but Goehrke, a Patriots fan, bet her a date that his team would turn things around, which they did. So we'll keep you posted on that one.

HOWELL: That's awesome. Don't want to talk about the Falcons in the Super Bowl, though --

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: Love's good. So maybe they're --

HOWELL: Love is better than that.

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN: All right. Should we end on that?

Yes, let's do. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. For our viewers here in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world "AMANPOUR" is ahead. Thanks for watching CNN, the world's news leader.