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Safe Passage Flights for African Migrants; Trump's America First National Security Strategy; Deadly Amtrak Derailment in Washington State. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired December 20, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[00:00:11] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
Ahead this hour. CNN's exclusive reporting on slavery in Libya has prompted global outrage and action. A safe passage flight is set to land in Paris any time now full of African migrants.
Plus, Trump's doctrine -- the U.S. President turns his America First slogan into an official national security strategy.
And deadly derailment -- an Amtrak passenger train on an inaugural route in Washington State flies off the track.
Hello. And welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
Well, France is taking action off of CNN's exclusive report on slavery in Libya. Last month we showed you this shocking video of a young African migrant, many of them being auctioned off as little as $400. Now France has arranged a safe passage flight from Niger to Paris for pre-screened migrants.
Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration plans to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya by the end of this month.
CNN's Melissa Bell joins us now from Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. Melissa, the flight landed just short time ago. First of all, can you give our viewers some sense of what went on behind the scenes to get these migrants on this flight and on to France?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Isha, the logistical challenge facing those who are trying to extract from Libya all of those tens of thousands of migrants that are currently believed to be in danger are formidable. First of all, we have seen this action from the African Union to try and get into those camps, those detention centers in Libya to try and give those who are there the opportunity of being helped back to their own country and that is difficult enough.
People within the African Union tell you all kinds of different layers of organization come into play. You have to get into the country. The documents have to be organized fairly quickly for these migrants. They then have to be physically ex-filtrated from the country which involves its own set of logistical worries given the Libyan chaos.
Now, on the other hand, there is what France is doing here this morning and again we are talking about a group of migrants -- these 25 migrants that have just landed here in Paris who were taken out of Libya by French authorities, brought to Niger's capital Niamey where their papers, their asylum requests were looked at sort of on a fast track system. And they were given the much dreamt of asylum status, refugee status.
These are the lucky ones who are arriving here in Paris this morning. They're going to be taken to Alsace after this extraordinary journey, many of them have been on the road for many years and living through the sorts of horrors that were exposed as you said, Isha, by CNN's reporting just a few weeks ago.
So these 25 will join 19 that arrived yesterday, 12 more that will arrive tomorrow. A group of 56 in all that will be taken to Alsace to be given the beginnings of a new life after all they have been through.
SESAY: And, Melissa, I don't know how much is known at this stage but as you make the point, they've touched down in Paris and they'll be taken to Alsace and they will attempt to start a new life.
Tell us about Alsace. I mean what will they find there? What will it be like? What support will they receive?
BELL: A much colder climate for a start than they're used to.
SESAY: That's for sure.
Bell: For sure, Isha. It is extremely chilly. And one of the first things that will happen here this morning is that they'll be given coats, a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate before heading off on their bus on that journey. And you're talking about a fairly small town in a fairly remote area.
They're being taken in to a convent by sisters who'll look after them initially. Now, meetings have been held in the town to try and reassure the local population which is very small, only 800 or so people live there about what kind of impact this is likely to have on the town.
But this is, of course, just the beginning of what will be a much wider process. Emmanuel Macron has said that in all he wants to give 10,000 people refugee status by 2019. Three thousand of those include the numbers arriving here this morning are going to fast tracked from Niger and Chad.
This is a long-standing policy ream of Emmanuel Macron. He's been talking about it for many months. But what you've seen in the last few weeks, thanks partly to those shocking images, is this sort of speeding up of the process. It had looked very politically, logistically difficult. The idea of setting up these sorts of filtering systems centers in places like Niamey, in places like (INAUDIBLE) before that crossing of the Sahara is attempted so that the migrants can see whether they do or do not qualify for refugee status.
The idea is on one hand to prevent migrants from trying to leave across the Sahara and embarking on that most dangerous of journey, and the other is to provide a real humane and efficient asylum policy here in Europe, Isha.
[00:05:01] SESAY: Yes. Indeed. That's what has been said. They need safe routes of migration to prevent them from possibly falling into the hands of traffickers and much worse.
Melissa Bell, we appreciate it. Thank you so much for the reporting.
Well, U.S. President Donald Trump presented his national security plan in a campaign rally-like speech Monday. He underscored his America First themes and boasted about the stock market, jobs and tax cuts.
But the speech, well, that was decidedly different in tone from the administration's strategy document. Jim Acosta has all the details.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In a speech on his national security strategy which covers a range of global threats from North Korea to ISIS, President Trump used the r word, Russia.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth. We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries but in a manner that always protects our national interests.
ACOSTA: But in the President's roughly 30-minute speech, there was no mention of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. That's despite the fact that there is a reference to Moscow's interference included in the written version of the White House strategy stating "actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies."
Over the weekend, the President tried to put to rest any questions about whether he would fire special counsel Robert Mueller over his handling of the Russia investigation.
TRUMP: No, I'm not. No.
ACOSTA: Even as top Cabinet members don't seem to be completely ruling it out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have any reason to think that the President is going to do that but that's obviously up to him.
ACOSTA: The President's message on national security was muddled by his own lack of discipline.
His first tweet on the train accident in Washington State didn't mention the loss of life there. Instead he made a pitch for his policies tweeting, "The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, Washington shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly."
Mr. Trump made sure to mention the victims later on in his speech.
TRUMP: Our deepest sympathies and most heartfelt prayers for the victims of the train derailment in Washington State. All the more reason why we must start immediately fixing the infrastructure of the United States.
ACOSTA: The President also used his national security speech to tout his tax cut plan that's on its way to final passage.
TRUMP: We are days away from passing historic tax cuts.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump has pointed to the Reagan tax cuts from the 1980s as proof his plan will work but back in 1991 the then-businessman slammed the Reagan cuts as devastating for the economy.
TRUMP: So this tax act was just an absolute catastrophe for the country. I truly feel that this country right now is in a depression. It's not a recession. We're at an absolute depression. And one of the reasons we're there is what happened in 1986.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever tried a jury trial?
MATTHEW PETERSON: I have not.
ACOSTA: The White House is also responding to criticism over the President's picks for the judiciary. Just days after a fellow Republican blasted one of the selections, Matthew Peterson at a hearing.
PETERSON: I understand the challenge that would be ahead of me if I were fortunate enough to become a district court judge.
ACOSTA: Louisiana GOP Senator John Kennedy urged the President to scrap the nomination. Peterson has now withdrawn his name from consideration. A move the White House has accepted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's never been in a courtroom before. And no disrespect, but just because you have seen my cousin Vinnie you are not qualified to be a federal judge.
ACOSTA: Despite Republicans falling into line to support the President's tax cut plan, there appear to be some worries about the package ultimately making it to the President's desk.
Case in point, Vice President Mike Pence has delayed a trip to the Middle East to stay in town in case he has to cast a deciding vote.
Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
SESAY: Well, joining us here in L.A., CNN political commentators, Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas; and Jessica Levinson, professor of law and governance at Loyola Law School.
Welcome to you all. Good to have you with us. And let me start with you, John. As Jim Acosta ended his package on taxes and on tax cut bill, let's pick up there. Do you have any reason to believe that this tax bill, given everything that we know right now, this point in time will not be voted on in the next couple of days and the President have it on his desk to sign before Christmas?
JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't. I mean they have to get this done immediately especially what happened in Alabama. They're shifting in the Senate. So they have to get this done.
McCain has been a bit of a wild card. He went back to Arizona due to health issues but I don't see any reason why this won't pass. And as Jim Acosta pointed out, they've got the Vice President there for belt and suspenders.
SESAY: Dave, how surprised were you to hear that the lone holdout in the Senate last time around, Bob Corker, has changed his position, is doing a switcheroo and despite being a deficit hawk now says he's going to go for this because it's a pro-growth bill?
[00:10:08] DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think you can count his vote until the final vote is --
SESAY: So you think that he might still --
JACOBSON: Well look, I think we should expect the unexpected. Like the Republicans and Donald Trump thought that the ACA repeal in the GOP House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and institute their own plan was going to would pass. They felt confident. They had that big press conference at the Rose Garden and then it crumbled in the Senate.
And so at the end of the day, you've got Susan Collins who had like come out and forcefully said guaranteed, you've got my vote. I'm moving forward. Thad Cochran also out on health issues. And so I think this is up in the air. I think Republicans are likely to pass this but like at the end of the day until they do like we can't really count this as a --
THOMAS: You think it's a lot easier for Republicans to agree on tax reform than it is on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare?
SESAY: Yes. think that that's clearly the case. And John, a "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll released in November had only 25% of Americans stating that they thought that this bill was a good idea. I mean for a lot of people, I mean, the message war has been lost with this tax bill.
A lot of ordinary Americans think that this is a bill that basically is a giveaway to rich people and corporations. Is this going to be something that helps Republicans come 2018?
THOMAS: Well, first of all, the low approval numbers of the bill is not surprising to me because the person who pushes the bill has been President Trump. His approval ratings are low so when he's saying believe me --
SESAY: That's lower than the President's because the last one Monmouth had him at 32%.
THOMAS: Well, no, no. That's true. But I'm just saying I wouldn't expect it to be high. And then, of course, a lot of Americans don't even pay taxes. So I wouldn't -- they're not looking for tax cuts because they don't pay taxes.
But I think at the end of the day, this tax bill is going to be a huge boon to the Republicans and to the Trump brand because as we fully anticipate when we saw the New York Fed release estimates today that we might be hitting 4% GDP in the next quarter.
If that hits and the economy does take off in part because of this bill and the middle class Americans despite the rhetoric from Democrats see a tax break, this is just something to run on in the midterms.
SESAY: You know what I hear a lot of? If, if, if, if, if. And that's the whole point with this tax bill. It's not paying for itself. It's predicated on lots of ifs, on the infrastructure bill passing. It's predicated on this growth in the economy.
And then what? I mean, you can't say for certain that it's going to pay for itself on these unknowns, Dave.
JACOBSON: Well, and here's the other issue. And I think I've said this before. But like trickle down economics, like hasn't worked in the past, right? Clearly Donald Trump we just showed a couple of minutes ago didn't support the 1980 tax cut. It didn't work during the Bush administration. It's not going to work this time around.
The fact of the matter is this is a massive handout to Wall Street fat cats and millionaires and billionaires on the backs of working families. This represents a bold transfer of wealth from poor and working class folks to the wealthiest individuals in this country.
It gives away permanent tax cuts to big corporations and creates a sunset on taxes on middle class families. That -- and then it raises taxes on folks like one-tenth of the country lives in the state of California. Taxes are going up in California. Taxes are going up in New York and New Jersey.
THOMAS: And it cuts taxes on middle class Americans on those flyover states that voted for Donald Trump.
SESAY: All right.
JACOBSON: And it adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit.
SESAY: OK. As you're both glaring at each other, I'm going to move over to Jessica.
(CROSSTALK) SESAY: Exactly. I'm going to bring in Jessica Levinson now who's been sitting there patiently because I do want to turn our attention to this whole Mueller investigation, Jessica. It's being reported that the President is expecting this investigation, special counsel investigation, to wrap up pretty swiftly and receive a letter of full exoneration.
However, this is what the "Washington Post" is reporting. I want to put it up on screen. It says this in a publication a short time ago. "People with knowledge of the investigation said it could last at least another year. Pointing to ongoing cooperation from witnesses such as former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and former national security advisor, Michael Flynn as well as a possible trial of two former Trump campaign officials. The special counsel's office has continued to request new documents related to the campaign and members of Mueller's team have told others they expect to be working through much of 2018 at a minimum.
So I guess the question is, where do you stand on these time lines? These opposing time lines, Jessica.
JESSIC LEVINSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Well, I mean, it is the holiday season and a lot of people want to believe in Santa Claus and a lot of people want to believe that this Mueller investigation is going to wrap up really quickly.
But I have some, you know, terrible news for them. I don't think this is going to wrap up quickly for exactly the reasons that the "Washington Post" article detailed.
One, this is a big investigation. And it's important to note we say the Russia investigation but I think that there are actually a number of different cases against a number of different individuals that we're really talking about.
And the important thing that the article mentions which I think is absolutely true is that they're still in the information-gathering phase.
[00:15:00] So they're still getting information both from individuals and despite their efforts to kind of undermine the integrity of the Mueller investigation by saying that they're improperly obtaining documents dealing with the transition team, they're also obtaining a number of documents.
So again when you see a big and complicated investigation such as this one, and I don't want to make it sound like this is a normal instigation that we do every day, but when you see a big and complicated investigation, it is easy for that to continue for years and it doesn't mean the investigators are dragging their feet. It means they're methodically going through a lot of testimony and a lot of evidence.
SESAY: I want to pick up on those e-mails that you mentioned, because that is a bone of contention, if you will, between the Trump administration and Mueller's team. They're saying that e-mails obtained from the transition, before the President when he was president-elect Trump have been handed over to Mueller. They're saying that was illegally done.
And I do want to put up Mueller's spokesman's quote. What he said on Sunday. He said, "When we have obtained the e-mails in the course of our ongoing criminal investigation we have secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process.
As you look at the situation with what we know right now, do you see, sense, suspect illegality on the part of Mueller's team as is alleged by some on the Trump side?
LEVINSON: I don't. And I think it's really important for us to separate two things. One is a political effort from the opponents of the Mueller investigation to undermine the integrity of the investigation. And there's just been a very concerted effort and a very specific narrative where they're calling into question those who are doing the investigation and their tactics in terms of how they're investigating such as, for instance, obtaining e-mails from the transition team.
Now, with respect to the legal claim, I think what's important to remember is that we're talking about e-mails in which the end of the e-mail address is dot-gov and which it's been reported that the transition team was told if law enforcement asks for this information we will give it over.
Now, in both of those instances, it is very difficult to contend that you have an expectation of privacy. I understand that President Trump's attorney for the transition has cited to an old statute in an old case to show that he thinks this transition teams are not public documents, that they're actually private. I think the better legal argument really is it's very difficult to claim there's an expectation of privacy.
And again, let's think of who's doing this investigation. It's Robert Mueller who's leading the best-known, best-watched investigation in the country. This would be a huge and surprising misstep if he really illegally obtained this information.
SESAY: Some great perspective there, Jessica. We thank you.
I want to turn to the gents with me in the studio quickly. John, conservative commentators, lawmakers seem to be going all out to discredit Mueller and his team. But the question has to be asked, if the President did go ahead and fire Bob Mueller, I mean, speculating -- wouldn't that just that cause way more problems?
THOMAS: Well, a massive problem. I think that's even why President Trump is putting to rest the rumors. And that's all they were by Democratic lawmakers this last weekend that he's looking to fire Mueller. Because I think he, the President understands and advisers close to the President say that his main mistake in office was firing Comey.
I think the President recognizes that and as much as he would like this whole investigation to go away because it certainly is a cloud on this administration, he realizes that it's on its way and hopefully it ends soon. But I don't think he's going to take action.
JACOBSON: Well, can I also just say that like the President can't fire bob Mueller? It's Rod Rosenstein who is the deputy attorney general who's overseeing this special counsel investigation.
SESAY: Yes. But he could fire Rod Rosenstein and then the solicitor general could then come in and --
JACOBSON: If he doesn't follow through -- correct.
SESAY: -- and then --
JACOBSON: And then it's like a Saturday night massacre, right. Like what we saw with the Nixon administration. So I think that's the bigger issue.
But look, I think optically, like Republicans, Fox News Channel, which is the propaganda arm of the Trump administration, they're trying to muddy the waters and discredit Mueller, obviously, because they want this to look like a partisan investigation rather than a law and order one.
But the fact of the matter is Bob Mueller served under two terms of President Bush and under Barack Obama. This guy was the head of the FBI. He's got immense integrity --
THOMAS: It's true. It's true. But Mueller's not the issue. It's actually the deputies that are doing the investigation. Like Peter Strzok, anti-Trump and pro-Hillary. That's the contention. But it's not about Mueller.
SESAY: We can go down that rabbit hole but we're going to have to wait until next time to do that.
So John Thomas, Dave Jacobson and Jessica Levinson also with us, my thanks to all of you.
JACOBSON: Thank you.
SESAY: All right. We're going to take a very quick break here.
Coming up, an Amtrak passenger train careens off the track, its cars spilling on to a busy highway. Three people are dead, dozens hurt. And investigators are looking at speed as a possible factor. The latest, next.
[00:21:50] SESAY: Well, U.S. federal investigators are trying to figure out what caused a deadly train derailment in Washington State. At least three people were killed and more than 100 others injured when the Amtrak train careened off the track Monday.
Thirteen of the train's 14 cars derailed, some of them plunging off an overpass on to a busy highway. The Amtrak Cascades 501 was making its first trip on a new route. Investigators from the NTSB will be looking closely at the track, railroad signals and at how fast the train was going.
More now from CNN's Kyung Lah.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On its very first day, on its very first run this Amtrak train derailed. Nearly every single passenger car came off the track on to Interstate 5 below.
Passengers describe the chaos. They were traveling they think at 70 to 80 miles per hour and then suddenly, the crash happened and they were flying. You can hear the panic as the first emergency call went out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amtrak 501. Emergency, emergency, emergency. We are on the ground. We were coming around the corner to take the bridge over I-5 there, right north of Nisqually and we went on the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok. Are you -- is everybody OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still figuring that out. We've got cars everywhere and down on to the highway.
LAH: And what you're looking at are warning signs. There are a number of these posted all along the railroad tracks because they're trying to warn drivers that a new train line is running through this community.
This is an idea that was fought by at least one local mayor who said it was simply too dangerous to let Amtrak trains run at this rate of speed through this community.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Tacoma, Washington.
SESAY: Daniel Konzelman was in his car when the train derailed. He jumped out to help people trapped on the train. He joins us now from DuPont in Washington State.
Daniel, I mean, take us through that moment when you realized something had gone so terribly wrong.
DANIEL KONZELMAN, TRAIN DERAILMENT WITNESS: Yes, I was headed south on the Interstate parallel to the tracks and I saw the train go by at a high rate of speed. And when we came to the sort of the traffic congestion underneath the train bridge, it took me a second to realize that it was a train that was hanging off of the bridge.
And it was at that moment I realized that it was a train that -- and I understood sort the gravity of the situation. And it was pretty surreal but I guess within a couple of seconds I was able to collect myself and do my best to get to the site of the accident and do what I could to help the passengers who were affected.
SESAY: So, Daniel, tell me about that. You -- it's remarkable and commendable that you were able to, like you said, pull yourself together. You got out of the car. You headed over to the actual crash site. Tell me what you did first.
KONZELMAN: Yes. So we actually -- we were able to get off of the interstate and drive around to the bluff overlooking the tracks and kind of climb down the ravine to the tracks so that we could access the bridge because the bridge was kind of blocked off.
[00:25:08] And at first there was a couple of people that had gotten out of the train with head injuries and in shock and Alicia Hoverson (ph) and I, she was with me, just started doing what first responders do, sort of assessing the injuries and trying to lead people down to the road so that when aid arrived they could be treated; and then working our way through the train cars one at a time trying to find injured passengers or anybody who might need help.
SESAY: Daniel, tell me about -- from what you just said, if I heard correctly, you actually got inside a train car. Is that correct?
KONZELMAN: Yes, I did. I went through probably seven of the 14 train cars. Some of them were upside down. Some of them had not exploded but been pretty badly-mangled and torn apart. We found people in conditions anywhere from uninjured and able to walk out to pinned underneath the cars. And, you know, to deceased.
One of the train cars I came into there was I think three people that were deceased and three that were pinned underneath it. It was a pretty critical situation. And unfortunately it was -- the accident was so large that it took the first -- even after the first responders got there, the medics -- it took them awhile to collect themselves and figure out where people needed the most attention because there were so many train cars and then there was vehicles involved, too.
And so I think it was really helpful to have people who had been there on the scene for a few minutes to kind of direct the first responders like hey, this is where the most serious injuries are. This is where we need to place the most attention.
SESAY: So, Daniel, just for our viewers and really from also out of curiosity, do you have any medical training? I mean, obviously, you're retelling the story now and you've had a few hours and you're calm. But it does sound as you tell it that you were pretty calm while you were attending to those who were wounded and just in such a desperate situation. KONZELMAN: Sure. I was -- I grew up at Boy Scouts. I'm an Eagle Scout and I've done a lot of mountaineering and I guess been in a lot of situations where it pays to stay calm and I know that.
So going into this, I had a pretty good idea of what I was potentially walking into. And so I kind of mentally prepared myself for the worst while hoping for the best. And I saw both.
But yes, I think I attribute a lot of I guess my experience today to just what I learned in Boy Scouts through emergency response and first aid and all those kinds of things that they teach you; how to stay calm, how to communicate with people who are injured or victims of some sort of accident like this. Just sort of regulating the situation and the environment, leading and directing as needed.
And then when aid arrives, kind of letting them take over. But I felt that it was my responsibility until they showed up, to sort of lead the situation when nobody else really knew how or understood what needed to be done.
SESAY: Well, you did a good thing. You did a good thing. And many people are grateful to you. And we're grateful that you were such a good scout. Daniel, thank you. Thank you for taking the time out just to share your experiences. We all appreciate it.
Thank you, Daniel Konzelman joining us there.
SESAY: All right.
Shifting gears now, the U.S. President lays out his national security strategy but it's not just what's in it that has his critics worried but what's missing from it. We'll explain when we come back.
[00:31:27] SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
The headlines this hour. Investigators are trying to determine if speed or other factors caused Monday's deadly derailment of an Amtrak passenger train. Three people were killed and more than 100 suffered injuries. Went 13 of the train's 14 cars jumped the track in Washington State. The train is traveling a new route. Some of the cars fell off an overpass onto a busy highway.
Well France has arranged a safe passage flight for pre-screened migrants from Niger to Paris. We're following the CNN's exclusive reporting on African migrants being sold into slavery in Libya. The International Organization for Migration says it is trying to repatriate 15,000 African migrants by the end of the month.
U.S. President Trump extended his populist campaign message to his national security strategy speech. He highlighted U.S. economic growth and told Russia and China rival powers challenging America's influence and wealth. One thing he did not mention, accusations that Russia was involved in election meddling.
Well let's take a closer look at Mr. Trump's national security speech. We're joined in Hong Kong by Kristie Lu Stout and here in Los Angeles by CNN's national security analyst, Gayle Tzemach-Lemmon, who is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Kristie -- welcome to you both, ladies. Kristie, to you first, how is the President's speech and specifically those comments and the heightened, pointed tone regarding China, how is that going over where you are?
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah. Well, we are still awaiting official comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here in Beijing. That comment due out in just a couple of hours from now. We will be closely monitoring that.
But it's safe to say that the already complicated relationship between U.S. and China just got a lot more complicated on the back of this new security plan issued by Donald Trump in which he called out China along with Russia as a major power that is challenging America's interests overseas across multiple domains, political, economic and military.
And, Isha, it comes in stark contrast to that warm, cordial meeting that we witnessed just a month ago in Beijing when we saw the two presidents, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, showcasing that warm personal bond.
Now since then, we've seen a hardening of Trump's China stance, recalling his anti-China rhetoric from the campaign trail. Keep in mind, after that meeting in Beijing, when he was at the APEC Summit in Vietnam, Donald Trump said that he will not tolerate chronic trade abuses by any other countries, sort of a thinly veiled reference that he made to China.
And now we have this new strategic plan. Again, we are awaiting comment from China but ahead of the report we did hear from the spokesperson, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, and she offered this measured response in anticipation of this hawkish report that was going to be due out by Donald Trump.
And she chose to emphasize cooperation over competition. And we've also been monitoring reaction in state-run media in China, from the "China Daily," out today, an op-ed, saying this, quote, "There is clearly room for the two sides to work more closely together, not least on issues of common concern, such as the nuclear weapons program of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. However, with Trump promoting economic strength as being indispensable for national security, there are likely to be exacerbated frictions over trade where the two countries are already at odds, with the U.S. following an all-for-itself path and China advocating further global trade and investment liberalization for the benefit of all."
So that's the "China Daily" there, Isha, saying expect a rocky road ahead. Again, we're awaiting fresh comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China. And also, let's be frank here. We're awaiting any actual policy to come out of the Trump administration on the back of this report. Back to you.
[00:35:06] SESAY: Indeed. Kristie, appreciate the insight. Thank you so much.
Turning to you, Gayle, with me here in the studio, I think Kristie said something that was really striking. The fact that this hardening, this harsh tone we heard from Trump regarding China today is in contrast to what we saw when President Trump was in Asia, which brings up the point about this document, where, you know, what is the gap between what is said and what is done?
GAYLE TZEMACH-LEMMON, CNN U.S. SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. And I think they're words on a page and there are facts on the ground and the truth is that this is a president who has wanted to have a fairly cordial relationship, certainly in person with both Chinese and Russian leaders, right?
And yet when you look at what's on the page, both China and Russia are singled out. We see a shift in tone from the Obama era talk of cooperation to real talk about competition. And what is also surprising in that in this administration, which has been known for upending a lot of what we think of as conventional politics, this is a pretty conventional foreign policy document, right? And it is the earliest and the longest --
SESAY: -- five pages longer than Obama's.
TZEMACH-LEMMON: And actually, the first president to actually get his out in the first year of his administration. So I think in some ways people are surprised by just how conventional this leader, who we have now come to know as really a disrupter or somebody who upends a lot of what we think of as conventional wisdom, truly is, when it comes to the foreign policy outlook that's on that page.
SESAY: To talk about Russia for a second, the point has been made by -- I also want to get your thoughts on it -- that even though the document itself specifically in mild languages -- mild language references Russia using tools to undermine democracy, the lines in the document -- but the President doesn't actually explicitly reference 2016 interference.
SESAY: And what we are to make of that. Clearly, again, it is, again, that the discord, if you will, between the president's own views and his national security establishment.
TZEMACH-LEMMON: And then there's always a gap of what is written and what is said. But here it does seem particularly striking. And I do think you see a lot of people trying to figure out which version should we follow, which version is the administration -- (CROSSTALK)
SESAY: -- very clear on that gap.
TZEMACH-LEMMON: Yes. And I think, look, every administration has that gap, right, but this one is particularly -- when you see the language about Russia in this document, it does not necessarily mirror the language that you have heard from the president, which is who has had a fairly cordial exchange of words with Vladimir Putin, while the national security establishment has been far more concerned and far more vocal about what it sees as Russia's role, both in 2016 and certainly going forward now.
SESAY: Obviously, this was an expansion of America first, a recalibration of Russia first in the context of national security but it was always about how -- the question was always how would he navigate America first in this context, where, for national security, we're still talking about allies and partnerships. How did he do in terms of squaring that?
TZEMACH-LEMMON: Well, it's fascinating because this document written by two really experienced hands inside the national security establishment, who worked very hard to get this through a real labyrinth of an interagency process in Washington, which could make your eyes glaze over, honestly, just thinking about it.
But what they did was really bring this document in that is pretty mainstream, conservative, you know, conservative center right foreign policy.
TZEMACH-LEMMON: And he really talked about, you know, this is where America's priorities are and they tried to redefine what America first is, right?
And they really did work to use that definition to put America still inside a rules-based order that it helped to create post-World War II. And whether they're able to maintain that going forward is the big question.
Will reality completely upend once more what the words are on the page?
SESAY: Absolutely. I mean, it's a fascinating conversation as to whether it's an endorsement of multilateralism at the end of the day. But sadly, we're out of time.
Gayle, always great to talk to you --
SESAY: -- your insight. And Kristie Lu Stout there in Hong Kong. My thanks to both of you fine ladies. Thank you.
All right. Quick break. It may soon become California's largest wildfire in more than 80 years and now it is expected to burn into early next year. We'll take a closer look when we come back.
[00:41:36] SESAY: Well the deadly Thomas fire burning northwest of where we are right now in Los Angeles could soon become California's largest wildfire in more than 80 years. It is now 50% contained but officials expect it will take up to early next month to fully contain it.
Now in its third week, the fire has burned an area larger than New York City, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco combined. More than 100,000 residents have evacuated. It has also sadly claimed two lives, including a firefighter, who leaves behind his pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter. Very sad, indeed.
Well meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri, joins us with more.
Pedram, it is hard to really fully comprehend why it is so difficult to contain this fire and just to hear the words. It could be going until next year?
PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Isn't that something, you know? And as you said, we're really beginning to push-up towards historic territory who already been there for a quite a while now as far as how large of a fire this is. But with 50% containment and now the estimations, I should put this into the beginning of January before we have full containment.
It is almost certain here that we're going to begin to see this push up to number two, which is just a couple hundred hectares away from getting there and then you worked your way into the Cedar Fire, which is from October 2003, top largest consuming fire of land there in California history. That could happen within the next week as well, only 800 hectares away.
And here's another way to look at it. We've had 8,400 people and more on top of this fire trying to bring it to where it is now, the 50% containment estimate of losses up of 110 million expected containment period, January 7th. A couple of weeks ago, we were talking about a bet for rainfall right before Christmas, the bet for that now really can find Northern California, only cooler air gets here over the next couple of days. The next chance for rainfall mix realistic chance is January 2nd now. So, again, pushing up near the containment date.
But upwards of 1,000 square kilometers of land consume, that accounts for almost 20% or a quarter of Ventura County. Now we know parts of Santa Barbara County have also been impacted by this as well. And of course the gusty winds, that is really what's made this such a challenging fire, 13 millimeters, this is the rule of thumb, 13 millimeters or so, typically causes the spread of fires to stop upwards of 50 millimeters can put the fire out here, especially in a situation that we're seen across California.
Unfortunately, the last time this much rain fell out of the sky in Los Angeles was back in February. The next time it happens, it doesn't look very optimistic here. That's the front that comes in here, Isha. And the winds with it will calm down. The winds will become more a marine wind here. So we get it on fog. And that's all good news here as far as getting the possibility to push it to 60 and 70% containment. But we think record for the largest fire is definitely in store here across California.
SESAY: Yes. Pedram, we appreciate the update. Thank you so much.
JAVAHERI: Thank you.
SESAY: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. Stay tuned now for "WORLD SPORT". You're watching CNN.