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U.S. President Signed Tax Bill Before He Left Washington; Israel Rejects U.N. Resolution Condemning Trump's Move; Netanyahu: Our Position is Jerusalem Remains United; Rajoy: Open to Dialogue Within Framework of the Law; U.K. Foreign Secretary: Things Are Not Easy With Russia; Bitcoin Plunges Below $11,000 On Friday; U.K. Unveils its Traditional Blue Passport Design. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:49]HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones in for Hala Gorani.

Tonight, Donald Trump starts his winter holiday on a high with a freshly signed tax bill under his belt.

Also, ahead --


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Several countries are seriously considering now saying exactly the same thing as the United

States and moving to Jerusalem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which countries?


NETANYAHU: Find out why Israel's prime minister is so optimistic, even after a difficult day at the U.N. CNN's exclusive interview with Benjamin

Netanyahu is coming up.

And the U.K.'s latest passport change has many people feeling blue. What's behind the color controversy later this hour.

We start the hour, though, with U.S. President Donald Trump who is spending the Christmas holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. A crowd of his

supporters greeted him at the Palm Beach International Airport when he arrived just a short time ago.

The president spent lots of time signing autographs and shaking hands, clearly riding high on his first legislative victory. Before he left, the

president signed the Republican tax bill and he bucked White House tradition by not holding an end of year press conference. He did say this

to reporters in the oval office.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I watched the news this morning and they were all saying, will he keep his promise? Will

he sign it by Christmas? Will he sign it by Christmas? I called downstairs, I said, get it ready, we have to sign it now.

We were going to wait until January 7th or 8th and do a big formal ceremony, but every one of the networks was saying, will he keep his

promise, will he sign it for Christmas -- before Christmas? So, I immediately called. I said, let's get it ready.


JONES: White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins, joins me now live from D.C. A Christmas present for the American people and to the American press. It

seems the president with a spring in his step as he hit the tarmac in the Florida sun just after that signing and with good reason.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right. In a way, a gift for him, this is something the president had been promising to get done before

Christmas, something a lot of his critics did not think he would be able to fulfill. But the president did get that done.

When we started this morning, we weren't sure we were going to see the president actually sign this bill today at the White House because although

several White House officials had told CNN that the president was likely to sign that bill before he departed Washington for the holiday break in West

Palm Beach, there was no signing ceremony on his schedule.

Then the White House clearly realized that this is something they wanted to have on camera, they wanted to have reporters in the room, because this is

arguably the biggest victory, certainly the biggest legislative victory of this president's first year in office.

While he was talking about this bill, they brought up how this bill has very low approval ratings. Only 33 percent of people approve of this bill

and two-thirds of people think it does more to benefit the wealthy than the middle class, according to that latest CNN poll.

But when the president was asked if he is going to travel to sell this bill to the American people, he said that he doesn't think he is going to have

to, because he believes it's going sell itself.

On another note, the president looked ahead to 2018, his legislative priorities for the next year. He said that he is going to start with

infrastructure. He believes that it will be a lot easier to get through. He even thinks he is going to have bipartisan support on that front.

JONES: Kaitlan, appreciate it. Kaitlan Collins there for us in D.C., thank you.

So, let's dig deeper now into the president's big win in Congress that caps a somewhat unprecedented year. James Hohmann, national political

correspondent for "The Washington Post" joins me now live.

James, great to have you on the program. Let's talk about the president's legislative achievements in his first year in office. Even Mitch McConnell

who is his longtime foe, albeit in the same party, said just yesterday that this has been an unprecedented year for legislative victories. What are


JAMES HOHMANN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, his big legislative victory is getting this bill done, although, it's

unpopular. He had to show that he could get something through. I think what Mitch McConnell was referring to is confirming judges.

Trump has confirmed a record number of judges during his first year. He put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court to replace the late Supreme Court

Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died during the 2016 campaign.

[15:05:13] He's already turning out to be the most conservative member of the Supreme Court. There's a sense that the folks that Trump has been

putting on the courts are very young, and these are lifetime appointments and they are very conservative.

So, this will be able to affect court decisions for 40 or 50 years. So, that is something that a lot of conservatives who don't like Donald Trump,

they are uneasy with him. They are uncomfortable with him, but they feel he has done right on judges. So, they have sort of looked the other way.

McConnell is definitely in that team.

JONES: OK. So, he definitely done well with appointing people for jobs for life, but there have been a lot of comings and goings in this Trump

administration in the last 11 months or so. We started off with Michael Flynn, Sean Spicer, Scaramucci, not to mention James Comey, of course, the

FBI director. Talk us through that.

HOHMANN: Yes. I mean, a lot of times it feels like we are watching a reality tv show. Trump has actually told people, he is obsessive about

watching the news and cable as we just heard in that sound bite.

He thinks that every day that he is president like it's an episode of a reality tv show, like it's an episode of "The Apprentice." He either wins

or loses every day based on how he perceives the coverage of him on television.

So, he acts accordingly, and the problem is, he hasn't had a long-time horizon because he tries to win every day instead of winning the long-term.

It's very hard to work for him. He can be erratic.

So, there's been incredible historic levels of turnover during the first year. There's a lot of expectation that there will be more turnover in the

first month of the next year.

The way that the taxes work in the United States is that if you make it a year in your job in the federal government in an administration

appointment, then you don't have to pay capital gains taxes on income from things that you had to sell to join the government.

So, people like Rex Tillerson, who used to be the CEO of ExxonMobile, the big oil company, he is biding his time so that once he is in for a year,

which is coming at the end of January, he will save literally tens of millions of dollars on taxes, maybe more than $100 million by waiting and

making it a year.

So, the former president of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, he is in a similar boat. He's also expected to leave sometime in the couple of

months. So, there's been a lot of turnover and part of it is all these guys are saying that Trump has a ton of accomplishments.

In fact, he really doesn't have a ton of accomplishment. They are just trying to kiss up to him essentially at this point. They are trying to say

-- you know, he's been so successful just because they are stroking Trump's ego. They trying to make him feel good about themselves because if Trump

feels good about you, he is more likely to be pliable and do what you want next year.

JONES: It's fascinating about taxes. I'm sure many wouldn't have known that that's the case for many of these federal employees. I want to ask

you about Russia, though, because you talk about the president's temperaments and his erratic behavior at times. One big cloud that's been

hanging over him since even before he was inaugurated is Russia and this Russia probe. Is this now winding up or winding down for him coming into


HOHMANN: It is winding up. The expectation of the president -- he has been convinced by his lawyers that he should cooperate with Bob Mueller,

the special counsel, who is investigating him because they say that will wrap up more quickly.

There was a meeting -- we don't know exactly what happened, but it might be even taking place today between Mueller's team and Trump's lawyers.

There's a lot of people they haven't talked to. They haven't interviewed the president.

It's widely expected that there will be more indictments. This is something where Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, is

cooperating with the government. We don't know what information he has or what he has told the special counsel.

So, it's possible, I guess, that Mueller could wrap up sooner than later, but no one who is involved with this, no one who is familiar with what's

going on. Things that it's going to --

JONES: Thinks that is the case.

HOHMANN: They think this is going to last another year.

JONES: We are going to have to leave it there. James, always great to get your perspective on things. James Hohmann, thank you.

HOHMANN: My pleasure.

JONES: First the stick and now the carrot. The U.S. is thanking countries that didn't vote against it yesterday at the United Nations by hosting a

friendship reception early next month.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley sent out a save the date notice. A source calls it a first symbolic step of taking note of who supports Washington's

policies. Remember, President Donald Trump had threatened to slash funding to U.N. members, who approved a resolution that rejects his decision to

recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Well, 128 countries did that anyway. A non-binding yet overwhelming rebuke of U.S. policy. Israel for its part says no U.N. resolution can change

what it calls the historical truth about Jerusalem.

[15:10:06] CNN's Oren Liebermann sat down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for an exclusive interview.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: It's about time the United States said -- I'm glad they said it -- this is the capital. We recognize

it. I think that's going to be followed by other countries. We're now talking to several countries, who are seriously considering now saying

exactly the same thing as the United States and moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Which countries? From what continents?

NETANYAHU: I can tell you that, but I won't because I want it to succeed. I think there's a good chance it will.

LIEBERMANN: President Trump didn't use the word united. Neither did you. He said sovereignty in Jerusalem is open for negotiations as are the

borders. Are you ready to negotiate Jerusalem?

NETANYAHU: Our position is Jerusalem should remain a united, safe and secure city. Freedom of worship for all faiths which we guarantee. In the

Middle East, we're just about the only ones that guarantee freedom of worship for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. So, that's my vision of

Jerusalem. Well, since we have a different vision, they should come and negotiate.

LIEBERMANN: Are you willing to negotiate Jerusalem?

NETANYAHU: I'm willing to put my position forward. They will put their position forward. That's what negotiations are for.

LIEBERMANN: President Trump didn't rule out a Palestinian capital or Palestinian city in some part of Jerusalem, that's OK with you?

NETANYAHU: He didn't preclude our position either. He said I'm not addressing that. There's not going to be any peace where Jerusalem is not

Israel's capital. He was saying something that is a historical fact, but I think it was important to say it.

For the furtherance of peace, I think you have to finally recognize that reality. I think that's just happening. It's happening outside the halls

of the U.N. a lot faster than what's happening in the theater of the absurd of the U.N. but it's happening.

LIEBERMANN: You're not fazed ever so slightly by the General Assembly resolution, are you?

NETANYAHU: It may take about 10 years until the absurd automatic majorities against Israel will change. That process has begun. The

overwhelming response of Asian countries and African countries, Latin American countries, European countries to Israel, to its technology, water,

agriculture, health, security.

I'd say they are embracing Israel in a great way. What will happen eventually is that this embrace of Israel, the flourishment of our

relations with the world will eventually get even to the theater of the absurd of the U.N. It will take time.

LIEBERMANN: Are you ready to openly come adhere to a two-state solution?

NETANYAHU: Well, I'm openly committing to a situation where the Palestinians can govern themselves, have all the powers to govern

themselves except the powers that threaten us. That's always been my position.

LIEBERMANN: The state of Palestine next to a state of Israel?

NETANYAHU: Depends what that state is. (Inaudible) if it's North Korea.

LIEBERMANN: With whatever qualifications you want --

NETANYAHU: Then they start saying, well, that's not a state. They start saying that. So, rather than dealing in brands and naming, I'm just

saying, here are the conditions we need. The most important condition that we need for an effective, sustainable peace for both Palestinians and

Israelis and for the region is a situation where Israel has overriding security control.

LIEBERMANN: What happens next from the big picture, whether it's the U.S., Russia or other countries, what happens next?

NETANYAHU: I think first of all, you are going to see the continual trend of Israel's increasing ties with many countries in the world. That's

happening. I think if we can get the hearts of the people -- we already have the minds of many of the governments. If we can get the hearts of the

people, that's cause for hope and I think that's the highway to peace.


JONES: And Oren joins us now live from Jerusalem after that exclusive interview there. Global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott is also

joining us from Washington. Oren, to you first, Benjamin Netanyahu in that interview with you, he seemed quite void by the support from Donald Trump

and not bruised at all seemingly by the U.N. vote.

LIEBERMANN: Well, as you pointed out, the U.N. General Assembly vote was non-binding, and from that perspective, he was simply able to dismiss it

and say, look, it is the U.S. recognition Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but it's far more important.

He was insistent. This was the point he wanted to make the entire time that other countries will follow Trump's lead, recognize Jerusalem as the

capital of Israel. He said with that exact wording of Trump, which is to say not making that East Jerusalem-West Jerusalem distinction and will get

ready to move their embassies.

He says other countries are in touch with Israel to do this. But, and this has to be noted, when I pushed him on which countries, there he demurred

saying, look, the process is still ongoing. We want it to succeed. It's Israel's goal, Israel is lobbying for it, but the prime minister not ready

to commit to what countries will follow Trump's lead just yet.

JONES: Elise Labott standing by for us in Washington. Elise, let's talk about this invitation from Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United

Nations. An invitation to a party for the friends of America, those who voted against the U.N. resolution on the Jerusalem issue. If this is a

party just for friends, does that mean that America tonight has 128 foes?

[15:15:09] ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's 64 countries so it's the countries have voted against, the nine that voted

against, 35 abstentions and about -- 21 abstentions and 35 that didn't show up. So, I mean, I don't think it's that they foes.

But, you know, you kind of heard this in very stark terms that Nikki Haley is saying and the president echoing, we're going to remember this day when

you come to us. I think a lot of this is a lot of rhetoric, a lot of posturing.

Hannah, look, the U.S. doesn't give aid with all this threat about withholding aid. The U.S. doesn't give aid to countries only out of the

goodness of its heart. It does so because of its U.S. national security interests.

That's why it has relations with various countries. So, I don't think the U.S. really is in a position to have 128 foes because a lot of these

countries that works with very closely. Some of them are some of the greatest allies.

So, I wouldn't call Britain a foe, France, you know, 22 of the E.U. countries that voted for this measure. I think this is Nikki Haley

posturing, but also kind of saying to those countries, we appreciate you siding with us. We appreciate the solidarity.

I think there's more carrots that they can give to these countries that sided with the U.S. rather than sticks that they can dole out to the

countries that didn't.

JONES: Well, one wonders, I guess, whether this is as bad as it gets. Nikki Haley and Donald Trump have threatened to take names of those who

voted against the United States. If the worst that's going to get is that they just don't get invited to a party, I mean, that's something that a lot

of countries will be able to take.

LABOTT: I think so. You know, a lot of the threats yesterday were seen as kind of empty rhetoric, empty threats. Like I said, you know, some of the

countries that we know strongest proponents of this measure, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Arab nations that are getting billions of dollars in U.S. aid, these

are critical allies that the U.S. has key relationships with.

And for the national security purposes, to stabilize the region, to fight ISIS, and then you have some of the closest allies in Europe, you know,

Britain, France, Germany, Spain.

So, I mean, you know, I just don't think though it's a very good place for the United States to be coming out of the first year of the Trump

administration with 128 countries siding against it. The resolution is nonbinding. It's effectively meaningless, but it's very symbolic in terms

of that the U.S. is alone on this issue, Jerusalem issue.

JONES: Elise Labott there for us in Washington. Also, Oren Liebermann with that exclusive interview with the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem.

Thank you both.

Now the U.N. Security Council slapped tough new sanctions on North Korea today. The vote in that case was unanimous. The new sanctions will

severely restrict oil supplies necessary for Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs. The resolution also orders the repatriation of North

Koreans working abroad within 24 months. The sanctions are a response to North Korea's latest ballistic missile test.

This news just in to us at CNN, Israel will announce that it is withdrawing from UNESCO by the end of the year. That from a spokesman for Israel's

Foreign Ministry. The move follows the U.S. decision to withdraw from the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization back in October over

its anti-Israel bias.

All right. Still to come on the program tonight, uncertainty for Catalonia as a vote Madrid hoped would bring stability and unity clear a potential

new path towards Catalan independence. More on that after the break.



JONES: Welcome back to HALA GORANI TONIGHT. In Spain, a gamble by the prime minister didn't pay off. Thursday's deeply divisive vote, which he

had hoped would prove Catalonia didn't want independence, has backfired. Pro-independence parties are now in a position to lead the region.

On Friday, the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said he is open to dialogue within the framework of the law. CNN's Isa Soares reports now.


ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Embattled former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont rises from the political ashes in the Catalan


CARLES PUIGDEMONT, FORMER CATALAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The Spanish state has been defeated. Rajoy and his allies have lost and have

received a slap in the face from the Catalan people.

SOARES: Together with his former vice-president and leader of the Republican left of Catalonia (inaudible), they have a majority to lead

Catalonia. First, though, they must form a coalition and that maybe more challenging than it seems.

Puigdemont is himself imposed exile in Belgium. If he returns, he could be arrested and (inaudible) is in prison on charges of rebellion, sedition and

misuse of funds relating to the referendum on October the 1st. Charges he denies.

Despite the political hurdles, Puigdemont says he is ready to meet with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to find a solution.

PUIGDEMONT (through translator): Politics cannot be done without dialogue. The right to not dialogue does not exist in democracy and whether you like

the topic that you are discussing or not, you must do so.

SOARES: But this is a region divided. The independence parties may have gained the most support, but it's the pro-unity Citizens Party led by Ines

Arrimadas that came away with the most seats, a total of 37. Simply not enough for a majority. Still, they're not backing down in their party's


INES ARRIMADAS, LEADER, CITIZENS PARTY (through translator): If we knew yesterday the independence process had no future, it is even clearer today

that it does not represent a future for all Catalans and we will continue to fight.

SOARES: The biggest loser of the night was perhaps Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who gambled when he called this election. It didn't pay off. His

ruling party won only three seats. Now he must unite the region, but it seems he is not prepared to negotiate on the question of independence.

MARIANO RAJOY, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I will make an effort to establish a dialogue with the government -- the Catalan

government, but I will also make an effort so that the law is abided by. So, I hope that there will be a government that abandons unilateral

decisions and that respects the law.

SOARES: So, what has changed in the last four months in Catalonia? Well, not much. Isa Soares, CNN.


JONES: As you heard there in Isa's report, the region now faces an uncertain political future. Let's break it all down with the freelance

journalist, Sarah Canals. She joins us from Barcelona. Sarah, great to have you on the program.

I want to talk first of all about Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister. He has failed to avert a political crisis. The future is more

uncertain. Is his own position now in peril?

SARA CANALS, JOURNALIST: Well, I think so. As you said, the situation is more certain than ever and now it all depends on who is going to take the

next steps right here. We have seen today Carles Puigdemont has tried to offer dialogue to Mariano Rajoy from Belgium where he's been for the last

two months.

But Mariano Rajoy said that he is not willing to talk unless Carles Puigdemont comes back to Spain, Catalonia, which it's a little bit tricky

because if Carles Puigdement comes back here, he could be imprisoned, as you said, he is facing charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of funds.

It's a little uncertain. We will see who is going to make the first move to sit down and dialogue.

[15:25:10] JONES: It's interesting, you mentioned Calres Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Belgium. This is the Catalan independence

movement leader. Is the future now very much dependent on his role, presence there in Catalonia?

CANALS: I do believe so because as we said it's a tricky situation, but at the same time, Calres Puigdemont has been saying during his -- this last

campaign that if he can form a government, if he can become the next president of Catalonia, which he could be if the three pro-independence

parties will form a coalition, which is possible.

He promised he will come back to Catalonia. So, everybody is expecting what going to happen and of course, Mariano Rajoy is the one who lost in

this election. We have never seen him with such bad results in Catalonia. He went from 11 seats to three seats. So, Carles Puigdemont is the

strongest man over here in this situation.

JONES: As far as the election results were concerned, the votes turnout was actually quite high, I understand. Even though the pro unity party won

the majority of votes, it looks like the separatists will have to form some kind of a government. Given the fact that they are in the driving seat

then, is there still -- or is there any appetite in the region for another referendum on independence?

CANALS: I think that's right. I think a lot of Catalans, who support independence took this elections as referendum to test where the level of

independent is in the region. We have seen that in these elections more than 2 million people voted to split from Spain.

So, we will see what's going to happen. It's also elections that were very uncertain, as you said, the turnout was a record, more than 80 percent. It

also took place on a Thursday, which is not very usual here. Everybody was working. People had to take time to go to vote.

People are a little bit tired of situation. People want solutions and from both sides, from both the unionist and the independentists, they want a

change and the results have shown that nobody is buying the strategy of Mariano Rajoy on tackling this crisis right now.

JONES: Sara Canals, great to talk to you. Sara is live for us in Barcelona. Thank you.

Still to come tonight, a strange exchange between two top diplomats. Russia and the U.K. meet in Moscow saying their relationship is, quote, "at

a very low point."

And is the Bitcoin fever finally breaking? The value of the digital currency plunged today. Find out why next.


JONES: A tense exchange in front of the world's cameras. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with his British counterpart Boris Johnson in

Moscow on Friday.

Lavrov saying the relationship between the countries has a whole lot of problems. And the two had a somewhat heated back and forth over

allegations of Russian meddling in the British Brexit vote.


SERGEY LAVROV, FOREIGN MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): My neighbor here, Boris Johnson, recently said that he doesn't have any

evidence of Russian interference on the UK referendum to leave the EU.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Not successfully, I think is the word. Not successfully is the word that, I think, you need to -

LAVROV (through translator): He's afraid that unless he objects, then his recognition with the media back home will suffer.

JOHNSON: Sergey, it's your reputation I'm worried about.


JONES: Well, let's get reaction to all of this out of Moscow. CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is standing by for us there.

Fred, this trip, visit by Boris Johnson slipped slightly under the radar for many people in the UK and it's a big deal given the fact - I think it's

the first time in five years that a British foreign secretary has actually been on Russian soil.

But irrespective of how the trip went and, clearly, there were some problems there, what was the mission with which Boris Johnson was sent?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the mission, Hannah, was try and get talks going again. I think the United

Kingdom and Russia have been talking so little, especially since the murder of Alexander Litvinenko several years back, of course, in the United

Kingdom where the UK really feels that Russia isn't doing everything it can to try and clarify the situation and then other world events as well.

It's almost been a complete shutdown between these two nations, and that's something were Boris Johnson has said, look, there are very big

disagreements and, certainly, you saw some of those on display there, especially in that testy exchange when it comes to some of the Russian

cyber activities where the Russians feel that they're their being treated unfairly, the Brits say, look, there's a lot of evidence out there that you

did do some of these things.

So, there are a lot of things that really the two needed to try and tackle. And I'm not sure that they necessarily achieved very much in terms of

trying to get on the same page.

But simply the fact that the British foreign secretary came here, that they talked to each other, I think, is something that the Russians did very much


And I think one of the interesting things that Sergey Lavrov said in that press conference, he said, look, I trust Boris Johnson. And I think that

in itself was quite an important statement.

So, while there wasn't very much in the way of headway as far as improving relations, at least, at this point in time, the two sides are talking to

each other in a way that they certainly haven't before this visit took place, Hannah.

JONES: And meanwhile, Fred, new developments in the Russia-US relationship saga. What's happened?

PLEITGEN: Well, look, in the past couple of days, it's really seemed as though there was a very good relations between Vladimir Putin and President

Donald Trump. You had those several phone calls that took place, two leaders praising each other.

Well, the Russians, a very different tone, especially on this day on Friday. There's been a lot of criticism today coming out of Russia of the

United States and even the Russians saying they believe that the United States is a threat to them.

Vladimir Putin held a speech in front of Russian generals where he really ripped into America's new national security strategy and said it was a

threat to Russia. Here's what he said.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): The USA, as you know, has recently presented their new national security strategy. And

diplomatically speaking, if I can put it into words, it is of an attacking nature. And if we use military terms, it's no doubt aggressive. We need

to take that into account in our practical work.


PLEITGEN: So, the Russians are saying they believe it's the US that is aggressive and really a very different tone than what we've we seen between

these two leader, between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in the past almost year since Trump has come into office. So, it's interesting to see.

And we're going to wait and monitor that and see whether or not this marks maybe a more fundamental shift in the Russian position towards Donald

Trump, Hannah.

JONES: Fred, final thought on Russia's 2017 and what the 2018 looks like as well. It's been a big year in terms of Russian dominance in various

global hotspots as well. And with elections coming up next year as well, how big and significant a year could be - the coming year be for President

Putin in particular?

PLEITGEN: Yes. Well, I think for him it's going to be an absolute pivotal year. Look, one of the things that we can already see Vladimir Putin do

is, obviously, gear up towards that election that's going to happen here in March of 2018.

He's already set the stage. He's held a big press conference recently, which he does every year, but mainly talking about that election.

[15:35:06] And you can tell, for the Russians, it is a very, very significant event, where especially those around Putin, around his inner

circle, they fear that there could be instability. They fear that there could be protests again. They've already accused Western intelligence

services, for instance, for trying to sow unrest, as they say. So, that's something internally they are quite concerned about.

I don't think anybody really doubts that Vladimir Putin is going to win that election, but at the same time, he does fear that there could be some

issues around that election. So, that's certainly one thing that we're going to be looking at very closely. Then, of course, the other World Cup

that's going to be taking place in Russia.

But I think that one of the main things that we are going to be looking at as far as Russia is concerned is increasing Russian influence in the Middle

East. I think that's something where Russia has made a lot of headway, if you look at relations with Egypt, with the NATO nation Turkey, but then,

especially, also cementing its role in Syria, expanding that role into Iraq as well.

I think that's something - it's a very, very high priority for the Russians and something that we're going to be talking about and also Western leaders

are going to be talking a lot about as well, Hannah.

JONES: We'll certainly be talking about all through 2018. Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much. Fred is live for us there in the Russian capital Moscow.

Now, the digital currency Bitcoin plunged in value today, losing roughly a third of its value in just 24 hours. That is according to data from Prices dipped to below $11,000.

And that's not the only headache for the cryptocurrency. On Thursday, a spinoff called the Bitcoin Cash was suspended from a popular exchange after

possible insider trading.

"CNNMoney" correspondent Paul La Monica joins me now live from New York. Paul, just explain why this huge fluctuations in value for Bitcoin in such

a short period of time.

PAUL LA MONICA, "CNNMONEY" CORRESPONDENT: It is incredibly wild, Hannah. There are thoughts that this wouldn't happen now that you have the

legitimacy that has come to Bitcoin because it's trading on futures exchanges, but that hasn't happened at all.

There is just constant concern about fraud and that is a problem too. There's a South Korean exchange that has shut down because there was some

theft of Bitcoins. You have the talk of insider trading with some executives at one of the popular Bitcoin trading site with the Bitcoin Cash

subsidiary. So, that's a problem.

Then, also, the SEC is cracking down on a company called The Crypto Company because they just don't think there's enough adequate information for

shareholders, and this a stock that had surged before the SEC halted trading of it.

JONES: Paul, is this then - are we looking at the end of this cryptocurrency craze?

MONICA: I'm not so sure I would go that fast. I think that it's important to note that there are many people that are embracing digital currencies.

And I don't think that's going to end anytime soon.

But much like in the dotcom bubble of the late 90s where you had a lot of suspect companies deciding that they were now Internet companies that went

under, we might have that reckoning with bitcoin and other crypto currencies as well. We just have to see what winds up being the biggest

crypto currencies that people still use after an inevitable shakeout.

JONES: Is one of the main problems here, though, that there's no central government organizing these currencies, like there is with normal


MONICA: Yes. I think that that is a problem, Hannah. Everyone talks. The people that are proponents of these cryptocurrencies say, well, hey,

it's not backed by a central government and a central bank who could just print money at will and destroy the value of currency.

Well, that's all well and good, but when you look at something like Bitcoin and Dash and Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies and the volatility that

we've had, it's not as if people can say, hey, cryptocurrencies are the stable investment because you don't have a government backing them.

So, I think people might have lost sight of the fact that these can be incredibly volatile.

JONES: Paul La Monica, great to hear from you. Thanks so much.

MONICA: Thank you. Have a great holiday.

JONES: Same to you, Paul. Now, for those of us, though, who aren't quite so cryptocurrency savvy just yet, how do you actually buy and use Bitcoin.

Let's watch. Our CNNMoney editor-at-large Richard Quest finds out for himself.


RICHARD QUEST, CNNMONEY EDITOR-AT-LARGE: The goal here is very simple. We're going to attempt to buy a bit of a Bitcoin. Clearly, we're not going

to buy that much.

But with Nolan and Paul, we're going to show you how easy or difficult it is.

(on-camera): I want to buy a Bitcoin. Have you ever bought a Bitcoin?

MONICA: I have not bought a Bitcoin before. I'm interested to see how easy it is.

NOLAN BAUERLE, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, COINDESK: First, we're going to get your wallet.

QUEST: Before I've even got the Bitcoin, I'm going to get a wallet.

BAUERLE: Wallets. Digital wallets that we use in the cryptocurrency world don't actually store coins. What they store are cryptographic keys. They

manage, generate and transact.

[15:40:07] QUEST: There we go. Your wallet was successfully created. Before accessing your wallet, please choose a PIN number used to lock your

wallet. It's important to remember this PIN as it cannot be reset or changed without first unlocking the app.

BAUERLE: This has put a lot of onus on the user for security. That's one of the major differences here. Instead of asking the bank to secure all of

our personal information, the onus is now on us to manage our own cryptographic needs ourselves.

I have brought what was a party gift to people at one of our events, though two years ago. And there are 0.01 Bitcoins on it. So, that would mean

this is one one-hundredths. So, $187.

QUEST: Right. Where did you get this?

BAUERLE: This was given to me. This was a gift.

MONICA: But it's just symbolic. You cannot use this as legal tender.

BAUERLE: The coin is symbolic. What's under this hologram here is a private key.

MONICA: Got you.

BAUERLE: And what we're arguing in this whole Bitcoin revolution is that keys are currency. Private keys are bearer instruments like cash. And

because it's a bearer instrument like cash, if someone would even see your key, they could use it as if they possessed the Bitcoin.

What you've got to do now is you've got to peel the sticker off. So, take your fingers and peel it off. This is there so that you know that the

manufacturer - these are bear instruments.


Bitcoin Right? The actual private key is a bearer instrument. So, it will be the same as having cash. If someone knows your private key, they can

access your funds.

So, now, what we've got here is just a simple QR code. We call this a paper wallet. If you get access to these wallets, it's like getting access

to cash. Think of it as a bearer instrument and cash.

QUEST: Success! So, that's a private key.

BAUERLE: So, you've got 0.01 bitcoins. So, click on the top there, you've got -

QUEST: I've got $186.43 -

BAUERLE: And you can touch it -

MONICA: As of right now.

QUEST: Let's assume we haven't got this. How do we now get a Bitcoin?

BAUERLE: So, normally, you'd fund an account after you shared your personal information. So, they know who you are. You would attach a bank

account to it. And that would allow you to do these transfers.

QUEST: And where would I do that? With one of these people?

BAUERLE: You can do with Coinbase. You can do with You can do it with Kraken.

QUEST: Now, I've got my wallet. Now, I don't want you to look at my wallet on here.

BAUERLE: Yes. You can log in.

QUEST: There we are. Voila! We're impressed.

MONICA: And it's now supporting Ether. We can buy even more.

QUEST: I think I understand it. Do you?

MONICA: A little bit.

QUEST: (INAUDIBLE). Now own $170 worth of Bitcoin, which we will follow pretty quickly over at "Quest Means Business" and then you will help us set

up a winning strategy.


JONES: Well, there you go. Now you know. But it's plunged in price anyway. So, don't buy it today.

Still to come on the program tonight, how Facebook is trying to put fake news on the backfoot with a new tactic after its last one just didn't work.

Plus, an interview with the most famous director on the planet, Steven Spielberg.


[15:45:17] JONES: Welcome back. Facebook is upping its fight with fake news. The social media network scrapping the red disputed flag it uses on

hoax reports and replacing it.

Now, it will put related articles next to fake news posts. Facebook says this strategy shift is partly because the red flag sometimes further

entrenched belief in a fake article.

For more on Facebook's battle with fake news, Brian Stelter joins us from New York. Bryan, just explain to us how exactly has this tool, this tactic

backfired so dramatically for Facebook?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Facebook believes that, in some cases, the users who see these alerts, these alerts about fake news

actually just believe the BS even more deeply, even more confidently.

This is known as the backfire effect. It's been studied by psychologists recently to see if - when you tell someone something's not real, not true,

tell them they've been hoaxed, actually they dig in their heels, dig into the sand, believe it even more deeply.

That's what Facebook believes happened in this case. There were pop-ups on Facebook if you tried to share a story that was totally made up and a hoax,

there would be a disputed tab, would say, are you sure you want to share this, and then there would be a link that said disputed.

Apparently, some people still went ahead and still shared it anyway on Facebook. This doesn't work.

So, now, instead what's going to happen is, if you share one of these stories that, again, is just totally made up, trying to trick people, then

below it there will appear related articles from fact checkers that try to debunk it.

But I think what Facebook is admitting here one year since the US presidential election is that this is really hard to try to police.

JONES: It's so interesting, isn't it? As a social experiment, if nothing else. Just shows that people are, obviously, drawn to sensational stories,

whether they're true or not.

STELTER: Yes. And people want to believe stories that support their team. What we see in the US is this tribal experience right now, this tribal


And we certainly see it in other countries as well. If you belong to a tribe, let's take the Trump supporters who are very loyal to President

Trump, then they want to see stories that are related, that are supportive of him, that backup their existing views.

This is not necessarily anything new. The problem, I think, is that Google and Facebook and other social media companies supercharge it, make it

easier to live in a specific bubble.

A new development, actually just in the past couple of hours today, Facebook is now letting you see if you shared or followed or liked a page

from these Russian troll farms.

You'll remember, Facebook came under intense scrutiny earlier this year when it came out and admitted that many millions of Americans were exposed

to these Russian fake articles that were intended to manipulate and affect American voters.

So, now, it happens to be the Friday before Christmas, Facebook is rolling out a feature to let people see if they might have liked or followed one of

these Russians troll farm pages.

We'll see how many users actually go ahead and check it out the new features kind of buried on

But to the company's credit, it is there. It is trying to follow up on last year's issues. And, of course, at this point, we're closer to next

year's midterm elections in the US and the concerns about so-called fake news, they're going to be very, very widespread in the midterms, just as

they have been with elections in other countries this year.

JONES: And, Brian, I know you've been so, like, focused in covering fake news over the course of the last year, I'm wondering, in your opinion, how

much has fake news as a term, as an idea become a defining factor of the Trump presidency so far?

STELTER: Because Trump appropriated the term early on, tried to redefine it as a term for anything he didn't like, any story that was negative that

he didn't like, the term has really sort of fallen out-of-favor among journalists.

I think researchers, experts in this field say it's better to be more specific. When you're talking about hoaxes, call them hoaxes. When you're

talking about disinformation or propaganda or made-up story, use those more specific terms instead and leave the term fake news to the presidents.

Brian Stelter, always great to talk to you. Brian, thank you. Happy holidays to you.

STELTER: You too. Thanks.

JONES: Now, as fake news becomes a big problem for Facebook, at the movies, the real stuff is taking center stage.


JONES: Well, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, "The Post" tells the story "The Washington Post" publication of the Pentagon Papers, which

revealed the hidden extent of the Vietnam War.

[15:50:03] As the film debuts in the States, our Chloe Melas sat down with the film's legendary director, Steven Spielberg, to get the scoop on the

film and she joins us now from New York.

Chloe, I guess, this film shows that this current climate that we're seeing in the US of executive attacks on a free press is nothing new.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: You're exactly right. Steven Spielberg said that when he read the script for "The Post", he knew that he

had to make this movie now because when you see the film, you notice the immediate parallels between the Nixon administration's conflicts with the

press and the current administration's issues with journalists and networks and multiple news outlets.

I had to ask him about this issue. And he had something really interesting to say.


STEVEN SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR: The film has tremendous relevancy now. I think it's happening with the attacks on the free press and the news being

basically labeled fake so often. Where there is some kind of a disagreement, everything that the news said is dismissed simply with a

stamp that just says fake.

And it was just kind of startling that this started to happen with the Nixon administration.


MELAS: He also says this film is not meant to be partisan. It's meant to be patriotic, that he hopes that everyone can come together to admit that

we all just want the truth to be out there and that you can't silence the press and the First Amendment is there for a reason.

JONES: And, Chloe, I think many critics, let's say, of the movie might say, though, that this is an all-star cast - and I mean Tom Hanks, Meryl

Streep of Trump critics, people who have clashed very openly with the president over the last year. Is that just the fact that Hollywood is

always going to be that way?

MELAS: It's very true that a lot of Hollywood is very liberal. But this film is not about an attack against the current administration and against

Trump per se.

There are a lot of parallels. This is about the Nixon administration and the fact that they did their best to try to keep the Pentagon papers from

being published.

But at the end of the day, you can't help but think about the current administration. And I think that, at the end of the day, you're going to

walk out of this film wanting to support your local journalists and feeling like the First Amendment and freedom of speech and getting the news out

there is more important than ever.

JONES: Chloe Melas, great to talk to you. Thank you.

MELAS: Thank you.

JONES: More to come on the program this evening, including the British passport is getting something of a makeover, but it's getting anything but

a free pass. We ask Londoners what they think about it. Coming up next.


JONES: Welcome back to HALA GORANI TONIGHT. I'm Hannah Vaughan Jones. I've been in for Hala all week.

We end the program tonight by asking you one final question from here in London. Would a passport by any other color look as sweet as the UK

passport debut what it will look like post-Brexit? Take a look at this.

Shedding its burgundy skin and taking on a royal blue one instead. Brexiteers, as you can imagine, are somewhat jubilant with the switchover.

But not everyone is quite so thrilled with the color change.

One Twitter user highlighting that, though, the passport has indeed gained some color, it's lost something else.

British author John O'Farrell tweeted this. "What does this new passport do? It's blue. Can I use it to travel freely and work in 26 neighbouring

countries? No - but look, it's blue.

And as Prime Minister Theresa May sent out her support even for the royal blue document, again, it didn't go down well in all corners of the UK.

Scotland's first minister couldn't contain her scorn, replying that her Scottish independence movement "could not be further removed from this

insular, inward-looking blue passport obsessed nonsense." That from Nicola Sturgeon.

Well, here at CNN, we took to the streets of London to ask people doing maybe a last minute bit of Christmas shopping, if they were buying this

passport makeover.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it represents Britain being isolated, a retreat into a kind of exclusionary British national project that is not us going

into the world, it's us going out of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted to leave myself. So, for me, it's a positive thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very anti-Brexit. So, I think it's not a good choice at all. And I think we should be proud of having burgundy. We've

always had it and I think it's appalling actually.


JONES: We haven't always had it. But, anyway, I see her point. On top of all of that, it seems even the passport itself is having a bit of an

identity crisis, yes.

There might be a more traditional color coming up, but the British immigration minister says he cannot promise that these new bluer passports

will be made in the UK. Horror of all horrors.

Well, happy holidays, everyone. Merry Christmas to you if you're celebrating Christmas this year. That's from all of us here in London.

Thank you so much for watching tonight. Stay with us here at CNN. "Quest Means Business" is coming up next.