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Severe Weather Claims 75 Lives in Philippines; U.S. President Signs 500-Page Tax Cut into Law; U.N. Imposes New Sanctions On North Korea; San Francisco Terror Plot Thwarted; Two Palestinians Killed during "Day of Rage"; Coach Invites Homeless Player to Live with His Family. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired December 23, 2017 - 05:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): At 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast, welcome to viewers here in the United States and around the world. We're following breaking news this hour here on CNN.

In the Philippines, a major storm that's left at least 75 people dead. You see the video here. You see how deadly, how dangerous the situation is, with the flooding that you see taking place. At this hour, 58 people are reported missing.

Disaster officials tell CNN the casualties were on the southern island of Mindanao. The deaths are blamed on tropical storm Tembin, which triggered widespread flooding and mudslides. Among the dead, a 4- year-old child.


HOWELL: Let's get some reaction now on the ground. Let's bring in the spokesperson for the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Mina Marasigan (ph) on the phone with us live from Manila.

Mina, if you can hear me, good to be with you this hour. We want to understand the latest, the death toll as we've been able to confirm at this point stands at 75 people dead. I know you've been tracking developments.

What can you tell us about the situation on the ground right now?

MINA MARASIGAN (PH), PHILIPPINES NATIONAL DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AND MANAGEMENT COUNCIL: Yes, George, currently there's (INAUDIBLE) casualties (INAUDIBLE) we have achieved from the ground. It is possible that these numbers will still go up (INAUDIBLE) more reports coming from our regional offices (INAUDIBLE) and currently we are coordinating on designating that.

[05:05:00] MARASIGAN (PH): And by far, also, (INAUDIBLE) we have the (INAUDIBLE) from five regions affected by the storm, around 18,177 families are affected by the storm. That is around 17,592 (ph) persons and of this around more than 30,000 persons are currently in the evacuation centers.

HOWELL: Wow. OK, talk to us about the worst hit areas, because, again, our viewers are seeing this video right now. They're seeing the result of the flooding that's rushing through one community.

What can you tell us about the places that have been hit hardest?

MARASIGAN (PH): Well, yes, initially, from what we are seeing (INAUDIBLE) affected by flash floods. I think the community there who have just experiencing (INAUDIBLE) a few amount of rain.

However, they were not able to foresee that their heavier rain was happening at the mountainous areas, where there was landslides noted already. (INAUDIBLE) in the mountains, which (INAUDIBLE) for the rainwaters to be collected and while these artificial dams were not stable to withstands the pressure anymore, that's what came down from the mountains. And these are the reasons that there are flooded areas (INAUDIBLE).

HOWELL: Stand by one second for viewers who may just be joining us. We want to tell you about what you're seeing here. Again, we understand at least 75 people have been killed in this storm, the storm known as tropical storm Tembin, locally known as Vinta. We understand at least 58 people are reported missing.

Mina Marasigan (ph) is on the phone with us.

Mina, tell us about the response so far?

MARASIGAN (PH): Well, currently the (INAUDIBLE) to provide now for all the communities are leaving (ph) right now ensuring that the search rescue operations will be ongoing in these areas and of course (INAUDIBLE) social welfare and development (INAUDIBLE), they are ensuring that they are (INAUDIBLE) for our evacuees, especially now that Christmas Day is nearing. We would like to be able to provide more than (INAUDIBLE) evacuees.

HOWELL: And just looking at these images, you do get a sense of just how high that water is. Again, flooding an issue. Landslides have been a big problem, certainly, and trying to locate the missing will certainly be top priority.

Mina Marasigan (ph), thank you for context and the details on this. We'll stay in touch with you, for sure, as we continue to follow this very important story.

Back here in the United States, the U.S. President Donald Trump has left Washington to spend time in Florida at his resort. But before leaving, reporters were suddenly hustled into the Oval Office to see the president sign a massive tax cut into law. It is now the law of the land, Mr. Trump's first and only major

legislative achievement since taking office. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has this report.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Things are quiet here now at the White House with President Trump in Florida for the next 10 days or so. He'll be at his Mar-a-lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida.

He left the White House Friday after signing that sweeping tax reform bill into law. $1.4 trillion, the biggest tax overhaul in some three decades. For now of course that will be a central fight in the midterm elections next year.

But for now, the president, of course, was touting the accomplishments; he did not do with a year-end news conference as most presidents have done in recent years. The president's still worried about those nagging questions of the Russia investigation still hanging over his administration.

But for the next 10 days or so in Florida, his aides say he'll have some relaxing time. Likely time on the golf course as well but also be working on his State of the Union address which he will deliver in January.

All of this is coming as vice president Mike Pence returned from Afghanistan Friday. He had a secret trip there, unannounced. He is visiting troops He becomes the first of either President Trump or the vice president to visit a war zone.

Afghanistan, America's longest war, the voice president went there in the wake of the surge. President Trump sending more soldiers there. He's yet to visit. His aides say that's going to happen sometime next year.

All this is happening as the president again taking some rest and relaxation time; 2018, the midterm elections just around the corner, that tax bill the president signed into law will be one of the soundtracks of the midterm election campaign -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: Jeff, thanks. As we mentioned the tax cut is the only significant piece of legislation to pass Congress even though it's controlled by the president's own party. Jeff Zeleny asked president Trump if things would have gone better had he focused on a bipartisan issue earlier in his presidency, listen.



ZELENY: (INAUDIBLE) started with infrastructure at the beginning of this year, would that --


TRUMP: Yes. We'll, we're going to get into infrastructure. Infrastructure is the easiest of all. Infrastructure is by far the easiest. People want it. Republicans and Democrats. We're going to have tremendous Democrat support on infrastructure as you know. I could have started with infrastructure. I actually wanted to save the easy one for the one down the road. So we'll be having that done pretty quickly.



TRUMP: I don't think we're going have to do much selling. I think the corporations that are giving billions and billions of dollars away to their workers and many more are coming, I that's really what's selling this, maybe better than anybody could, including myself.

But I think come February, when they open their checks and they see, wow, what happened, I have a lot more money in here, I think that's really going to be something very special.


HOWELL: Now to North Korea, the United Nations approved the new round of sanctions on Friday, this after the nation carried out yet another missile test last month. The ICBM had an increased range and therefore is a bigger threat.

Among other things the new sanctions limit Pyongyang's access to energy and aim to rein in the North's development of weapons. The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. lamented the lack of peaceful solution so far and emphasized the international community would not back down, listen.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Today, for the 10th time, this council stands united against a North Korean regime that rejects the pursuit of peace.

The Kim regime continues to defy the resolutions of this council, the norms of civilized behavior and the patience of the international community. Their arrogance and hostility to anything productive has set their country on a destructive path.

Nine times before today, we've asked the North Korean regime to choose the path of peace. And if they do, we would welcome them back into the community of nations. But Pyongyang has chosen the path of isolation.

As we have in the past, we will continue to match the Kim regime's choice of aggressive actions with actions of international sanction.


HOWELL: The U.S. president applauded the new measures on Twitter, saying this, quote, "The world wants peace, not death."

As for previous U.N. sanctions, they appear to have done little to slow the North's weapons program. In fact, North Korea has conducted 16 tests since February alone.

Just this past June, a travel ban and a crackdown on North Korean spying operations was followed about a month later by the country's first successful ICBM test. Then in August, the U.N. targeted the North Korean economy, costing it about a third of its exports.

Then like clockwork, North Korea claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb roughly one month later.

During a day of rage protest along the Gaza border, Palestinian officials say Israeli forces killed two demonstrators. The Israeli military says about 2,000 Palestinians tossed rocks and burned objects toward Israeli soldiers on Friday. It's the latest violence after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Palestinian leaders have condemned that decision. They say it's a violation of their rights.

In the meantime, the prime minister of Israel is celebrating the U.S. commitment to move its embassy to Jerusalem. That despite U.N. condemnation. But Mr. Netanyahu says no U.N. resolution can change Jerusalem's history. Listen.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I think what it does is finally recognize an historical truth, Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years from the time of King David. It's been the capital of the State of Israel for 70 years.

And it's about time that the United States said -- and I'm glad they said it -- you know, this is the capital. We recognize it. And 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.


HOWELL: That exclusive interview with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from our Oren Liebermann. We'll have more on that later.

In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said the decision means the U.S. no longer has a credible place in peace negotiations. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): The United States is no longer an honest broker in the peace process and we will not accept any plan from them because of its bias in relations to international law.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about this with our guest, Steven Erlanger, Steven is the chief diplomatic correspondent for "The New York Times," joining us live from Brussels via Skype this hour.

It's always a pleasure to have you here on the show, Steven.



HOWELL: Let's talk about this issue of Jerusalem. It's always been seen as a final status issue for previous administrations with the hopes of pushing the peace process forward between the Palestinians and Israel. But now the president has made this decision.

The question: has the U.S. essentially given away an important piece of negotiations?

And what does the president stand to gain from this?

ERLANGER: Well, it's a very complicated question. I was based in Israel myself for nearly five years. So, I know the intricacies. Jerusalem is a place both sides claim. It's not an ecumenical place. Everybody believes their God gave it them. So dividing it is very difficult.

Now Trump did something symbolic. Symbols actually matter. It doesn't yet have much substance. But it has upset the Palestinians, it's upset European allies, it's upset the fair amount of the Arab world because symbols matter.

Now it is true, as Mr. Netanyahu says, that Jerusalem has been the spiritual capital of Israel for many thousands of years and certainly of the state, though unofficially.

Now will the embassy move?

I don't know, we'll have to see. The point is, it has upset already more than the peace process. I mean, that's the big question.

What is Jared Kushner and President Trump doing toward the peace process?

And how does this symbolic move, which he promised in the campaign, sort of, it's not what he promised. He promised to move the embassy right away, which he's not doing.

But how much is this actually going to damage these behind-the-scenes efforts to create a peace process? Or is this announcement an indication that those behind-the-scenes processes have failed?

That's, to me, the biggest question. Now Mahmoud Abbas says the U.S. is no longer a fair broker. Well, it hasn't really been a fair broker for many, many years. It has never really held Israel to its own promises to the United States itself in terms of getting rid of illegal settlements and outposts.

But at the same time, the United States has been an advocate for a certain degree of Palestinian rights and for the two-state solution. So as ever, these are very complicated things.

But certainly what Trump did, what he announced was basically a symbolic recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and certainly upset a lot of American allies. But Mr. Trump is very good at doing that. That's something he seems to enjoy doing.

HOWELL: All right. Steven, I'd like to shift to a different topic, this unanimous decision in the U.N., these sanctions on North Korea with China and Russian signing on.

Is this considered a game changer?

ERLANGER: Well I think it's very important; the U.S. had a defeat, the symbolic Jerusalem vote, but it was 15 to nothing in the Security Council on North Korea. I think clearly the Russians and the Chinese do not want a war in North Korea. And there's been a lot of talk coming out of the White House, not the Pentagon, but the White House about preventative war against North Korea.

Now to some degree, this may be a bargaining chip, maybe it isn't. But it has certainly helped get the Russians and Chinese to vote for another, I think, third round of sanctions against North Korea, which are really quite harsh. It will put quite a lot of pressure on North Korea.

Now, Kim, as we know, is very good at saying doesn't matter at doing something symbolic himself, another missile test, another atomic test. There are worries he's going to do an atmospheric test of a small bomb. But we'll have to see.

In the meantime, there's no question this will put pressure on North Korea. I was very intrigued that secretary of state Tillerson had really a balloon out there, when he said to the North Koreans, we're ready to talk. We can talk about anything. Let's just talk. Then the White House rather quickly shot that down.

But I think there is a growing understanding that, you know, if this is going to end well, it will have to end in some form of negotiations. And it's very unlikely Kim's going to give up his nuclear capability, because that's the only thing, in his mind, that protects him from the United States and protects him from China as well.

The Americans argue that Kim's intentions are not defensive and they're not deterrents but are offensive and have to do with reuniting the Korean Peninsula by the North.


ERLANGER: That's debatable. But that is the White House view of his intentions. He says no. But the U.N. vote is, in a way, you know, one more effort to say to North Korea, look, calm down or let's talk about this.

HOWELL: Steven Erlanger, live for us in Brussels with context and perspective. Thank you for your time today.

ERLANGER: Thanks, George.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, U.S. officials say they stopped a terror attack in the U.S. state of California. What we know about the suspect as NEWSROOM continues.




HOWELL: There's a new development to tell you about, around the U.S. president's travel ban. On Friday, an appeals court ruled the last version of the order which restricted the travel of nationals from six Muslim majority countries, that it violates federal law. Still that ban remains in effect for now.

The judge has issued an order saying the ban would remain in force while challenges go through the legal system. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a final ruling on it.

The U.S. Justice Department is taking aim at an Obama-era investigation of Hezbollah. On Friday, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, ordered a review of Project Cassandra. That's a campaign that targeted Hezbollah and its alleged drug smuggling.

A recent Politico report indicated the Obama White House hindered the investigation. The report said officials didn't want to threaten the Iran nuclear deal.

In Melbourne, Australia, a man accused of plowing his SUV into a crowd of pedestrians Thursday has been charged with 18 counts of attempted murder. The 32-year-old suspect is also facing one count of endangering life.

Police say that he has a history of mental illness and of drug use. Police say the suspect deliberately drove into a busy street and injured 18 people; several people remain in critical condition.

Here in the United States, authorities say they stopped a terror plot in the state of California. Officials say that a former U.S. Marine planned an attack in San Francisco and expressed support for ISIS. He allegedly said that Christmas was the perfect day to carry out this attack. CNN's Jessica Schneider has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The FBI has thwarted a plot that targeted San Francisco around the holidays. Authorities say Everitt Aaron Jameson was plotting to stage an attack --


SCHNEIDER: -- on Pier 39 in San Francisco sometime over the Christmas holiday.

And the FBI agents who were tracking him online say he was modeling his planned attack on those over the past few years, including San Bernardino and most recently in New York City.

In fact, Jameson voiced his support for that truck attack in New York City on October 31st. That was when eight people were killed on a bike path.

And then the complaint says Jameson recently became a tow truck driver in his hometown of Modesto, California, leading to concerns that he could attempt that same time of attack that we saw in New York City.

The criminal complaint also details the letter that authorities found inside his home under a search warrant this week.

The letter said things like, "You all brought this upon yourselves and you've allowed Donald J. Trump to give away Al Quds to the Jews," that's a reference to Jerusalem.

Also he said, "We have penetrated and infiltrated your disgusting country."

Now top officials here in the U.S. have been warning as recently as last month about danger of a possible uptick in ISIS-inspired attacks right here in the U.S., especially with the collapse of the Islamic State's caliphate.

The FBI did a search of Jameson's home in Modesto, California, that's just 90 miles from San Francisco and they found firearms, empty magazines, ammunition and fireworks. Jameson is now in custody -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Jessica, thank you.

The Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, from just a year ago, the widow of the shooter now says statements that she gave to investigators should not be used at her trial. Nour Salman (ph) is charged with providing material support to foreign terrorists and obstruction of justice.

Investigators say statements that she made after the attack indicated she knew what her husband planned to do but her attorneys told the court Friday those statements were obtained unlawfully. Salman's (ph) husband Omar Matin (ph) killed 49 people in June of 2016.

Still ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, CNN's exclusive interview with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. How Israel sees its relationship with the world changing for the better.

Plus, the death toll continues to rise in the Southern Philippines as a strong tropical storm dumps torrential rain. We have the very latest ahead.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Atlanta, Georgia, this hour, simulcast both on CNN USA here in the States and CNN International worldwide. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Welcome back. To our viewers here in the United States and around the world, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. It is always a pleasure to have you with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you this hour.

And first the breaking news we're following out of the Philippines. We'll have that story for you, of course, in a moment. We understand 75 people have been killed. We'll bring you more on that as we learn more.


HOWELL: Again, that story we're telling you about in the Philippines. At least 75 people dead, 58 missing after tropical storm Tembin hit the southern island of Mindanao.



HOWELL: On Thursday, the United Nations overwhelmingly condemned the U.S. president's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A symbolic rebuke. But it wasn't enough to stop another day of rage that took place in the West Bank and Gaza. You see the images here of what happened. Thousands of Palestinians turned out to protest on Friday.

But Israel's prime minister says the U.S. decision could be the start of great relations for Israel and the rest of the world. Our Oren Liebermann sat down with the Benjamin Netanyahu for this exclusive interview. Here's his report.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In an exclusive interview with CNN, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the results of the United Nations General Assembly vote that overwhelmingly condemned president Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Netanyahu wasn't fazed at all, saying other countries will come around, even going a step further and saying other countries are now in touch with Israel about following Trump in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or getting ready to move their embassies.

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

Which countries? Or from what continents?

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

LIEBERMANN: President Trump didn't use the word united. Neither did you use the word united right there. And he said Israeli 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. And, by the way, in the Middle East, we're just about the only ones that guarantee this freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

So, that's my vision of Jerusalem. Now 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 a Palestinian city in some part of Jerusalem.

That's OK with you, in negotiations?

NETANYAHU: He didn't preclude our position either. He just said I'm not addressing that. There's not going to be any peace where Jerusalem is not Israel's capital. So he was saying something that is a historical fact, but I think it was important to say it.

And for the furtherance of peace, I think you have to finally recognize that reality. And I think that's -- it's just happening. It's happening outside the halls of the U.N. a lot faster than it'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. But 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, they're just -- I'd say they are embracing Israel in a great way.

And what will happen eventually is that this embrace of Israel, the flourishing 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 in here 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 who threaten us. And that's always been my position. I said, you know, this is --

LIEBERMANN: But the state of Palestine next to a state of Israel?

NETANYAHU: Depends what that state is. You know if it's North Korea...

LIEBERMANN: With whatever qualifications you want --


NETANYAHU: -- then they start saying, well, that's not a state. You know, they start saying that. So, rather than dealing --


NETANYAHU: -- 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 continuing trend of Israel's increasing ties with the many countries in the world. That's happening. I think if we can get the hearts of the people -- we already have the minds, I think, of many of the governments.

But if we can get the hearts of the people, that's cause for hope and I think that's the highway to peace.

LIEBERMANN: Meanwhile Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas was in Paris meeting with the French president, where he said he rejects any role for the U.S. in a peace process because he no longer sees the U.S. as an honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians. That actually plays in Netanyahu's hand, because Netanyahu can now

commit to a peace process or whatever the Trump administration has planned without the fear of having to make any concessions -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.


HOWELL: Oren, thank you for the report.

Still ahead this hour, the U.S. president is expected to spend the next 10 days at his golf club in South Florida, one of his many, many, many, many visits there this year. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Forty-nine former Miss Americas are demanding the leaders of the Miss America organization resign. This after e-mails disparaging pageant contestants were released.

A "Huffington Post" report detailed a history of "fat shaming" and "slut shaming" within that organization.


HOWELL: In some cases, CEO Sam Haskell appeared to condone the degrading comments, even suggesting they were funny to him. He has been suspended. Haskell has apologized for what he calls his "mistake of words."

One former Miss America winner says this is just scratching the surface.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I'm not even sure we know how bad it was at the worst moments. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the tip of the iceberg and there's more to come. I've heard conversations about all kinds of things across the spectrum, ranging from financial issues to different types of communication.


HOWELL: Right now, the U.S. president is at his Florida resort in Mar-a-lago for the holiday. Saturday is Mr. Trump's 107th day visiting one of the properties -- this property, rather -- since taking office. Tom Foreman has the story for us.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Once every three days, that is almost how often he's stopped by his privately owned property since taking office -- resorts, hotels and golf courses from Hawaii to the East Coast.

This holiday weekend, the getaway spot is South Florida where a cheering crowd greeted him on the way to his Mar-a- Lago club just hours after he signed the Republican tax bill.

TRUMP: And I consider this very much a bill for the middle class and a bill for jobs.

FOREMAN: This is the tenth place to the place she's dubbed the Winter White House. A good deal of business has unfolded there.

TRUMP: We have a great person right now in Judge Gorsuch. I mean, a great person.

FOREMAN: The president has used Mar-a-Lago trips to push a Supreme Court pick, to host foreign dignitaries, to unleash military forces.

TRUMP: Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.

FOREMAN: When North Korea launched an unexpected missile, he and the Japanese prime minister discussed it on a terrace as visitors snapped photos, making joint statements inside moments later.

TRUMP: The United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.

FOREMAN: Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's response? There is no excuse for letting an international crisis play out in front of a bunch of country club members like dinner theater.

But the biggest question about the business of Mar-a-Lago concerns what Trump and his team knew in private when they gathered at the resort during Trump's transition to power. Investigators say during a few pivotal days, then-Trump security adviser Michael Flynn was talking to a Russian ambassador even as outgoing President Obama was preparing to sanction Russia. This is what authorities say Flynn lied about to the FBI.


HOWELL: Tom Foreman on the story. Thank you.

Still ahead, a high school football coach and his wife open their hearts and their home to a struggling student. Their remarkable story, the obstacles they've overcome.





(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: In the U.S. state of North Carolina, a high school football coach and his family have a great deal to celebrate over the holiday season. It was just this week Coach Sam Greiner's team won its first state championship title in 64 years.

And the star player, a student who became part of the coach's family. Our Dianne Gallagher has their remarkable story.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A senior quarterback with a 95- yard touchdown run to win the state championship game, leading a team that, just two years ago, had a 1-10 record to their first state title in more than 60 years.


GALLAGHER (voice-over): His story, impressive. But this is a story of about much more than football. This is a story about a coach, a quarterback and a little but loaded question that changed their lives.

Late summer 2015, Harding University High School, Charlotte, North Carolina. Sam Greiner, a first year head coach, tasked with turning around the Rams' abysmal underfunded program and breaking some bad news to sophomore Braheam Murphy.

SAM GREINER, HUHS FOOTBALL COACH: The athletic director comes to me and says, oh, yes, by the way, Braheam Murphy and some other guys are not eligible.

I was like, Braheam is not eligible?

Like I was like blown away because he's so smart.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But he didn't have the grades to play.

BRAHEAM MURPHY, STUDENT FOOTBALL STAR: When he told me that, I didn't show any emotion but once I got home, I just like cried for like two days straight.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Home: a complicated word in Braheam's life back then.

MURPHY: I had to be on my own at times. And sometimes, I stayed at my friends' house. Me and my sister stayed at my friend's house. We were going back and forth.

GALLAGHER: You were homeless?

MURPHY: Yes, basically. I wasn't in a stable home.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): When he was 5 years old, Braheam lost his mother to a brain aneurysm.

MURPHY: And after that, it was just like everything went downhill.

My dad loves me and everything but we were just going through problems.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Coach Greiner started to notice that when he dropped Braheam off at home, it was never the same place twice.

SAM GREINER: Eventually he just opened up to me and he was like, you know, I have to stay with my sister from place to place. I didn't know what to do at times. So I go into my office and I started thinking, something's tugging at my heart.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Now Sam Greiner has spent years talking faith, family and football. So he called his wife, Connie. It was time to practice what he preached.

CONNIE GREINER, SAM'S WIFE: So he stayed with us. We had him here a couple times with him. I mean, I fell until love.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): And their daughters, Charli and Journi, just 2 and 3 years old at the time, absolutely smitten with a new big brother. So when it came down to that little life-changing question...

SAM GREINER: He was like, is it OK if I just stay here with you guys for a little bit?

I said Braheam, you just stay as long as you want. And two years later...


GALLAGHER (voice-over): It was an adjustment but it worked.

MURPHY: I just felt that when I had someone caring for me, I felt like it made me do better in school and it made me want to do better in life.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): His grades shot up, straight As. Braheam said in finding a family, he also found faith.

MURPHY: That's how I met God. That's a main turn in my life also.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): And football, well, that fell into place. But the story is far from finished. Braheam will leave for college in the summer. He earned a scholarship to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

MURPHY: I shed some tears because Connie going to make me -- they're going to make me proud.

CONNIE GREINER: Oh, my gosh.

SAM GREINER: What are you going to tell Braheam on graduation day?

CONNIE GREINER: That I love him, that I couldn't be more proud of him.

SAM GREINER: He's doing a "family tree changer." I never had an opportunity to go to West Point. He's better than me. Connie is trying to go to college, trying now to do her career in order. And one day, we'll probably be working for our own son.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): In Charlotte, North Carolina, Dianne Gallagher, CNN.


HOWELL: A good story to end this hour.

And thank you for being with us for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For our viewers around the world, "AMANPOUR" is up for you after the break.

And I'll be back in an hour with more on the breaking news we're following in the Philippines, the deadly mudslides that killed at least 75 people. This is CNN, the world's news leader.