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Trump Starts Christmas Vacation After Major Tax Win; White House Officials: Trump Wanted News Conference, Aides Said No; House Staffers Question Trump's Longtime Assistant; Trump, GOP To Tackle Infrastructure In 2018; FBI Arrests Former Marine Allegedly Planning Terror Attack. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired December 23, 2017 - 06:00   ET





DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: So, this is the bill right here. We're very proud of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He initially wanted to have a press conference. His aides prevailed on him not to have one.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I could have started with infrastructure. I actually wanted to save the easy one for the one down the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he wants Democratic votes then I want to see his taxes. I want to make sure that whatever we are doing is not designed to basically line his pockets and the pockets of all his friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump's long-time secretary, Rona Graft, is the latest member of inner circle to face questions from lawmakers in the Russia investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FBI has thwarted a plot that targeted San Francisco around the holidays.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The life of ISIS is going to live beyond the demise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.


RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning, everyone. I'm Rene Marsh in for Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good Saturday to you. This morning, President Trump is waking up at his beach resort in Florida starting his Christmas vacation after his first major legislative win.

MARSH: The president traveling to Mar-a-Lago after signing the tax bill into law and cheering what he calls the largest tax cut in history. Despite his excitement, aides telling him to avoid the traditional years end news conference for fears he could overshadow this end of the year high.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is following every development from the White House.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Rene and Victor, President Trump left the White House heading to his retreat in Palm Beach, Florida spending the next ten days or so over the Christmas break. He did not hold his traditional year-end news conference as many presidents do, but he did sign that tax bill into law right in the oval office.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: So, this is the bill right here and we're very proud of it.

ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump signing the tax bill into law, his final oval office act of the year. Injecting a burst of reality show drama into the moment, the president hastily summoning reporters after White House aides said he would sign the bill privately.

But from his seat at the resolute desk, the president making a rare acknowledgement of a favorite past time, watching television.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We're 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 and so I immediately called, I said, let's get it ready.

ZELENY: The president hoping to end 2017 on a high note presiding over the first major overhaul of the U.S. tax system in three decades. He downplayed concerns of the laws on popularity with many Americans or that it could be a weight on Republicans in the midterm elections.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think it's selling itself. It's becoming very popular. But I think it will really -- you'll see something on February 1st when they open up the paycheck, that's when you'll start to see it.

ZELENY: Even as he blasted Democrats for standing in unison against the bill, the president said he believes his rivals will come aboard next year to support a major infrastructure plan.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: The Democrats very much regret it. They wanted to be a part of it. It just doesn't work out. I really do believe we're going to have a lot of bipartisan work done and maybe we start with infrastructure because I really believe infrastructure can be bipartisan.

ZELENY: It's an open question whether bipartisanship is wishful thinking or a New Year's resolution. As he reflected on his first year in office, the president complained about not getting credit for his accomplishments.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Harry Truman had more legislative approvals than any other president and a record long held, and we beat him on legislative approvals for which I get no credit.

ZELENY: We asked the president if things would have gone smoother if he had started with infrastructure rather than trying to repeal Obamacare.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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.

ZELENY: But when asked whether he had any regrets from the start of his presidency, Mr. Trump shook his head no. Yet, "Politico" first reported a memo from the president's handpicked RNC chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, suggesting the GOP is in danger of losing support among women voters critical in the midterm elections.

As Republicans braced to defend seats in the House and Senate, the role of the former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, remains a critical question. At a year-end news conference on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, made clear he blames Bannon for losing a Republican Senate seat in Alabama.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, let me just say this. The political genius on display throwing away a seat in a red state America is hard to ignore.

ZELENY: At the White House, there was no traditional year end news conference like most presidents have done.

FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: All I want for Christmas is to take your questions.

FORMER PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: With the holiday season upon us, I'm delighted to see Americans giving each other the best Christmas president possible, a strong economy.

ZELENY: In fact, President Trump has not held a formal solo news conference since February. He was initially planning one to tout his accomplishments, CNN has learned, but some advisors argued against it to avoid being besieged with questions about the Russia investigation.

That tension was clear in the oval office as aides tried again and again to escort reporters out even as the president seemed eager to talk. A few hours later, Mr. Trump arriving in sun splashed Florida with a bounce in his step greeting supporters as he started a ten-day Christmas break.

Even though President Obama and other presidents have long celebrated Christmas, Mr. Trump has taken credit for shining a new spotlight on the holiday with one of his super PACs launching this ad.


ZELENY: Now, of course, that Merry Christmas line has long been a central line of President Trump's campaign rallies. He has said that he will bring back Christmas. It's always been appropriate and fine to say Merry Christmas, but the president has used that, and his supporters seem to like it. At least for the next 10 days or so, the president in sunny Florida, a Merry Christmas from here to both of you -- Rene and Victor.

MARSH: Thanks so much, Jeff. And here now, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor at Spectrum News, and Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and historian and professor at Princeton University. Good morning to you both.

You know, the president as you just heard in Jeff's piece, he didn't hold that end of the year press conference. He hasn't done a press conference actually since February. I want to go to the journalist on the panel here. Errol, your thoughts on all of this? He wanted to avoid all Russia questions?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it would be difficult to manage the president's press strategy when he's gone through so many communications directors and press secretaries. It's very hard to figure out how and when you're going to put this man in front of the cameras and I think that's why they haven't had any formal press conferences.

There is also a backlog just as you suggested, Rene, a backlog of bad news that is building up. And at some point, they're going to have to have a really concerted strategy on how to deal with what they say as a White House about the Russia probes, both by Congress and by the special investigator.

He's got top aides who have been arrested, who have pleaded guilty. There's a lot of bad news that they're going to have to manage, and so I would look elsewhere than the end of year press conference if there was going to be one as a place for him to try and explain all of that.

MARSH: All right. And you know he's there in Florida. Some of his most controversial tweets have actually happened when he's not the White House. You know, he's got a lot of time perhaps to watch a lot of television so, Julian, I mean, just because he didn't do that press conference doesn't mean we may not hear from the president during his time off.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You have this image of some of his top staff like John Kelly trying to contain him, trying to hold him back from saying anything, from tweeting anything, but now that he's alone or now that he's a little more isolated on vacation, this has been the kind of moment where the tweets start.

And I think Errol is right, the staff is looking at the numbers for the midterms. They're following the investigation. What they don't want is for President Trump to overwhelm his own victory on the tax bill.

MARSH: All right. Well, let's stick with the Russia investigation. We know that the House Intelligence Committee members traveled to New York to interview long-time President Trump's assistant, Rhona Graff. She's essentially been the president's gate keeper. How significant was this interview with the president's long-time assistant, Errol? LOUIS: Well, you know, it's interesting. It's hard to be sure. Of course, this is a person that is relevant because although we talk about her as a top assistant, she actually had a pretty important title and a pretty important role.

I think what this gets to though is the interaction between the special investigator and the Congressional committees. So, the Congressional committee may not have had a deep or expert kind of set of questions to probe her with.

On the other hand, they could have turned up information that the special investigator -- that the special counsel could in fact make use of and once you start connecting certain dots even a seemingly insignificant piece of information, like how did the president react to that piece of news or was the president in the room when certain conversations took place.

It can really start to sort of fill in the picture and so it's hard to say exactly what will come of all of this. I would suggest that if Rhona Graff did the right thing and did what her attorneys undoubtedly told her to do, which is to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

[06:10:04] It will help somebody, possibly the special investigator more so than Congress fill in some of the blanks on what happened during the campaign.

MARSH: All right. Speaking of Congress and their investigation, of course, Nancy Pelosi putting out a letter this week telling Paul Ryan, make sure that this Russia investigation that is happening, all of them that are happening in the House, that they keep on going.

However, Paul Ryan responding to her, we actually have that statement from Paul Ryan's folks. He essentially says, "To suit her political agenda, Leader Pelosi would like to see this investigation go on forever. That is obvious."

And he goes on to pretty much say whether it concludes next month, next year or in three years, she will say it is too soon. Here's what we do know. This has become very partisan, these investigations on Capitol Hill. Are they approaching the point where they're just going to be irrelevant because now both sides have gotten so partisan, Julian?

ZELIZER: Well, I do think the Republicans are in the middle of a campaign to try to discredit the entire investigation and we've seen in the last week an acceleration of the rhetoric that the special counsel is biased towards the Democrats and more of a hardening of the partisan tensions on Capitol Hill.

I don't think the partisanship necessarily subverts the process, but ultimately this does have to be handled in a political arena. This will turn back the Congress and if the Republicans are in control of Congress and really don't want to do anything about this, they do have the capacity to let it fizzle.

And Robert Mueller has a big task ahead of him, not just to investigate, but to make something of the investigation.

MARSH: And worth noting the majority of Americans do support the Mueller investigation. Errol Louis, Julian Zelizer, stick around, we have a lot more coming up.

BLACKWELL: The FBI has stopped a terror plot in San Francisco. We'll tell you what this former U.S. Marine was allegedly planning to do.

MARSH: Plus, airports are packed with holiday travelers, but it looks like snow could hamper travel plans. We have all the details ahead.

BLACKWELL: And overcoming the odds. How a homeless high school football player led his team to victory with help from his coach both on and off the field.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.




BLACKWELL: Welcome back. In Washington, 2018 for the Republicans will be about building political momentum. Right now, the president hopes the momentum from the tax bill win will get other priorities through Congress.

President Trump and congressional leaders will get together during the first week of the new year to tackle major infrastructure proposals. But with historically low approval ratings, can the president push this agenda forward?

The panel back with us now, Errol Louis and Julian Zelizer. Errol, let me start with you. The president referred to the infrastructure proposal, which is forthcoming as the easy one that he'll be able to bring Democrats in on. Is it?

LOUIS: Oh, no. There are a couple of problems. Number one, Victor, is that the president's proposal for infrastructure as least as it was laid out during the campaign involves bringing private industry in and having them receive tax cuts in exchange for doing infrastructure projects.

Democrats immediately reacted to that. It's the furthest thing from what they would like to see. What they would like to see is flat out government spending and have it work its way down through the traditional road projects, transportation bills, rebuilding of ports and so forth and so on.

So, they're sort of miles apart, maybe not in the overall dollars that might be committed or even the list of projects that should be tacked, but the methodology is fundamentally different so it's a mistake to think that Democrats will simply come on board.

BLACKWELL: Julian, from a historian's perspective, big infrastructure spending, building things, historically is popular with both party to show this is how we're moving our society forward, but this could get in politics like everything else.

ZELIZER: No, it should be an easier piece of legislation. The president is not incorrect in that members of Congress in both parties are very desirous to have money come into their districts for these kinds of programs.

But there is a fundamental difference on what infrastructure policy means, one for the president, it's about using private contractors for Democrats it's not. And second, look, the tax bill is also low hanging fruit and he should have received some Democratic votes on that and he didn't.

So, not only are there differences in terms of policy, but the parties are at logger heads and it's going to be hard to get Democrats to say yes to anything that President Trump wants at this point.

BLACKWELL: Let's go back to February and I want you two and our viewers to listen to what the president said. This was during his joint address to -- address to the joint session of Congress about infrastructure.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States financed through both public and private capital creating millions of new jobs.


BLACKWELL: So, that was almost 300 days ago, Errol, will this plan coming from the White House, will it be really coming from the White House or will this be something like we saw for the health care fight where he's going to sign on to something that really is birthed through Congress?

[06:20:09] LOUIS: Well, he's going to need a lot of cooperation and it's going to be very tricky. One thing that stands out, Victor, is that when he made that promise or when he made that suggestion that was a trillion and a half dollars ago.

I mean, now because of the tax cut, the money is essentially gone or spent if you want to think of it that way. Over the next ten years, if you want to add a trillion and a half dollars to the deficit, you're not going to add another trillion dollars for infrastructure even if you think it's a good idea.

Congress will have to try and figure that out. One thing that probably won't be available, I think it's safe to say is that they won't be able to do it with 51 votes. They won't be able to slide that through as a budget bill because once again they really kind of maxed out the nation's credit card.

BLACKWELL: And Errol, let me stay with you on this is that if the trillion and a half dollars ago and now you want to spend another trillion, the money is gone, that is unless you start cutting spending, listen to the question of entitlement and where that discussion will go in 2018 first from House Speaker Paul Ryan and then from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will Congress take up entitlement spending next year?


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think the Democrats are not going to be interested in entitlement reform. So, I would not expect to see that on the agenda.


BLACKWELL: Clear discrepancy, who wins here?

LOUIS: Well, I think -- we'll see how it plays out, but there's a good possibility that at least an early look at this is going to be on the table no matter what because of the -- the pay go rules, we may have a sequestration, we may have some budget tightness just in the next quarter frankly.

And they're going to have to sort of either specifically refuse to enact cuts to Medicare or they're going to have to watch them take effect. I mean, that's how much stress we're under from a fiscal standpoint and I think the question is going to come up almost immediately.

It is also worth pointing out that this is something that Paul Ryan has always been committed to. It was the suspicion that Democrats always had about this tax bill is that the idea was to sort of make it almost impossible to pay for Medicare going forward at the projected rates and you know, again, we may get an early look at that. It might start happening sooner than people think.

BLACKWELL: Julian, we only have to look back a couple of cycles to remember the ad of someone impersonating Paul Ryan pushing a grandmother in a wheelchair off a cliff. If Republicans go from that tax cut that just was signed by the president yesterday into a conversation about raising retirement ages and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, which the president promised he would not sign, what does that mean for them in 2018 as they head to November?

ZELIZER: I think they're setting themselves up for political failure. With polls as bad as they are right now, to combine a tax cut that's skewed for wealthier Americans and corporations, with the campaign in the next few months to cut Social Security, Medicare, other forms of domestic programs will allow Democrats to say look, the Republicans are cutting taxes for the wealthy and they're paying for it on the backs of disadvantaged Americans.

And I don't think the Republicans can afford that given where the poll numbers are. If they do that, I think they're guaranteeing themselves that they'll be looking at a Democratic majority come next January.

BLACKWELL: All right. The White House says that that infrastructure plan will be coming out sometime in January. We know that the Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, and the president will be together in the first week of the year to determine what is next. Errol Louis, Julian Zelizer, thank you both.

MARSH: A former Marine accused of planning an attack on San Francisco during the holidays. Details on how he was going to do this and how they ended up stopping that plot coming up.

BLACKWELL: Plus, the calendar now says winter. The temperatures in many places also indicate it's winter. Heavy rain, snow may really make travel for Christmas difficult. Look at all planes out there. We're going to check in to see just how difficult it could be.



MARSH: Welcome back. I'm Rene Marsh in for Christie Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. A terror attack has been averted in San Francisco. A former U.S. Marine is accused of plotting an attack at Pier 39 during the holiday season.

MARSH: Everitt Aaron Jameson told an undercover FBI investigator that he wanted to show his support for ISIS. CNN's justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, has the details.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The FBI has thwarted a plot that targeted San Francisco around the holidays. Authorities say Everitt Aaron Jameson was plotting to stage an attack on Pierre 39 in San Francisco sometime over this Christmas holiday.

And the FBI agents who were tracking him online saying he was modelling 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 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 exact same type of attack that we saw in New York City.

Now, the criminal complaint also details the letters that authorities found inside his home under a search warrant this week. The letters 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 this 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 have found firearms and empty magazines, ammunition and fireworks. Jameson is now in custody.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: Well, California's "Modesto Bee" says that Jameson's attorney has denied the allegations contained in the affidavit.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The Thomas Fire in California is now the state's largest wildfire since the 1930s. Now since it began, that was December 4th, the fire has burned an area larger than New York, Washington, and San Francisco combined. It's about 65 percent contained now. Almost 3,000 firefighters are fighting this.

Look at your screen, it's almost unbelievable to watch that this has been going on for weeks now and although weather conditions have improved over the past few days, there's no rain expected in the next couple of days to help put out that fire.

MARSH: Yes. And they were saying potentially dangerous travel conditions this holiday weekend for millions of Americans.

Let's get right to it. CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar has the latest. Good morning, Allison.



CHINCHAR: So Renee, Victor, the same thing is going to be for cities like Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland. You're going to see a big temperature drop by the time you get to Christmas, but because of the moisture that may up your odds at actually having a white Christmas.

BLACKWELL: Allison, what's the name of your graphic designer? Who did all that?

MARSH: We were just saying graphically.

CHINCHAR: Her name is Haley Brink (ph) and she is absolutely fantastic. She worked all day on these and I have to say this is her best work yet.


BLACKWELL: Snow globes, Boston coming out of the floor, you've luggage carousels. MARSH: Luggage. Good job.

BLACKWELL: We should just show some appreciation.

CHINCHAR: Real clap. That's right.

MARSH: Yes. Yes. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.


BLACKWELL: All right. Still to come, President Trump has praised the GOP tax plan as a giant cut for the middle class, but corporations seem to be getting the biggest win out of this plan.

We're going to break down what's in the new law, how it will affect you next year and some things you can do this year to prepare.

MARSH: Plus, a high school football coach opens up his heart and his home to a struggling player. Their remarkable story and the obstacles that they overcame coming up.


[06:38:56] BLACKWELL: Thirty-eight minutes after the hour now. President Trump signed the GOP tax cut bill into law before leaving for his Christmas break in Florida. He praised the bill as a giant tax cut for the middle class. But a lot of this plan leans towards tax cuts for corporations and business owners.

MARSH: So what does this all mean for you and your wallet heading into the new year? Well, CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans breaks down what's in the bill.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This is the most significant tax overhaul since the Reagan administration. It will be felt in every corner of the economy but it's not the simplification that GOP leaders promised. There are still loopholes. There are seven tax brackets. And while it does cut taxes across the board those middle tax cuts are modest and expire.

Make no mistake, this is about corporate tax cuts. The corporate rate is slashed to 21 percent from 35 percent. The tax burden on pass- through businesses is lowered with the hope but no guarantee that corporate tax savings will mean more jobs and higher wages.

Now along the way, concerned corporate tax cuts would come at the expense of teachers, students, parents but this final bill keeps deductions for student loans. It keeps tax breaks grad student tuition, and it keeps the deduction for teacher spending.

[06:40:14] Now it doubles the child tax credit and increases how much of that is refundable meaning Americans get that money back even if they don't make enough to pay income taxes. Hello, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, no more unlimited

deduction of state and local income tax and property tax. Instead, it is capped at 10 grand and that could hurt home prices. So could the new cap on how much mortgage interest can be deducted. $750,000 for a loan.

Now homeowners in high tax states bear the brunt of that. Other potential losers, the elderly. Medicare faces a 4 percent cut. People buying health insurance, eliminating Obamacare's individual mandates could hike premiums, and those individual tax cuts they expire by the year 2025 to help keep the cost of the bill below $1.5 million.

The White House says growth will pay for tax reform. A minority opinion. Most scores show deficits up by more than a trillion dollars over a decade.

Christine Romans, CNN, New York.


MARSH: Well, many people in Southern California may have seen the sky light up last night. The light came from the launch of SpaceX rocket. It took off from an air base near Santa Barbara. Now people from downtown Los Angeles to the Inland Empire reported seeing it. Some even posted pictures on social media about an alien invasion, but the Ventura County sheriff's office let residents know there was no reason to be alarmed.

However, Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, had some fun with it, though. He tweeted that this was a, quote, "nuclear alien UFO from North Korea."

Well, the rocket was carrying 10 satellites into orbit. It was SpaceX's 18th successful launch of the year.

BLACKWELL: A homeless high school football player turns his life around with some really important help from his coach.

MARSH: But first, we want to show you how you can help our 2017 Top 10 CNN Heroes continue their important work and have your donation matched dollar-for-dollar.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. Each of this year's top 10 CNN Heroes proves that one person really can make a difference. And again this year we're making it easy for you to support their great work.

Just go to and click "donate" to meet any 2017 top 10 CNN Hero to make a direct contribution to that hero's fundraiser on Crowd Life. You'll see an e-mail confirming your donation which is tax deductible in the United States.

No matter the amount, you can make a big difference in helping our heroes continue their life changing work.

And right now through January 7th your donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $50,000 for each of this year's honorees.

CNN is proud to offer you this simple way to support each cause and celebrate all these everyday people changing the world. You can donate from your laptop, your tablet or your phone. Just go to Your donation in any amount will help them help others. Thanks.


MARSH: Well, nominations for the 2018 Heroes are open and we are waiting to hear from you. Go to to make your nomination.


[06:47:57] MARSH: A high school quarterback in North Carolina led his team to the first state championship in decades. There was more story than success on the field.

BLACKWELL: Yes. So just two years ago the team's star player was homeless, wasn't even eligible to play.

CNN's Diane Gallagher explains how passion, perseverance and a lot of help from others helped him overcome the odds.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A senior quarterback with a 95- yard touchdown run to win the state's 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: Historic. Impressive. But this is a story about much more than football. This is a story about a coach, 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 realms of abysmal underfunded program and breaking some bad news to sophomore Braheam Murphy.

SAM GREINER, HEAD COACH HARDING UNIVERSITY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: The athletic director comes to me and says by the way Braheam Murphy and some other guys are not eligible. I was like, Braheam was not eligible? Like -- I was like blown away because he's so smart.

GALLAGHER: But he didn't have the grades to play.

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

GREINER: Home, a complicated word in Braheam's life back then.

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

GALLAGHER (On camera): You were homeless.

MURPHY: 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: After that it's just like everything went downhill. My dad loves me and everything but we were just going through problems.

GALLAGHER: Coach Greiner started to notice that when he dropped Braheam off at home it was never the same place twice.

[06:50:07] GREINER: Eventually he just opened up to me. He was like, you know, I just drove my sister from place to place. Now I didn't know what to do at times so I go into my office and I start thinking, I'm like, something's tugging at my heart.

GALLAGHER: And 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, COACH'S WIFE: So he stayed with us. We had dinner a couple of times with them and, I mean, I fell in love.

GALLAGHER: And their daughters Charlie and Journey, just 2 and 3 years old at the time, absolutely smitten with the new big brother. So when it came down to that little life-changing question.

GREINER: He's like, is it OK if I just stay here with you guys for a little bit? I said, Braheam, you can stay here as long as you want. And two years later, you know --

GALLAGHER: 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, you know.

GALLAGHER: His grades shot up, straight A's. Braheam said in finding a family, he also found faith.

MURPHY: Once I met God it -- that's -- that's a main turn in my life also.

GALLAGHER: 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 cry.

C. GREINER: Oh, my gosh.

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

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

S. GREINER: He's doing a family tree changer. I've never had an opportunity to go to West Point. He's better than me. Connie is trying to go to college right now through her career, and one day we'll probably be working for our own son.

GALLAGHER: In Charlotte, North Carolina, Dianne Gallagher, CNN.


BLACKWELL: Wow, wow, wow. Thanks for that family.


BLACKWELL: To that coach who stepped in when that young man needed him.

All right. Let's go to the scare scene at Lambeau Field yesterday. Andy Scholes here. Will the game be affected tonight?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Victor, tonight the Packers' game is going to go on as planned but coming up, I'll tell you how this van ended up on top of those other cars in the Lambeau Field parking lot.


[06:57:07] BLACKWELL: Police were called to the home of the Green Bay Packers yesterday after many called 911 saying there was an active shooter.

MARSH: Yes. Andy Scholes, he has more on this in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.

SCHOLES: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, the Packers, they host the Vikings tonight in a game at Lambeau Field. But yesterday afternoon one side of the stadium was just crawling with police. Turns out there was no active shooter. A 20-year-old man who had been terminated by a food service company at Lambeau Field drove on to the grounds to confront a former coworker and an eyewitness says it was a pretty scary scene.


ROBERT BASKIN, WITNESS: We know he's been looking for him because they got in an argument before. He comes and he starts driving him right behind me. I move my truck out the way then I just see his car go flying. He goes right under him, keeps going. He crashes through the guard's gate into Lambeau Field.


SCHOLES: The police arrived on the scene and quickly arrested the suspect. A bomb squad was called to check his car. Nothing was found and tonight's game is going to go on as scheduled.

All right. The Rockets' James Harden becoming the first player since Kobe Bryant in 2007 to score more than 50 points in consecutive games last night but it wasn't enough as the Rockets lose in the second game in a row falling to the clippers 128-118.

Now Harden was very frustrated at the end of the game with the flopping by the Clippers. He ends up getting ejected from the game for knocking the ball out of the official's hands right here. And after the game Harden voicing his displeasure with the officiating.


James harden, Houston rockets: (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I'm tired of hearing I made a mistake or I didn't see it or like I'm -- it's frustrating to me as a player.


SCHOLES: Harden likely going to face a fine for those comments.

After Sunday's loss to the Jaguars, the Texans' Jadeveon Clowney, well, he called Jaguars' quarterback Blake Bortles, quote, "trash" even though Bortles had a pretty good game.

Well, Jaguars fans thought it would be funny to buy a bunch of trash cans on Amazon and ship them to Clowney at the Texans Stadium. Well, here are the receipts that they posted online. Well, Clowney he got -- actually got those trash cans and he decided to do something good with them.


JADEVEON CLOWNEY, HOUSTON TEXANS LINEBACKER: One man's trash is another person's treasure. That's the way I ended by giving back today. They sent me the trash cans, I said, why not? Fill them up with toys and give them back. So we hang out and gave away a lot of toys and, you know, what's better than that?


SCHOLES: Yes, so Clowney filling those trash cans and an entire truck with toys and going to -- and finding some very deserving children to give them to this time of year. So Clowney turning a negative situation, guys, into a very positive one. Santa Clowney I guess we could call them.



BLACKWELL: I do love good Christmas pun.

MARSH: I do.

BLACKWELL: All right. Andy, thanks so much.

SCHOLES: Have a good one, guys.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So this is the bill right here, we're very proud of it.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He initially wanted to have a press conference. Aides prevailed on him not to have one.

TRUMP: I could have started with infrastructure. I actually wanted to save the easy one for the one down the road.