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Trump Spending Christmas Holiday At Mar-a-Lago; Trump Slams The FBI On Twitter; Pope Francis Christmas Message; British Royal Family Attending Their Annual Christmas Church Service; Trump On Russia Probe; North Korea Calls U.N. Sanctions An Act Of War. Aired 11-12n ET

Aired December 25, 2017 - 11:00   ET

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


[00:00:00] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and Merry Christmas. I'm Dana Bash in for Kate Bolduan.

President Trump is spending this Christmas holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. He and the First Lady attended Christmas Eve services at the church where they were married. Prior to that, the President held a teleconference with U.S. troops. He also managed to get in some golf over the weekend.

Then if you are keeping track, the President has spent 85 days at one of his golf properties since inauguration day, January 20th. On the political front, Mr. Trump kept up his Twitter tirade targeting the FBI.

White House Correspondent Sara Murray joins us from West Palm Beach, Florida. Sara, Merry Christmas to you. Fill us in on the President's tweets.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Merry Christmas, Dana. I mean we saw the President engaged in some more traditional Christmas activities as you pointed out yesterday. But in -- over the weekend he could not help but air his grievances on Twitter. He was lobbying attacks at the FBI, specifically Deputy Director Andrew McCabe who is set to retire in a few months.

He also took aim at the media and insisted he is not getting any credit for all of the hard work he's done since in office -- since he took office. So clearly a little bit of an airing of grievances for the President as we head into this holiday season, Dana.

BASH: And what do we know about how the President is spending this Christmas day?

MURRAY: Well, the White House hasn't given as a lot of details yet on how the President will be spending this day. He doesn't have any public events, but just to give you a sense of, when you're a President, you're never really on vacation. You're always juggling these duties.

The one thing that we do know from Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, is the President was briefed today on that suicide attack in Kabul, so we're still being kept up to speed even though (INAUDIBLE) vacation resort in Mar-a-Lago presumably enjoying the Christmas holiday with his family.

BASH: And Sara, before I let you go, I just want to talk to you about this tweet that the First Lady sent out this morning. A Christmas selfie wearing her Santa hat, really playful and, of course, looking quite nice there. The whole notion of her sending this out really struck me because it seems to me kind of a fitting end to a year where, I think we saw an evolution not that comfortable, perhaps understandably so, with the role of the First Lady. And now so comfortable that she feels, you know, good enough to be playful in that way. What do you think?

MURRAY: That's right. It was almost a more pronounced evolution and the President himself has gone through. You know, Trump is pretty much the same Trump we saw when he took office, but for Melania Trump, I really think she has sort of come into her role as First Lady. When you talked to people who work for her, who have worked for her, they say she's gotten much more comfortable. She's gotten much more comfortable with picking out the kinds of things she likes to do.

She likes to do events with children for instance and will now go out of her way to schedule those. But also just kind of comfortable in her own skin and in taking the role of First Lady and adapting it to her own personal style and I think that's what we see when we see sort of like the playful selfies that she's posting. Sure it's not traditional of a First Lady but, you know, this is not a traditional first couple and I think that Melania Trump is going much more comfortable with that over the past year.

BASH: I agree. Sara, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Now, let's get some perspective on the President's tweets slamming the FBI and the road ahead for Republicans in 2018. Joining me now, CNN Political Commentators Paris Dennard, Scott Jennings and Symone Sanders, welcome one and all. Merry Christmas to you.

Paris, I want to start with you. What do you make of the President's latest tweets? He's been sending out several of them over the weekend blasting the FBI. And obviously it's part of a larger effort to undermine the credibility of the independent counsel, but do you think this is a good move?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, Merry Christmas to you and to everyone watching. I think the President is simply highlighting the fact that he is not pleased, as we all know, with the direction that this FBI investigation is going in mainly because there's a lot of things that people are raising that looked to be political.

When you have FBI people that are working for Mueller who have donated significant amounts of money to the Clintons, when you have people that are sending out tweets that seem to be anti-Trump, when you have them possibly giving e-mails in a manner that might have not been above board, you see this President voicing his disdain via Twitter and I think that is well within his right to do so.

And I think it will continue because what we see on the left is everyone can talk about how great this investigation is because they want the President to go down. But when there's things that are legitimate concerns and grievances we want the right and the President to be silent and he won't.

BASH: OK, so that's understandable. But Scott Jennings, it's not like he is just going after political leaders. He also has been going after the FBI in general when you're talking about career service people and never mind that, you know, most of them, the vast majority of them are working very hard to protect the United States here and abroad.

[00:05:05] Just on the raw politics of it, I don't know if you know many FBI agents, but I don't know many who are liberal tree-huggers.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think most -- I think the President would agree that most -- vast majority of FBI employees are hard at work doing their job every day. But in the context of this investigation, some information has come out that have caused some people to; you know, take a beat and say, "Well, wait a minute, who is involved in this and do they have motivations?"

I have not supported getting rid of Mueller. I have not supported wiping this investigation away. I think all of it needs to continue, but I also think the American people are smart. And if they get more information about everything that's going on and they can make their own decisions and not make up their own minds about whether they think it was done in a biased way.

The President clearly is unhappy that this has been going on for the entirety of his presidency. He feels likes it's a drag on his presidency, and frankly, I think a lot of Republicans are wondering, "When are we going to be able to have this finish so that we can have a presidency without a cloud over it?"

BASH: Symone, do you want to weigh-in?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. I mean, I think, look, I think it understandable that President Trump is defensive. That he's attacking the FBI because they are -- just like Scott said, there's a cloud over his presidency. But I just to remind everyone and all the American people that Donald Trump brought this, i.e., the especial council upon himself when he fired former FBI Director James Comey himself.

This isn't going away anytime soon. And it's just makes it worse every single time the President tries to weigh-in via Twitter on the investigation. So I think the best thing for Republicans and for this President would be that he just kept silent. But I think that's cautiously optimistic and purposely not happen.

BASH: I think that is unlikely given the year that we have seen with this President in the White House. Let's look ahead. Scott, I want to bring you back in on the fact that the President, Republicans, they had a victory on tax reform but they have a lot to do and this is on the must-do-list in January alone.

Check this out. They have to do spending bill so that the government stays open, disaster funding, very important, reauthorizing the Children's Healthcare on ownership, critically important DACA or Dreamers and border security, something that is politically dicey. Oh, and by the way, fixes to Obamacare that was promised as part of the tax bill. Are they going to be a little to get that done in the first month alone?

JENNINGS: I don't know if it will happen in the first month. The DACA fix can wait until March and the President could frankly reauthorize the executive order if it doesn't get done in March. I think everything on your list is going to get done in a bipartisan fashion with the exception of Obamacare. They're going to have a harder time doing that. I think generally in 2018 we're going to see a pivot towards bipartisanship principally, because they're not going to have the reconciliation process in the U.S. Senate.

The big battles we fall off this year on Obamacare repeal and tax reform were done under reconciliation, meaning, they just needed 50 votes. I doubt that process is going to exist next year. So everything they do with the exception of personnel matters is going to need 60 votes.

So pivot towards bipartisanship, they will not shutdown the government, Children's Healthcare will be protected. I think the Dreamers will get what they deserve, which is a legislative fix. I think it's all going to get done, although at times it may be a little messy.

BASH: I think you're right. I think it's much more likely that you're going to see bipartisan work if there is any work at all in the next election year for lots of reasons, most of which you mentioned.

But, Paris, on the whole issue of Dreamers, let's say the President does go ahead and sign the legislative fix, meaning allowing the Dreamers to stay in the United States legally. What will that do to the conservative base? Will it depress the base, make them angry going into 2018 election?

DENNARD: Well, I think, one of the things that we've learned from looking at this presidency is it's a unique presidency, in the sense that the person that support this president believe him and trust him and know that he is going to do the right thing for the American people.

So if the President comes to the American people, especially to the basin says, "This is why I signed this legislation and this is why this is going to make America great again and be a benefit to us as a nation," I think the base will be satisfied with that. But if the base will not be satisfied with is if he gets railroaded by the Democrats and let the left dictate to what he is going to do. I don't think that's what you get from this President, but he is going to negotiate and get the best deal for the American people.

He is a type that we'll get the best deal and we'll articulate that to the American people. And I think the base will understand whatever he decides to do, but they will know that it's in the best interest of the country and are putting our national security first. That's why that wall has being built and it's going to go up and he keeps reiterating that that is happening.

[00:10:00] BASH: Well, that's to be determined.

SANDERS: Well, Dana --

BASH: Symone before you weigh-in, I just want you to listen to what your old boss, Bernie Sanders, is saying about Republicans and warning about the fact that they should be nervous about the 2018 midterm elections. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: So I think what you are seeing is a referendum on Donald Trump about a man who said one thing during the campaign and his actions are very, very different. So I think the -- what we're seeing in Alabama, what we're seeing in Virginia, New Jersey and in states all across this country are large voter turnouts, where people standing up and fighting back, and demanding that we have a government that represents all of us not just the 1 percent. If I were the Republicans, I would worry very much about 2018.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Symone, do you think it's politically savvy for Democrats and progressives like Bernie Sanders to be warning about 2018? Are they raising expectations really high that Democrats are doing really well?

SANDERS: I think what Senator Sanders was doing was just speak in the back and that he snatched the words went out of my mouth. That's exactly what I was going to say in response to care.

What we have seen not just in the really big elections that, you know, we were all covered right here on CNN, but Democrats left 33 legislative state this year that we're reliably Republican. Have they clipped (INAUDIBLE) in Georgia that had been Republican for like 25 years? So what we're seeing is that, yes, there is a blue wave coming now.

I think we should all maybe tamper our expectations. We're not going to necessarily take up and win back all of these in-houses and maybe we might not take back both the House and the Senate, but I definitely think the House is in play and Republicans cannot ignore what's out there and what's on the table. What's on the table is, look, you've got a popular president, you've got unpopular (INAUDIBLE) both Democrats and Republicans, but Republicans are in-charge.

So if you can't get anything done, and the one thing you've got was there was tax cut for the wealthiest people in this country, that doesn't preparing to send me back to Washington to struggling families both working 50 hours, 60 hours a week and so they can put food on the table to feed their family.

BASH: Scott Jennings, final thought.

JENNINGS: Yes, look, I think that it's going to be a tough midterm for Republicans. Historically, it is for a president's first midterm. I think both chambers are employed. I think the Senate is slightly more secure than the House. And what the President and the White House need to do is connect the American people's good vibes on the economy with his job approval. If the President's job approval takes up a little bit, then I think you'll see the generic ballot shrink and Republicans can hold.

But I would just say, if Democrats take one or both chambers in November, it could be the functional end of this president's first term because the policy and investigatory paralysis will be swift and terrible, I imagine.

BASH: That's quite an ominous warning for Republicans. Thank you all, Paris, Scott, Symone. Appreciate it and thanks again for coming in on this Christmas day.

DENNARD: Thank you.

BASH: And still ahead, Pope Francis calling for peace at the end of a very turbulent year and delivering appointed message on some hot button political issues. Plus, did you wake up to a white Christmas? We're tracking the Arctic weather as millions across the country are walking in a winter wonderland this morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:17:08] BASH: In his annual Christmas message, Pope Francis calls for peace. "The winds of war are blowing in our world." He singled out many of the world's hotspots, including Yemen, Myanmar and North Korea. And he weighed-in on the dispute in the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS, 226th POPE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translation): On this festive day, let us ask the Lord for peace for Jerusalem and for all the Holy Land. Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached one that would allow the peaceful co-existence of two states within mutually agreed in the internationally recognized orders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen joins us from Rome where the sun is setting. John, you win hands down the most beautiful shot of the day. Thank you so much for joining me. Talk to me about the politics and the topics about politics that the Pope brought up.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Hi there Dana. First of all, Merry Christmas to you and yours and what has been, it has to be said, a pretty gorgeous day here in Rome. However, if you heard, the Pope's focus was not so much on the scenery here in Rome today, it was on the global scene. In there, he seemed to find more shadows than light. He began with Jerusalem in light of President Trump's recent decision to relocate the American Embassy in Israel. There is, of course, great fear there, fear of a wider conflict. The Pope prayed for peace and reiterated the Vatican's long-standing support for a two state solution there.

From there, he touched on Myanmar, a country he visited in late November. He called for greater respect for the dignity of minorities, though pointedly without actually using the word, Rohingya, that's the word he also steered clear of when he was in the country, that was in response to a specific request from his own cardinal in the country who worried that using the word would inflame hard-line Buddhist sentiment and just make the situation worse.

Then the Pope talked about Venezuela, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, a series of African nations where conflicts are on their way. I mean, listen, if you wanted a preview of Pope Francis' diplomatic and political to- do-list in 2018, that's pretty much what we got this Christmas day in Rome, Dana.

BASH: It sure sounds that way. Look, this is not something that should be a surprise to people around the world. Pope Francis has been political since he became Pope. Still, this was pretty specific and pretty tough in a lot of the places around the world. How are people reacting there?

[00:20:00] ALLEN: Well, I think, certainly those who are familiar with papal rhetoric not just that in Francis but of any recent pope would have known to expect this. This is kind of what popes always do on Christmas Day. It is however surprising for some who don't pay careful attention who expects this message to basically be just Merry Christmas. I'd like to buy the world a Coke or, you know, and exclusively religious sort of thing. You know, to hear the Pope getting political but we know that is what Francis does. Dana?

BASH: He sure does. John Allen, thank you so much, joining us this evening there from Rome.

And in England, the British royal family broke with tradition at their annual Christmas Day church service. Prince Harry was joined by his fiancee, Meghan Markle. It is the first time someone who is yet to marry into the royal family was invited to the service. While the day is full of celebration, the Queen struck a somber tone in her annual Christmas Day broadcast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH II, QUEEN OF UNITED KINGDOM: This Christmas, I think of London and Manchester, whose powerful identities shone through over the past 12 months in the face of the appalling attacks. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who died and those who lost so much, and we are indebted to members of the emergency services who risked their own lives, this past year, saving others.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: And here in the U.S. many people woke up to a white Christmas, but a mix of snow, rain, and ice is creating hazardous travel conditions from coast-to-coast. More than 40 million people are under a winter weather alert. Some places expecting more than a foot of fresh snow. Meteorologist Chad Myers is in the weather center with more. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: How are you today?

BASH: I'm great. Merry Christmas.

MYERS: Stay warm up there. Merry Christmas to you, too. It is a cold day all across the country and the snow is, I guess, helpful if you want to stay inside and look at it, otherwise, it's just bitterly cold everywhere. The high in Minneapolis today would be zero. That is high as you get. So maybe the ice fishing has around high, I don't know.

Here we go. Blizzard warning, though, for parts of Maine, not recommended travel until that snow stops. Zero visibility in places like Augusta, Maine, and Lewis. I'm going to see very, very deep snow there. It could be a foot deep blowing it around, makes it even more of a mess.

The lake-effect machine is in effect for parts of Chicago. We saw there in Gary, Indiana and to Chautauqua, Cattaraugus Counties of New York. But look at the highs. You saw the high temperatures for the next three days, Green Bay, minus three and minus one. That is the warm part of the day, if you can imagine temperatures, even as far South as Little Rock, pretty cool.

Let's get to our snow gloves over here, though. We will see temperatures are going to be as cool just about everywhere across the country. And I could not even stay inside the snow glove. Look at that.

New York City, you're going to be in the teams for morning lows. That is going to be the real problem, I think. The cold morning lows are going to be cold on the pets. Many of them yet don't still have their full winter coat. Make sure they don't stay outside too very long.

Chicago, Boston, you're all going to get colder as the week goes on. Probably, not as cold as what we'll see next middle of next week where Chicago may not even get higher than minus10 for high. Well, that is just seems to be quite ridiculous. Dana, back to you.

BASH: It does. And that graphic, Chad, is everything. Although I have to say for moment, you had a King Kong situation going on there.

MYERS: Yes, so I can --.

BASH: I thought you were going to grab the building (ph). All right, well, thank you for that weather report.

MYERS: Yes, have a great day. BASH: And I think it is good news for people in New England and elsewhere where there's snow. You can cuddle up next to a warm fire and hangout with your family. Read a book, whatever it is. Thank you so much, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome. Thank you.

BASH: And as the Special Counsel's Russia probe stays hot going into the New Year on Capitol Hill, bitter partisanship is threatening to derail the congressional inquiries into election meddling.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:28:12] BASH: Welcome back. The President tells his friends, the special counsel probe will soon end with his exoneration, but that's probably more of a Christmas wish rather than a reality. Signs that Robert Mueller's investigations are shutting down, they're scant.

Last week, we expected smoke signals from the White House after a scheduled meeting between the President's personal lawyers and the special counsel team, instead crickets, nothing. While there's silence from the White House, the Special Counsel's actions in ongoing developments in the congressional investigation speak volumes. Document requests are still going out and big names have gone behind closed doors to testify in just the last few days.

CNN's Manu Raju has more on what comes next in all the Russian investigations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: The House and Senate Intelligence Committees kept up a very busy several weeks interviewing some major witnesses as part of their own Russian investigations. The big question on Capitol Hill is at what point do these investigations wrap up or do they continue to plow ahead in 2018 through key election season, in which things may get incredibly partisan on Capitol Hill. Maybe it gets much harder for these investigations to come to some sort of bipartisan consensus on exactly what happened in the election and whether or not there was any collusion with the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Now, we do know over the last couple weeks, Donald Trump Jr., the President's eldest son, did meet with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees as well as several people who were in that meeting with Trump Jr. along with Rob -- Trump Jr. who met with Russian officials after Trump Jr. was promised dirt on the Clinton campaign with -- from these Russians, something that he said actually never materialized in this meeting.

[00:29:58] Now on top of that, on Friday, there was another interview with a very longtime Trump associate wrote a graph who is a longtime personal assistant of the President in the Trump organization, someone who works in Trump Tower and someone who has referenced in an e-mail chain between Rob Goldstone, the British's publicist who set up that meeting with Trump Jr. And Trump Jr., the question is did she inform then-candidate Trump at the time of this meeting about this effort to meet with Donald Trump Jr. and these Russian officials?

Now, this all come as new investigations are taking shape on Capitol Hill, expected to become more partisan in the coming year with Republicans pushing on the House side to investigate the Clinton e- mail scandal, looking into decisions of what Republicans believe were FBI bias impartiality in this probe, something they believe gave Hillary Clinton some favorable treatment and that led to her exoneration from any charges last year.

This is going to be a big focus for Republicans going forward in the New Year, even as Democrats, either there's a lot more to investigate on the Russian issue, many more witnesses to bring forward to their respective committees. The House committee, however, looks like they may try to wrap up this investigation in the coming weeks.

Uncertain, how long the Senate Intelligence Committee will last, but the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, saying he is not going to step in. He's going to let the committee work its way -- work itself out that they can decide themselves exactly when they want wrap up their investigation.

But clearly, a big focus on Capitol Hill when they get back into session in January, when this investigation wraps up and what they ultimately conclude. Manu Raju, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero joins me now for more on the Russian investigation. Carrie, you just heard Manu Raju talk about the fact that the House committee, at least, is planning to try to wind up the investigation that they're doing in a matter of weeks. Now, you've also heard Democrats on that committee prejudge the finding saying that they have seen collusion. I want you to see an example of what I am talking about here, the Ranking Member on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITEE: We have all of these so facts in chronology. You'd have to believe that these were all isolated incidents, not connected to each other. It just doesn't make rational sense.

We do know this. The Russians offered help. The campaign accepted help. The Russians gave help and the President made full use of that help. And that is pretty damning, whether it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conspiracy or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Is that helpful?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what we've seen, Dana, is that the Senate Intelligence investigation and the House Intelligence investigation have gone off in fairly different directions. On the Senate side, Chairman Burr and ranking member -- and Vice Chairman Warner have tried to conduct things in a bipartisan way and really have focused on Russian election meddling and looking forward on cyber security for election security going forward.

On the House side, we're seeing much more partisanship. The House Republicans really starting to seem like the goal of their investigation is to cast -- discredit onto the Special Counsel's investigation. And meanwhile, Ranking Member, Congressman Schiff is still trying to focus on the Russian election meddling. So very different goals and it's very unclear at this point what the outcome or what type of report or follow up the House side is going to produce.

BASH: That is a really important point, Carrie. The Senate side has been working in a -- it seems to be a genuine bipartisan manner and plans to issue a bipartisan report at the end of their investigation, although in the House side, which we've been talking about, there could be two reports, one from Republicans and one from Democrats.

Where does that leave things and where does that leave the American people? Should they just ignore the House after all this work and just focus on the Senate or will there be valuable bits of information in those reports?

CORDERO: Well, the question is what type of report did they produce? The House side, we really don't know what they are going to produce it all. It seems very unlikely that they will have any sort of consensus based on the public statements that members of that committee have been making recently.

On the Senate side, Chairman Burr actually recently sort of floated an idea in an interview he did a couple weeks ago where he said that there might be on the Senate side a factual report where the committee members can all agree on. And then there might be sort of two different variations of majority and minority views.

So even there it is a little bit unclear, even though they've been trying to portray themselves conducted in a bipartisan way, it's a little unclear whether there will be a comprehensive narrative for the American people of what happened and what the threat is of Russian intelligence meddling in elections going forward.

[00:34:58] BASH: Even so, agreeing on a set of facts across party lines doesn't seem like a complicated notion, but these days it is. And if they can get there, that is pretty good. Carrie Cordero, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.

CORDERO: Thank you.

BASH: And still ahead, China is calling for calm this morning after North Korea called the latest round of U.N. sanctions an act of war.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: China is calling for restraint in the nuclear tensions with North Korea after the North Koreans declared new sanctions "are an act of war". Today, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman called for dialing back the rhetoric. She told the "Daily News Brief," "In the present situation, we call on all countries to exercise restraint and make proactive and constructive efforts to ease the tensions on the peninsula and appropriately resolve the issue."

Let's bring in CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr. So, Barbara, calling sanctions an act of war. Translate that for us. What is it mean coming from the North Koreans.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is Kim Jong- un's rhetoric. He knows the sanctions are some of the toughest, if not the toughest cities, facing the U.N. passing sanctions that will restrict North Korea's ability to earn currency, to earn cash to keep its weapons program going. So how did those sanctions work?

[00:40:11] Let's put up some information we have about all of this. There will be restrictions on fuel exports, gasoline exports, industrial machinery and equipment. And one of the most interesting ones, perhaps, restrictions bands on North Korean workers going overseas to other countries and working outside of North Korea. That is a huge money earner. Their wage is going back into the regime.

So you see there a whole list of things now being banned all of this tightening up the diplomatic front. This is something the U.S. very much wants to do. The Russians and the Chinese also looking for diplomacy to work. They both want to see talks with the North Korean. President Trump giving no indication he is interested in that. So we enter 2018 months -- much the way we started 2017. North Korea, a huge security challenge for the President and very unclear what the next steps may be. Dana?

BASH: Barbara Starr, thank you for that report. And let's get some perspective on North Korea's latest -- excuse me, provocative proclamation. Shawn Turner is a CNN National Security Analyst and former Director of Communications for the U.S. National Intelligence. Now, Shawn, thank you so much for being here.

SHAWN TURNER CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks. Merry Christmas.

BASH: You too. So North Korea is responding that anything that the U.N. has done is a "act of war." What do you think that means?

TURNER: Well, I think as Barbara said, that is the rhetoric of Kim Jung-un, but I also think that what North Korea recognizes, what the international community recognizes is that the United States just kind of running out of runway with regards to our ability to impose sanctions that will have an impact on North Korea.

So I think that he kind of calls this an active work and to use -- to escalate the rhetoric he's doing so because he recognizes that this administration will continue to impose sanctions and to use rhetoric that will, maybe back us into a corner. And I think that he believes that ultimately that the United States will blink and that as long as he continues to escalate that that we will do that in kind and then ultimately we'll get to a point where they will get what they wanted. That's recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power. BASH: Yes. And look, that happened for the past, you know, two and half decades with presidents of both parties, so there is reason for him to think that that play will work. But this sanctions, they appear to me that they are different.

TURNER: Yes.

BASH: Just the one that Barbara really honed in on there, the idea of not allowing North Korean workers to go abroad and work because when they do that it is not like, you know, they go home and they can use it for their family. They have to give it over to the regime. It is a big moneymaker for them. So it is, you know, trying harder to choke the North Korean government on economics, but I guess the question is to what end? What's the end game?

TURNER: You know, first of all, you're absolutely right. These are some of the most crippling sanctions the U.N. has ever levied on the contrary. And if you look at what's happening in North Korea with regard to people attempting to leave North Korea, you know, at the prior on their own, I think that the instate here was -- that ultimately the United States international community hopes that the sanctions will be so crippling that they will have the impact of changing Kim Jung-un's behavior.

Now, to be candid, there are very few national security experts that believe that that will happen, particularly as this goes on longer. Their thinking is that ultimately he will continue to hold on and that they will -- they continue to have ways to bring money in and to continue to work on that nuclear program.

So I think the end-state here is to ultimately continue to push the United States to hold the line and ultimately see if they can get to a point where we will blink and ultimately give them what they want, which is the recognition.

BASH: And look, there are no good options with North Korea. These are diplomatic options and diplomatic moves. In the meantime, the military is -- option is very much there. And Cory Shockey (ph) who is a defense analyst, she wrote a book with Defense Secretary James Mattis. She worked for George W. Bush. She recently wrote that what she is hearing from the Trump administration echoes what she heard from the Bush administration in the run up to the Iraq war.

Here's what she said. She said, "Officials make similar arguments about the necessity of acting against a gathering storm, and proudly claim understanding of the adversaries motivations." Except -- I mean, it turns out that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons and we're pretty sure that Kim Jong-un does.

TURNER: Yes. For all other reasons, the similarities were startling. I mean, this is a case in which you have, you know, two world leaders who are not really behaving in a diplomatic way. You know, the rhetoric back and forth is rhetoric that's really backing both of the countries -- both of these countries into a corner.

[00:45:04] It's exactly what we saw with the lead up to Iraq and what we found with regard to the United States is we found ourselves in a situation where we had certainly made declarations with regard to what would happen if Saddam Hussein did not change his behavior, very much like what we're doing right now with Kim Jong-un.

And as we made those declarations and he did not change his behavior, just like what we're seeing now, we found ourselves with only two options. If you think about the options we have right now, we have the military option, which everyone universally agrees is not a desirable option for multiple reasons.

There's also the option in which the United States ultimately stops and says, "OK, North Korea is going to move forward with this and we have to actually come to the table and we have to offer them something to change their behavior." Obviously from a political perspective, that's not desirable to this administration and to the President and to the people that the President made promises to with regard to handling North Korea once and for all.

BASH: There are definitely no easy answers, especially when you're dealing with a regime that is determined to have nuclear capability to any end, even starving its people, which they've been doing for decades. Thank you so much for your insight.

TURNER: Thanks.

BASH: Thanks for coming in. Appreciate it.

And coming up, presidential politics and sports seemed inseparable in 2017, from the anthem controversy in football to drama with the family called Ball. We're looking back at the year that was.

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[00:50:37] BASH: Welcome back. If you find yourself feeling empty today now that you've opened all those presents, there are seven NBA and NFL games to keep you and your family entertained, but athletes have really kept us entertained all year long.

CNN's Andy Scholes has a look at the year's biggest moments in sports.

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ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: 2017 will go down as one of the most memorable in sports history. We had controversies on and off the field, dynasties rule and one of the greatest comebacks ever.

Starting with number seven on our list, not winning a grand slam since 2012, Roger Federer beat his archrival, Rafael Nadal, to win his fifth Australian Open. The 35-year-old Federer then dominated Wimbledon, winning the tournament without dropping a set, extending his records 19 grand slam titles.

On the women's side, Serena Williams having quite the year on and off the court. She won the Australian Open after learning she was pregnant two days before the start of the tournament. Serena had her first child in September and married her fiance, Alexis Ohanian, in November. She plans to be back on the court in 2018.

To number six, three UCLA basketball players found themselves in trouble after being arrested for shoplifting while the team was in China to open their season. One of those players, LiAngelo Ball, is the brother of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. After being confined to their hotel in China for more than a week, the players were finally allowed to leave the country and return to the United States after President Trump spoke on their behalf with the Chinese president.

LIANGELO BALL, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER: I'd also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provide.

SCHOLES: While the players thanked President Trump, LiAngelo's outspoken father, LaVar Ball, refused to thank him, sparking a war of words between the two.

LAVAR BALL, LIANGELO'S FATHER: If I help somebody, I don't walk around saying, "You know, I help you now, come on now, you give me some love. I helped you." Man, come on, for real?

SCHOLES: President Trump responding to Ball calling him an ungrateful fool on Twitter. And before LiAngelo ever got on the court for UCLA, LaVar pulling him off the team saying he was going to train him himself for the NBA.

Speaking of the NBA, number 5 on our lists is the continued dominance of super teams in the league. For the first time ever, the same two teams playing in the NBA finals for a third consecutive year. The Warriors now with superstar Kevin Durant avenging the previous year's loss, beating LeBron and the Cavs for their second title in three seasons. Durant was named the finals MVP.

Fourth on our lists, after years of speculation and trash talk, Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor finally getting in the ring for one of the most anticipated boxing fights ever. The promotional tour leading up to the fight was a time deem inappropriate boulder.

FLOYD MAYWEATHER, BOXER: I don't get a (INAUDIBLE) if it's the ring. I don't get a (INAUDIBLE) if it's an octagon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dance for me, boy.

SCHOLES: First-ever UFC boxing cross promotion fight turned out to be better than expected. McGregor holding his own until the 10th round. Mayweather winning by TKO to finish his career on perfect 50 and 0.

Third on our list, the Falcons looked like they were on their way to their first Super Bowl title, leading the Patriot 28 to 3 in the third quarter. But the ageless one, Tom Brady, led the Patriots on the greatest comeback in football history. Patriot win 34 to 28 the first ever overtime Super Bowl. Brady and the Patriot getting their ultimate revenge for what they deemed unfair punishment after deflate- gate.

Number two -- WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Harvey moves closer intensifying along the way.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is very much a potentially catastrophic situation here.

SCHOLES: As a hurricane raised a heartfelt appeal by Houston Texas superstar J.J. Watt.

J.J.WATT, HOUSTON TEXAS SUPPERSTAR: It's very tough to watch your city get hit by such a bad storm and not be there to help. Not be there to help with the recovery. Not be there to help with the process. It is very tough. So what I do want to do is I want to start a fundraiser.

SCHOLES: And the sports world listened, as Watt raised more than $37 millions. As the city of Houston was reeling from Hurricane Harvey, the Astros said they were playing for the city and they came through big-time. One of the most exciting World Series ever, the Astros outlasted the Dodgers in seven games to win their first-ever World Series title.

[00:54:59] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be able to lift their spirits in some way or some form, and then winning a World Series, I mean what a special bond that creates between a city and this team.

SCHOLES: And topping our list --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, get that son of (INAUDIBLE) off the field right now? Out. He's fired. He's fired.

SCHOLES: The national anthem controversy reaching new heights. Teams across the league responding to the President's words with demonstrations before their next game. But President Trump not backing down, between multiple times that players should not be allowed to play if they refuse to stand before the anthem.

All of this happening while Colin Kaepernick, who started it all to protest racial inequality continues to be without a job in the NFL. Despite not being in the spotlight, Kaepernick receiving multiple humanitarian honors this year. And in December, for the first time since becoming a free agent, he broke the silence while receiving an reward in L.A.

COLIN KAEPERNICK, FOOTBALL PLAYER: We all have an obligation, no matter the risk and regardless of reward, to stand up for our fellow men and women who are being oppressed with the understanding that human rights cannot be compromised.

SCHOLES: In 2017, we saw sports and politics collide, a theme that will certainly carry into 2018 with two global sporting events on tap. The winter Olympic games happening near North Korea, but with no Russian team and a World Cup in Russia with no team USA.

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BASH: And now some breaking news, I am so pleased to be able to announce on behalf of the "At this Hour" family, Kate Bolduan and her husband Michael Gershenson welcomed Delphine Esther to the world on Friday, 6 pounce 10 ounces and as you can see there, just perfect. We're happy to report that everyone is doing well.

Kate reports that baby Delphine is an absolute bundle of joy and that she and Michael are over the moon. There you see there, big sister Cecilia, she is thrilled that Delphine has arrived as our all of us here at CNN. Congratulation to Kate, my friend, and your whole family. We'll be right back.

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