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CNN NEWSROOM

Russia Urges Dialogue with North Korea; North Korean on New Sanctions; Christmas in Puerto Rico; Media's 2017 Memorable Moments. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired December 25, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


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[09:30:42] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Russia's foreign minister says the U.S. should be the one to start talks with North Korea to stop a war from breaking out on the Korean peninsula. This is happening as North Korea is calling the new U.N. sanctions an act of war.

And joining me live to discuss, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Good morning to you, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Pamela.

Well, you know, as President Trump enjoys the holiday down at Mar-a- Lago, family, friends, perhaps some golfing, it is still the case, we are headed into the new year with North Korea perhaps being his single most important security challenge for the country. And you're right, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, a short time ago saying that no sane person would want war on the Korean peninsula, calling for talks, calling for the U.S. to take the initiative.

But where we are right now is still U.N. sanctions. A new round of U.N. sanctions passing just a few days ago. Very tough sanctions. We can put up some details for everyone to take a look at. It puts very significant curbs on fuel exports, on the exports of key machinery goods, and it also even requires that countries which host North Korean workers -- about 100,000 work outside North Korea -- must send them home within the next several months. And that will put a financial bite on North Korea because the money they earn goes back into that country.

But, of course, the real question still, will any of this make a difference? Will Kim Jong-un come to the table? Will he make any gesture to give up his nuclear weapons and his missile testing program? No indication that he plans to give it up.

President Trump, where he stands publicly, saying still hoping for some kind of diplomatic solution, but very, very tough talk that there could always be a military option out there for the United States. And it's that uncertainty on both sides as we head into the new year that keeps everyone very worried about what comes next.

Pamela.

BROWN: All right, Barbara Starr, thank you so much for that reporting there from the Pentagon.

I want to bring in now our live guest, CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier, executive editor of "The Cipher Brief."

Kimberly, we've seen this before, sanctions imposed. And then an escalation from North Korea, more threats. Any reason to think the outcome could change in the wake of these latest sanctions?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN global AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, each time this happens, it ratchets it up another degree. What we're seeing from North Korea is possibly them blinking, saying that these sanctions are beginning to hurt.

North Korea had actually an estimated almost 4 percent growth rate last year. It had a lot of entrepreneurship in the capital among the elite. But with every round of sanctions, that starts to cut into that and also starts to possibly cut into the support of the elite for the leader.

What we also see the U.S. and the U.N. trying to do is to signal to actors like China and possibly Russia that the U.S. is serious about taking acts that could lead it towards war, and, therefore, they've got to get serious about getting Pyongyang to the negotiating table. Whether they can do it in time to head off some sort of action, as Barbara mentioned, the military side of things, the Pentagon is preparing in the most serious way it has in years. That's what I hear from administration officials, military officials. And the next thing you should watch for is if they really want to signal that they're gearing up, pulling out U.S. dependence from Seoul.

BROWN: We'll have to wait and see. So, you know, when you look at this, though, yes, this is putting the squeeze on North Korea, but there's analysis that the past year has actually been a very good year for Kim Jong-un with the attention it's getting, the attention it's getting from the president of the United States. And it almost solidifies his role as the leader of North Korea, solidifies North Korea's role on the world stage. I mean do you see that?

DOZIER: Well, the counterargument is that North Korea was headed towards developing a nuclear weapon, that it could fit in a warhead that is going to reach the United States. Obama administration officials I spoke to said the thing that the U.S. administration is now facing is something that we simply didn't face. It was never worth losing Seoul because that's what they've always said would happen if there's some sort of military strike on North Korea, it has so much artillery pointed at the South Korean capital Seoul that you'd lose possibly tens of thousands of people in the openly volley of a war. But at this point with North Korean nuclear capabilities and missile capabilities where they are, the Trump administration faces an entirely different calculation.

[09:35:41] BROWN: Just for perspective, how close is North Korea to being a legitimate nuclear threat to the United States? DOZIER: Well, they claim that they have a missile that can reach the

continental U.S., and a lot of missile experts I've spoken to have said it looks like from their missile tests that the international community has observed, they could very well reach the West Coast.

What no one knows is, can they miniaturize a nuclear warhead and put it on top of such a missile? One of the last missiles launched, experts said, it may have only been able to reach so far because it didn't carry a genuine pay load, it carried a dummy pay load, which is lighter. So can they get there? Probably. Are they there yet? We don't know.

BROWN: And experts say if they're not there yet, it will happen soon. I mean that's the intelligence that's out there.

All right, Kimberly Dozier, thank you so much.

DOZIER: Thank you.

BROWN: Appreciate it.

Well, life isn't the same and Christmas isn't the same this year in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria, but at least one man is making sure the holiday magic survives.

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[09:40:38] BROWN: Well, it's been more than three months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. But take a look at this post from the island's Twitter account, we need power in the shape of a Christmas tree. The epic storm destroyed so much of Puerto Rico, but it could not destroy the Christmas spirit for some.

CNN's Layla Santiago joins us from San Juan with that story.

Layla.

LAYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, we went into the interior part of the island, one of the hardest hit areas, and that's where we found the big man himself. We ended up spending the entire night with him. And from what I understand, he actually just wrapped up here in the last few minutes.

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SANTIAGO (voice over): Even for Santa --

MANNY RIVERA, "SANTA": Merry Christmas!

SANTIAGO: This Christmas just hasn't been the same this year.

RIVERA: The devastation in Puerto Rico was at another level.

SANTIAGO: For many, the magic of Christmas has been overshadowed by the daily struggles of life after Hurricane Maria.

RIVERA: A kid yesterday asked me to bring back his house the way it was before Maria.

SANTIAGO: As he's done for the past five years, this Santa is gathering his elves to make sure the children of Puerto Rico know Santa is still watching.

RIVERA: I'm going on my sleigh, my personal sleigh, and even though Maria banged it up a bit.

SANTIAGO: This year Maria has forced some of the same kids he visited last year to move in with relatives in homes powered only by generators.

RIVERA: This part over here was hit pretty bad also when Maria --

SANTIAGO: Other children are in homes without water. And Santa can relate.

RIVERA: I don't -- I don't have power. Still don't have water. And still got to fix the roof to the house.

SANTIAGO: Maria destroyed his home, too. But when Santa visits these children, they forget, even if just for a moment, about the challenges of the last few months, the concerns for the future.

SANTIAGO (on camera): She says this year because the children lost everything, they were concerned, not just about life, but also about Santa coming. But that's what makes this so special, that he did come this year.

SANTIAGO (voice over): For this moment, six-year-old Alejandro forgets he doesn't get to spend Christmas in his own home.

SANTIAGO (on camera): He says this is what he put on his list for Santa to bring him. And he's just grateful he got it this year.

SANTIAGO (voice over): And 7-year-old Jamelle forgets he even doubted Santa finding him this year. Enough proof for at least a few families on the island to believe Santa is real.

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SANTIAGO: And, Pamela, it was actually quite refreshing to see that last night because, I've got to tell you, in the last week as I've been going around the island, there are quite a few people who say Christmas is just another day. They're not putting up Christmas trees. And if they do, they are kind of bummed about not having power, and so they don't even put lights on it. So very, very refreshing to see the Christmas spirit as we did last night in the interior part of the island.

BROWN: It's just unbelievable, though, Layla, to see how many people there are still without power more than three months after the hurricane hit. When can they expect the lights to turn back on?

SANTIAGO: Right. And the fact is, we really don't know exactly how many people have power. The government is putting out power generation numbers, but that doesn't reflect how many clients, how many people actually have power.

When you talk to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, they tell you that most people should have power back, be it by generator or some other form, by March. But for some of those outer lying areas, those rural, hard to reach, remote, interior areas, it could be until May that they actually see power. And let's not forget, that means they could see it just weeks before the next hurricane season begins.

BROWN: Oh, that is just a frightening thought.

Layla Santiago, thank you for doing that important reporting there on the ground.

And when we come back, we take a look at the seven biggest media stories of 2017. So where did "SNL" land?

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ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR, "SNL": Sorry, Kellyanne, I'm in pouty baby mode.

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[09:49:11] BROWN: Well, it has been a game changing year for the media. Fake news, alternative facts, and sexual harassment claims that brought down some of the biggest names in the business.

CNN's Brian Stelter looks at the media's most memorable moments of 2017.

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BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Scoops, falsehoods, feuds, firings, and a cultural reckoning. Here are the top seven media stories in 2017.

Number seven, late night in the age of Trump. From Jimmy Kimmel's emotional Obamacare appeal --

JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make.

STELTER: To the outcry after Charlottesville.

[09:50:02] JIMMY FALLON, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: The fact that it took the president two days to come out and clearly denounce racists and white supremacists is shameful.

STELTER: To "SNL's" searing satire.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR, "SNL": Sorry, Kellyanne, I'm in pouty baby mode.

STELTER: Late night became an anti-Trump force, channeling the frustration and fear of many viewers.

Number six, the anti-trust battle of the decade.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Breaking news, the Justice Department is suing to block AT&T's takeover of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.

STELTER: The DOJ argues that the deal would harm competition. But some wonder if this is really about President Trump's vendetta against CNN. After all, there's another deal, this one involving conservative leaning Sinclair, that's making far less noise. Sinclair purchasing Tribune Media. And now Disney bidding for a big chunk of Rupert Murdoch's empire. Will that deal face the same scrutiny? This DOJ lawsuit brings a lot of uncertainty to the media landscape at a time when Facebook and Google's domination of the ad market is already causing anxiety.

That brings us to number five, Russian ads on social media. Tech giants finally admitting that Russia used their platforms to meddle in the 2016 election.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": FaceBook told congressional investigators today that it sold about $100,000 worth of political ads to a so-called Russian troll farm targeting American voters.

STELTER: Similar disclosures from Twitter and Google followed. Hauled before Congress, the companies were shamed for missing Russian interference.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I must say, I don't think you get it. You've created these platforms and now they are being misused.

STELTER: Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all pledged changes. But can they be trusted to police their platforms?

Number four, the White House credibility crisis. It started with Sean Spicer's very first statement from the podium.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.

STELTER: As the press secretary's credibility crumbled, the ridicule ramped up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTRESS, "SNL": I came out here to punch you!

STELTER: Spicer left, but his replacement didn't exactly inspire confidence.

COOPER: Sarah Huckabee Sanders knows what the president said. She just is pretending he said something else.

STELTER: Fact checkers have been in overdrive this year. And every false statement is another stain on the White House's credibility. But, at the same time, there is more pressure than ever on us in the press to be careful and get it right.

Number three, the power of investigative reporting. It created the conditions for Michael Flynn's firing as national security adviser. It led to the ouster of health and human services secretary Tom Price following a story about his use of private planes. And it drove the withdrawal of President Trump's drug czar nominee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is something that there was an explosive report by "60 Minutes" and "The Washington Post."

STELTER: Readership, viewership subscriptions all way up in 2017 as investigative reporting held the powerful to account. And we saw that again in our top media story of the year, coming up.

Number two is Donald Trump versus the media, still. You know this time last year, we wondered if the new president would tone down his attacks on the fourth estate. But no.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are fake news.

STELTER: Soon after taking office, Trump called the media the enemy of the people and he tried to redefine the term fake news to mean any coverage he didn't like.

TRUMP: All I can say is, it's totally fake news. It's just fake.

STELTER: Trump has lashed out with verbal attacks and empty threats.

TRUMP: It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it.

STELTER: Trump's media bashing has sent a chill through newsrooms across the country. But the press and other champions of the First Amendment are not backing down.

And the number one story in media this year, the sexual harassment reckoning. It was a moment foreshadowed by the April ouster of Fox News star Bill O'Reilly following secret harassment settlements. It exploded with the publication of two stories about movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Exposes by "The New York Times" and "The New Yorker" sparked a Me Too movement that reverberated throughout every corner of industry and politics. As the floodgates opened, titans of media tumbled.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Veteran journalist and political analyst Mark Halperin is leaving NBC News after CNN uncovered accusations of sexual harassment by five women.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": Breaking news. Charlie Rose fired and now three more women are coming forward with sexual harassment allegations against the veteran journalist.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN TONIGHT": Shocking new details about the sexual harassment allegations against Matt Lauer, who was fired by NBC today. [09:55:07] STELTER: The Weinstein effect is a watershed moment in

American culture. But will it usher in real, systemic change? Let's see how the media covers that story in 2018.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Brian Stelter, thank you.

Well, President Trump wakes up this Christmas morning at Mar-a-Lago, but his Christmas Eve sure was a busy one. Church and holiday greetings, plus new attacks on the FBI deputy director. We are live in Florida.

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[10:00:08] BROWN: Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone. Great to have you along with us. I'm Pamela Brown, in for John and Poppy this morning.