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JetBlue Plane Skids Off Taxiway in Boston; Russia Will Help U.S. with North Korea with Conditions; 2017 Shocking Verdicts, Heartbreaking Tragedies; Historic Magnolia Tree on White House South Lawn to Be Cut. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS CORRESPONDENT: This was a JetBlue flight going from Savannah to Boston. Passengers said the plane was spinning until it faced the opposite direction.

I believe we have sound from passengers who were on board.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were straight, and all of a sudden, yes, it started fishtailing and started getting rough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once I realized we were going off the runway, I was like, uh-oh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, we started sliding and spinning and spinning and spinning, and ended up in a snow bank.


MARSH: The good news, JetBlue says that there were no injuries despite that very, very scary -- I just spoke with the airport, they say that the plane was removed early this morning. I speak to the NTSB. They say, at this point, they're not planning on investigating because there were no injuries.

Still, you know, we were talking about this in the break. Airports usually keep a close tab on --


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Especially an airport like Boston. It's not like in the South where they're not used to dealing with this.

MARSH: Exactly. They usually know the temperature of the runway, things of that sort. But then again, conditions do change quickly.

But, Dana, the good news that no one was hurt.

BASH: It really is good news. I can't imagine being on that plane thinking that you're about to get off and go enjoy your holiday and have it go --

MARSH: Yes, going into a tailspin.

BASH: Yes, that you didn't expect.

Thank you for that report, Rene.

And still ahead, just days after President Trump asked why Russia wasn't helping with North Korea, the Kremlin says it is willing to play peacemaker, but not without some conditions. That's next.


[11:35:22] BASH: South Korea says it has a new plan for dealing with threats from North Korea. The South's defense ministry has created a department that would monitor the regime's every move.

This, as Russia now says it is ready to mediate talks between North Korea and the United States if -- big if -- both sides are willing to talk.

CNN senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, joins me now from Moscow.

Fred, take me behind the scenes as much as you can into the Kremlin. And I'm sure you can get very deep in there. Why this offer now?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think this offer is happening now for two reasons. One, the Russians want to poke at the U.S. a little bit. When you look at what Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, said when he said, yes, the Russians are willing to mediate, he took a swipe at the U.S., saying, at this point in time, he didn't feel the U.S. was committed to trying to talk and open a dialogue with the North Koreans. They claim that apparently the U.S. sent signals earlier this year that America was willing to de-escalate and, for instance, stop military maneuvers around the Korean peninsula. But then later, military maneuvers did happen. The Russians are saying, look, the U.S. has to be serious about this.

On the other hand, the Russians have a very real interest in things staying quiet there. They have a border with North Korea. Not a big one, about 13 miles long. I was actually there earlier this year. They have economic ties to the North Koreans.

But the important thing they have, Dana, is they have the ear of Kim Jong-Un. They have influence there. They have sway there. If they do follow through in this, and if this is in any way, shape, or form real, they could perhaps play a constructive role. At least they believe they could.

But, again, they say all of this depends on the U.S. and North Korea, whether or not they want to do this. Again, to a certain extent, this is taking a swipe at the U.S. But also, they really don't have any interest in all the spiraling out of control and the relations between the U.S. and North Korea getting even worse than they already are -- Dana? BASH: Yes. No question. Look, they have been part of other of

broader diplomatic negotiations in past administrations. This seems like they're offering a different kind of plan.

Thanks for that report, Fred.

For more, let's turn to CNN national security analyst, Kelly Magsamen.

Pardon me, Kelly.

She joins me now from Arizona.

Kelly, what do you think is behind the offer from the Kremlin to mediate between the U.S. and Russia?

KELLY MAGSAMEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: In some ways, it's not surprising. Actually, the Russians and Chinese, after a U.N. resolution has been passed, will push for diplomacy again. In that way, it's not surprising for them to be announcing that this week. But also again, I would be skeptical about Russian intentions. Their interests are very different from the United States. They tend to play a spoiler role, as Fred suggested, and tend to play the lawyer for our adversaries in any negotiation.

BASH: President Trump has not made it a secret that he wants Vladimir Putin's help on North Korea. I want you and our viewers to listen to what the president said to reporters a few weeks ago after he had a phone call with Putin.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The primary point was to talk about North Korea because we would love to have his help on North Korea. China's helping, Russia's not helping. We'd like to have someone's help.


BASH: Trump has been asking for help. Is that barking up the wrong tree here, or is that smart?

MAGSAMEN: I don't really know. I think the key issue is whether or not the Trump administration is open to the idea of real diplomacy. I think, there, we've seen mixed messages over the last year between Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, placing an emphasis on diplomacy, and the president, of course, being in a very different place. So I think now the question is, is administration open to it. And the past year, they've been raising pressure on the Northern regime. Whether or not the pressure campaign yields anything.

BASH: You mentioned the notion. and the outlying question, no matter who's talking to the North Koreans, about whether the U.S. is going to have a conversation, how focused and how interested the Trump administration is negotiations. Reuters is reporting that a South Korean government report predicted that North Korea will try to negotiate with the United States. Now I have to say that -- there you see there, "North Korea will seek negotiation with the United States while continuing to pursue its effort to be recognized as a de facto nuclear-possessing country."

I have to say, I read that, as somebody who's covered this conflict from the U.S. side for a long time, as, OK, tell us something we don't know, right? North Korea has been wanting negotiations for decades with the U.S., with the predicate being that they are a nuclear power. Therein, lies the problem and the whole reason the Trump administration hasn't wanted to negotiate, because they want a precondition, being that they, the North Koreans, will give up their nuclear weapons.

[11:40:23] MAGSAMEN: Yes. In some ways, we're in an advanced game of chicken with potentially devastating consequences. I think both for the United States and for North Korea, I think it's a question of expectations and what we're willing to live with. There, I hope the Trump administration is doing internal homework on diplomatic options that we would be willing to live with if it was willing to enter into with negotiations with North Korea.

BASH: One last question, the fact that tougher sanctions did pass the U.N. Security council last week, what does that tell you about the willingness of other countries in the region to really put the pressure on North Korea?

MAGSAMEN: Well, I give the administration credit for passing that sanctions resolution. I think it was a really important demonstration of international unity at a critical time. The question is, sanctions are not just an end, they're a means to another end, and that's a negotiation. Whether or not both sides, at this point, or all sides, the Chinese, the Russians, the South Koreans, and the Japanese, are willing to reconstitute discussions and talks, I think, is the key question, and whether or not the pressure has brought the North Korean regime to the point that it's willing to negotiate in a meaningful way.

BASH: Kelly Magsamen, thank you very much for that insight. We appreciate it, especially coming inside on that beautiful, sunny, Arizona day. We're jealous on the east coast. Thanks.

This week, we are looking back at some of the biggest stories of the year. And we've seen some shocking verdicts and heartbreaking tragedies.

Here's CNN's Jean Casarez.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 2017 was a tumultuous year, filled with stories of shootings and accusations of sexual misconduct. Let's take a look at the top seven crime and misconduct stories of 2017.

(voice-over): In number seven --

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning, O.J. Simpson is a free man. CASAREZ: The former NFL star is notorious for being acquitted in 1995

of murder charges for the grisly murder of his ex-wife and her friend. More than 10 years later, Simpson was accused of another crime. This time -- kidnapping and armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel in 2007. He was sentenced to serve 33 years behind bars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Simpson, I do vote to grant parole when eligible.

CASAREZ: Simpson was granted parole for good behavior. An upbeat O.J. Simpson walked out of a Nevada prison after midnight.

CASAREZ: Number XIX, the criminal trial of Bill Cosby.

BILL COSBY, ACTOR: That's absolutely correct.

CASAREZ: Once one of television's most-lovable dads, Actor Bill Cosby goes to trial, accused of sexually assaulting a woman more than 10 years ago. Criminal charges were not filed at that time.

But when never-before-seen transcripts unsealed in 2015 showed Cosby admitting to giving drugs to women he wanted to have sex with, a Pennsylvania district attorney brought forth multiple charges against the star.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: The judge in the Cosby trial has declared a mistrial.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: The jury failed to reach a verdict after more than 50 histories of deliberations.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: We came here looking for an acquittal. Like the rolling stone song says, "You don't always get what you want. Sometimes you get what you need."

CASAREZ: The case is set to be retried in April. Cosby maintains his innocence, saying the encounter was consensual.

Number five --

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: Congress attacked. Congressman Steve Scalise, the third ranking Republican in the House, is in critical condition tonight after a lone gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball team.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: He asked me if his team was the Republican or Democrat team practicing. I responded it was the Republican team practicing. He proceeded to shoot Republicans.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: Our lives were saved by the Capitol Hill police. Had they not been there, I think it would have been a massacre.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.

CASAREZ: Three months later --


CASAREZ: -- Congressman Scalise returns to the House floor to a bipartisan standing ovation.

REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R), LOUISIANA: You have no idea how great this feels to be back here.

CASAREZ: Number four, a mass shooting inside of a small-town Texas church. A gunman, Devon Kelly, killed 25 people and an unborn baby when he walked into a Sutherland Springs church. The former airman had a long history of violent behavior. Kelly died not far from the scene after being chased by good Samaritans.

[11:45:16] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was do everything necessary to make sure this guy is stopped.

CASAREZ: Among those killed, several members of the Holcomb family spanning three generations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we have eight people in a family that left us in one day.

CASAREZ: Number three, the murder of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia.


CASAREZ: Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer was killed in August when a car plowed into a group of protesters. Heyer and other were counter protesting a Unite the Right rally of white nationalists and Neo- Nazis.


CASAREZ: The man driving the car, 20-year-old James Alex Fields, had attended the right-wing rally. He's been charged with first-degree murder in Heyer's death.

SUSAN BRO, MOTHER OF HEATHER HEYER: They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her.

CASAREZ: Story number two, dozens of women speak out about being sexually harassed or abused by Harvey Weinstein.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: More and more women coming forward accusing Hollywood movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, of blatant sexual conduct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just kept, kept grabbing his penis and fondling himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he pushed me back and forced himself onto me. It was not consensual.

CASAREZ: Weinstein responded through a spokesman saying, "Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied."

The Weinstein accusers speaking out helped created a domino effect of other women speaking out about harassment in industries outside of Hollywood.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And at least half a million women all over the world, in all professions, have jumped on the social platform to say "me, too."

CASAREZ: Weinstein is being investigated by the NYPD, but no charges have been filed.


CASAREZ: And in our top crime-and-misconduct story of the year, the mass killing of dozens at a Las Vegas country music festival in October.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: We have breaking news of the worst variety. The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history has just happened.

CASAREZ (on camera): Fifty-eight people were killed when shooter, Stephen Paddock, started firing shots from his hotel suite.



UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: Thirty-two stories above that crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The shots just kept coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter which direction you went, no matter where you took cover, there was at least two to three bodies. You didn't know where you were safe.

CASAREZ (voice-over): But from the tragedy, there were dozens of heroes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Went back. I'm a nurse, and I felt that I had to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ran back towards the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just sat with him. But I would like to think that if it was me, that somebody wouldn't have let me sit there alone.

CASAREZ: Jean Casarez, CNN, New York.



[11:52:18] BASH: The iconic view of the White House South Lawn will never be the same. The historic magnolia tree that has been there since the Andrew Jackson era -- you can see there behind the president, President Clinton, and the vice president -- and all the way back in time, is about to be cut down.

Kate Bennett joins me now.

Kate has an exclusive story on the fact that it's being cut down and why.


The Jackson Magnolia has become dangerously decayed over time. Remember, it's been there since Andrew Jackson became president. He actually cut a seedling from his estate to bring to the White House in honor of his late wife, Rachel, who passed away just after Jackson was elected. The tree was planted in her honor. And it's grown and grown. And there three separate trees in that area. But over time, this one has decayed, actually, since 1970 is when it started to die. By 1980, it was being supported by a giant pole and wires coming out of the White House. From the front it looks pretty normal, a healthy tree. But if you go behind it, it looks like a Hollywood set, being supported by the pole and the wires. And the White House, specifically the first lady, requested numerous reports to see the state of the tree. And she decided, along with the experts, it's time to come down. It is literally decaying. I went over and touched it and it sort of crumbled in my hands when I did. It's right where the press stands when is Marine One takes off and lands. It could come down at any time, so.

BASH: I don't think that would be very good for them to decide not to take it down.

BENNETT: Oh, sure.


BASH: We'll leave that. But it really is such a recognizable symbol that goes right along with the White House. It was -- and you had this in your story -- it was on the $20 bill. Laura Bush made it into China at the White House, dishes, china, at the White House. It goes on and on and on, in terms of how interwoven that tree is with the imagery of the White House and of America.

BENNETT: It's so true. Even Michelle Obama took a seedling down to Cuba on her trip last year and it was planted in their honor. Other first ladies have taken seedlings and grown them back home. This really is a part of Americana and a part of the South Lawn.

Now, there are two other sections of the tree which will remain. It's just the big front one that will have to come down.

BASH: Here's the question for you. This White House is not known for being forthcoming with things happening in and around the White House. But this, you got it out of a source. Why do you think this was different?

[11:55:03] BENNETT: Because it is such a historic tree and it will affect the facade and people will talk about it. It was a smart move to sort of announce ahead of time to CNN that this is going to be happening. The first lady made a decision to preserve the wood from the tree and more of the seedlings, which have now grown to eight to 10 feet. And I hear they are going to be replanted so that the Jackson Magnolia will live in another stage for many years to come. It was just a smart move on their part to let America know this was happening.

BASH: No question. That's good that the seedlings will be planted and, second, the fact that you have the context of this, and it's not just the president chopping down a historic tree.

BENNETT: Exactly.


BASH: Thank you for that very important story. It's not going to look the same. It will be weird to look at the South Lawn.

Thanks, Kate.

Coming up, President Trump is once again taking aim at the FBI and that infamous dossier that alleges tries between Trump and Russia. Just how important is the dossier to Mueller's investigation? We will look at that, next.