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Trump Takes Credit For Reviving "Merry Christmas"; Trump Complains His Accomplishments Aren't Celebrated; Syrian Military Plane Shot Down In Northern Hama; Moscow Says U.S. "Hyping Up Tensions" With North Korea; Apple Facing Growing Number Of Lawsuits; Apple Shares Dip, Dow Trading Flat; JetBlue Flight Skids Off Taxiway In Boston; Francis Prays Two-State Israeli-Palestinian Solution; Vatican Discovers Two Lost Paintings By Raphael; Shoppers Hunt For The Meghan Markle Look. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 15:00   ET




HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani. Tonight, Donald Trump tweets again what is on his

mind after the Christmas holiday. A Republican strategist joins me to talk about the president's challenges and accomplishments he says no one is

talking about.

An offer from Russia, can that superpower lead efforts to calm tensions with North Korea? We will explore that story.

Plus, angry Apple users, some are suing after the company admits certain iPhones are being slowed down deliberately.

We start with this, with the favorite holiday in his rearview mirror, the American president, Donald Trump, says he is now ready to get back to work.

Apparently, he is doing it on the golf course at the winter White House as he calls it.

Before he hits the length, the president took aim at some of his favorite targets on Twitter, including the FBI, Obamacare and the Russia dossier.

Sara Murray reports now from Palm Beach, Florida.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): After a quiet Christmas at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump promising to get back to work, touting his

make "America great again" agenda. This after repeatedly complaining that he is not getting the credit he deserves for his accomplishments.

Trump marking his first Christmas in office with traditional presidential tasks, attending a late-night church service on Christmas eve, taking calls

with young children on the Santa tracking hotline.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: What do you think Santa will bring you?

MURRAY: And teleconferencing with the troops.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I just wanted to wish everybody a very, very Merry Christmas. We say Christmas again very proudly.

MURRAY: Trump claiming he has led the charge for Americans to say Merry Christmas instead of happy holidays.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world a very Merry Christmas.

MURRAY: Despite the fact that President Obama used the phrase repeatedly while in office.

FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello, everyone and Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, everybody. Merry Christmas, everybody.

MURRAY: Trump also spent the holiday weekend lashing out again at the country's top law enforcement agency, attacking FBI Deputy Director Andrew

McCabe, former FBI Director James Comey and FBI lawyer, James Baker.

The president pouncing on reports that McCabe is planning to retire in March. Going after the FBI deputy over donations his wife's campaign

received from a super PAC connected to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of the Clintons.

The president hasn't shied away from attacks on the Justice Department or the FBI since taking office. Still the White House insists, Trump has more

confidence in the FBI now that he has hand selected the man in charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he is very pleased to have Chris Ray now running the FBI. He is very pleased to the changes that are taking place.

He is making the point that we need to make sure there's no bias.

MURRAY: The criticism coming amid growing questions from Republicans over the credibility of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: If the president continues to try to, you know, undermine the legitimacy of that investigation and if Republicans

continue to try to help with that, I think that puts us in peril.


GORANI: Sara Murray reporting there. The president doesn't think we're celebrating his accomplishments. Does he have a point? He tweets about

that a lot.

CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Doug Heye, joins me now in the studio. Hi, thanks for being with us. So, credit where credit

is due. Does Donald Trump have a point? Are the media not celebrating and underlining his accomplishments, unemployment is low, ISIS is on the back

foot at least in terms of its geographic caliphate. Does he have a point?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He does have a point to some extent. The problem is the president sometimes can be his own worst enemy as far as

getting in the way of his own message and what he wants to talk about.

If you go back to last week, the last press briefing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders did. She laid out everything that this administration wanted to

talk about, job increases, the signing of the tax bill, rolling back of red tape judicial nominees.

That's what this administration should be talking about all day every day. Instead, we get mired in all of these kinds of self-created outrage and

(inaudible) whether Donald Trump is attacking CNN or other parts of the media, folks for saying happy holidays versus Merry Christmas or whatever -


GORANI: So, why is he doing it then? It's distracting from the message he says the media aren't covering.

HEYE: Yes. I think part of it is there seems to be an ADD within this administration of whatever the bright, shiny object is something that they

can go after and try and cause some disruption in how we normally communicate.

There may be truth to that, but ultimately, the best thing this administration can do to make its own case, so we can celebrate those

successes if that's how people feel, is to stay out of your own way. Talk about jobs. Talk about rolling back --

[15:05:10] GORANI: But he is not doing that. I mean, he's been saying that for a year now. It's not going to change.

HEYE: It's not going to change. That's why the conversation that we had on January 20th of this year, the day after he was sworn in, is probably

going to be the same conversation that we have January 21st of next year.

GORANI: Let's talk about the wider Republican Party. I know you are concerned about that and this is something that's of interest to you going

into the midterms. Energized perhaps by the Alabama race, where Alabama is sending a Democrat to the Senate, you have very key Republican seats in

play in the House in particular. The Dems are honing their strategy. They're seeing opportunity. A record number of women will be running as

well. Should the Republicans be worried?

HEYE: Yes, this is -- to coin a phrase -- to use a phrase that we know very well, this is the best of times and the worst of times for

Republicans. We have the House, the Senate, White House, a large majority of governorships and state Houses and state Senates. It shouldn't be any

better for Republicans than it is right now.

But what we see is there are a lot of Republican retirements, members of Congress and senators are starting to move the way that animals do before

they see the earth -- or they know that the earthquake is coming before the rest of us do.

We are having retirements, struggles with recruiting candidates while Democrats are doing a great job of recruiting candidates and recruiting a

lot of women candidates that's going to be I think probably beneficial to them moving forward to next November.

GORANI: That could change the political landscape quite drastically and I think there are two issues here at play. One is the Donald Trump

presidency angered some women. We saw it in the aftermath of the election with the women's march in Washington. Then this "Me Too Movement" as well

I think perhaps has given some women this energy and this desire to run for public office.

HEYE: It absolutely has. It's come at a perfect storm. Throw Roy Moore's candidacy into the mix and also the history that Republicans had of

terrible candidates in the past like a Todd Akin in Missouri, Richard Murdoch in Indiana that have really sent a message to female voters that

Republicans aren't necessarily interested in winning their votes. It's a big part of why we lost in Alabama and what should have been a layup to

keep that Senate seat.

GORANI: What about the minority vote? Because you mention Alabama and we talked about it, and that was an important election because obviously, you

had an extremely flawed candidate in Roy Moore, but the African-American vote is what got Doug Jones through.

HEYE: Absolutely did. One of the things that Republicans and frankly Democrats have tried to figure out is how does the Obama coalition get

replaced? I'm from North Carolina which had a very strong African-American turnout in 2012 and 2008 for Obama.

They were real turnout machines at historically black colleges and universities, for instance. That fell apart in midterm elections. Roy

Moore's candidacy was clearly so caustic that African-American candidates not only were energized, but they didn't just send a message to

Republicans, they sent a message to Democrats that these are voters that shouldn't be taken for granted. They can turn Senate seats and House seats

moving forward.

GORANI: I know it's going to be so interesting to look at how all of that develops, all of that unfolds in these important and key House and Senate

races. Doug Heye, as always thanks so much for joining us. Have a great new year. Thanks for coming to join us here in the studio.

Coming up, by the way, we have a year in review special about the many U.S. political controversies we've seen this year. Thanks to Doug for weighing

in on some of those there. At the bottom of this hour, hear the perspective of some of our other political contributors for a special

"Unprecedented Presidency."

Now I want to show you some dramatic video out of Syria. The country's armed forces are saying that a military plane of the Assad government was

shot down. It happened in the countryside of Northern Hama.

This video allegedly shows that moment. Take a look at the moment that, we believe, rebels shot down a Syrian jet.


GORANI: Syrian state tv says it was downed by armed terrorist groups and the pilot was killed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting

that there were two pilots on the plane. You see the aftermath and the plume of smoke over the wreckage of the plane.

The second video shows a body loaded into the back of a truck. We have not shown the graphic part of it. An al Qaeda-linked group has claimed

responsibility for the downed jet. CNN can't independently verify the authenticity of either video because Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is

providing this information to us.

Now the U.S. has just slapped more sanctions on two North Korean officials over the country's missile program. That comes as Russia accuses the U.S.

of hyping up tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Russia's foreign minister says Washington needs to get on a fast track to negotiations with North Korea. As Fred Pleitgen reports from Moscow, the

Russians say we are willing to help.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Russians are saying that they are willing to mediate in the conflict between North

Korea and the United States if both sides want such a mediation and if both sides are willing to talk to one another.

Now this statement was made by the Russian foreign minister, by Sergey Lavrov, and he didn't do it without taking a swipe at the United States.

He said that in this past year there have been messages, signals sent by the U.S. to Russia, which were then forwarded to the North Koreans saying

that the U.S. wanted to deescalate the situation and that the U.S. was willing to stop military maneuvers around the Korean Peninsula with some of

its allies.

The Russians say that they relayed all of this to the North Koreans, but then these military maneuvers took place after all. So, Sergey Lavrov said

this while taking a swipe at the United States. That might be one of the reasons why he made the statement in the first place.

However, it's also no secret that the Russians have a vested interest in this conflict not getting out of control. The Russians have a direct

border with North Korea. It's not a long border. It's about 17 kilometers long, about 12 to 13 miles, but they also have some commercial trade with

North Korea.

There's a lot of North Korean workers who come here to Russia. So, they certainly don't want any sort of turmoil or instability in that part of the

world close to their borders. The other thing that's also clear is that the Russians do have the ear of Kim Jong-un and do have a certain degree of

influence with the North Koreans as well.

If this offer is something that indeed is real, if the Russians are willing to follow up on it, then they could have a certain amount of influence and

could potentially, indeed, help mediate between these two sides -- Hala.

GORANI: Thanks very much. Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow. By the way, speaking of Russia, critics of Vladimir Putin say that authorities in that

country are barring an opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, from running because he constitutes a threat to Vladimir Putin.

The kremlin says that Navalny's call to boycott the election next March may be illegal, may be violating the law. Navalny told voters to stay away

from next year's polls after he was barred from running.

And meanwhile, hundreds of Vladimir Putin supporters gathered in Moscow to nominate the Russian president for re-election.

Still ahead on this shortened HALA GORANI TONIGHT, if you bought the iPhone 7 last year, you'd be pretty mad as Apple started slowing it down, right?

Well, many consumers are so they are doing something about it. That story next.

Plus, boxing day is big here in London. We will show you the hustle and bustle as some try to snag what is being called the Meghan Merkel look.

We'll be right back.


GORANI: Days of bad press just got a little worse for Apple. Remember last week when we told you how the tech firm admitted to slowing down older

versions of its iPhone? A lot of people weren't happy. Some are now suing.

[15:15:09] CNN's Samuel Burke is on the story. So, Apple is admitting that it slowed down some iPhones. What reason is it giving for doing?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN MONEY TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And CNN Money now counts five different lawsuits. Basically, what iPhone said is, yes, we

slowed down these models, take a list and see if your phone is on there, the iPhone 6, 6s, SE and the relatively new iPhone 7, but they say it's not

because we're trying to force you into buying the new iPhone, which costs $1,000, by the way.

They say there's actually a problem in the battery. There's a surge in these batteries that cause the phone to shut off all of a sudden, which

many people --

GORANI: I've experienced that actually.

BURKE: It has 20 percent, you think you are good and all of a suddenly it's gone. So, Apple saying we are trying to elongate the battery life by

doing this, but a lot of people are upset about it.

GORANI: Yes. The lawsuit is alleging what that Apple is doing this to force people into buying the newer model? Is that what they are saying?

BURKE: What we are seeing over and over again -- I will show you a good old portion of one of the lawsuits. This one is from Chicago. There are

four in the U.S. even one in Israel. I think they're saying there's a lack of transparency.

So, if we look at this lawsuit, the Chicago lawsuit is saying Apple's failure to inform consumers these updates would wreak havoc they say on the

phone's performance is being deemed purposeful. They go on to say the following, "an if proven, constitutes the unlawful and decisive withholding

of material information." Apple knew they were doing this obviously because now they --

GORANI: They didn't give people a heads up.

BURKE: Exactly. I think that's the issue here is they didn't tell people. I have spoken to two lawyers who tell me it's very easy to file these

lawsuits, but to win one is very difficult.

GORANI: Yes. But if you are going to file a lawsuit against a company that has lots of spare cash, Apple might be a good target. So, what can

you -- I have not experienced this, but I think part of the reason is because I don't really use that many apps. I'm not on my phone loading

pictures --

BURKE: A low user.

GORANI: Yes. I use my phone a lot to read. I'm a consumer of material on it, but I don't really use it to input information. That could be part of

it, too, the reason I'm not experiencing the slowdown. If you are experiencing a slowdown, what do you do?

BURKE: Well, I think this is what's so difficult is people are between a rock and a hard place or one iPhone and another because a lot of people

think I won't do the IOS update then, but as the tech guy at this network, I got to say, don't do that. You do want to upgrade because you get the

security update and patches.

So, you are stuck with a phone that's slow or turning off, like you have experienced. Apple is not even clear about whether you are getting a new

battery, which costs $80 at the Apple store if you want to do it yourself it's $20. It can be a bit difficult.

Some experts are saying that could help. Others aren't, and I think there's another place where Apple's lack of transparency about this is what

has them receiving all these lawsuits.

GORANI: All right. Samuel Burke, thanks very much for joining us with that.

Well, Apple shares are trading lower by more than 2 percent in New York right now. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is basically flat. Overall,

U.S. markets have been on a tear this year. We've heard a lot about it on Twitter from the U.S. president himself. Alison Kosik takes a look at a

remarkable run on Wall Street.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. Stocks are set to have their best year since 2013. There are a few more days for a Santa

Claus rally, which could take the market even higher. But keep in mind, trading this time of year is usually light, which could exacerbate


Still the numbers are impressive. The Dow was up 25 percent in 2017. It's been quite a year of milestones for the blue chips. The Dow first hit

20,000 on January 6th. Just 24 trading sessions later, the index hit 21,000. Then in early August, 22,000. In October, 23,000, just 30 trading

days after that, mark up 24,000.

It's not just the Dow that's on fire. The broader S&P 500 has jumped 20 percent this year. This is the continuation of a bull market which since

2009 hasn't really stopped moving forward. The euphoria on Wall Street is being driven by a combination of factors, a pickup in economic growth,

solid corporate profits, and excitement about tax reform, especially that big tax cut that corporations will get.

But going into 2018, there are some wild cards. The economy has been benefitting from goldilocks environment of low inflation and low interest

rates, but analysts worry that inflation could heat up forcing the fed to hike rates faster. That could put a damper on the rally. Remember, the

market has overcome a lot this year. Back to you.

GORANI: Alison Kosik, thanks.

It's one of the busiest times of the year to travel and some airline passengers got quite a scare Christmas day in Boston. Our aviation

correspondent, Rene Marsh, shows us what happened.

[15:20:09] RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, snow and ice in Boston made travel very

complicated for people trying to get to their destination on Christmas night.

This was a JetBlue flight from Savannah, Georgia, and it skid off of the taxiway right after touching down at Boston's Logan Airport last night.

Passengers said that the plane was spinning until it was actually facing in the opposite direction. Here's what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were straight and then all of a sudden 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 is JetBlue says there were no injuries. Passengers were bussed to terminals. The runways were shut down briefly yesterday

because of the winter weather. However, the aircraft has since been removed from the taxiway. Things are back up and running at Boston Logan

Airport. The NTSB saying they won't be investigating this one since there were no injuries. Hala, back to you.

GORANI: Rene Marsh, thank you.

This story new into CNN, an Egyptian court jailed a British woman for three years on drug charges. You see Laura Plumber here on the right. She was

arrested in October. She was charged with possession of smuggling of Tramadol. This is a painkiller drug. It's legal in many countries,

including her own, the U.K. as a prescription painkiller.

Her lawyers say it wasn't listed as illegal in the travel advisory until November after she traveled to Egypt. She was sentenced. Her family says

they are devastated and say that the sentence is harsh, and she did not know that she was carrying illegal substances.

Pope Francis gave his Christmas day message at the Vatican. He touched on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict when he greeted thousands Monday in St.

Peter's Square saying children are suffering because of growing tensions in the region.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): 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 and internationally recognized borders.


GORANI: Staying at the Vatican for our next story. A discovery has revealed two renaissance masterpieces not seen for 500 years. Here is

Delia Gallagher.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A 500-year-old mystery at the Vatican has just been solved. The renaissance painter,

Raphael, who painted these famous frescos in three rooms at the Vatican began work on another room before his death, but those paintings had never

been found, until now.

(on camera): So, coming from the three rooms that Raphael painted, we're now in the Hall of Constantin. This room was used for lavish banquets by

renaissance popes. Right now, they are cleaning and restoring its frescoed walls. They made a once in a lifetime discovery.

(voice-over): Two paintings by the Master Raphael, depicting the female figures justice and friendship. Raphael planned to paint the whole wall in

oil instead of the traditional frescoed technique but died before he could finish.

The figures were lost amidst the frescoed paintings done after him. One of the Vatican's chief restorers, Fabio Placentini, explains the thrill of

their rediscovery.

FABIO PLACENTINI, VATICAN RESTORER (through translator): It's an amazing feeling knowing these were probably the last things he painted. You almost

feel the real presence of the maestro.

GALLAGHER: A first clue to the existence of these paintings is found in this book from the 15th Century, written by the historian, Vasari, who said

that Raphael began to paint two figures in a new experiment with oil.

But for centuries, they remained unidentified in the Vatican until they began cleaning these walls. To the expert eye, it was clear that these two

figures were not like the others.

PLACENTINI (through translator): The way the paintbrush moves, even the subtlety of the point of the brushes used to create the small wisps of


GALLAGHER: He says that clues that this is a genuine Raphael are seen in the confidence of the brush works, the unusual shades of color and the fact

that there's no sign on these two figures of a preparatory drawing underneath.

This infrared photo confirmed to the restorers that these two figures were not like the rest. The oil paintings clearly showing through in this

advanced technology. For the head of the Vatican museum, Barbara Jatta, the discovery is a major one restoring the Raphaels in the whole room will

take them until at least the year 2022.

BARBARA JATTA, DIRECTOR, VATICAN MUSEUM: Probably one of the most important projects last decades, apart from the chapel done in the Vatican


GALLAGHER: With so much history and artwork here, could there be yet other major discoveries?

JATTA: This is the beautiful thing of projects. We are still working on that. We are still searching. That's the good point of the research, it

never ends.

GALLAGHER: Delia Gallagher, CNN, Vatican City.


GORANI: If you spent Christmas overindulging in turkey then you should have burned those calories in boxing day sales. That's what crowds did in

London today. A few shoppers were after very specific items apparently. Those worn by Prince Harry's fiancee, Meghan Markle. Anna Stewart has the



ANNA STEWART, CNN JOURNALIST (voice-over): Christmas day is a day off for the royal family. They were seen as they arrived at church. Many

fashionistas got to work racing to find out what Harry's fiancee was wearing.

Meghan Markle wore a camel-colored coat by Canadian Branson Tyler, a pixie bag by Chloe, and boots that bloggers have identified as Stewart Weissman.

Online the coat has sold out. The boots have sold out. The bag hasn't quite sold out today, but perhaps that's got something to do with the price

tag, $1,400.

(on camera): (Inaudible) to Meghan Markle's outfit maybe sold out online, some shoppers here today are hoping that it might be available in store,

but only if they are quick.

(voice-over): These girls told us they were inspired to buy a Chloe bag today after seeing Meghan wearing hers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's an obvious thing for everyone want to buy. Yes, I have the bag that Meghan Markle wear.

STEWART: The royal engagement has brought even more interest in Meghan Markle, who already had a big fan base from her acting career. "Meghan's

Mirror" is one of several blogs dedicated to Meghan Markle style.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had a lot of people asking where can I buy this, where can I get this? So, we created a database where people could go on

the website and find pretty much anything she's worn and click to purchase it. It's turned into a great business for us.

STEWART: And great business for the brands that Meghan Markle wears in the months ahead. Anna Stewart, CNN, London.


GORANI: I will be back with a check of the headlines in a moment.


HALA GORANI, CNN HOST, HALA GORANI TONIGHT: Hello and welcome. I'm Hala Gorani. This year, we have everything. From nuclear threats to Twitter

spats, far right rallies to travel bans. And over it all, the Russia investigation.

With his unprecedented presidency, Donald Trump has set the agenda almost every single day of 2017. As the year comes to a close, we want to take

stock of his most controversial decisions and what they mean for the world and all of us, and try to predict even what might come next.

Let's start with a look back.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, a historic moment. We can now project the winner of the presidential race, CNN projects Donald Trump wins

the presidency.


From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New executive orders including one to temporarily block the flow of refugees.

TRUMP: Radical Islamic terrorists, we don't want them here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Violence breaking out in the normally quiet town of Charlottesville.

TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides.

TRUMP: I call the fake news the enemy of the people.

I'm not going to give you a question. You are fake news.

You're fake news.

It's all fake news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with breaking news for you. President Trump's national security advisor Michael Flynn resigning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has resigned.

BLITZER: Anthony Scaramucci forced out as communications director.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I was fired because of the Russia investigation.

The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle.

BLITZER: The US Justice Department has just named a special counsel in the Russia investigation.

GORANI: Three former campaign aides charged in the special investigation.

The president says he's the victim of the single greatest witch hunt in American history.

TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself.

They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen.

NIKKI HALEY, US AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: If war comes, make no mistake the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: With the heat rising in Washington, the new US president getting ready for his inaugural trip abroad.

GORANI: The American President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin finally talking face to face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Donald Trump about to embark on his longest and perhaps most ambitious foreign trip yet, a nearly two-week tour of five

Asian nations.

TRUMP: The United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord.

So, we're getting out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the biggest US foreign policy error since entering the Iraq War.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hurricane Irma shows no mercy on Florida.

Communities from coast to coast now without power.

TRUMP: Nobody has ever seen anything like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Water levels are rising at an alarming rate.

Nine feet in a three-hour span overnight.

[15:35:02] CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF SAN JUAN: I am begging. We are dying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That mayor is voicing her anger and her frustration at the pace of the federal response to this disaster.

TRUMP: We are now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least 50 Americans dead. Over 400 hurt. It is now the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

TRUMP: We'll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as amended is passed.

TRUMP: The largest tax cuts in the history of our country -

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": All three US markets to a record.

TRUMP: The stock market is at an all-time high.

It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.


GORANI: A lot to get into might be an understatement. I think all journalists who have covered this last year, all need a bit of a break.

We have a skilled panel to deal with it all. CNN's White House reporter Stephen Collinson; political analyst, Molly Ball, both in DC; and Director

of the University of Virginia Center for Politics Larry Sabato out in Charlottesville.

Stephen, I want to start with you because we ended there with that announcement from President Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of

the state of Israel.

In terms of foreign policy, there is so much to get into, but Donald Trump has been the disrupter-in-chief, hasn't he?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's exactly right. A lot of us wondered after his campaign and when he took office whether he would

turn out to be a lot more conventional on the international scene than it appeared that he would be during the campaign.

Well, he has made the United States a disruptive and an unpredictable force on the world stage in his first year in office. He has dispensed with the

notion that the United States will necessarily work through international institutions and through multinational solutions.

He pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. He is on his way to trying to trash the Iran deal, the international agreement.

Most recently, his announcement on Jerusalem epitomized his approach internationally because it was opposed by almost every other government in

the world apart from the United States.

So, what we see this, in many ways, the role of the United States in the world stage has changed after decades being the guarantor of international

stability and Western leadership. Donald Trump has changed all that and I think is, therefore, raising questions about America's role in the world

going forward, and whether it will still be sort of fulcrum of international system.

GORANI: Yes. And to you, Molly Ball, it's not like he's alienating everybody. He is cozying up as well and acting in a very friendly manner

toward autocrats. You have Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Xi in China, the Saudi Crown Prince as well.

So, it seems as though the traditional alliances that the United States nurtures, those have sort of given way to new friendships under President


MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And what we've seen a lot is that, as Stephen said, the United States rather than being a force of

stability and perhaps moral leadership is becoming a source of instability.

And what Trump has done, he hasn't forged a lot of new ties despite the idea that he was going to, for example, make a lot of bilateral trade deals

to replace the multilateral ones. We haven't seen a lot of new agreements forged.

Instead, he has just sort of forced the rest of the world to adapt to him. So, you see this, for example, with the NATO countries where many of them

feel that they can no longer rely on the United States' role and that alliance, and so they're seeking to shore up themselves militarily. Other

countries looking to look after themselves economically in the event that the United States is not a reliable partner for trade.

So, Trump has not necessarily made a lot of deals, but he's forced the world to react to his style.

GORANI: And, Larry Sabato, also, I mean, when we look back in history at this time, will it be seen as a period of US retreat in the Middle East,

vacuum that has been filled by Russia, for instance, in that case; in Asia, a vacuum that has been filled my China; the retreat of the US' influence on

the world stage?


The United States under Donald Trump has yielded much of its position of leadership around the world, not just leadership, but also respect.

I don't think there's any question that, in the modern era, no president has been less respected around the world than Donald Trump, and that's been

shown not just in objective polling, but also the kinds of comments that come from world leaders and even people on the street across various


[15:40:15] GORANI: Stephen, Donald Trump would say look at ISIS. We helped arm some of the forces combating ISIS in Syria and Iraq. With my

presidency, ISIS was defeated, at least in terms of its territorial caliphate.

What, if we needed to look at some of the accomplishments of Donald Trump, Stephen, would he list and could we fairly attribute to him?

COLLINSON: The White House is basically taking all the credit for the eradication of ISIS from large parts of Syria. This was, of course, an

operation that was started by the Obama administration and was well on the way to achieving those targets while President Obama was still president.

But to be fair, the Pentagon made some changes in targeting procedures, had stepped up the operation, there are now 2,000 or so US troops actually in


So, you could say that the president, if he wasn't completely responsible for the success in Syria, he didn't do anything to stop that process.

I think the question now, though, is what happens next. We've seen over the last 15 years in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US winning military

victories and then withdrawing and leaving a vacuum, as you said, and who is going to fill that vacuum.

The administration would also say that it's been successful in reorientating policy in the Middle East to take a much more stiff line

against Iran and its activities throughout the region.

I think that's one of the patterns we're going to see going forward, is this alliance between the US and the Saudis and the Israelis, taking a more

proactive stance against Iran's expansionary acts in the region. And, of course, that could lead to much more tension and potentially conflict.

GORANI: Interesting as Iran's role expanded as a result in large part to the US invasion of Iraq and its aftermath as well.

But hanging over all of this, Molly Ball, is obviously the Russia probe. Questions over Russia's role from day one, but then with the Mueller

investigation, obviously, and the indictment including of high-level allies of President Trump including Michael Flynn.

This has really been the dominant story every single day this year.

BALL: It has. Nobody knows quite where it's going. There is a feeling in Washington, you see this heightened partisanization of the story where

increasingly sort of right-wing media are attacking the special prosecutor, a sense that perhaps the circle is tightening around the White House as

more indictments come and with the guilty plea of Michael Flynn signaling that someone who was very close to the president that the prosecution

apparently is finding useful in some regards since he did announce that he is cooperating.

And despite the president - a lot of the president's allies and his lawyers have said, oh, we expect that this is going to be finished very soon. That

does not appear to be the case. This is a long-running investigation. There are a lot of development still to come. And we expect it to dominate

next year much as it has dominated this year.

GORANI: And Larry - but this is going - historically speaking, this is going very quickly, isn't it, this probe, in particular?

SABATO: Well, parts of it are. I agree with Molly, though, I doubt this is over very quickly, at least all parts of it.

We don't know where Bob Mueller is going. But what he has uncovered already and the pleas that he's gotten from senior people connected to

Donald Trump are very significant.

You have to combine this with the historical fact, Hala, that we've never had a presidency so dominated by a major scandal in the first year. What

in the world is the final year going to be like.

GORANI: Yes. That is the question. And I would - actually, I said that the Russia probe was probably the every-single-day story. Alongside that,

every single day story is how many people, institutions and traditional allies the president has managed to insult or drag through the mud on

Twitter, in speeches, other forms of social media.

Stephen, this is probably one of the most unprecedented aspects of this presidency, isn't it?

COLLINSON: Yes. And it's basically from day to day, in the West Wing of the White House, on Capitol Hill, and in Washington, it's total chaos in

many ways. That's the way Donald Trump runs his operation.

I think Larry was right when he said that so much of the disruption can be traced exactly to the character and the personality of Donald Trump


I've watched two presidents get elected and then become president, Bush and Clinton, before Trump. And what you see with those presidents is when they

assume the duties of the presidency, the responsibilities, it changes them.

[15:45:15] Both of those president, very difficult - different, Obama and Bush politically. They both saw the presidency as a public trust, as them

inheriting an office weighted and freighted with historic significance and they saw it as something that's bigger than themselves.

I don't think we've seen that at all with Donald Trump. To all intents and purposes, he's the same volcanic, disruptive, some would say, narcissistic

personality that he was in the campaign. It's almost that he's not become president; the presidency has become Donald Trump.

GORANI: All right. Molly, Stephen, Larry, standby. A quick break. We'll be right back with more and our look back at the year of Donald Trump,

2017. Stay with us.


GORANI: This hour, we're taking a look back at the political upheaval the world has seen in 2017 coming from one place, Washington. Let's get

straight back to the expert, Stephen Collinson, our White House reporter; political analyst, Molly Ball; and Larry Sabato, who is joining us from the

University of Virginia.

In August, Molly Ball, there were the Charlottesville demonstrations. You had these white supremacist protests. One of the counterdemonstrators was

killed in a car attack.

The president called some of the white supremacist demonstrators fine people. That was also one of the defining moments of this year.

BALL: Yes. I mean, it shocked a lot of people in the United States, including people who had otherwise been sympathetic to the president that

he was unwilling to forthrightly denounce and continue to equivocate on the subject of overt white nationalist marchers and violent white nationalist


And I think that what you saw, we have talked a lot about how disruptive the world has found Trump and how he has upended the international order in

a lot of ways. But what we're actually seeing after a year is a lot of people sort of walking away from him and even dismissing him instead of

responding to him with such fury.

With the Charlottesville episode, you had a lot of CEOs who had previously sought a seat at the table with the White House quitting these business

councils that the president had set up, walking away, saying it's not worth it for us to be associated with this president due to the potential damage

to our brand.

And what we're with a lot of world leaders now too. You look at Theresa May's response to the Britain First retweets not being - not feeling that -

feeling that it was OK to actually condemn something that an ally had done because it was not worth it to stand by someone who was willing to behave

in that way.

GORANI: And, Larry Sabato, although the president called some demonstrators in Charlottesville fine people, he did not have kind words

for the NFL players who took in the take-a-knee movement, which is to protest police violence against African-Americans.

He said that they should be treated like SOBs and taken off the field, et cetera. What impact did that have, do you think, on American society and

how will it be remembered historically?

SABATO: Well, it won't be remembered well. And the effect it had, obviously, is to make our society less open to change and more difficult

for those who have other viewpoints than Donald Trump's.

Look, everybody, a year ago, asked this question, Hala. When will Donald Trump pivot to being more presidential, and we have the answer. Never. He

will never to be more presidential because he doesn't have it in him. We know that now.

[15:50:14] His sole goal is to appeal to his base which is no more than 50 percent of the country and probably less. He's the first president that

we've had in the modern era who isn't interested in expanding his coalition. That is a remarkable and disturbing change.

GORANI: But maybe he doesn't need do. Maybe he's making, Stephen Collinson, the calculation that with the current American political system

and the fact that Democrats don't necessarily have a very strong figurehead to lead them into the next election that all he needs to do is hold to his

base, Stephen.

COLLINSON: I think he's definitely making that calculation. It's going to be very difficult to predict how things are going to be in three years'


But I think what the president is banking on is soaring economic growth, which we're seeing. We're seeing an economy that is at three-year highs in

terms of the pace of GDP growth, a 17-year sort of low for the unemployment rate, about 4.1 percent.

That's the sort of calculation that Trump is making that he can knit together his coalition of his Trump populist base, evangelical voters,

conservatives who praised the president's move to install Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and enough voters who are feeling that the economy is

going the right way to sort of help him through that same narrow path through the Midwest to the next election.

But one interesting point is, for many years, if the economy is doing well, the president who is the incumbent does very well politically as well.

I think we could be challenging that assumption now, given the fact that Donald Trump is in the low 30s in his approval ratings. He's alienated so

many people in other ways. That equation, a good economy helps a president going into a reelection year may be evaluated in the next few years.

GORANI: Right. Well, he's alienated also a lot of Muslims abroad with the travel bans that he's had three versions of. The last one upheld by the

Supreme Court while it is being challenged in lower courts.

And, Molly Ball, this too has become a defining aspect, at least, of the first year of the presidency of Donald Trump is this perception that he

just does not want a certain type of immigrant or visitor to the United States.

BALL: Absolutely. And as Larry was saying, a big part, I believe, of Donald Trump's legacy thus far is going to be the way that he has divided

American society by pushing into these cultural wedge issues, pushing into these divisive buttons in our very nature.

And what you hear - I go all over the country talking to local leaders and people at the state level, what people say is that their communities are

divided on political lines now, that people who used to be able to disagree with their neighbors, but still sit down to a meal or have a conversation

at the supermarket, people have been individually polarized and feel that they can't talk to one another.

You hear that city councils and school board meetings have become more acrimonious. People yell at each other. And it's just this divisiveness

that is in the air and that people feel that Trump has done so much to foment.

And so, the travel ban is a little bit different because it is an issue about people coming into the country and that certainly was a big part of

his campaign and it still could be overturned by the courts. It's only been allowed to go forward while these challenges are still pending.

But I think it is part of this overall divisiveness that Trump has fostered.

GORANI: And, Larry, I'm going to ask you an impossible question. Next year, 2017 was every single day, something was - the element of the news

was topping the one from the day before. How do you see this playing out?

SABATO: Pretty much the same way. I really believe Donald Trump isn't going to change, the people around him won't change, the American public

which, as Molly has just said correctly, is as deeply divided as it has been since the 1960s and maybe even more so, much of that division due

directly to Donald Trump. That isn't going to change either.

GORANI: Larry Sabato, Molly Ball, Stephen Collison, thanks so much to all of you for joining us for this special program.

A lot more to come. Decking out the White House, Christmas is quite the event on Pennsylvania Avenue, but the first family finds reasons to get

festive all year round. We'll have a look back in pictures for you after this.


[15:56:16] GORANI: Well, as we've seen this hour, the American president has had a lot of serious matters on his plate this year. It doesn't mean,

though, that there is no room for fun at the White House.

The Trumps have embraced many presidential holiday traditions. In April, they were out on the balcony with the Easter Bunny.

Later in the year, the White House was decked out for Halloween with the president and Mrs. Trump handing out candy.

An assortment of characters from Princess Leia to the Batman made it into the Oval Office and then there is Thanksgiving.


TRUMP: Drumstick, you are hereby pardoned.


GORANI: President Trump issued a traditional pardon to a turkey named Drumstick.

And when the Christmas season came around, Melania Trump and the president's youngest son, Barron, welcomed the tree.


GORANI: And the first lady also took in a festive ballet performance right in the White House foyer.

And that is it for our look back at 2017 with all its ups and downs in Washington. Thanks for watching.

And from the entire HALA GORANI TONIGHT team, Happy New Year!