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Trump Warns Iran "World Is Watching" Amid Protests; Mattis: Expect Larger Civilian U.S. Presence In Syria; Suspect Arrested In Deadly Online Gaming Prank; Seventy Million Under Extreme Cold Weather Alert; Rubio: Tax Law Won't Create Dramatic Economic Growth. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired December 30, 2017 - 06:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday morning to you. President Trump is warning the world is watching after dozens of peaceful anti-government protesters were hauled away. The protesters rather were reportedly chanting our slogans.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: An economic crisis there is what's fueling the anger by the thousands. The White House says people there are sick of corruption and bank rolling terrorism.

BLACKWELL: Now adding to a host of foreign policy challenges for the president is what we're seeing in Iran as we're heading into this new year. North Korea says it will not back down on building the country's nuclear arsenal. U.S. officials predict another ballistic missile test potentially sometime early in the new year.

PAUL: Meanwhile, in Syria, Defense Secretary James Mattis says he expects to see more American diplomates and contractors in Syria. The sudden move will most likely anger Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has already labeled all Americans in Syria, quote, "illegal invader forces."

We have a team of reporters and analysts standing by across the globe. I want to begin with CNN Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles. Ryan, talk to us about how the White House is responding first of all to the clashes in Iran, and good morning.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Christi, from West Palm Beach where the president continues his holiday vacation, not too far from where we are, that is Mar-A-Lago resort. And despite the fact that he has been on vacation, he is keeping a close eye on these protests in Iran.

The administration is making it clear that they are standing with the people who have taken to the streets to protest against their government. In fact, the president himself using the powerful pulpit of his Twitter feed to send a clear message to those protesters. The president tweeting last night, quote, "Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime's corruption and the squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad. The Iranian government should respect their people's rights to include -- that should include the right to express themselves. The world is watching," and then he used the #Iranprotests.

Now the president's statement which came late last night echoed that of his State Department from earlier in the day. The State Department said that the United States supports the demands of its people in Iran for basic rights and an end to corruption.

And of course, it's not a surprise that the president would stand with the people protesting against the Iranian regime. There's been a very tense relationship between the president and Iran. In fact, the United States believes that Iran is involved in the conflicts in both Yemen and Syria.

And of course, Donald Trump himself has been very critical of the nuclear deal that was hatched with the previous administration. He campaigned against it and continues to say that he believes it should be reviewed and possibly come to an end.

So, this morning the president of the United States making it very clear that the United States stands with the protesters and not the regime in Iran -- Christi and Victor.

PAUL: All right. Ryan Nobles, we appreciate it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Joining me now, Arwa Damon, CNN senior international correspondent live in Istanbul and also Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, and also Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst, historian and professor at Princeton University.

Arwa, I want to start with you and these protests. There are also thousands of progovernment protesters who are out today in Iran. First, give us an idea of what is happening there, the conditions that prompted these protests and the scope of these competing efforts.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, these demonstrations began Thursday night and then started really spreading throughout the course of Friday not just in the capital of Tehran, but throughout the entire country and in typical fashion the Iranian government did respond fairly heavy handedly.

There have people who have been detained since the government says that the demonstrators did not obtain the necessary permits and in response to these anti-government demonstrations, we are today seeing people coming out in support of the government.

Now those that have been taking to the streets, the anti-government that is, it really presumably started out because of economic dissatisfaction. The country has been in something of a downward spiral and the population to a certain degree did perhaps think that things would get better after the nuclear deal with the United States. They did not necessarily at least not to the degree that the population would have like to see and then you have underlying issues, of course, that have been really the cause of a lot of dissatisfaction with how the government is handling a number of issues.

[06:05:07] There is a sense amongst the certain segment of the population that the government is focusing too much on foreign affairs as opposed to domestic affairs, an increasing sense of frustration that the government is too focused both financially and militarily and politically on what's happening in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and in Gaza as well.

As opposed to trying to really focus on its own issues, but the government for its part is warning people that they should be careful when they go out into the streets especially when they go out in opposition of the government. They are accusing foreign agents as being the ones who are really trying to spark all of this at this stage -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Julian, it's interesting that the reason that this response, this statement from the president is pretty remarkable because we have to contrast that with some of the statements and those statements we did not hear from the president in relationship to other world leaders in similar situations.

Giving high marks to Turkish President Erdogan even after the crackdown in that attempted coup in 2016 and the purging and consolidation. We did not hear this type of warning from President Trump in that situation nor with the Saudis nor with the president of the Philippines, and the list goes on.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's true. It's a selective support for civil unrest and this is a country that's been more on the radar for President Trump and there's different reasons that he would support the regime becoming destabilized other than human rights.

Nonetheless, this could be something bigger. This could portend to more protests and the possibility of unrest in the country. We don't know yet. But the inconsistency is the result of this not being so much about the president's support of human rights so much as his animosity for the Iran regime.

BLACKWELL: Errol, let's turn to North Korea. North Korea now saying that it will continue in 2018 to pursue building its nuclear arsenal. That's despite the latest sanctions from the United Nations, despite the broader strategic pressure from the United States. What is left for the U.S., for the international community as it tries to deter this effort in North Korea?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what's left is for the Trump administration to acknowledge that there are limits to what you can do. You can put as much pressure out there as you'd like. You could put as much rhetoric out there as you would like.

You can even try and pressure China, the neighboring country that is in some ways the sponsor of North Korea, but in the end, you really can't control what's goes on in that very (inaudible) society. So, to the extent that Donald Trump wants to continue the war of words with the North Korean leader, we'll continue to see this escalation and we'll go further down the path of nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

BLACKWELL: Yes. To Julian, I want to talk more about North Korea specifically about China. We know that the key to stopping potentially Kim Jong-un from getting to the intercontinental ballistic missile, that warhead, is China. And this week in that "New York Times" interview, the president said that he's been soft on China.

Are there indications that the U.S. now considering that it's not getting what it's looking for with this strategic pressure campaign will double down on the sanctions against China, Chinese banks that we'll see a more aggressive administration in response to what they see as China's inaction in relation to North Korea?

ZELIZER: Well, sure, there's evidence from the president's rhetoric this week that that's the direction he's headed. That he will use both rhetoric and executive power certainly to try to ratchet up the pressure on China. That probably won't work either. China will not necessarily respond to that.

In many ways what they need are assurances to the opposite effect. That they can work with this administration, that there can be economic engagement, simply continuing a battle with China probably won't do much to improve the situation in North Korea so the president might actually move in the wrong direction on this.

BLACKWELL: So, Arwa, let's turn to Syria now as we tick through many of the global issues confronting this administration. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said yesterday that there will be more U.S. civilians and diplomats heading into Syria after the successes in eliminating the caliphate there of ISIS. More suggests in addition to. Can you give us an idea of how many U.S. diplomats might already in in Syria if there is a significant number?

[06:10:09] DAMON: As far as we're aware there are not that many at this stage. At least not civilians although the government is not going to be disclosing specific numbers because of the security situation. There are a few thousand U.S. troops still there, of course.

The Syrian president has come out and said that any American presence is illegal, but frankly there's not much he can really do about it because it's highly unlikely the Assad regime is going to want to take on the United States of America.

Now, that being said, Mattis is presumably coming from a position of historical knowledge and experience. He knows what it takes to rebuild a country post war and he also knows what failing to do looks like.

We have the example of Afghanistan and Iraq already when you do not supplement and have an equal amount of military action as well as political civilian action. When we are talking about nation building, the civilian role in all of that is just as important potentially if not even more important than the military one.

And there is this profound sense of knowledge when you do speak to the military right now given everything that they have gone through in the Middle East that they recognize that there needs to be that equal push from the civilian side to ensure that certain building blocks are actually put into place that then allow for the prevention of an entity like ISIS to once again reemerge and thrive.

BLACKWELL: Errol, a hypernative (ph) word that we just heard from Arwa, nation building, that's a dirty phrase for the president where he said speaking about Afghanistan back in August, that the country, the U.S. will not go into the nation building business as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And I'd imagine that policy holds for Syria. What appetite is there in this administration for doing the work of nation building that was not done in other arenas that kind of set a fertile ground for the growth of groups like ISIS?

LOUIS: Well, that's the cloud hanging over the foreign policy of this administration and what brings all of us together and if you're not going to be consistent in speaking out for democracy and human rights, you put aside one element of historic U.S. influence.

If you decide not to get involved with something like the Marshall plan, which works out pretty well for the United States over the last 70 years, then you put aside another tool.

To the extent that Trump critics have always said that this administration is unwinding American power, (inaudible) power, hard power, financial influence, our retreat from the world stage is not going to work out for us even in terms of security. These are troubling questioning and I think we're starting to see it play out in Syria and elsewhere.

BLACKWELL: Julian, finally, to you, we can't have a conversation about Syria and not talk about Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin. To what degree does the U.S. have any leverage in Syria especially with Assad considering the U.S.' position that there is no role for Assad moving forward in Syria and Putin has stood by him, supported his administration, his government against ISIS, against the Syrian forces. What leverage does the U.S. have here with Putin still having such a strong hand there in Syria?

ZELIZER: Well, you know, that's one of the ironies perhaps of this administration is that the potential for a new kind of relationship with Russia to help solve this crisis and to undercut Assad has in part been undermined by the scandal and by the relationship in politics that has unfolded with this administration.

So, in some ways Trump and his team have undercut themselves because ultimately this will be an important piece to the puzzle in Syria. It goes back to Russia and we will need that relationship. We will need some kind of new strategy to bring an end to this civil conflict.

BLACKWELL: President Putin is holding this end of the year news conference in which he called for pragmatic cooperation in response to President Trump. That's of course a subjective phrase. What that pragmatic cooperation looks like, we'll see how that fleshes out. Arwa Damon, Errol Louis, Julian Zelizer, thank you all.

PAUL: All right. Still to come, we have some new developments to tell you about this morning regarding an online gaming prank that turned violent and an innocent man is dead. Have you heard of swatting? We're going to tell you about it next.



PAUL: All right. We have some new developments for you following an online gaming dispute that went way too far. Police have arrested a 25-year-old man in Los Angeles for an alleged deadly swatting hoax between two games. Swatting is something that's really gained traction with online gamers and here's what it is.

Someone makes a prank call to police with a false report of some sort of ongoing crime. It could be anything. The hopes are to draw officers to a particular address, an address of perhaps somebody that they think has done them wrong.

BLACKWELL: So, but in this case, the suspect in Los Angeles allegedly called police in Kansas and told dispatchers he shot his father and was holding his mother and a sibling hostage.


UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I'm just pointing the gun at them making sure they stay in the closet, my mom and my little brother.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Is there any way you can put the gun up?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: No. Are you guys sending someone over here because I'm not going to put it away?

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: OK. I'm going to stay on the phone with you, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: That's fine -- until they get here or --

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: As long as you need me to, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Yes, I'm thinking about, I poured gasoline all over the house, I might set it on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Well, we don't need to do that. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: In a little bit I might.


BLACKWELL: All right. So, police showed up at this house in Kansas, surrounded the house, but when 28-year-old Andrew Finch came to the door and police say he moved suddenly, an officer fired a shot. Finch did not have a weapon and he had nothing to do with his online gaming dispute. Remember, this was an address who had no one involved in a game lived there. Now his family outraged understandably.

Reporter, Angela Monroe, from our affiliate, KWCH, has more.


ANGELA MONROE, REPORTER, KWCH (voice-over): Andrew Finch's family is angry. He was shot by a Wichita police officer as they responded to a call on false information.

LISA FINCH, ANDREW FINCH'S MOTHER: They did not warn him. They did not say anything to him. He opened the door and they at shot him.

[06:20:10] MONROE: Andrew Finch's mother was in the house when her son was shot. We sat with her as she watched the conference and disagreed with parts of what they said.

FINCH: Well, I'm not letting go until I have justice.

MONROE: Lisa Finch says her son was never given a chance before police shot him.

FINCH: This is his blood. They were giving the story that there were hostages being held here and people who were in dead.

MONROE: There was a swatting call, a false call meant to bring SWAT to a scene all because of a video game dispute that had nothing to do with Finch. The family has a message for whoever made that call too.

LORRIE HERNANDEZ CABALLERO, ANDREW FINCH'S AUNT: You are a murderer and you're an accomplice and you killed a wonderful man. This whole family has lost a wonderful person because of your selfish --

MONROE: Finch had two young children and we're told he was all about his family.

JEROME FINCH, ANDRE FINCH'S BROTHER: I would like to inform you that he was very loyal. He was faithful and he was caring.

MONROE: The Finch family continues to want answers after the unarmed man was shot by police on a bogus call.


PAUL: And again, remember, a 25-year-old man in Los Angeles has been arrested in regard to this. We'll keep you posted on that.

Meanwhile, we want to let you know that police have arrested two people in connection with that horrific quadruple homicide in upstate New York. Four people including two children were found dead in a basement apartment in Troy earlier this week.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the two suspects are scheduled to be arraigned this morning and police are releasing few details, but -- and they the investigation still ongoing. More details about the suspect's identities and charges are expected sometime today.

PAUL: More than 70 million Americans are enduring extreme windchills this morning. Have you even bothered to open your window? There is another arctic blast moving in just in time for 2018.

BLACKWELL: All those celebrations, of course. CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar joins us. It's cold out now. It's going to get cold there throughout the weekend I understand?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And the sad part is you look at the numbers and you think how could it get colder than it already is? But the fact of the matter is it's going to. Look at the amounts of people, you heard that number, 70 million. It's over 70 million that are under a windchill advisory, windchill watch or windchill warning.

There's a certain threshold you have to hit. They don't issue those just because you are a couple of debris below average. You have to be well below average and there has to be wind as a factor. The current windchill in Boston, minus 7. Minus 3 is the feels like temperature in Chicago.

It feels like it's minus 35 in Minneapolis right now and it's going to get colder because they haven't hit their low temperature yet for the day. But as we talked there's another wave of cold air pushing through. Starting in the Midwest today and it will push to the northeast Sunday into Monday, but it also pushes pretty far south.

That's the thing you have to understand. So, even places further south are going to experience temperatures well below average and we could be looking at 25 possible record lows on Monday. Here's why this is so dangerous.

You naturally have a portion of heat that sits around the outer portion of your body. That maintains heat around you even when you're outside. But when you have wind coming it blows away that outer layer and making it very difficult for you to understand how quickly your body temperature can drop and a drop of only 2 to 4 degrees is all that's necessary for hyperthermia to set in.

PAUL: I know that's serious, but Victor has an aura like that. It causes sunshine.

BLACKWELL: Is it orange, though, and what does that mean? Now I've got to look it up.

PAUL: Yes, single digits, never look good.

BLACKWELL: I'm headed to the Midwest this weekend. High of 15 degrees where I'm headed. Allison Chinchar --

PAUL: Thank you, Allison.

BLACKWELL: So, tax reform, it was the signature accomplishment for the Republican Party this year, but now one high profile GOP senator, who voted for the bill says it may not work as advertised. Next, what Marco Rubio says is more likely to happen. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


PAUL: It's so good to have you with us this morning. It's 27 minutes past the hour. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

PAUL: So, Senator Marco Rubio is speaking a little more freely about the impact of the recent tax reform effort. Now that the bill has been signed into law by Rubio's 2016 campaign rival, President Trump, Rubio tells the Florida newspaper if he was in charge the tax bill would have looked different.

Quote, "I felt we probably went too far on helping corporations. By and large, you're going to see a lot of these multinationals buy back shares to drive up the price. Some of them will be forced because they're sitting on historic levels of cash to payout dividends to shareholders. That isn't going to create dramatic economic growth."

We've got Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News with us as well as Julian Zelizer, CNN political analyst and professor at Princeton University. Thank you both so much for staying with us.

So, Errol, first to you, Rubio goes on to say, listen, these changes make the tax code better, but if he were king for a day, things would look different. What are the implications do you think of this criticism?

LOUIS: Well, it's very striking first of all, because with such a slim majority in the Senate, every senator was basically king for the day if they were in the majority conference. So, Lisa Murkowski got the drilling that she wanted in the Arctic and that was the key to getting her vote because every (inaudible) vote was needed.

The same was true for some of the passthrough provisions of the final bill. He could have asked for this if he really cared about it. I mean, he did sort of nudge the Senate in the direction of improving the tax credit by a very, very small amount, but for Rubio after the fact, we should have spent more time on this.

Well, he could have asked for more time. He could have demanded more time. He could have demanded for provisions. As far as the underlying analysis, he may be right, and he may be wrong. We are certainly going to see some stimulus because this is a dramatic amount of money that's going to come flooding into the economy over the next couple of years.