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HALA GORANI TONIGHT

Judge Deals Trump A Setback On Immigration; Trump Holds Joint News Conference With Norway's Leader. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 10, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:00:24]

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: -- since November, we'll be taking that live in about 20 minutes.

Also, tonight, devastation in California, at least 15 are killed as mudslides reached havoc in an area already hit hard by wildfires.

And this hour, Israel's prime minister is defending his own son after a secret recording outside by a strip club was aired on television.

Now, let's get right to a very busy day at the White House to start you all off. We are waiting for Donald Trump to hold a news conference soon with

the Norwegian prime minister, sitting in the Oval Office with him.

The U.S. president will face the full White House press corps for the first time since November. He's expected to take questions and of course, we'll

bring you that live.

Now we heard from Mr. Trump earlier today at his first cabinet meeting of the year. Listening to him, you might know, that a court had just blocked

his efforts to end protections for young undocumented immigrants, so-called DREAMers, the DACA Program.

Mr. Trump is trying to reach a compromise with lawmakers on the state of those DREAMers. Now the big focus of the televised meeting yesterday that

Mr. Trump has called, quote, "tremendous."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Actually, it was reported as incredibly good and my performance, some of them called it a

performance. I consider it work, but have great reviews by everybody other than two networks, who were phenomenal for about two hours.

Then after that, they were called by (inaudible), wait a minute and unfortunately, a lot of those anchors sent us a letter saying that was one

of the greatest meetings they've ever witnessed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: All right. It's unclear exactly what anchors he is talking about, and by the way for the record, CNN and CNN International aired that entire

bipartisan meeting for the entire duration of it, which was almost one hour.

Mr. Trump was more direct on Twitter about his disappointment over the immigration ruling calling the U.S. court system, broken and unfair.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator, Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist who once served as communications director for former

presidential candidate, Ted Cruz. Alice, thanks for being with us.

First of all, let us talk about this DACA ruling. The judiciary with the travel ban and now with this DACA ruling seems to be the one branch of

government consistently pushing back against the White House.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Clearly, this is as you say is not the first time the travel ban was really a first big blow, but look the

president is going to stay committed to his top priorities that he ran on and that is immigration and border security and fighting ISIS, and these

are some key components of that.

With regard to DACA, we saw yesterday in the meeting he had that it is now certainly something he needs to address. Earlier, he had punted at the

Congress telling Congress to deal with whether or not to continue providing help for DREAMes in this country.

But now that rubber is meeting the road coming up on a deadline where something needs to be done. Now while he can --

GORANI: Do you think it as a bargaining chip because he need to get it (inaudible) even though during the meeting he said, whatever you guys

decide is fine by me, and then he turns around and tweet something different. So, which version should we believe?

STEWART: Hala, you sound a little surprise that the president had said two different things in the same Senate. You're right. He campaigned -- and a

lot of his support really has been about standing firm on DACA and not basically as many refer to it as providing amnesty for people that are in

this country illegally.

But he also understands that polls show that CNN polling shows that 80 percent of Americans say that we do need to provide some type of relief for

DREAMers that are here, so he understands the political implications of this.

But I think is important is that he wants and clean DACA bill he needs to stand firm on that. The problem is in that meeting yesterday, he said we

will have a clean DACA bill, but we also have to have funding for the border, and must look at E-Verify and that's also in chain migration.

That's also in a lot of these programs that deal with letting immigrants come into this country. So, he can have it both ways, but he does not

understand that it is an important bargaining chip. I do think it is a good way.

If Democrats want to continue DACA, he can use that as a way to weather is providing funding for the wall or ending chain migration or doing away with

the lottery visa. These are good negotiating --

GORANI: Looking at this wall issue, there are two polls from just a few months ago that indicated a majority of Americans actually oppose the

construction of a wall and a crushing majority of Democrats do as well, the Quinnipiac poll and the CBS poll.

I wonder therefore for president to be so insistent on funding a border wall, which he repeatedly promised would be paid for by Mexico, when a

majority of Americans oppose it, is it just to please his base? Is that all the only group he is trying to cater to?

[15:05:06] STEWART: That's big part of it, but at the same time, this is something he fundamentally believes, and thinks is a critical part of

securing our borders and overall national security.

But now he has come to realize it does not necessarily have to be a physical wall along every inch of the border. Obviously, there are rivers

and mountainous areas, and sometimes that may need boots on the ground.

Another key component is the original estimates for how much it would cost were astronomical. Yesterday, he indicated, look, he can get it done for

$18 billion and in one year as opposed to seven years.

I think that is a little optimistic, but he is trying to make it a little more palatable for those who have been against the wall, whether it is

fundamentally they disagree with it or they are looking at the cost aspect. He is trying to make it a little more easier to swallow for opponents of

the wall.

GORANI: All right. Quick last one, we are expecting him to take questions. That is always a big moment in Washington and around the world.

He is hosting the Norwegian prime minister. So, what are your expectations there?

STEWART: I think it's a great opportunity for him to convey the relationship that the United States does have of Norway. They had a

private meeting and in the meeting, he praised the prime minister for her tremendous victory she just had and touted the fact they are great friend

and ally.

But also for the U.S. purpose, a good customer and that Norway has purchased a lot of American military products. So -- and they are working

together to defeat ISIS and bilateral agreement that they can use with regard to trade that will be beneficial to both nations.

So, I think it is a good way to have these private meetings but in a public forum to be able to express the relationship between --

GORANI: But the question, of course, I wish people were watching these news conferences to get into the weeds of trade negotiations, but really

what they are tuning in to see is whether or not Donald Trump is going to go off script, how he's going to reply to questions about Bannon ousted

from Breitbart, Fusion GPS co-founder testimony.

The fact that Senator Feinstein on Capitol Hill released the testimony of the Fusion GPS cofounder, who discussed that infamous dossier. So, you

know, is that your expectation that he is going to take that opportunity to go down that road -- and also the mental -- the stable genius tweets that

everyone has been talking about.

STEWART: Sure. As someone who has been communications director for elected officials before you can have your script that the media has their

script. And so clearly, he would love to be able to focus the attention on DACA and immigration and efforts to defeat ISIS and the tax reform

legislation.

What he is doing for rural areas of this country we know that the media is focus on other things and hopefully, which I think what is the hope beyond

hope is that he will keep things reined in.

Clearly, this week as we are seeing more access to out what he is doing behind the scenes and certainly in these meetings, he wants to shoot down

some of the talks that came up in the book about how he is not in control, and how he is not able to lead meetings, and how he is not presidential.

And I think they have gone a long way by opening up the doors, but what goes behind the scenes that it always exciting to see what he comes up with

and what he says because the media has their agenda and he has his. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

GORANI: Ours is always to report the news. We will see what happens today. Alice Stewart, thanks so much for joining us. Always appreciate having you

on the program.

Immigration could come up during that news conference especially since Mister Trump was just dealt that legal setback involving efforts to end

protections for young undocumented immigrants, who were brought to America's children. So, through no choice of their own.

The president was trying to use those young DREAMers as a bargaining chip to win funding for the border wall.

Let's bring in U.S. House Republican Tom Cole. Thanks for being with us, sir. First of all, I ask you again, thank you. The president repeatedly

when he was a candidate said Mexico would pay for it. Mexico is not paying for any wall. It will be the U.S. taxpayer. He is breaking a promise, is

he not?

REPRESENTATIVE TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, I think, look, campaigns are made for hyperbole and that maybe one of the greatest records of all time.

The reality is you can expect other countries to provide your own border security. They are just not going to do any more than we would provide

border security for Mexico. So, at the end of the day, if you want secure borders, Americans have to be willing to foot the bill.

GORANI: But that's not what he promised them. I mean, should we then not believe anything he says because he is (inaudible) to hyperbole and --

COLE: Well, I could point out similar inconsistencies on some of the commitments President Obama. Let's us put it this way, there was an

American journalist tracking the campaign, had a very insightful remark that you ought to take President Trump seriously but not literally.

[15:10:02] And I guess probably a pretty good measure and certainly in this case, I think the main idea, the main attraction was we've got a very poor

supporter. It's created a lot of problems. We need to fix that and we are going to get it done, and I think that is what he is trying to do.

GORANI: But you know -- and you know better than anyone as an elected representative who is interested, very interested in this situation on this

Mexico-U.S. border that the number of illegal entries has actually plummeted, the number of apprehension has risen.

I mean, it is not an active problem in the United States border security on the -- apologies, Representative Cole. Donald Trump is speaking right now.

We're just going to go live to the White House.

COLE: I understand.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- some very interesting discussions as we strengthen the wonderful friendship between

our two countries, Norwegians and Americans have so much in common.

(DONALD TRUMP NEWS CONFERENCE WITH NORWEGIAN PRIME MINISTER)

[15:30:09] PRESIDENT TRUMP: -- so I just want to say that it is a lot better to work with other countries. We were working with China on North

Korea. We are working with various other countries. And I think we are doing very well. We had a great talk, as you know and as you reported. We

had a great talk this morning with President Moon. And I think that a lot of good things are happening. We are going to see what happens.

But working with other countries, whether it's Russia or China or India or any of the countries that surround this world, and encompass this world,

that's a good thing, John. That's not a bad thing. That's a very good thing. OK. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, prime minister, Norway strongly supports the Paris agreement and has expressed regret that you decided to

leave it. What could persuade you to remain? And what kind of common ground did you find in your talks today on this topic?

TRUMP: Well, it wasn't a major topic, I must tell you. We talked about other things, including mostly trade. But I will say that the Paris

agreement as drawn and as we signed was very unfair to the United States. It put great penalties on us. It made it very difficult for us to deal in

terms of business. It took away a lot of our asset values.

We are a country rich in gas and coal and oil and lots of other things. And there was a tremendous penalty for using it. It hurt our businesses.

According to some estimates, we would have had to close businesses in order to qualify by 2025.

Whereas an example, China, by 2030, they don't kick in until 2030. Russia someplace in the mid-1990s, that was their standard and that was never a

good standard because that was a dirty standard for the environment.

It treated the United States very unfairly. And, frankly, it's an agreement that I have no problem with, but I had a problem with the

agreement that they signed because, as usual, they made a bad deal. So, we can conceivably go back in.

But I say this, we are very strong on the environment. I feel very strongly about the environment. Our EPA and our EPA commissioners are

very, very powerful in the sense that they want to have clean water, clean air, but we also want businesses that can compete. And the Paris Accord

really would have taken away our competitive edge. And we are not going to let that happen. I'm not going to let that happen.

ERNA SOLBERG, PRIME MINISTER OF NORWAY: And if I just might add there, there are big opportunities in this.

As we talked about during this - because we have strict regulations to reach our Paris targets, that means that we have very strong policies for

environmental-friendly and climate-friendly technologies, which is a small part of why the United States now have a surplus in the economy towards

Norway. So, to never miss up on a good opportunity with good environmental standards.

TRUMP: One of the great assets of Norway is a thing called water. And they have tremendous hydro power, tremendous. In fact, most of your energy

or your electricity is produced by hydro. I wish we'd do some of that. But hydro power is fantastic. And it's a great asset that you have. Thank

you very much. Great honor. Thank you.

Thank you very much.

HALA GORANI, CNN HOST, HALA GORANI TONIGHT: All right. There you have it. The US President Donald Trump hosting the Norwegian prime minister, took a

few questions, both from American reporters and Norwegian reporters.

One on the immigration deal that he's negotiating with Congress and essentially basically said what he didn't say in that bipartisan televised

event that any immigration deal would have to happen with funding for the wall.

Interestingly, he mentioned Hillary Clinton about four or five times, even called her my opponent, saying if there is any collusion with the Russians,

it is with the Democrats and brought up once again Hillary Clinton. And he said it is much better to work with Russia to try to come up with solutions

for problems like North Korea rather than to not work with them.

And Stephen Collinson joins me now from the Washington bureau. What was your biggest takeaway from this? Because the first news conference since

November.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Hala. I think one of the most interesting things there was that the president appeared to push

back on the idea or at least established some conditions for the circumstances under which he would talk to special counsel Robert Mueller

over the Russia investigation.

[15:35:00] He noted that when Hillary Clinton - as you rightly said, his opponent, he still seems a little obsessed with her and hasn't really moved

on from that election - he mentioned that when she was questioned by the FBI in the investigation into her email, she wasn't sworn in under oath.

And he seemed to be suggesting that at least he should get the same treatment.

Now, of course, were you to lie to the FBI even if you weren't under oath, that would still be a crime, but I think it's the opening shot in what

we're going to see ahead of any request by Mueller to interview the president as he wraps up his investigation.

There are good reasons to think that the president's lawyers would not like to put him in a room with the Mueller and his team of really highly-charged

prosecutors, not least because the president appears often, as you mentioned, that cabinet meeting yesterday to often contradict himself.

So, I think that is the first glimpse that we're getting over what will be a tussle over the terms of any interview with Mueller.

GORANI: Do you think the White House and Donald Trump himself, the president, is expecting to be interviewed by Mueller, who is leading this

investigation into potential Russian influence on the Trump campaign?

COLLINSON: It's very difficult to think that he would wrap up an investigation of this kind without talking to the president. He's talked

to pretty much everybody else involved in these allegations.

There is the issue of Russian collusion, of course, which the president talked about, but there is also the issue of whether the president

obstructed justice with the firing, for example, of the former FBI chief James Comey.

Now, it would be very difficult for Mueller to draw conclusions about the motivations of the president firing Mueller. The president has been on the

record of saying that it was partly to do with the Russia investigation, if he were not to talk to the president himself.

So, I think the president's lawyers, the White House and everybody is expecting at some point that Mueller will make that request.

The White House can delay. It can push back. Ultimately, Mueller could issue a subpoena to require the president to testify and then we could get

into a real legal morass as the question of whether a sitting president can be called to testify, as we saw in the Clinton impeachment proceedings 20

years ago nearly.

That is what will unfold. But most people think that Mueller will ask to talk to the president.

GORANI: All right. Stephen Collinson, thanks very much, reporting live from Washington there. The first news conference with questions by

reporters for the US president since November, hosting the Norwegian prime minister.

A lot more to come this evening and some just heartbreaking images coming to us from California. Yet another natural disaster there. A mudslide

swept land that was already scorched in last month's wildfires. We'll have a live report.

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[15:40:06] GORANI: Southern California has had a really rough time of it recently when it comes to weather. This week, deadly mudslides have

devastated the affluent seaside town of Montecito.

Heavy rain caused what residents described as a river of mud. And you can see how bad the situation is there. Overturned cars and some of the houses

were flattened, crushing power lines and killing at least 15 people. And it was only a few weeks back that wildfires tore through the same exact

region.

Paul Vercammen is covering this story for us. He's live. Tell us what's going on where you are and why have these mudslides been so deadly. I get

there's also the muds are carrying very heavy objects and boulders in their wake.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And if you just look right behind me, Hala, there was a house, it was on its foundation and it was

completely ripped off its foundation by this fast-moving, very strong water.

And so, you have trees mixed in with fence, mixed in with power poles. Over there, another debris pile as the water always seeks the lower ground

in this particular spot, where about, oh, I'd say a mile and change from the ocean, it came roaring through here.

If you see a rock in the distance with an X marked out in orange, they just had search and rescue crews go through here. It's what's called a

secondary search, meaning, the translation, and this is grim, they're not necessarily expecting to find someone alive.

The primary search is that immediate response hoping against all hope that someone is alive, but this devastation is just so massive.

You asked a great question. Why so devastating? Well, don't forget, the Thomas fire, which burned above in these hillsides was the most devastating

fire in California history in terms of acreage. So, it cut a wide swath on these hillsides.

But this area, Montecito, Carpinteria, extremely unique. This is not a slow rolling coastal plain. This is an area - we'll take a walk over here

- that rises so quickly, it basically goes from 3000 feet to sea level in just a matter of miles, and that's what had work crews so fearful, county

public work crews.

So, we'll look off in the distance, Hala, and I'll show you. There is those scorched mountains. When that torrent started, it had not a shred of

vegetation to stop it.

It also was incredibly intense for a short amount of time. In nearby Carpinteria, at one point, they got an inch of rain in just one hour.

And look below, it just flushed everything out of the hills, caught so much momentum that it brought down everything else below it. Look at the size

of some of these boulders, sealing off neighborhoods.

Off in the distance over here, that's another house just to my left. Completely ripped off its foundation. And then you see a car. That also

marked orange. The rescue crews going through there, making sure everyone knows there's not a human being alive in there. They cross their fingers.

They hope to find more people alive.

But as these days start to wear on, it becomes even more desperate of a search. And we know, frankly, that there are people still missing. That

death toll is at 15. They want to hear that it's not going to go up, but it's a tough task indeed. You can see these public works crews trying to

just restore simple water and power to this area, Hala.

GORANI: Now, you're saying that, essentially, because of the fires, there is little vegetation to hold the mud in place. I mean, are they having to

deal with the possibility that, every time, there is strong rainfall that they'll have these types of mudslides again? How are they going to prevent

them in the future?

VERCAMMEN: That's exactly right. They are going to be on pins and needles, although one county public works officials said that he thinks

it's often the first rain that's the worst rain.

But, yes, if they have another incident, where there's a lot of rain in a short amount of time, then once again they'll have to brace for mudslides.

They knew this was coming. They did everything possible in the run up to it. We were in canyons, in (INAUDIBLE) as they say in Spanish, debris

basin, storm drains, they clean them all out as best they could. They warned residents. They had sandbags.

But the enormity of this, the power of the slide just so great that when you fire like the one that we saw burn so much - Chris couldn't go back to

those hillsides. If you can see, there's not one part of that mountain that wasn't burned. It's volume. And it's a changing time because they

say we are now in an era of the super fires.

[15:45:02] Yes, California has had wildfires as well as the rest of the United States. But it seems that, in the last two decades, we have these

massive fires, these much bigger fires in terms of the total acreage, and that's always a two-step dance with the devil.

The first step is the scorched hillside and the second step, and it verily follows, is the danger of mudslides in mountainous areas.

GORANI: Yes. Paul Vercammen, thanks very much in Montecito, California there, with extremely destructive and deadly mudslides there. And people

still missing. So, we'll reconnect there with Paul who is on that story in California.

And speaking of wild weather, it has been snowing, believe it or not, in one of the hottest places on the planet. Take a look at these rare scenes.

Snowcapped sand dunes, guess where? This is in the Sahara Desert. It looks otherworldly.

While the deserts reaches scorching highs in the day, it often swings to subzero temperatures at night. Very rare, though, that snow actually

sticks to the ground. The desert town of Ain Sefra has experienced just three snow events in the past 37 years, with the last two years having

snow.

So, the wild weather is getting more and more frequent.

Demands for money, talk of government business all caught on secret recording outside a strip club. It was a conversation involving the son of

the Israeli prime minister. Now, Benjamin Netanyahu is on the defensive.

CNN's Oren Liebermann walks us through this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yair Netanyahu, the 26-year- old son of the Israeli prime minister, once again in the spotlight. This time for a secret recording of a conversation in 2015 outside of a strip

club aired on Israel's Channel 2 news.

Yair Netanyahu was with two of his friends, plus a driver and a bodyguard. The conversation taking place about the same time as the prime minister was

finalizing a controversial gas deal labeled as corrupt by critics.

One of those friends is the son of a gas tycoon. Yair Netanyahu says, "My father did a good deal for you, brother. You have to be good to me."

He then says, "My father sorted your father out with $20 billion and you're crying over 400 shekels?" Four hundred shekels is about $100. Yair

Netanyahu claims it was "for the whore."

The conversation continues. He says, "speaking of whores, what's open at this hour?"

Yair is the eldest son of the Israeli prime minister. He issued this apology. "In a nighttime conversation under the influence of alcohol, I

said nasty things about women and other things that shouldn't have been said. These things don't represent the person I am, the values I was

educated on and what I believe. The things that I said were in the realm of a bad joke. I was never interested in the gas protocols and had no idea

of any of the details."

Prime Minister followed with his own apology and denied any connection between himself and the gas tycoon. "I have no connection to Kobi Maimon.

I think I met him maybe once in my life, about 10 years ago. No connection to him. And I don't know anything about the connection of Yair to his

son."

The prime minister is a suspect himself in two separate criminal investigations, which involve accusations of bribery, fraud and breach of

trust. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying there will be nothing because there is nothing.

But it's the perception that may be the most damaging here to the Netanyahu family. In addition to the graft investigation involving the prime

minister, Yair himself has battled an image of being the spoiled son of the prime minister.

Towards the end of the recording, one of Yair Netanyahu's friends says this conversation better not get out. God help us. God, if this gets out, God,

it will be hell."

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GORANI: All right. And I'm just checking the wires here in some of the French media for you because we have some news just into CNN.

Thieves have made off with jewels worth an estimated $5.5 million dollars from a store in the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Our CNN affiliate "BFMTV" is

reporting that the bandits were armed and there was, and I'm seeing this on Twitter from some of the reporters who have been covering this, a

tremendous police presence.

And French police tell CNN that three people have been arrested at the scene and that, thankfully, nobody was injured in the robbery considering

that they were heavily armed, it appears. "BFM" is reporting that two other robbers escaped and are on the run with the jewels.

If you're familiar with the Ritz Hotel and many of these luxury hotels, there are very expensive and luxurious jewelry shops when you walk in. And

those jewelry shops usually have, in their windows, very expensive items and it appears as though this is what they went for.

Speaking of France, it is the campaign that brought sexual harassment and abuse out of the shadows and into the spotlight. The MeToo campaign

energized women in Hollywood and beyond in a pretty breathtaking way.

[15:50:03] But one legendary actress is saying no. Catherine Deneuve, she's one of 100 French women that have written an open letter denouncing

the movement, saying that it goes against sexual freedom. Jim Bittermann is in Paris. Jim?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, here is the article that caused all the stir. It appeared in yesterday's Le

Monde newspaper. Of course, as you know, a pretty highly regarded newspaper here, in which Catherine Deneuve as well as 100 other very well-

known actresses and philosophers and writers who are well-known on the scene here, women, who all say that the MeToo movement has maybe gone too

far.

Just to give you kind of an idea of what they had to say, here's a quote from it. "We defend the freedom to annoy, indispensable to sexual freedom.

Today, we are sufficiently informed to admit that sexual drive is by nature aggressive and wild. But we also are sufficiently farsighted not to

confuse clumsy flirting and sexual assault."

Now, of course, that kind of thing to the MeToo movement here, which is called #BalanceTonPorc, which translates as denounce your pig was something

that caused a great deal of reaction on the streets here.

And so, the people who wrote the article with Catherine Deneuve were all over the media this morning talking about it and trying to defend it.

Here's one of them - one of the co-editors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There are women who will denounce men whose only wrongdoing was one, five or ten years ago to try to

steal a kiss during a party or send a text message a little too gritty, by criminalizing this behavior, by pitting it exactly on the same level as

rape.

Rape is a sexual crime. Heavy flirting is certainly not one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BITTERMANN: The feminists in France who responded to the Deneuve article basically characterized those who signed as being a bit out of touch and

not aware of what goes on sometimes today and how aggressive sexually women are being treated.

And if it's excessive, they said it is exactly right because it's the world we live in today. And France, hundreds of thousands of women, are victims

of harassment every single day.

Hala?

GORANI: All right. Jim, thanks very much. We will be talking more about this tomorrow by the way. You will want to tune in.

And we want to mention that Catherine Deneuve declined CNN's request for an interview on this letter.

Still to come, is there trouble in paradise for German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Why some are writing her political obituary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GORANI: Well, it's coming down to the wire for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The election last September left her politically weakened and some

are now openly questioning her future.

Meanwhile, Merkel is still trying to form a coalition government in talks that are anything but smooth. Here's Atika Shubert.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Angela Merkel is arguably the most powerful woman in the world. For the last 12 years, she has led Germany,

one of the world's strongest economies.

She was reelected in September. And according to a recent poll by public broadcaster ARD, 65 percent say she has been a good leader. So, why are

now some in Germany writing her political obituary? There is even a German hashtag for it, #Merkel- Dammerung, or twilight for Merkel. So, what

happened?

[15:55:02] Well, Merkel's defining moment came in 2015. That's when she allowed in as many as a million refugees into Germany. Now, outside the

country, she was hailed as a humanitarian hero becoming "TIME'S" person of the year.

Inside the country, though, public support soared at first, then plummeted. Many wondered whether the country was really capable of absorbing so many

newcomers.

In 2017, voters let Merkel know they were not happy. Her party, the Christian Democrats, still came out on top, but they lost nearly 10 percent

of their previous vote. In fact, more than a million of the party's voters joined millions of others who went to the Alternative for Germany, an

upstart, far-right, anti-immigration party. That was a stinging rebuke to Merkel's refugee policy.

Merkel was indeed seen as the country's inevitable leader to a struggling politician, desperately trying to cobble together a coalition to keep

power.

So, is Merkel on her way out? Not just yet.

Now, Merkel is still the only party leader with a mandate to form a coalition government. Now, she failed on her first attempt. She's inside

this building now for a second attempt.

If she fails, then Germany could be to be hold snap elections. And, of course, that would mean another referendum on her faltering leadership.

But even if she succeeds, this could be her last time in office.

Having been elected for a fourth term, she is already one of Germany's longest serving leaders. And there is already talk within her own party of

finding a successor to take over even before her term is up, which is why even though Merkel remains firmly in place as Chancellor for now, it may

soon be the twilight of her political career.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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END