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Obstruction of Justice Probe on Trump; Key Details Expected Friday through Court Filings, Hearings; Thousands of Troops in Paris for "Yellow Vest" Protests; Belfast Residents Have Mixed Views about Brexit; Golden Globe Nominations Kick Off Award Season; New Yorkers Flock to See Celebrity Duck; Kevin Hart Steps Down From Hosting Oscars; U.S. Seeks Extradition Of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou; Global Confusion Over Status Of China-U.S. Trade Talks; All-Clear Given After CNN Offices In NY Evacuated; Yemen Peace Talks Get Underway In Sweden. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired December 7, 2018 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Actor and Comedian Kevin Hart stepping down as host of the Academy Awards after anti-gay tweets he made in the past resurface. The trade deal, the tweets, then the turmoil. The very real costs of the President's tweeting which and sending global stock markets on a wild ride this week. And a glimmer of hope for war town Yemen with the country facing the world's worst humanitarian crisis, peace talks are underway between the Iranian-backed rebels and the Saudi-supported Yemen government. soldiers.

Comedian Kevin Hart said he's stepping down as host of next year's Academy Awards. He made the announcement after tweets from 2009 to 2010 regarding resurfaced in which he made offensive remarks about the LGBT community. Hart eventually apologized on Twitter saying he wanted to bring people together. Sandro Monetti, Editor in Chief of the Hollywood International Filmmaking Magazine joins us now on this. OK, so Sandro, I mean, the interesting part about this story is that initially, Hart refused to apologize for the tweet. He said you know, he dealt with homophobic comments in the past. He apologized. The problem was he dealt the offensive jokes in his stand-up routine, not the tweets themselves. Is that enough for him saying at this point?

SANDRO MONETTI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL FILMMAKING MAGAZINE: I tell you, who should also apologize, the organizers of the Academy. I've got two words for them, due diligence.

VAUSE: Right.

MONETTI: When you appoint anyone for a high-profile position, you do a background check. You not only had to look at his tweets, you had to look at his stand-up tour. You know, I mean -- I remember seeing him live myself and Kevin Hart made the statement that you know, he wouldn't want his son to grow up gay. Now, the academy has dealt with so many controversial issues in recent years, they created a problem for themselves.

And yes, this was a strange attitude of Kevin Hart being made to apologize, not apologizing, stepping down and apologizing. It's another mess for the academy. It comes on the heels of the popular Oscar controversy. Oscar is so white, falling ratings. They just keep messing up.

VAUSE: Let me just speak on the point you made about you know, whether or not Kevin Hart was a good fit, and with it he would never be a good fit, but this is a year -- 2019 will be a year where the host of actors are likely to be nominated for LGBTQ roles.

MONETTI: Exactly. So anyone who done their research would know that Kevin Hart as great a comic he is, on compare is not right for this particular year. He wasn't a good fit. Yet, there must be some complete numb skulls at Academy if they were thinking that oh well, just because he's the most popular comedy star at the moment, he's a right fit for this year. No, he's not.

VAUSE: One thing --

MONETTI: Great talent but nor for this role.

VAUSE: One thing which I want to point out here though, I want to ask you. Is the point he was making was a good one? When is it enough? How many times has someone has to apologize for past mistakes? When does it end?

MONETTI: No. Just say sorry. Simple as that. You know, he knows what the climate is. You know, as a comedian, you have to be sensitive to the audience and you have responsibility when you're stepping on the Oscar stage because this is not a Kevin Hart audience, this is a global audience. Many people seeing him for the first time. So with that platform, you have to say no, I regret my mistakes, and this is -- this is wrong. He messed up, the Academy messed up. There's no winners here.

VAUSE: What was interesting also is that on Tuesday he was named Oscar host. That was starting gun for search on social media for anything offensive. Like less than two days later he's stepping down. This scrutiny happens to actors but also to directors, to producers, to sportsmen and women, and anyone with a high-profile gig. This is now sort of endemic out there.

MONETTI: You know, friends that are comedy writers, they have been deleting all that old tweets just in case anything might be offensive. They are being more careful. They get it. Kevin Hart didn't. Now, he's made his reasons. Yes, I understand them. But for a big thing like the Oscars, not everyone is going to understand.

VAUSE: Just curious. So is there any talk of who might take his place. Is Mel Gibson available perhaps?

MONETTI: Well, I think the odds make got him 10 million to one at the moment. But Jimmy Kimmel hosted the last two years, seems like the obvious choice to bring him back. But you know, the ratings weren't any better with him. But you know, they -- I think the academy thought oh, let's get a top comedy star like Kevin Hart and then the ratings will be better. No, Oscars are rubbish. They've been rubbish for years. It's a huge embarrassment to the entertainment industry that the flagship show is always boring and garbage. It needs a total refix.

Never mind the host, replace the producers. Replace the executives at the Academy. This is a really important decision. I love the Oscars. I'm tired of them being so garbage. This is yet another mistake. It's time to get better ideas, get better producers, and hosts, get right for the occasion, get in touch with the country, and you know, let's have our Oscars back.

[01:05:20] VAUSE: Yes, the word naff comes to mind when describing the Oscars these days. Sandro, as always, good to see you. Thank you so much.

MONETTI: Thank you.

VAUSE: Now, whatever the stock market drops like a rock, there's always that question how that happened. What happened this time is the arrest of a woman in Canada, chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou of China's giant telecommunication firm a Huawei, Huawei Technologies I should say. The Canadian court placed an injunction on the release of any information about her case, even details of the charges. But more could be known during a hearing, a bail hearing on Friday.

A news of her arrest sent Wall Street into a tailspin. The Dow Jones dropped 785 points. It recovered at the close to finish down just 79 points. Let's take a look at the Asian markets right now. We can see the Nikkei is up by o.8 percent Hong Kong almost flat and Shanghai possibly flat as well. What we do know is that Meng was detained in Vancouver at the request of Washington which wants her extradited back to the United States.

Months ago, there was a report that her company was under investigation for violating U.S. sanctions on Iraq. Others speculate her arrest is linked to ongoing trade talks with Beijing. China has called for her release and is asking for an explanation. As for these trade talks, China's Commerce Minister he says well, they're going well and that was enough for the U.S. President Donald Trump. He tweeted out the Chinese statement claiming officials were confident a deal could be reached within 90 days adding I agree.

CNN's Matt Rivers covering this for us from Beijing. And Matt, it's been an unprecedented two years with Donald Trump in the White House, but even in that context, it seems hard (AUDIO GAP) would use this CFO Meng as leverage during trade talks with China. So is that claim actually being taken seriously by Beijing?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, if your Beijing, what choice do you (AUDIO GAP) as a possibility because you don't really know even if you listen to what's coming out of Washington right now. You have for example the National Security Advisor John Bolton telling NPR that he knew about this arrest ahead of time but we also have our own reporting that suggests that the President says he didn't know about the arrest.

Peter Navarro, one of the White House's top economic advisors about China says he didn't know about it. They didn't know about it that dinner that they had with Xi Jinping on December 1st in Argentina -- oh December 1st by the way, that's the same date that that arrests happened. So that arrest happened within hours of this whole big grand meeting that President Trump has placed so much stock in.

So if you're Beijing and you're wondering what's the grand strategy behind this, you're not really (AUDIO GAP) the possibility that this is being used as a political tool. I think if you speak to most experts here about China, they will say that there is an acknowledgment amongst the very top Chinese leadership that there are different processes in the United States. There's diplomacy and then there's the justice system, and they don't necessarily know exactly what's going on between the bowls at all times.

That said, you know, this timing of this is really circumspect. It certainly doesn't make the prospects of a trade deal any better. And so Beijing has to take that into account.

VAUSE: And so with that in mind, Matt, earlier before this news broke, the Chinese Ministry put out the statement about the trade talks. You know, despite what Donald Trump was trying to hook up Twitter, it seems to be sort of fairly lukewarm the same at which they issued. It was positive but not great.

RIVERS: Yes. I mean, I think what you're seeing so far is Beijing not trying to totally scuttle this trade deal. I think that they're probably taking a wait-and-see approach to say OK, what kind of treatment does Meng get. Is she actually extradited? And they've also seen that President Trump is willing to make deal with Chinese companies in trouble over Iran sanctions. You'll remember ZTE, it wasn't long ago that ZTE -- that other Chinese telecoms company accused by the United States of violating Iran sanctions. Well, the only reason that company is still in existence today is because Donald Trump came in and offered them a deal.

He got a ton of criticism for it at the time but that's a big reason. So I think if you're China, you're saying well, if the President maybe didn't know about this arrest, given his past record, his track record, I think they might be hoping that the President might swoop in and say OK, all of this, let's pump the brakes and see if we can come up with some sort of deal to get Meng, that the CFO of China's -- it's a company more important than ZTE, can we get her out of trouble.

VAUSE: Right, yes, OK. A lot of moving parts to this. I guess it's hard to know what is going on and what is actually -- you know, what you should believe. Matt, thank you. I appreciate you being with us.

All week long there has been confusion on certainly over the future of those U.S.-China trade talks and precisely what both presidents Trump and Xi agreed to over dinner after the G20 Summit. Much of the uncertainty has been fueled by Donald Trump and his tweets. The week began with his claims of an extraordinary meeting with Xi, a big leap forward in relations and effectively a ceasefire in the trade war, an incredible deal in the works. But the President was alone in that claim as investors took a closer look, the markets began to tumble.

A sell-off potentially made a whole lot worse on Tuesday when the U.S. President called himself tariff man. A threat of what would happen if they all failed to reach an agreement. Later that same day, JP Morgan issued a warning to his clients.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[01:10:34] CHRIS GARCIA, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT: JP Morgan's trading sent a note to client saying essentially don't believe what Trump is tweeting on the trade deal. And that may not be surprising in itself but again it's indicative of a broader wrestling that Wall Street has to do with what is put out by the administration which removes markets and how to trade based on something that may not actually prove true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: U.S. markets were closed Wednesday for the state funeral of former President George H.W. Bush. And so, Trump appeared to be in damage control tweeting this. Talk about strong signals coming from Xi Jinping of both countries who reach an agreement on trade. If nothing else, all of this would be an example of why Twitter is not exactly the right forum for international trade negotiations.

Chris Garcia is a former Deputy Director for the Trump Commerce Department. He joins us now from Washington. Chris, thank you for coming in.

GARCIA: Yes, good to be here.

VAUSE: OK, all this turmoil, all this confusion, it's a feature, it's not a bug when it comes to Donald Trump and its presidency -- and while there's a possibility that yes, you can make the argument that all the Twitter crazy stuff, it's unsettling from Beijing, and knocks them off the game a bit, it's also taking huge , not just on U.S. stock markets but some markets around the world. It's very high price to be paying for this.

Well, we expect this type of response from U.S. markets just as we expect the response from global markets when the President makes a statement like this. There really is a flashbang grenade if you think about it. You know over the last several decades when China has been taking advantage of not just the United States but our allies around the world in the trading -- the world trading order, we've seen past administration's try to bring the Chinese back to the table, try to even the playing field diplomacy (AUDIO GAP) I think that many Americans certainly those that voted for him believe that there's got to be a different approach that we take with the Chinese.

Now, the tweets that we've seen recently today, I think there was a recent announcement that the Chinese made at least a statement that confirms that they believe we can make a deal in the next 90 days which is why those 90 days I believe, that truce was put in place to begin with. Yes, to calm the markets, yes to try to assuage any type of concerns on both Wall Street and Main Street coming into this holiday season, but it's also really to get to the bottom of some of these fundamental differences that we have with China.

VAUSE: I mean, OK, so you say that you know, the reaction is expected but you know, here's a couple of headlines from earlier during the week. The Financial Times, Trump's breakthrough China deal mired in confusion. From Fortune, U.S.-China trade deal confusion spikes massive global shares sell-off. Let's go to the New York Times, Trump's trade truce is mired in confusion. You know, but -- you may expect it but it is still making huge headlines around the world. It's still causing all of this chaos, and the question is, did Donald Trump intentionally make false or misleading statements about the trade deal with China and where it was or heading for whatever reason that may be a negotiation tactic or whatever or does he just not understand what we're sort of going on here?

GARCIA: Well, it appears that the White House's strategy at this point at least the communication strategy is to let the President speak for the deal and to let the Chinese corroborate that. And it appears that there was some type of indication that that is something that came out of the Chinese government just today actually. But something that I think that I would agree with you on is that this does, in fact, cause a bit of confusion, that the clarity is not there.

But I think that anytime you have a multi -- a multi-trillion-dollar deal, a trading agreement between two of the largest -- the world's largest economies that involves a complete restructuring of the of the world supply chain, certainly the reorienting of the supply chain away from Southeast Asia to the North American continent. We're going to have a lot of secrecy. So certainly, I think you see the Commerce Department is receiving many calls from industry, you're seeing I'm sure the U.S. Trade Rep's Office receiving many concerned calls asking what the future holds for the Chinese in the United States with this trading arrangement. But I think (AUDIO GAP), still out.

We have to see what happens in these next 90 days. Certainly, we hope that the Chinese come back to the table and comply with the 142 demands that the White House has put forward. You know, because I think that the last report we saw is that they complied with all but about five or six, but that wasn't good enough to the White House so they're going to continue to just drive a hard bargain and we'll see if that bears fruit.

[01:14:56] VAUSE: You have a very optimistic take. I already do part of a report that was in Washington Post about how the President sees the stock market. Trump's aides have described the President as obsessed with the stock market's performance which he sees as a numerical validation of his personal performance. Trump spent much of late 2017 and early 2018 cheering big gains, which he claimed were stimulated by his presidency. In particular, his moves to cut taxes and roll back regulations."

OK, now the market is shifted and there is concerns about interest rates, company profits, and a whole lot of other stuff. Is the president kind of boxed in now? If he escalates his threats of the trade war with Beijing, that triggers a sell-off on the stocks. But if he eases up, Beijing kind of gets off easy a little bit, and you know, agree to the very bare minimum.

GARCIA: Yes. Well, I'll tell you why I'm optimistic in that context. And that's because the United States it really is negotiating from a position of strength. Whereas the -- was China really is starting to decline or, at least, the velocity of their growth for the GDP is slowing.

And so, I think that right now, the president is using the market as an indicator. Actually, that his threats carry weight. If the market did not respond to some of the tweets and to some of the statements the president has made, that would actually not be a good sign. It would -- it would show that the president does not carry the weight.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: And if I could just stop in very quickly. So --

GARCIA: Yes.

VAUSE: What if -- the ultimately, when you're JPMorgan and other -- you know, this big investment company telling their client, "Listen, don't follow what he says or follow his tweets, just follow what they do. Until it gets to the point when people will no longer take notice of the U.S. president. Isn't that part -- you know, possibly the outcome of all of this?

GARCIA: Well, I certainly hope not. I think that JPMorgan is trying to stay ahead of the curve on this. They certainly want to advise their clients well. They want to limit any liability that they may have as well.

So, I think that the president's statements stand for themselves. Just like any president of the United States, we should take their words at face value. But again, I think this is a distracting -- you know, some type of a flash-bang grenade if you will to try to throw the counterparts of the Chinese that is off guard. We have to keep the upper hand.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: They have their -- they have very big flash bangs that hurt all around the world. Chris, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

GARCIA: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: Police have given the all-clear after CNN's officers and studios in New York were evacuated because of a bomb threat, which was phoned in just a few hours ago. A call that claimed, five devices were planted inside the building. But a floor-by-floor sweep by police found nothing suspicious.

Well, still to come here. A glimmer of hope there's Yemen's warring factions begin peace talks, and the stakes could not be higher with the country equipped by the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Also, the U.S. Senate defies the White House that moves to punish the Saudi Crown Prince for his role in the murder of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:20:45] VAUSE: After four years of fighting, which has left tens of thousands dead and wounded. And created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, there is now a glimmer of hope for peace in Yemen.

Talks are underway in Sweden between the warring factions. The Iranian-back Houthi rebels and the Saudi-back Yemeni government. On day one, agreement was reached to swap thousands of prisoners being held by each side. The talks has several confidence-building measures intended to keep the talks moving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN GRIFFITHS, UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL ENVOY FOR YEMEN: The messages I got from both leaders of this delegation is very clear. They have said to me what we want to see happen in Sweden, I want the people in Yemen, want to see happen in Sweden is a reduction of violence.

So, a tangible difference to people's lives, of course. As if would be fair any of us (INAUDIBLE) on this in such circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: CNN's global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller is with us now from Washington. Aaron spent more than 20 years at the U.S. State Department, advising both with Democrat and Republican administrations. Aaron, thanks for taking the time to be with us.

You know, we beat and we try before. They tried to negotiate a peace deal and it always didn't work. This time though it seems that the stakes are a lot higher, especially in terms of humanitarian crisis which is playing out among the civilian population.

Also, there seems to be a lot more urgency -- a much bigger push coming from the international community. But I guess, will that be enough?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, the past year, John, is likely to be prologue, I'm afraid. There's no trust or confidence between the Houthis and the Saudi-led -- Saudi-back delegation.

You've got a fundamental conviction on both sides that have been just hang on and while longer. That somehow, they'll grab the military advantage.

And I think the momentum here is largely generated by the U.N.'s very grim prognosis that Yemen is the worst humanitarian disaster. You got 28 million people, 22 million of them require some form of assistance. 14 million are food insecure, 8 million may be on the verge of starvation and 1,200 cases of cholera are diagnose -- I'm sorry, 10,000 cases of cholera are diagnosed every month.

VAUSE: Just talking about the humanitarian crisis inside Yemen right now. Say, the children recently claimed the war is directly responsible for about 85,000 children dying from hunger. You know, the U.N. obviously believes that there is a -- this crisis that will only get worse.

More than half of population need some kind of humanitarian assistance. You know, starving the country to death may not have been the plan when the Saudi crown prince began the military offensive on the Houthi rebels. But, you know, if you look back down, and looking at the tactics which have been used, was it affect the logical outcome?

MILLER: I think it may have been more than a logical outcome, John. I think, at some point during the campaigns. 2016 and 2017, I think the Saudis decided to employ literally, economic warfare. Denying civil servants, almost a million else. Their salaries imposing severe import restrictions, and created a situation where basic medical supplies and foodstuffs don't get into the country. So, I think that in part, has generated a degree of misery.

VAUSE: Earlier this week, five aid groups on the ground working in Yemen, Issued a joint statement pretty much of the blame for the suffering of the country on the U.S. and President Trump's strong backing of Saudi Arabia.

Here's part it. "We cannot escape the truth. If it does not cease its military support for the Saudi/UAE coalition, the United States, too, will bear responsibility for what may be the largest famine in decades."

You know, 45 organizations are well known and have credibility when it comes for working places like Yemen. Is it entirely fair to blame Donald Trump for all of this? After all, the Saudis began this offensive, this military operation under -- you know, President Barack Obama when he was in the White House.

MILLER: In fact, our enabling of the Saudi air campaign began under Obama. And although that administration expressed serious concern and try to imposed certain straint. The reality is the Trump administration, for any number of reasons in part because they perceived and sort of the Saudis that the Obama administration wants to cut a deal with the Iranians, and have been to enabling.

Trump administration preempt that their support. And as we seen, they have given the Saudis across the board. Qatar, in response to the kidnapping the Lebanese Prime Minister, their oppression at home. Even in fact, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

A fair amount of latitude. I think that's an understatement. For Mohammad bin Salman, MBS, to pursue a series of impulsive and reckless policies.

I think it is fair to suggest that U.S. support for the Saudi air campaign. And we have now stopped refueling roughly 20 percent of the Saudi aircraft.

But the reality is, you could stop the entire Saudi air campaign in Yemen tomorrow. And ground Saudi Air Force by denying the maintenance Spare parts upgrades in the like. You still are not going to be able without a fundamental agreement on the part of the Saudis -- Saudi- back tiny government and the Houthis to create a new reality on the ground, which will allow this humanitarian aid groups to do what they need to do. To create regular predictable channels of assistance.

To -- again, 22 million out of 28 Yemenis who require some sort of food assistance.

[01:26:12] VAUSE: OK, Aaron, this is one of those conflicts which has gone on for years and sadly, I think, you know, what you say is accurate that this -- these peace talks have very little chance. But obviously, there is still a chance. But we'll see what happens. Aaron, thank you. Aaron David Miller, appreciate it.

MILLER: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: OK, and the U.S. could reduce its support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen if a bipartisan Senate deal moves forward. Senators say the plan is to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has details now from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With anger boiling over on Capitol Hill --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Don't chop somebody up in a consulate. That's not too much to ask.

SERFATY: Momentum is growing to go around the White House and take matters into their own hands.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Us denouncing the unbelievable behavior of a crown prince, who is out of control. It's appropriate --

SERFATY: With lawmakers moving to do what President Trump hasn't punished Saudi Arabia for the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

GRAHAM: There's common ground around stopping sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, and limiting support for the Saudi War in Yemen until Mr. Khashoggi's death is reconciled and they reformed the way they do business.

SERFATY: Huddling on Capitol Hill today, top Senators including many of the president's own Republican allies are readying plans for a response with teeth. That would withdraw the U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, suspend arms sales with the Saudi Kingdom, and rebuked the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to send a message in the wake of the Khashoggi revelations that the United States does not condone sanction and cannot turn our face away from this sort of violence. SERFATY: That message would serve as a sharp rebuke of the Trump administration's response as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis, insist there is no smoking gun, and the president still refusing to denounce the murder.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have nothing definitive. And the fact is, maybe he did, maybe didn't.

SERFATY: That stance fueling the anger of top Republicans on Capitol Hill. Today, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

CORKER: To use that as a reason that we're not going to say anything about this is just -- its un-American.

SERFATY: Meantime, the Saudi ambassador, the crown prince's brother is now back in Washington for just the second time since Khashoggi's murder. And as he resumed his duties, there are new calls from Senator Dick Durbin for him to be formally expelled.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This was an orchestrated decision by some 15 members of the Saudi Forces to go into Istanbul, to lure Khashoggi into the consulate, to kill him, and MBS, the crown prince who now leads Saudi Arabia must have been part of this.

SERFATY: And in the Senate, there are calls for CIA director Gina Haspel to come back up to Capitol Hill and brief the full Senate next time. We know next week, the House of Representatives, they will get their own briefing. Although, it's unclear at this point who from the administration will come out and give that briefing. Sunlen Serfaty, CNN, on Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, it might be the biggest reveal yet from the Russia investigation with two key filings from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller on two central figures in his investigation. Details when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:31:56] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.

Comedian Kevin Hart says he will step down from what he called opportunity of a lifetime -- hosting the Academy Awards in February. The actor made the announcement after tweets he posted from 2009 to 2011 resurfaced in which he made offensive remarks about the LGBT community. Hart eventually apologized saying his goal is now to try and bring people together.

Financial markets in Asia are actually back in positive territory or flat, as you can see there, with the Nikkei up by almost 1 percent. Hong Kong down just a bit. And Shanghai up also just by a touch.

All of this was triggered by the arrest in Canada of a Chinese executive. That sent the Dow plunging more than 780 points before gaining most of it back. Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained in Canada at the request of the United States for extradition. A Canadian court has imposed a news blackout but a bail hearing is set for Friday.

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush has been laid to rest on the grounds of his presidential library in Texas alongside wife Barbara and daughter Robin. Before his burial today a private funeral was held for him at St. Martins Episcopal Church in Houston.

Surprising new details have been revealed about what happened behind the scenes in the days before Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel in the Russia investigation.

Senior White House correspondent Pam Brown has late details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, CNN has learned in the hectic eight days after President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and top FBI officials viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in. And they discussed a range of options ultimately then acting FBI director Andrew McCabe took the extraordinary step of opening an obstruction of justice probe even before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed.

This is what several sources told us. This was an idea that the FBI had previously considered but the probe wasn't opened until after Comey was fired and before Mueller was appointed.

Now the justification went beyond Trump's firing of Comey, according to these sources, and included the President's conversations with Comey in the Oval office asking him to drop the investigation into his former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Now, sources said the FBI would only take such dramatic actions if officials suspected a crime had been committed. But we're told Rosenstein and other senior FBI officials also had deep concerns about Trump's behavior and thought he needed to be checked.

Now as they consider various options relating to the President in the hours following Comey's firing, McCabe and Rosenstein held a flurry of meetings to discuss the situation and that was when the decision was made for the FBI to open up the case into Trump.

Now the "Washington Post" was first to reference the probe pre-Mueller but the new details about the genesis of the obstruction case into Trump that became a key element of the Mueller probe sheds light on the chaotic weeks following Comey's firing and the scramble to decide how best to respond. And they also have to explain the origins of the Mueller investigation that has stretched across 19 months, consumed Trump's presidency and is building toward a dramatic day of courtroom filings Friday.

[01:35:04] We should note the source within the Justice Department strongly disputed Rosenstein sought to (INAUDIBLE) the President emphasizing that his conversations with McCabe were simply about talking through ways to conduct the investigation. The source says he never said anything like that. And a spokeswoman for McCabe did not provide comments for this story.

Pamela Brown, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Friday is shaping up as possibly a very revealing day in the Russia investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller will lay out why he believed former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has broken his plea deal by lying to investigators. And he'll file a sentence recommendation for President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen. On top of all of that, former FBI director Comey will testify on Capitol Hill.

Here's Alex Marquardt with details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT: The special counsel's office has been so good about keeping the inner working of their investigations secret. So through these documents coming out on Friday, this really could be a moment for us to get a much better sense of what is going on inside the Russia probe.

Let's first talk about Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman who struck that stunning plea deal three months ago with Bob Mueller only to now see it fall apart. This will be the main event on Friday.

The special counsel's office accusing him of breaching that agreement by repeatedly lying to those prosecutors on a whole range of issues.

So on Friday we expect the Mueller team to file a brief in court on what Manafort actually did to violate the terms of that plea deal.

We expect at least some of that filing to be public. We don't know exactly when it will come just that it has to happen before midnight here on the East Coast.

Then there is the question of the President's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who President Trump has called a weak person for flipping on him. Michael Cohen is due to be sentenced next week in New York and Mueller's office has to submit their sentencing memo by Friday afternoon in New York. This is for lying to Congress about the Trump Tower-Moscow deal. Cohen has now admitted he was updating President Trump, then-Candidate Trump about the deal far longer than he originally said, essentially saying that the President was aware of the Trump Organization's business efforts in Russia while he was running for president.

And then switching gears a little bit, there's former FBI director James Comey, famously fired by President Donald Trump early in his term. Now, as Republicans are about to lose control of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, the judiciary committee chairman has subpoenaed Comey one more time to testify about the FBI's handling of Hillary Clinton's e-mails and their Russia investigation. That will be behind closed doors.

Comey had wanted to be in public. He has said he will talk about the testimony afterwards. And we're expecting a transcript.

So it will be a big day on multiple fronts, one that will hopefully give us a better idea of where things stand across the Russia probe.

Alex Marquardt, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well for more, let's head to Washington and David Katz, the former assistant U.S. attorney for Los Angeles. He was appointed by the Reagan administration. David -- good to see you.

DAVID KATZ, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Great to be with you.

VAUSE: Ok. This could be freak-out Friday for the White House especially when it comes to the sentence documents for Michael Cohen which could reveal details of hush money paid to silence, you know, a couple of women who are alleging extramarital affairs with Donald Trump. And also how far Donald Trump was willing to go to conceal plans for that Trump Tower in Moscow.

But there an asterisk with this -- the sentence memo which was filed earlier this week for Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor was heavily redacted which seems to suggest that if Mueller makes it public, it is not sensitive; if it's sensitive, Mueller won't make it public.

KATZ: Well, I think there's a lot of validity to what you say. There's going to be really a deluge tomorrow. This is the day that people need to have their score card because Mueller is going to have to explain to a federal court why Manafort is in breach.

And we're going to find out whether the breach had to do with the conspiracy or collusion investigation. And if it did, of course, then we're going to know in what respects Manafort allegedly lied and what the alternative evidence is. What is the evidence against what Manafort is saying?

Because, you know, when I was a federal prosecutor, now I'm a defense attorney, the prosecutors always keep some things in their pocket. And when they have these proffer sessions, they know what your answer to be to 20 questions. If you lie on those 20 questions, which is what they're alleging about Manafort, that's a heap of trouble for Manafort. So I think it is going to be explained to a federal judge and not be good.

And then in addition on the score care, as you say, they're going to have to take a position up in the southern district of New York, what they're going to do with Michael Cohen. What sentence the government believes is appropriate for Michael Cohen.

[01:39:43] On top of all of that, you have the testimony, unfortunately it has to be given in private but the deal that former FBI director Comey has with the House lame duck Republicans in this last gasp of the House lame duck Republicans is that Comey will be able to talk about it and a transcript is supposedly going to be released within 24 hours. So we'll know what Comey had to say and what the Republicans are hammering him about as of Saturday.

VAUSE: You know, let's get back to the memo that was filed for Flynn by Robert Mueller. It details his exceptional cooperation with the special counsel's office, included what -- 17 interview which led to a recommendation for no prison time.

Cohen was questioned by the FBI for 70 hours, this is Michael Cohen. Here's part of an op-ed from a conservative commentator Judge Napolitano of Fox News. "Whatever he told them" -- this is Cohen -- "and they were able to cooperate, they caused his prison exposure to be reduced from somewhere between 15 and 60 years to six months. Such a reduction requires a substantial quid pro quo. What was it?"

VAUSE: Ok. So what was it? What would Cohen have had to give up? What sort of type pf evidence will he have given over to get that sort of deal?

KATZ: Well, we already know a lot of things that Cohen has said. Michael Cohen, the President's former private lawyer has now pled guilty in two separate proceedings -- one of them was regarding Stormy Daniels and the payoffs that were made to various women right before the 2016 presidential election.\

And Michael Cohen said that he acted at the direction of Trump and that he did it as a campaign violation. In other words, not to keep it from Trump's wife and family but to effect the election and to basically pay hush money to affect the President's election at the President's direction.

Now Cohen has just pled guilty again and admitted that whereas he told the FBI that the investigation -- I'm sorry, that the investment in Trump Tower-Moscow was not being pursued, than in fact it was being pursued. And I imagine that he's also said that Trump knew that.

And that when Trump put his hands up in the air and said Russia I had nothing to do with Russia, I'm not doing anything in Russian when he said that in 2016 during the campaign, it was not true at the time and that in fact a lot was being done in Russia. And they just lost the deal.

That was the deal where Putin was supposedly going to be given a $50 million penthouse in to-be-built Trump-Moscow.

VAUSE: Ok. I just want to finish up with this report we have from "The Atlantic" which talks about, you know, the White House response here to the Mueller report ultimately. You know, whenever it comes, it is coming, the question is when. "The Atlantic" quotes that a recently departed official from the White House as well as others say basically there is no plan in place to respond to the Mueller report.

Here's part of it. "We would always put together plans with the knowledge that he wouldn't use them or they go off the rails" -- he being the President. "And at this point with Mueller they've decided they're not even going to do that. it is like 'Jesus, take the wheel' the source added, 'but scarier'."

I'm just wondering, is that a sign that this White House sees maybe the Mueller report more of a political problem than a legal one? What do you make of that?

KATZ: Well, I think the Mueller report is going to be a very serious legal as well as political problem. You know, what happened with President Nixon is that he was never going to have to leave office until all of the sudden oops, the evidence came out, the world could see it and the Republicans in the Senate were prepared to vote against him if it came to an impeachment trial in the Senate. And when Nixon realized he didn't have support even among the Republicans that was when Nixon had to resign.

Things could get to that point with Trump and where there's really not very much that to be said in contradiction. If you started to think of every bad thing that Michael Cohen could say and that he could corroborate with other evidence, maybe he has tapes, maybe he has contemporaneous memos.

Maybe he has other people who are so scared of state charges that they're willing to tell the truth about what happened and there's no way that Trump could pardon any of those people because they're facing state charges.

Then you imagine Flynn breaking bad against the President and saying that all of these things were done with the connivance of the President -- both as a campaign and for that first month that Flynn was in office as the NSC chief in our government.

If you imagine all of those things breaking bad and some other witnesses coming forward and the prospect of charges against Donald Trump Jr., against Kushner maybe, against people that Trump holds near and dear, there's the basis for a deal. There's a basis for a deal where Trump would try to save other people and himself but he would relinquish office.

VAUSE: Ok. David -- yes, some interesting times ahead, especially for occupant of the White House right now. David Katz -- appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

KATZ: My pleasure.

VAUSE: President Trump is expected to announce his choice for the U.N. Ambassador on Friday. Sources tell CNN Heather Nauert who right now is spokeswoman for the State Department is the frontrunner. To most Americans she's probably better known from her time as a host on Fox News.

[01:45:00] The ambassador's position at the U.N. requires Senate confirmation. And apart from her time at the State Department, Nauert has no diplomatic or foreign policy experience.

Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM, to Brexit or not to Brexit -- why Brexit is seen as a threat to some in Belfast and an opportunity for others.

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VAUSE: Almost 90,000 troops are being deployed across France ahead of more expected protests. The show of force is intended to prevent a repeat of the violence seen in Paris last weekend when cars were torched, special monuments vandalized and dozens were injured during clashes with police.

Protesters have been demanding economic reform for weeks and on Tuesday, the government announced a planned tax hike on diesel fuel would be postponed. And with that concessions, French authorities say those who continue to protest are now just troublemakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDOUARD PHILIPPE, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We're facing people who are not here to protest but to smash. We want to have the means to not give them a free rein.

We have mobilized a considerable amount of forces -- 8,000 in Paris which is much more than last Saturday and in total for France. Not 65,000 as announced earlier but 89,000. So it's truly an exceptional mobilization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The Eiffel Tower and other famous landmarks will close ahead of the weekend protests.

Now, to the U.K. where Prime Minister Theresa May received a much needed boost for her Brexit plan that came from Britain's finance minister. Many lawmakers opposed the deal she brokered with European leaders but the finance minister told parliament it's just not realistic to renegotiate. And he pressured the MPs to approve her plan when they vote next week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILIP HAMMOND, BRITISH FINANCE MINISTER: Mr. Speaker -- I have observed this process at close quarters for two and a half years. And I'm absolutely clear about one thing. This deal is the best deal to exit the E.U. that is available or that is going to be available.

The idea that there is an option of renegotiating at the 11th hour is simply a delusion. We need to be honest with ourselves, the alternatives to this are no deal or no Brexit.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: How to maintain trade between the E.U. and Northern Ireland once the U.K. leaves the European Union has been one of those difficult questions here to resolve.

As CNN's Erin McLaughlin reports from Belfast all the proposed solutions so far have left many just confused about what the future will look like.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[01:50:05] ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Belfast is a city that knows division. And when it comes to Brexit, there are new fissures over Theresa May's deal that many say they're more confused than anything else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like I understood that at the start of Brexit thing but now I just don't understand what is happening anymore. So, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand somewhat but not at all. And I think the part that they don't understand as much either. So I say it's very difficult for some of (INAUDIBLE).

MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't that concerning?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am concerned, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Belfast --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's concerning. We don't know where we're going. We don't know what the future will hold.

MCLAUGHLIN: Then there are those with a more definitive view. They say the controversial backstop drafted to prevent the return of a hard border means weakening the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like keeping us more in the E.U. than with Britain.

MCLAUGHLIN: And that bothers you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It does.

MCLAUGHLIN: Why.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because we're British, we're not Irish.

MCLAUGHLIN: The Democratic Unionist Party feels the same. The DUP holds the keys to Theresa May's minority government who vows to vote down here deal next week. NIGEL DODDS, DEPUTY LEADER, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY: Northern

Ireland will treat Great Britain as a third country. How could we possibly stand here and recommend this deal?

MCLAUGHLIN: But where the DUP sees a threat, brewer Niall McMullan sees opportunity. If activated, the backstop means Northern Irish businesses will be able to trade both in the E.U. and the U.K. friction-free.

NIALL MCMULLAN, BREWER: I just think we could actually benefit from inward investment, you know, being in this unique situation where we can play with both markets.

MCLAUGHLIN: So it must be surreal to see arguing against the backstop that you see as a potential opportunity.

MCMULLAND: Ye. It doesn't really make an awful lot of sense to me.

MCLAUGHLIN: The city of Belfast has known relative peace for the past 20 years. With Brexit there's newfound uncertainty and plenty of confusion.

Erin McLaughlin, CNN -- Belfast.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: And with that we'll take a short break here. You're watching CNN. We'll be back in just a moment.

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VAUSE: Award season is officially under way in Hollywood with Thursday's nominations for the Golden Globes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The presidency is a mostly symbolic job. However, if we came to a -- different understanding I can handle more mundane jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: "Vice", the dark satire about former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney starring Christian Bale was nominated for best musical or comedy as well as five other categories. The most of any film this year.

"A Star is Born" with Lady Gaga will compete in the best drama category. It's up for five Globes along with "The Favorite" and "Greenbook".

The Golden Globes will be awarded January 6th.

Well, it's being called a quackarazzi, a slippery duck in New York Central Park has been grabbing the attention of hundreds of locals as well as tourist. CNN' Jeanne Moos, has the story of the magnetic mandarin duck.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[01:54:57] JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is the duck that all other ducks revolve around, a flaming star, the mandarin duck of Central Park. Ever since he parked himself here about two months ago, his celebrity has taken flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's beautiful.

MOOS: Out-of-towners flock to see him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's for the duck, pay $50 to park.

MOOS: New Yorkers can't believe he's real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks fake, honestly. Like am I being punked?

MOOS: Regulars gave him names.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Mandy -- go ahead.

MOOS: Mandy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I call him Mandy.

MOOS: Others have dubbed him Mandarin Patinkin after the actor. He's also known as the most eligible bachelor in New York. Mandarin ducks are native to east Asia, not North America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's got two leg bands, so he came from somewhere, he belonged to somebody.

MOOS: The going theory is that Mandy escaped from someone's collection of exotic birds or someone dumped him here. His photo has made it all the way back to China in the "People's Daily".

He's on t-shirts. He's even inspired imitators like mandarin dogs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the talk of the town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is almost a Picasso painting.

MOOS: Mandy the duck is catnip for the quackarazzi; photographers are always training their lenses on him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was trying to get some action shots and it got some it flying.

MOOS: Urban rangers keep an eye on him to make sure onlookers are --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Respecting the duck.

MOOS: Sure over the weeks his reputation has taken a hit. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enchanting mandarin duck in Central Park turned

out to be a mallard nipping jerk.

MOOS: We did see him repeatedly chasing other ducks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he looks nasty. He's like attacking them. That's not fair.

UF: No, no. The mandarin is just sitting there, doing nothing.

MOOS: A case of mistaken identity or perhaps Mandy is defending himself from underwater sneak attacks like this one.

A birder told the "New York Times" he's the Kim Kardashian of ducks. We tried to lure him -- Mandy -- with his namesake song.

But it drove him back into the pond. Guess he wanted to duck Barry Manilow.

Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, it's good when you can finish with Barry.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. A lot more news after a very short break.

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