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Yellow Vest Protests in France; Jared Kushner Advised MBS after Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed; U.S. Lawmakers Release Comey Interview Transcript; U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May Warns of "Uncharted Waters" ahead of Key Vote; Global Efforts to Slow Climate Change. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired December 9, 2018 - 03:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Containing the violence: a massive security deployment in France keeps Yellow Vest protesters in check.

What does the president do now?

We'll be in Paris in a moment.

Back in the spotlight: fired FBI director James Comey is grilled by lawmakers. What he said behind closed doors.

And the cost of leaving the European Union. Why the appetite for Brexit may hurt the humble sandwich.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier, it is great to have you with us.

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VANIER: Four straight weekends of massive protests across France and the Yellow Vest movement isn't fading. That was evident on Saturday, as thousands marched in several cities. You're watching pictures of Paris.

They are furious at the French president's economic policies. Many are demanding his resignation. Protesters in the French capital clashed with police, who used tear gas and water cannons to control the crowds. CNN's Melissa Bell is live in Paris.

Yesterday was a big test for the government.

Would they be able to contain -- avoid the kind of violence we saw the previous week?

How did it go?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quite right, a test for the French authorities. A test also for the Yellow Vest movement. Was it going to manage to keep up that momentum that had been building

for the last four Saturdays, even though the government had climbed down on what had been the spark of all this?

Back on November 17th, you remember, that hike in the fuel duty. Apparently in terms of numbers, the answer to that on the side of the Yellow Vests is yes; 136,000 protesters nationwide. That is the same figure as the Saturday before.

Crucial numbers we were looking at. On the side of the French authorities, they did manage to contain the violence here in Paris. It was less violent clearly than it had been the Saturday before.

And you need only really look at the numbers to understand why. Last Saturday, Cyril, 600 people were arrested; yesterday, 1,200. Given the similar numbers of protesters, it shows the change in tactics on the part of the police. There were 8,000 security personnel deployed on the streets of the French capital yesterday.

And a much more aggressive approach of taking out protesters they believed were likely to cause the violence. There was some violence; there were cars torched, several skirmishes during the course of the day. But clearly the French government has a little breathing space, perhaps more than before yesterday's protests.

VANIER: What do they do now?

The government manages to avoid, with the way they handled this Saturday, they avoid some of the terrible headlines from the previous weekend, some of the worst parts of the violence. They are still left with a political crisis on their hands.

What does Emmanuel Macron do?

BELL: Emmanuel Macron, who's been criticized by the protesters throughout this for being remarkably silent what we saw last week was very much his prime minister, Edouard Philippe, put on the front line. He was the one announcing changes to the controversial measures. He was the one putting out the government's message.

On Monday, we're going to hear from the French president himself. He's due to make an address to the French people. I think then we will know more about what the government's already suggesting might be some measures to try and help those least well off.

The French prime minister met with Yellow Vest leaders on Friday and it is in answer to what their specific demands were, beyond the withdrawal of this controversial fuel tax hike, now withdrawn. It is now a movement much more about the cost of living, the fact that so many people have trouble making ends meet.

With a lot of that anger we saw on the street again yesterday, directed at the French president, he's going to have to find the words, the tone and no doubt the policy changes when he speaks tomorrow to put this movement to an end.

VANIER: Melissa Bell reporting live from Paris, thank you very much.

I want to address this with journalist Christina Ockrent who joins me from the French capital.

What does the president have to say on Monday night when he addresses the nation?

CHRISTINE OCKRENT, JOURNALIST: He will first have to say, obviously, that he understands the anger. And that he is open to the idea that, obviously, as the legitimate democratically elected president, he needs to address the needs of everybody. The difficulty, of course, is --

[03:05:00]

OCKRENT: -- what can he offer in terms of concrete measures?

Because, don't be mistaken, that movement, the Yellow Vests, is very diverse.

On the one hand, you have well-meaning people, who really say, OK, I work hard, I'm anxious because I feel my comfortable living is sliding and I'm concerned about my kids.

You also have the whole margin of people who come just for violence, hooligans, who come to loot and to hit the cops. You also have the usual suspects. There's a great deal of agitation on the Web. This is the first huge demonstration organized on the Internet.

What you find on the Internet, all sorts of players, who have very, very little to do, frankly, with the concerns of people in the French province.

So there's a very interesting piece in the "Times of London," so it's not even a French newspaper, hitting at Mr. Steve Bannon, who happens to be in Brussels, rejoicing over the mess and hitting also at some -- the usual, now, unfortunately, Russian or otherwise sent away (ph) that might be at work.

This is marginal but it's important in terms of agitating, stirring up, if you will, the anger of the people.

So to get back to Macron tomorrow night, he will have, on one hand, to say, OK, maybe I've gone too fast, maybe I have put forward a series of reforms that I believe the country needs. But now we will slow down and we will take care of you because you are my compatriots and I care about you.

There's a great deal of emotion that Emmanuel Macron needs to convey whenever he speaks.

VANIER: What's at stake here for him?

It seems to me that every French president who, at some point or another, has wanted to implement reforms in France, touch the welfare state or touch the economy or touch labor laws, at some point they trigger anger in the population. And then they're left with these kinds of protests that they have to handle.

Some of them have been successful; others have seen their governments fail on account of that.

What is at stake for Mr. Macron?

OCKRENT: Well, what is at stake for Macron is precisely what he campaigned against two years ago. He said, I will not be the one to turn back. I will be the one to proceed with the structural reforms the country actually needs.

And you're right; this has to do with the huge difficulty of making any kind of reforms in France, where there's a tradition of taking to the streets. And, again, the numbers this time around are far less than what used to happen a few years ago against previous governments.

What is new is the violence. What is new, again, is the Internet dimension, which means that all these people now, they don't want to hear about political parties, they don't want to hear about trade unions as the necessary go-between in any of our democracies. They want to address directly to the president.

And that will be, again, Macron's challenge tomorrow. He will have to find an answer, which every one of these people, the goodwill people, will have to feel that the president is actually talking to him or to her.

VANIER: Christina Ockrent, thank you so much for joining us today. As you say, the next chapter in this story will be Monday evening local time in France, as the president addresses the nation and tries to put a lid on this. Thank you very much.

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly has been getting private advice from President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

According to "The New York Times," Kushner, who is also the U.S. president's senior adviser, in recent weeks has counseled bin Salman on how to weather the storm of international outrage as gruesome details about the killing began to emerge.

The Saudis deny the crown prince played any role in Khashoggi's murder but last week U.S. senators came out with a classified CIA briefing convinced that the crown prince was indeed behind it.

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VANIER: CNN's Ana Cabrera spoke with one of the reporters who broke the Kushner story.

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MARK MAZZETTI, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Since Khashoggi's killing, we report that he's continued these messaging conversations with Mohammed bin Salman. Some of the advice he's given is unclear. But it's our understanding that he has been advising him to settle

some of his problems in the region, within the kingdom, avoiding mistakes that -- clearly, the killing of Khashoggi was more than a mistake -- but he sees MBS as someone who is the future and, I think, an important ally of the United States.

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VANIER: The reported one-on-one conversations and text messages between Kushner and the crown prince were in apparent disregard of White House protocols that require a member of the national security staff to be included in any communications with foreign officials.

The White House did not respond to CNN's request for comment but a spokesman told "The New York Times" this.

"Jared has always meticulously followed protocols and guidelines regarding the relationship with Mohammed bin Salman and all of the other foreign officials with whom he interacts."

The Saudis have offered varied and sometimes contradictory accounts of the Khashoggi killing from the day the journalist disappeared. First, they denied that he was even missing. And only much later did they admit he was dead, supposedly killed by rogue operatives.

The White House and the U.S. State Department say the U.S. has not reached a conclusion; however, just last month the CIA assessed Khashoggi's murder was personally ordered by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The White House will soon have another job opening. Chief of staff John Kelly will leave his post at the end of the year. Kelly first worked for Donald Trump as secretary of Homeland Security, then became his chief of staff. That move was meant to add some discipline to the White House.

But Kelly's relationship with the president steadily deteriorated. And Mr. Trump thanked Kelly on Saturday.

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TRUMP: John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year, we'll be announcing who will be taking John's place. It might be on an interim basis. I'll be announcing that over the next day or two. But John will be leaving at the end of the year.

He's been with me almost two years now, as you know, between the two positions. So we're probably going to see him in a little while.

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VANIER: U.S. House Republicans have released a transcript of what lawmakers describe as a tense closed-door interview with former FBI director James Comey. Among other things, he was questioned about how he handled investigations involving President Trump. CNN's Laura Jarrett has the details. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In over six hours of testimony, the former FBI director went over familiar territory about the beginnings of the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying he bet his life the special counsel Robert Mueller is handling it the right way and suggesting you'd have to almost fire everyone in the FBI and the Justice Department to derail the relevant investigations at this point.

But Comey also fact checked the president on this claim that he is somehow best friends with Robert Mueller saying, quote, "I have never hugged or kissed the man," and, quote, "I admire the heck out of the man but I don't know his phone number, I've never been to his house, I don't know his children's names."

While Comey's testimony did not shed new light about his views on whether the president obstructed justice in his firing last year, the testimony from another senior official at the FBI, former general counsel James Baker, described how those at the highest level of the FBI were seriously concerned about Comey's firing.

Finally, Comey was also asked to weigh in on Bill Barr, President Trump's pick for the next attorney general.

And he said he thinks very highly of him, joking that, quote, "I probably just damned him by saying he's a friend of mine. But I respect him and I think he's certainly fit to be attorney general" -- Laura Jarrett, CNN, Washington.

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VANIER: We're joined now by political analyst Peter Mathews, professor of political science at Cypress College.

Peter, good to have you back on the show.

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VANIER: Republicans wanted to grill Comey, they've wanted to talk to him for a long time, because they are convinced that the FBI was biased against Trump during and possibly after the presidential campaign.

Did we find out anything to support that theory?

PETER MATHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Well, certainly the way they went after Comey for not investigating Hillary's e-mails once again, they're harping on the same thing. And it's becoming old news and old hat. The fact is that Comey warned us that we should not become numb to the rule of law principle and overlook that. That's what it's all about.

And the Republicans are still not accepting the fact that the investigation has to continue with Mr. Mueller. They're trying to use Comey as a foil to undermine Mr. Mueller himself and the investigation he's been conducting right now.

VANIER: He's agreed --

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VANIER: -- to a second hearing. I believe that's December 17th; same thing, a private setting. But he's then allowed to give a press conference and they're allowed to publish the minutes of the -- the verbatim of the meeting.

I want to review a couple of things with you.

What do you think of John Kelly's impending departure?

MATHEWS: We thought maybe it would be a couple of years from now but we knew that they didn't get along very well because, first of all, Mr. Kelly was brought in just a year and a half ago to make sure the White House, the West Wing, would be more organized, more methodical that not everyone can just walk into the president's office whenever they wanted.

But instead it would be all organized very well. But Mr. Trump's style is very different. He couldn't accept that. He's much more free-flowing and spontaneous. It was a clash of personalities in form but also on certain substantive matters as well.

Don't forget that the Department of Homeland Security head was brought up there by Mr. -- was a mentor of Mr. Kelly and she's been attacked by Trump many times, Kirstjen Nielsen. So there's a lot of internal struggles going on between the two and I'm not surprised it would happen actually.

VANIER: So Kelly was once credited with bringing more order to the White House, right, after the ouster of Reince Priebus.

MATHEWS: Yes, for a little while.

VANIER: Does that mean that we should expect more disorder after he leaves?

MATHEWS: We have the same president, don't we?

It's very possible it will continue. Depends who takes his place. If this young man, the vice president's chief of staff, comes in and takes over, if that works, he's more political. I think Mr. Trump wants to be sure that they're ready for the next election.

He wants the White House chief of staff to be a political person, knows strategy, knows how to win elections, not just be an organizer like General Kelly was. That may be why he's trying to switch people right now.

VANIER: I want to pivot to the Russia investigation, to the latest Mueller court filing. On Friday special counsel Bob Mueller filed a court document, in which he described Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, had been contacted by a Russian national. This was back in November 2015, just before the campaign really heated up.

And I want to read to you a part of that filing.

"Cohen received the contact information for and spoke with a Russian national who claimed to be a trusted person in Russia who could offer the Trump campaign, quote, 'political synergy,' synergy on a government level."

How do you read that?

MATHEWS: Very indictable in the sense of, you look at this, that the whole conspiracy could have been occurring at the deepest levels here because Cohen actually was conducting business and negotiating for Trump about Trump Tower in Russia six months later than what he said originally he was doing.

He lied under -- he lied to the investigators about that just to cover for Trump. That's very egregious and it can have tremendous implications right now, especially if President Trump was about to win the nomination. He was doing all this business with Russia at the same time. Complete conflict of interest, very possibly.

That's what's going on right now. I think it's very detrimental and I think Mr. Mueller's on to something really big.

VANIER: The contact was also saying it would help Mr. Trump's political campaign but it could also help his business interests. Now we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that Michael Cohen didn't follow up on that offer of a contact with this Russian national.

All right, Peter Mathews, thank you so much for joining us.

MATHEWS: My pleasure, thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: The Brexit battle could turn into a food fight for British sandwich lovers. Why they might want to get used to Cheddar -- coming up.

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VANIER: Theresa May's leadership could be on the line as Parliament gets ready to vote on her Brexit plan. The British prime minister spoke to "The Mail" on Sunday ahead of Tuesday's vote. She said if her plan doesn't pass, the U.K. will be in uncharted waters.

That could mean no orderly Brexit, an election and Labour's Jeremy Corbyn could become prime minister.

Despite her warnings the Parliament's E.U. exit committee isn't bullish on her plan. Its chair calls the proposal a huge step into the unknown.

Brexit is really giving the British something to chew on, the likely rising cost of sandwiches. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is digging into the story from London.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, sir.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Britain sandwich lovers, 4 billion sandwiches a year, an industry that wakes up every morning with fresh sandwiches ready to go, now an alarm is ringing. Sandwich shop owners coming to grips with a new reality: the cost of the future Brexit.

GEORGE PILOTO, BONNE BOUCHE: Everything is going to be taxed and, at the end of the day, we are going to pay for that. We're going to make less profit. Customers are going to pay more for a sandwich and that is no good for all of us, you know.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Uncertainty now rattling both the sandwich industry and perhaps a way of life. Sandwich lovers may, for the first time, begin thinking the unthinkable.

JIM WINSHIP, BRITISH SANDWICH ASSOCIATION. We're used to in this country having very fresh products at hand. So products like lettuce don't have a long shelf life. And it doesn't take very much for them to be messed up by being delayed at ports and things.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Wholesalers, the lifeline that brings fresh products into the U.K., are facing their own season of discontent.

CHRIS HUTCHINSON, NEW SPITALFIELDS MARKET VENDOR: This certainly won't be as easy as it is now. There will be barriers, there will be borders, there will be extra paperwork. There's possibly going to be extra costs.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Britain imports 80 percent of its tomatoes when they're out of season, mostly from Spain and the Netherlands, arriving in record time. Lettuce, 40 percent imported from the E.U., mostly from Spain, delivered fresh daily. Britain produces almost enough English Cheddar cheese for its needs at 80 percent.

Most imports coming from the E.U. because of low tariffs creating a booming business for cheese lovers like Patricia Michelson.

PATRICIA MICHELSON, OWNER, LA FROMAGERIE: Thanks for coming in.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Her store, La Fromagerie, boasting 283 varieties of cheese. After Brexit, cheese from the E.U. could become exotic and very expensive. Now she wrestles with her passion and the need to be pragmatic.

MICHELSON: You know, I love everything I'm bringing in and I love everything I get from England, too. If I have to cut it down a bit, I'll have to cut it down a bit.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): Anxiety among retailers mirrors the political debate full of division. A family-run business depending on British ingredients for four generations since are worried about a Brexit storm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It won't really affect us, Brexit, at all. It's just not something we're worried about.

MCLAUGHLIN: But as expected, with British resolve, there's no appetite for too much fuss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll do what I have to do to keep on having my sandwich, that's for sure.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): There are those who are in fighting mode when it comes to defending the Brexit sandwich.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think our British farmers will rise to the occasion. Our European friends will still want to trade with us, we'll still get our tomatoes from Italy and Spain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The French, the Dutch and the Spanish aren't going to want their stuff sitting on the docks on the other side for too long, either. So they'll still keep sending it and we still will still keep having sandwiches.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): In the face of so much uncertainty, British spirit is resolute. It's keep calm and enjoy your sandwich -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.

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VANIER: 1.5 degrees Celsius: remember that number. If the Earth's average temperature rises any more than that, the results could be disastrous. Nations gathering in Poland are working to keep global warming under 2 degrees. But experts warn that that target may not be even ambitious enough.

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VANIER: Above 1.5 degrees over preindustrial levels, the impact of climate change grows exponentially.

CNN is exploring the consequences of past inaction and how what comes next could be much worse if warming doesn't stop at that critical threshold. In the next part of our 1.5 series, CNN investigates a key and often overlooked cause of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh traveled to the world's capital of beef.

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NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What do you eat and what does it cost you?

The planet, your children's future.

How does it affect our struggle to limit global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius?

Texas is the beef capital of America, the world. Meat was once a luxury but now it's at the core of life here. It's a tribal symbol. Meet Bevo the steer, the mascot.

The grill out: burger, sausage, steak, ribs. Excess is the point.

This amphitheater of teenage dreams closed now, but it's for a generation who may see these excesses, these heights of everything being everywhere and cheap, end in their lifetime.

WALSH: Think about it this way, half a pound of beef causes as much greenhouse gas to be emitted as driving 55 of these cars for one mile.

WALSH (voice-over): If mankind were on this planet for the length of this football game, it would have this much time left of the game to fix it.

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VANIER: Watch Nick Paton Walsh's full report starting Sunday at 11:00 pm in London, Monday at 7:00 am in Hong Kong, only here on CNN.

As we prepare to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to the new year, we're also saying hello to a new color. The Pantone Color Institute has declared Living Coral as the color of the year for 2019, because, just like real coral, it represents vibrance and comfort amid an ever- changing environment.

Pantone predicts global color trends each year based on patterns in lifestyle, technology and culture. They say, for 2019, it was important to choose a color that could be found in both the natural and digital worlds.

That's it from me this hour. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll have the headlines for you in just a moment. Stay with us.