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Senate Passes Bill Restricting U.S. Involvement in Saudi-Led Yemen War; Exhausted Families Demand End to War in Yemen as Situation Worsens; Strasbourg Attack Suspect Killed by Police; Melania Trump's Favorability Plummets; Panel Advises Arming Teachers After 17 Killed at Florida School; Gun Deaths Reach Highest Level in Nearly 40 Years. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 13, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT -- handling of the Saudi Arabia issue. The fallout of the Jamal Khashoggi murder and the President's decision to side with the Crown Prince, all leading to this major rebuke of the Trump administration's handling of that fallout and relations with Saudi Arabia by a 56-41 vote. Just moments ago, the Senate voted to pull back U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Immediately after also taking a significant action formally placing the blame on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi on the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. That was adopted by voice vote. It was supported by leaders of both parties including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is the co-sponsor of that measure. It was approved with no opposition. And that is a significant measure because it will also go to the House. And if the House were to act on that, were to pass this measure condemning the Crown Prince, then the President -- it will be sent to his desk. And he will have to make a decision. Does he sign it and side with the United States Congress or does he veto it and side with the Saudis, as he did in the aftermath of the Khashoggi murder.

Now, it's unclear what the House Republicans which has a couple of weeks left in power, whether they'll take up that resolution condemning the Crown Prince. The speaker's office just told me moments ago that the House is out until Wednesday of next week and they told me when we have a decision to make, we'll let you know about the schedule. So, they are being noncommittal, Paul Ryan is being noncommittal about taking this up and the House Republicans leaders have blocked moving forward on that Yemen resolution. So, it's uncertain whether or not Congress will act with one voice.

But at the moment at least the Senate overwhelmingly taking steps to express their displeasure about the President's handling of the Saudi Arabia situation, what's going on in Yemen and the decision by the Trump administration to align itself with kingdom in the aftermath of the murder of that journalist -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Manu, thank you. And speaking of Yemen, you know, any sort of peace in Yemen will come too late for so many living this daily nightmare that is life there. The horrors of war sparing neither the young nor the old. And the story you're about to see is difficult to watch but needs to be seen. An entire family from a one-month-old party to a 64-year-old grandfather is either dead, dying or injured. Any sort of promised to cease-fire a distant dream. We're about to show you the scenes that may be graphic and disturbing to some young viewers. The footage captured by a Houthi rebel backed group and obtained by CNN. Provides a rare glimpse into this strategic port city that is at the epicenter of Yemen's civil war. And CNN senior international correspondent, Nima Elbagir, tells this family story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An ambulance screeches up to one of the few remaining hospitals in Hodeidah. What we're about to show you is incredibly difficult to watch.

In the jumble of bodies, a boy in yellow, searching for his mother. She's dead. Little bodies are carried in, draped in blood-soaked cloths. Everywhere, shock and blood and death. This man searching for his wife. He finds instead the body of his 3-year-old sister. That is too much to take in. My wife, he asks? In surgery. The baby is fine. A glimmer of hope but all too quickly lost. My mother? She's dead.

Even as the peace talks continued in Sweden between Yemen's warring parties the U.S. backed Saudi-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels, so too did the violence on the ground. This footage was sent to CNN by the Houthi rebel backed Ansurallah Media.

Eyewitnesses tell CNN the members of this family were killed during an artillery strike under coalition air cover, a charge the coalition denies. Saying the Houthis continue to target civilians in Hodeidah. This is just a glimpse into what it is like almost every night in this besieged city.

In spite of U.S. government promises in October, to deliver cease fire within 30 days, that month has long since passed. Much of what was filmed here, so graphic, we're not going to show it in full.

Outside, two little lifeless bodies, side by side, waiting for loved ones to claim them.

[15:35:00] This man lists a litany of loss, his daughter and her son, his other daughter and her husband. It's too much. Inside, the boy in yellow finally finds his sister, as he comforts her. Other children are carried out, there's just no more room at this hospital. Outside, his grandmother begins to wail and he attempts to comfort her. It's all too much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: And Nima is with me now. In the aftermath of the attack, has the coalition responded?

ELBAGIR: It has. I just want to be clear that we verified what you saw in that report with eyewitnesses on the ground and we made that clear to the coalition. They told us, though, that they deny any -- they deny any involvement with the attack that you saw the aftermath of there. They say it is widely recognized that Houthi militias are using artillery and other weapons against civilians in Hodeida and cities around Yemen -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: The port city there that you featured is considered this lifeline. It's where 70 percent of foreign humanitarian aid comes into the country. How crucial is this fragile cease-fire that was just agreed to?

ELBAGIR: Incredibly, incredibly crucial. And we have to be clear, it is a glimmer of hope. But we shouldn't presume that now people's lives have changed. People's reality on the ground has not changed and will not change for weeks. That's how long it's going to take for the withdrawal from Hodeida. And even this cease-fire is limited to those specific cities. There is no block on aerial bombardment which has killed many of the 60,000 Yemenis that have died since January 2016. There is no block on the Saudi led coalition aerial bombardment across sways of this country.

So many of the people that we're speaking to on the ground, Brooke, say that their hope is still with the Senate, with U.S. lawmakers. They believe it is U.S. pressure and international pressure but specifically U.S. pressure that has brought the Saudi-led coalition and the governor that it supports to this place and they're hoping, they're desperate that that pressure should continue.

BALDWIN: Nima Elbagir, keep shedding light on these stories, please. Thanks very much for sharing this one.

We have more on our other big story today. The President of the United States changing his story again on hush money payments and he's lashing out on his former fixer who was just sentenced to three years behind bars. And we're asking the question today, can a sitting president be indicted? A top Democrat said the Department of Justice should reexamine that in the wake of what's happening. We'll be right back.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: We're getting some break being news out of France where the suspected gunman who killed three people at that Christmas market in Strasbourg Tuesday, has now been killed. This is according to members of the French media. Our senior CNN international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is up live for us in Paris with the details. Ben, what do you know?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know is that within the last hour that Cherif Chekkat, this individual who is believed to be the gunman who killed at least three people at this market in Strasbourg has been killed. Initially French media were reporting he was neutralized. Now they're much more explicit, saying he was killed very near to Neudorf, which is the neighborhood where he grew up in, in the southern part of Strasbourg. This ends what was a massive manhunt involving security forces in France, Switzerland and Germany as well -- Brooke. BALDWIN: Ben Wedeman, thank you for the update there in France.

Still ahead here, after months and months of high marks, the first lady's favorability dropping dramatically. Why is that? We'll discuss. And Melania Trump reveals what she says is the hardest part of being first lady.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: New today, the first lady's favorable ratings plummeted by double digits. Here are the numbers. You can see them for yourself. A bran new CNN poll finding Melania Trump's favorability rating dipping to 43 percent. It's a big drop from just two months ago. Today she did make a stop at the Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. Her visit continues a tradition of every first lady since Bess Truman more than 60 years ago. CNN White House reporter, Kate Bennett, is with me now. And Kate, so the favorability numbers are down. Why?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Significantly. You know, it's interesting, Brooke, the fast few weeks, maybe the past few months, since really October after her return from the Africa trip, we've heard a lot more from the first lady. She's been more vocal. She's been more defense. She's been fighting back a bit more and she's been really a lot more supportive of her husband both in interviews, on Twitter and in different ways involved more so than she was.

And I think quite frankly, what this poll shows is that her relative silence, really in the majority of her tenure, her privacy, her not speaking to certain events, led people to write their own narrative about her. And some of them preferred to sort of think of her as may be signaling resistance for trapped, or some free Melania scenario. And what they're learning very much now that she's being more outspoken is her true personality. Which is a lot like her husband's in terms of her policy. Her feelings about the administration, the direction of the country, et cetera.

So, we are seeing in this poll that specifically women, younger women, college-educated women, women who lean left or are Democrats, those are the numbers that have really dipped off significantly in terms of favorable ratings for Melania Trump. So, this makes sense.

[15:50:00] BALDWIN: It does. You know, you and I talked about her so many times and I thought so much about, you know, when Stormy Daniels was really in the headlines and as America was learning about what may be her husband did or didn't do -- depending on who you listen to -- maybe America felt more sympathetic to her. And now it does appear that she's really standing strong by her husband. And maybe that's part of what it is. I want to get this clip.

She was on Fox last night. She did this interview where show was asked, you know, what's the hardest part of your job as first lady, and this was her response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: The opportunists who are using my name or my family name to advance themselves, from comedians to journalists.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Does it hurt?

MELANIA TRUMP: It doesn't hurt. The problem is they are writing the history, and it's not correct. They like to focus on the gossip, and would I like that they focus on the substance and what we do, not just about nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The opportunists, and she talks about her name, and I can already hear the Melania Trump critics saying, think about who you married and his name.

BENNETT: It paused --

(CROSSTALK).\

BALDWIN: It is. It is. But what did you make of her response?

BENNETT: I mean, listen, I think it's interesting. I think at the same time, however, it comes with the turf. She says, you know, she once said she thought she was the most bullied person in the world and now she's, you know, upset about comedians and others who take advantage or make jokes. This is what being first lady, a very public first lady is married to, a very bombastic sort of, you know, insult- driven President sometimes to get things done. And I think she's very defensive of her family, and I understand that. And she doesn't like when people have the facts wrong. That's typically when Melania Trump will sort of strike back herself.

But it is an interesting thing, and I do find some irony there. But at the same time, Brooke, you know, she spent yesterday making three different stops, military stops. She was the first, first lady to fly in an Osprey. She went to an aircraft carrier, so she certainly visited thousands of troops in one day and does good deeds. But I do have to say that answer yesterday was, you know, a bit questionable considering the Trump brand itself is what made her husband in the sort of pop culture climate, and now he's President and now she's first lady, and there are side effects there.

BALDWIN: Yes, Kate Bennett, thank you.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, a Florida State Commission has just recommended arming teachers as a response to the mass shooting in Parkland, but it says nothing about gun control. This as a new report those gun deaths in the United States hit a record high last year. Details on what's driving the spike.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Teachers in South Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School should be trained to carry guns in school. That is one of the many recommendations in this draft report just released by a public safety commission. This panel was established in the wake of February's school massacre that left 17 people dead. It was tasked with identifying failures and missteps made during the emergency response and how to fix them.

Teachers would volunteer into a selection process that includes training and background checks, but it first requires approval from the state legislature. Other recommendations from this panel include added better trained safety officers and more funding for campus security.

And that report comes in at something that I really wanted to talk about today. This is the report that shows the level of gun violence in this country is skyrocketing. An analysis from the CDC and data conducted by CNN reveals gun deaths in the U.S. have reached its highest level in nearly 40 years. CNN's Jessica Dean is here with me. And I know these numbers came out of what happened in 2017 specifically. What is going on?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, we did a CNN analysis building off these numbers that were crunched by the educational fund to stop gun violence, it's a nonprofit gun policy advocacy group. So, here's what the analysis found.

Let's start first with firearm suicides and men. Suicide deaths by white men, if you look there, far and away account for the majority of gun-related suicides. And if you look at that number, 18,759, it's astounding considering the total number of gun-related deaths for all of 2017 is just under 40,000. And the amount of white men dying by firearm suicide has continued to rise since 2006.

From there we took a look at firearm homicide deaths, and, man -- you're going to see while white men are more likely to die of firearm suicide, black or African-American men are more likely to die in a murder involving a gun. And get this. A new study in the British Medical Journal shows that guns are killing black Americans at much younger ages than white Americans. Sometimes in their teens, their 20s and the lost years are driving down life expectancy for black Americans.

And then finally we took a look at the numbers by gender, and you'll see that the numbers for women all across that spectrum are lower. But the highest number for women being death by firearms suicide, and when you look at that specifically, the number of white women dying from firearm suicides accounts for ten times the number of all the other races combined -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: That is the highest we've seen going back to I think it was the late '70s so 40 years. I thought it was staggering.

DEAN: It is.

BALDWIN: And I wanted to make sure that people are aware. The next thing is what do we do about it? Jessica Dean, thank you very much and thank you very much for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.