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CNN NEWSROOM

U.S. Federal Judge Strikes Down ObamaCare; Cohen Says Trump Directed Him to Pay Hush Money; Fifth Weekend of Yellow Vest Protests in France; Australia Recognizes West Jerusalem as Capital of Israel; Trump Names Mick Mulvaney Acting Chief of Staff; European Commission President Says U.K. Parliament Builds Mistrust of E.U.; Dolphin Defender Hardy Jones Dies at 75. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired December 15, 2018 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00]

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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A U.S. federal judge rules the Affordable Care Act known as ObamaCare is unconstitutional. The blow to Democrats and a cause for celebration for the U.S. president.

Plus Donald Trump makes a surprise announcement and names an acting chief of staff just days after saying he didn't want an acting chief of staff but a permanent one.

And protesters expected to take to the streets in France for a fifth weekend. This comes just days after the French president announced concessions to try and end the demonstrations.

We are live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.

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VANIER: So the law that brought health care to millions of Americans has been struck down by a U.S. judge. The Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare was former president Barack Obama's signature piece of legislation. But a judge has ruled it unconstitutional.

Right now it remains in effect; that means those who want it can still sign up for it. But that ends in just hours because the deadline is Saturday night.

If this judge's decision is upheld, millions may lose their health care. President Donald Trump who tried to repeal the legislation earlier on in his presidency, tweeted, the ruling a highly respected judge was not surprising and it was "great news for America."

Why the top Democrat in the House promises to intervene to uphold what she calls the lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and promises to reject the Republican effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Former assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, David Katz, joins me for an indepth look at this.

The Affordable Care Act has survived legal challenges before.

So what's different this time around?

DAVID KATZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, there were about 70 efforts to repeal it. It's also been litigated. It's gone up to the United States Supreme Court and it's been affirmed.

But that was the earlier version. So what just happened now is not going to be the last step. But it's a troubling first judicial step. It's troubling for 130 million Americans with preexisting conditions. It's very disturbing to 12 million people who are on ObamaCare as of 2018.

And tomorrow is their signup day, so it's critical that people realize they need to go tomorrow and sign up because this is not the last word and many people think the appeals will succeed and that this district court, trial court ruling, will be struck down.

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: So ObamaCare has been found -- you say ObamaCare was affirmed. It was found to be legal by the Supreme Court and lower courts. The individual mandate, because that's what's at issue here, the individual mandate was found to be legal by the Supreme Court.

And fining people who did not purchase health care -- that's the individual mandate -- that was also legal.

But once that fine was set at 0 by Congress, as it has been in the latest federal tax law, then this whole thing becomes illegal?

That's the basis for the judge's thinking, right?

KATZ: Well, the Republicans tried to get rid of ObamaCare, the ACA, a million different ways. And if these zealots were really clever maybe they did it. Maybe they booby-trapped it in a way that the judge said, you know what, now the whole package is unconstitutional.

But that's very dubious, Cyril, whether that's really going to stand up.

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VANIER: Detail the argument for me. I want to make sure I understand it.

KATZ: The argument goes like this. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the ACA was constitutional not because -- the commerce clause -- there were five votes to say it was no good, it was unconstitutional under our federalist commerce clause. But five justices were willing to say, including Chief Justice Roberts, that it was OK as a tax. The argument goes --

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VANIER: And that's the individual mandate, right?

If we consider the individual mandate as a tax, then that is legal?

KATZ: Yes, that certainly was the ruling 5-4 that it functioned as a tax. That if you didn't buy the insurance, you had to pay a tax. And that was within the taxing power of the United States federal government, even though --

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VANIER: So what changed with this Texas federal judge?

KATZ: Well, as of next year, there is no more individual mandate. That was what the Republicans put in the new ACA. And so that's why I say maybe they have booby trapped it in a way that at least satisfied that trial judge down in Texas.

Now mind you, there's 1,000 trial judges in America. This case was in front of the dream judge, the go-to judge for the zealots who were challenging

[03:05:00]

KATZ: -- ObamaCare. And the case was heard by a judge who's ruled against ObamaCare provisions before. He's a conservative Republican appointed by George W. Bush. And as I say, this particular judge had ruled against ObamaCare, so people don't think it's a total accident that the state attorneys general ended up in front of him.

And then the Trump administration refused to defend the legislation, although it's the law of the land. That's why Democratic states' governors and attorneys general came in, like California's, and defended it. So that's who the appellants are going to be.

And, of course, Pelosi said that the Democrats, once they're in power, are also going to ask to intervene in the lawsuit. So it'll be as appellants, the ones challenging what the Texas trial judge just did, it'll be the House of Representatives, once it's Democratic, and a couple of dozen states, like California with their state attorneys general, complaining that Californians and other state citizens can't get ObamaCare and this ruling is wrong to throw out ObamaCare.

VANIER: So one important thing I have to say for our viewers -- this comes from the White House statement -- this law stands as we speak, right?

The quote is this from the statement, "We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, though, the law remains in place."

So that's important for everyone to know. We don't have a conclusion right now. The law is still what it is and what it was before this ruling.

Look, Donald Trump has appointed two conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

Does that mean if, this case goes all the way back to the Supreme Court, it is more likely to be struck down than last time?

KATZ: Well, it's a little frightening, as I say, in terms of the people who need this care. We don't want to return to the days -- Republicans say we're going to return to the days when people had choice.

But the reality was 20 million Americans, poor Americans, in particular, people who had pre-existing conditions, the only choice they had was to go to the emergency room and hope they could get care when they were --

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VANIER: But there's a matter of law in this new Supreme Court with a new bench?

KATZ: Well, Scalia voted with the four. So Gorsuch or Kavanaugh will vote as Scalia did, let's say.

The question is, will one of them vote like Kennedy?

If one of them votes like Kennedy, there's the four.

Then what will Chief Justice Roberts do?

Now you have to look at the new law as a whole. And I don't buy it, that it's still not a tax. I believe it's still a tax. It still has punitive aspects if you don't get it when you look at the law as a whole.

On top of that, I've always thought they were wrong about the commerce clause. Once you look at the case again with the new act, I believe it is within the commerce clause. They found other things didn't violate federalism.

In America, the idea is that the states have all these rights and they retained a lot of rights and the federal government has to be careful not to encroach on the states.

But the idea of controlling health care, it's the biggest part of the economy. It's a huge part. The idea they're reaching into everyone's life regarding some trivial matter, this is the most important matter in many, many people's lives, their health care.

VANIER: David Katz, former assistant U.S. attorney, thank you so much.

KATZ: My pleasure, thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: President Trump is nearing the end of his second year in office beset by a dizzying array of investigations. We don't actually know how many there are because some might not have been made public.

What we do know is the Trump organization, the Trump Foundation, the Trump campaign, the Trump inauguration, the Trump transition and the Trump administration are all under investigation.

CNN has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller still wants to speak with President Trump but his lawyers are dead set against it. President Trump has previously answered written questions from the special counsel.

Now sources tell CNN, Mueller is still pursuing an interview about obstruction of justice. Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says they're against it because they don't trust Mueller.

And another target of the Mueller investigation, General Michael Flynn. He's the former national security advisor for Donald Trump, who quit just days into the president's term.

Flynn admitted he lied to the FBI about communications with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Since then he's been cooperating with the special counsel. And on Friday, Robert Mueller issued a surprising memo on Flynn. Pamela Brown has the details.

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PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the special counsel is pushing back at Michael Flynn's lawyer's assertion that the former national security adviser wasn't appropriately warned about the repercussions of lying to the FBI.

In this new filing, Mueller's team says Flynn chose to lie weeks before the FBI interviewed him by claiming he did not discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Now Mueller's team made the case that his false statements were quote, "voluntary and intentional," and noted that the FBI gave him multiple opportunities in the interview to correct his false statements. And he only did so once the FBI used the exact language that he had used with Kislyak from that phone call.

While the filing notes the FBI didn't think that Flynn was being intentionally deceptive at the time, it does say he should know better, that lying to the FBI is a crime and he shouldn't have to be warned about it.

And what also stuck out to me is that the documents say Flynn told then deputy director Andrew McCabe before the FBI interview that McCabe probably knew what was said in his conversation with Kislyak.

So it's unclear why Flynn would proceed to make false statements in his FBI interview if he thought they did know the truth -- Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: And perhaps no one caught up in the various investigations has been more surprising than President Trump's former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen.

In telling his story to prosecutors he's directly implicated his former boss in the hush money payments to two women before the election, a possible violation of campaign finance law. Here's CNN's MJ Lee.

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MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I am done being loyal to president Trump.

MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He spilled his secrets to prosecutors. He begged for mercy from a judge and now, Michael Cohen speaking to the American people.

COHEN: And I will not be the villain, as I told you once before. I will not be the villain of his story.

MJ LEE: President Trump's former fixer and personal lawyer opening up for the first time since he was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday. In an interview with ABC, the 52-year-old convicted villain still agonizing over what he says was the toughest day of his life.

COHEN: I have to be honest, it's been very rough.

MJ LEE: Cohen pleaded guilty to numerous crimes, including tax evasion and making false statements to a bank.

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MJ LEE: But it was his crimes involving the now infamous hush payments to two women that have directly implicated the president of the United States.

Trump lashing out on Twitter this week, saying he never directed Cohen to break the law. But Cohen, now telling a different story.

COHEN: He directed me to make the payments.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And he knew it was wrong?

COHEN: Of course.

MJ LEE: Saying the order to pay off former playboy model Karen McDougal

and silence her before the 2016 election came directly from his boss.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump.

MJ LEE: The president's former fixer also addressing Trump's biggest headache, the Russia investigation.

Cohen has already met with special counsel Robert Mueller's office for more than 70 hours, offering them information about his contacts with Russians and conversations with people close to the White House.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The special counsel did say that you were doing your best to tell the truth about everything related to their investigation, everything related to Russia. Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that?

COHEN: No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a big statement.

MJ LEE: And he says he's not done talking.

COHEN: If they want me, I'm here. And I'm willing to answer whatever additional questions that they may have for me.

MJ LEE: Cohen says the person in the White House now is not the Trump he once admired.

COHEN: I think the pressure of the job is much more than what he thought it was going to be.

MJ LEE: Cohen reports to prison in March and will pay more than $1 million in restitution, stunning fall from grace for a man who says he was loyal to Trump for too long.

COHEN: The man doesn't tell the truth. And it's sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.

MJ LEE: MJ Lee, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: For a fifth weekend in a row the so-called Yellow Vest demonstrations are planned throughout France. The unrest started over rising gas prices and taxes and has broadened into a protest against president Emmanuel Macron and his government. You're watching live pictures right now of the Champs-Elysees, central artery in Paris.

Mr. Macron made concessions earlier this week, including canceling the fuel tax which sparked the protests. But many say it's not enough and they plan to keep demonstrating. Our Melissa Bell joins us from Paris with more on all of this.

Melissa, you're at the Champs-Elysees and you're overlooking the scene we just saw. Set the scene for us.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have the advantage here at CNN's Paris bureau of having this perfect position to look at what's happening on the Champs-Elysees and it's all about the numbers. The fifth Saturday in a row that the Yellow Vests have called for people to come out and protest. Two things have happened, of course, since last Saturday, Cyril, as

you say, the concessions made by the French president, including such things as a rise in the minimum wage and taking taxes off of extra hours' overtime and so on.

And the other thing that's happened, of course, is the terror attack in Strasbourg.

Will those two things take the wind out of the sails of protesters?

That's the question. You can see a fairly empty Champs-Elysees at this time. It was slightly busier at this time last week, when more than 300 people had been taken in for questioning. That figure this morning is just six.

VANIER: I remember you showing us the scenes last week.

Do French people still support this protest now that the president has actually given in to some of the demands?

BELL: Yes, they still maintain a large solid level of support out there in the public. But those measures announced by Emmanuel Macron, the call on the part of the government now making concessions to enter into a dialogue. The call also specifically from the government for protesters to take into the account the terror attack and the fact that police sources are stretched and it's time to get back to the negotiating table. That has peeled away some of the support they've had.

And there are people, perhaps the more centrists, the ones less ideologically driven, the ones that have been out here protesting time and time again, perhaps some of them will be convinced by the measures that it's time to sit down and talk rather than be out protesting.

This is the fifth Saturday in a row and the coldest Saturday we've seen so far, Cyril. Perhaps that will have some effect. The police there taking no chances; 8,000 police men and women out on the streets of Paris. And we're told a very similar attitude to what we saw last week to try and contain what violence there may be.

VANIER: Yes, they want to avoid a repeat of the violence that we saw two weeks ago, burning cars and headline grabbing scenes in Central Paris. Melissa Bell, we'll check back in with you. Thank you.

Now David Andelman joins me from Paris as well. He's a CNN contributor and a former CBS News Paris news correspondent.

You know Paris and French politics very well. I want to put to you a question I was asked this week.

[03:15:00]

VANIER: I've got to ask, is Macron now a lame duck president because he caved, because he gave everything that the protesters wanted?

DAVID ANDELMAN, CNN.COM OPINION: Well, in fact he didn't give everything they wanted. That's one of the reasons they're back on the streets again today. We don't know how much. He did not cave because he said he is standing by the principles that got him elected and those are very important.

He wants to change France. He wants to transform the French society, the French economy. He thinks eventually he has five years. He has three and a half more years to get this done. He wants to make changes in the whole system that will benefit everyone.

The problem is, particularly in the countryside and also in many parts of Paris, that's a long way away potentially and they have to make do every week, every payday with a paycheck so small they can barely make do with the prices that are in inflation right now.

That's his principal problem. It was interesting; I was listening this morning on French television and there was one woman from Toulouse, I believe it was. This is a nationwide protest.

And she said, "He heard us but he didn't actually react to us in a way that will help."

VANIER: Is this the beginning of phase two of President Macron's presidency?

The first phase he wanted to show he was above the fray, he wanted to distance himself from the previous president. He wanted to embody authority, the authority of the state.

Is he going to have to turn a corner now?

ANDELMAN: To a degree, yes. And he began that turn on Monday, last Monday night, in a speech to the people. He said, look, I hear you, I really want to be one of you. I'm not some sort of president for the rich, that he's been called by many of the Gilets Jaunes, the Yellow Vests.

So he is going to have to change in that respect. He's going to have to get closer to the people. Last night, after he came back from Brussels with a meeting with the European leaders, he stopped in Strasbourg and he actually walked through that Christmas market where that horrible terrorist attack took place a couple of days before. He shook hands with people, he talked with people. He's really trying to make a real effort.

It may go against his actual grain. That may not be the real Macron. But he's trying at least to put that forward.

I have to say one thing about what may happen later today, the one advantage he has, the one ally he has, is there is a large cold front and rain, torrential rain potentially, moving across France from west to east and it should arrive in Paris somewhere around 1:00 or 2:00 this afternoon.

That is not going to be very comfortable conditions to be out demonstrating, manning barricades or even setting barricades afire as they did in the past. That rain may have more impact than the water cannons.

VANIER: You're right; it's not politics but you're absolutely right to mention that because not everyone wants to be out in the cold on a freezing December morning. Our correspondent was just texting me right now, saying how cold it is out there.

There's been other Yellow Vest protests outside of France.

Do you see this as the start of something larger, beyond, maybe Europe-wide?

ANDELMAN: This has always been the case and France likes to think of itself as sort of a bellwether for Europe. So the far right in France, that used to be called the Front National, the National Front, Marine Le Pen and her father, when they were really rising the last couple of years, that helped trigger right-wing forces in other parts of Europe.

So inevitably, when you have a Gilets Jaunes protest like this, it does result in protests in other parts of Europe. And certainly many other countries in Europe are faced with many of the same problems of the rich versus the poor, the vast wealth between the wealthy in the cities and the poor in the countryside.

And already it's taking some impact in Italy, where there really is a more populist right wing government in place and in other parts of Europe. So it's not impossible to see that. This happened in 1968, when the students went into the streets and nearly overturned the government of Charles de Gaulle. There were demonstrations all over Europe as a result.

So, yes, it certainly is entirely possible. Europe is waiting to see how Macron handles this and how this all works out in the end.

VANIER: David, thank you very much for your analysis. All eyes right now -- and let's take a last quick look at the live pictures on the Champs-Elysees. All eyes right now -- and you're saying not just in France but across Europe -- are on this avenue.

It's as Melissa Bell, our correspondent, was telling us as well, it's all about the numbers, how many people show up, how much resistance, how much fire in that protest is still left after the president has given into some of their demands.

David Andelman, thank you.

Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But the country's prime minister says it's holding off on moving the embassy there. We'll have details on that when we come back.

Plus Donald Trump has a new acting chief of staff.

Will he keep the acting part or will it become permanent?

[03:20:00]

VANIER: We'll take a look at that as well.

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VANIER: Australia's prime minister says his government now recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Scott Morrison says Australia will move its embassy from Tel Aviv after Israelis and Palestinians have agreed any final peace deal. CNN's Ian Lee joins me now from Jerusalem.

Ian, what's the backstory for this?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Cyril, we expected Scott Morrison to announce that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. We didn't know specifically what part of that announcement it would be. But now we know it is West Jerusalem.

This is something that Israel has been wanting from the international community, the recognition of all of Jerusalem, what they say is the united capital of Israel. So with Australia declaring just West Jerusalem, that's not what the Israelis would have wanted.

But just to give you some background on Jerusalem and why it's so contentious, it dates back to 1947, with the United Nations' partition plan for Palestine --

[03:25:00]

IAN LEE: -- U.N. Resolution 181, which basically said that Jerusalem would be administered by an international body, the United Nations, and no country would have ownership over it.

But then you had a war break out. Israel then took the west part of Jerusalem. Jordan took the east part of Jerusalem. And then in 1967, Israel took the east part of Jerusalem and the West Bank and Gaza.

And it's really, Israel has said, then, from the 1980s, that all of Jerusalem is their capital. And that has been disputed by the Palestinians and really much of the international community.

The United States does recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but many countries still believe that the final status of Jerusalem, as we heard from the statement there, should be defined by a final status solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians, although the prime minister of Israel -- sorry, the prime minister of Australia said this in his defense and why he made that declaration.

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SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Fundamentally it's the right of every country to determine its national capital. That is why the government asked the question, it's asked the question about the position we have long adopted in relation to Jerusalem. (END VIDEO CLIP)

IAN LEE: So you do have Australia declaring West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying East Jerusalem would be for a potential Palestinian state. That's kind of along the lines of what a final status solution would be -- Cyril.

VANIER: All right, Ian Lee, reporting live from Jerusalem, thank you.

And Republicans are celebrating a blow against ObamaCare but it's hardly the first time. We'll look at the history of the Affordable Care Act and the fierce opposition to it. Stay with us.

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VANIER: Welcome back. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM I'm Cyril Vanier. Let's look at your top stories this hour.

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VANIER: So back to that top story and I want to delve into the history of ObamaCare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act. It is considered President Barack Obama's signature policy achievement. It was signed into law March 23rd, 2010.

Its stated goals: to make health care affordable in the United States by lowering costs, expanding coverage and improving the quality of care. President Obama campaigned on reforming the health care industry and he celebrated when the bill was signed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today after almost a century of trying; today, after over a year of debate; today, after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: So ObamaCare reduced the number of uninsured in the United States. In 2013, the year before ObamaCare came into full effect, there were 42 million without health insurance. That number down to 29 million in 2015.

From the onset, Republicans opposed the law and they made several attempts to repeal it. In fact, repealing ObamaCare was one of candidate Trump's key campaign promises. But Republicans couldn't muster in the end enough votes in Congress to fulfill that promise. However, the government did take several steps. The tax cut bill

passed in 2017 included a provision that eliminated the so-called individual mandate that compelled people to get health insurance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: ObamaCare has been repealed in this bill. We didn't want to bring it up. I tell people specifically, be quiet with the fake news media because I don't want them talking too much about it.

But now that it's approved I can say that the individual mandate on health care, where you had to pay not to have insurance -- you pay not to have insurance -- the individual mandate has been repealed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Well, according to the government nearly 12 million people enrolled in ObamaCare in 2018, 27 percent of them were new customers. Despite the Texas ruling, nothing has changed for the moment. Americans can still sign up for ObamaCare.

The judge's ruling is only the latest challenge facing the law this enrollment season, which ends on Saturday.

U.S. president Trump has picked an acting White House chief of staff. I want to tell you about this in U.S. politics. On Friday, he announced budget director Mick Mulvaney will take over the job. As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, the announcement comes as a surprise to many in the White House.

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KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump announced on Twitter late Friday night that Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, will become the acting chief of staff when John Kelly, currently the chief of staff, leaves at the end of the year.

Now that word "acting" came as a surprise to most people in the White House since that was the word that led to the failure and breakdown in negotiations over Nick Ayers, vice president Mike Pence's chief of staff, becoming John Kelly's replacement and becoming the chief of staff here in the West Wing.

President Trump told Nick Ayers he wanted a two-year commitment and didn't want someone to be the acting chief of staff; yet now he has got an acting chief of staff.

However, all of this comes down to timing because, on Friday, President Trump was discussing the possible government shutdown next week --

[03:35:00]

COLLINS: -- and so was the senior staff throughout the day.

And Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, came to the White House to sit down with the president, go over what would happen during the shutdown and discuss it with him. And he walked out with the top job.

Now it's a question of how long Mick Mulvaney is going to be in this position. This position is coming with quite a list of challenges, as we are seeing the number of investigations surrounding President Trump and aspects of not only his political but his personal life start to mount up.

That is a job that Mick Mulvaney will take over at the beginning of the year -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Stewart joins me now. She's also the former communications director for Ted Cruz, who ran against Donald Trump in 2016 and, more recently, against Beto O'Rourke for a Senate seat in Texas. That will become relevant later on in this conversation.

Let's start with Mick Mulvaney. He'll be the acting chief of staff now for Donald Trump.

Do you think this changes anything to the Trump presidency?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not really, Cyril. I think Mulvaney, evidently two jobs weren't enough for him so he needed to have one more. But this has always been and we always knew this was an unconventional presidency.

And in terms of who holds what job and what job title people have, this is going to be different than what we've seen in the past. And I wouldn't be surprised if we keep him in this interim position for quite some time.

I will say this, of all the names that have been run out there, in terms of who would fill the slot, Mulvaney is a good one. He's been a loyal soldier to President Trump in whatever position he has had. He is a good advocate for this president and his policies and he's someone certainly very well respected amongst the staff.

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: -- I'll just jump in -- loyal and respected but not a heavyweight. Chris Christie was in the running and then he withdrew his name. Nick Ayers made some waves earlier, some high profile congressmen as well.

Mick Mulvaney flies a little bit under the radar when you compare him to those names.

ALICE STEWART: And that's not a bad thing. This next person who fills this role is going to be different than when the president came in. With all going on, certainly as we're moving closer to 2020, this person has to be someone who can work with Congress and understand the legislative aspect of the role. He has to be political and manage those aspects as we're moving

towards 2020. And now that the Mueller probe is really tightening and he has to understand the investigative part of the role moving forward and work with the staff to oversee the staff, the staff part of that role.

So this is -- the dynamics have changed with the administration, which means the dynamics of the chief of staff are changing. So you don't need to be heavy-handed. You just need to be able to do exactly what the president wants.

VANIER: Absolutely. Work with the staff but first and foremost work with this president.

The president tweeted on this topic, he said, "For the record, there are many people who wanted to be White House chief of staff. Mick M. will do a great job."

That's sort of eyebrow raising when you know at least three people withdrew their names from consideration over the last 8-9 days.

A federal judge has struck down the entire Affordable Care Act known as ObamaCare. Your reaction to that.

ALICE STEWART: This is exactly what the president and a lot of Republicans who ran for president said that, look, the ObamaCare is not just affordable and unattainable for many people, now it's unconstitutional. And as legal representation of what Republicans have been saying for quite some time. And this in my view gives more shot in the arm for Republicans to go in there and do what many of them have campaigned on which is repealing and replacing ObamaCare. The challenge is it's one thing to go out and pound your fist on the table and say, look, we need to repeal and replace ObamaCare. They really need to work on having a viable solution to replace it. And I think that's the challenge moving forward. This is helpful to the argument and we'll certainly get a lot of constituents and members of the Republican Party onboard. The challenge is finding the viable solution, protecting pre-existing conditions and the most challenging aspect is getting Democrats to work with them on trying to find a solution to this problem.

Yes, finding a political solution to this might be even harder than finding a legal solution. We think there might be an appeal on this and the legal arguments behind the decision. Thank you very much for joining us.

ALICE STEWART: Thanks, Cyril.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Europe is bracing for a hard Brexit when the U.K. leaves the European Union next March. Coming up, the British prime minister leaves Brussels empty-handed with little hope of salvaging her Brexit deal and time running out.

Plus filmmaker Hardy Jones dedicated his life to preserving the environment.

[03:40:00]

VANIER: We'll take a look at his lasting legacy.

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VANIER: The risk of the U.K. crashing out of the European Union with a no deal Brexit looms larger after prime minister Theresa May returned from Brussels empty-handed. The European Commission president is blaming the British parliament.

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JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: I was following, second by second, the debate in the House of Commons. And I noted that there was a deep mistrust in the house when it comes to the European Union. That's not a good basis for future relations.

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VANIER: Jean-Claude Juncker also called the back-and-forth "nebulous."

Some thought it was a dig against Ms. May but she says not so.

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THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: First of all, I had a robust discussion with Jean-Claude Juncker. I think that's the sort of discussion you are able to have when you've developed a working relationship and you work well together.

And what came out of that was his clarity, that actually he'd been talking -- when he used that particular phrase, he'd been talking about the general level of debate. And indeed, you know, I've had further conversations with him through the morning.

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VANIER: It all amounts to an ugly lump of coal in the prime minister's Christmas stocking. Anna Stewart has more from Downing Street.

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ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The prime minister returned from Brussels without the key concessions she needed to win over Parliament to her Brexit deal.

In her closing remarks she said that further clarification and discussions with the E.U. were possible, particularly on the Irish backstop. But this hasn't been well received, particularly by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He tweeted after she spoke to say, "The last 24 hours have shown that Theresa May's Brexit deal is dead in the water. She's failed to deliver any meaningful changes. And rather than plowing ahead and recklessly running --

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ANNA STEWART: -- "down the clock, she needs to put her deal to a vote next week so Parliament can take back control."

That is highly unlikely to happen, not least because the prime minister today said further talks on the E.U. were necessary but also because earlier this week, Downing Street said this vote will no longer happen this year and it's being pushed back to January. They say it will happen before the 21st.

Now opposition parties in Parliament, including the Greens, the SMP, Liberal Democrats have all called for a motion of confidence to be brought for the government and Theresa May, another confidence vote, this time on the actual government. And this time it would be a parliamentary vote.

However, they need the biggest opposition party, Labour, to help then trigger that. And I don't think Labour would be likely do that anytime soon simply because it doesn't look like they can win.

And that's largely because the DUP, the Northern Irish party that Theresa May relies upon for her majority, they still support the prime minister. However, trust is paper thin in Westminster.

And this last week, if anything has told us, that events can happen extremely quickly in British politics. Now Theresa May will be relieved this week is over but next week isn't looking much better -- Anna Stewart, CNN, London.

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VANIER: And talks will continue into the weekend as delegates from nearly 200 countries meet in Poland for the COP24 climate conference. They've been trying to flesh out a guidebook on how to implement the Paris climate agreement reached three years ago.

The two-week talks were supposed to end on Friday but disputes remain on how to execute a plan to limit global warming.

Award winning filmmaker and environmentalist Hardy Jones has died after a long battle with cancer. Our Kristie Lu Stout looks back on his life which was dedicated to protecting dolphins and whales.

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HARDY JONES, FILMMAKER AND ENVIRONMENTALIST: I was just in their group. I was swimming for all I was worth.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The man known as "The Dolphin Defender," Hardy Jones, died this week at home after a long battle with cancer.

The director of more than 70 documentaries that aired on National Geographic, PBS, Discovery and various foreign broadcasters, Jones focused all his energy on preserving the environment and the animals that he loved through video.

JONES: Dolphins are my life's work. In a very literal sense, they swept me out to sea and into another universe.

STOUT (voice-over): Swimming near Grand Bahama Island in 1978, Jones, then a CBS News journalist, encountered a school of friendly wild dolphins and fell in love.

Quitting his job at CBS News, Jones released his first film in 1979, called "Dolphin," where he followed and filmed a spotted pod of wild dolphins near Grand Bahama Island. Jones is well-known for his exclusive dramatic footage of dolphin hunting.

JONES: Three days later at 5:00 am in a driving rain, the fisherman began the slaughter.

STOUT (voice-over): His footage made headlines, sparked international protests and eventually shut down the slaughters on some islands of the coast of Japan.

JONES: I know that as the world sees these images, we're a step closer to ending this horror.

STOUT (voice-over): This footage aired on CBS globally as well as in his well-known PBS documentary series, "The Dolphin Defender," that featured the images he captured throughout this career.

With 40 years of experience, Jones increasingly served as an expert on the ocean and the growing concerns about the Earth's rising temperatures.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hardy Jones recently visited this area in Peru.

Do you believe it really could relate to some sort of contaminants in the water or in the food source of these pelicans?

JONES: Well, red tides are not uncommon in areas of water that are upwelling, such as this area off of Peru. Red tides are generated by warmer waters that may be the result of global warming.

TED DANSON, ACTOR (voice-over): In the tropical oceans of the world, there's a species of dolphins unlike any other.

STOUT (voice-over): In 2000, Jones partnered with actor Ted Danson to form Blue Voice, an ocean conservation organization. And a few years later was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.

In 2006, he teamed with a researcher to look into a possible link of myeloma to the same chemical toxins found in growing concentrations of dolphin populations. He worked to curb the expanding toxicity in the oceans, something he worked on until his death -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN.

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VANIER: Coming up, Cyclone Owen smashing parts of Australia. We'll have the latest forecast on this storm when we come back.

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VANIER: Tropical Cyclone Owen is hitting Queensland, Australia, with strong winds and heavy rain.

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VANIER: Just before we wrap this up, a huge diamond. Canada has unearthed the largest diamond ever found in North America. The Dominion Diamond Mines says it's discovered the diamond the size of a chicken egg. It's 552 carats in Canada's Northwest Territory.

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IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It looks like a baked potato wrapped in aluminum.

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VANIER: Hey, don't diss the diamond. It's a yellow diamond.

CABRERA: Gorgeous.

So they say it's too early to determine the stone's value. I suspect it's expensive but it won't be sold in this form. They say they will find a partner, they will cut it, they will polish the diamond and then they'll sell it. So if you've got a gift to make...

CABRERA: Or send it to a museum or something, my goodness, something that large.

VANIER: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. He's Ivan Cabrera. You've got George Howell after the break. You are in great hands.