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Trump Orders All U.S. Troops Out of Syria; U.S. Senate Passes Bill To Avert Government Shutdown; Corbyn Denies Calling Theresa May Stupid Woman. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 20, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Mission accomplished? The U.S. president declares ISIS defeated and announces U.S. troops in Syria will be coming home.

The Christmas deadline comes and perhaps a Christmas miracle. Republicans and Democrats agree to keep the funding for the government, a budget deal which has nothing but a lump of coal for the U.S. president and his border wall with Mexico.

Stupid woman or stupid people?

The leader of the U.K. opposition Jeremy Corbyn appears to call the British prime minister a "stupid woman" in Parliament. He claims he was insulting all lawmakers in the lower house. But no one's debating if he said "stupid."

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world, I'm John Vause. Great to have you with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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VAUSE: It's a decision which seemed to come from nowhere. Even U.S. military commanders on the ground in Syria were taken by surprise. Donald Trump announcing on Twitter ISIS has been defeated and U.S. troops are coming home from Syria.

U.S. allies and lawmakers, even senior Trump administration officials say they were blindsided by all of this. But the president in a video released by the White House said it is time.

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TRUMP: We've been fighting for a long time in Syria, I've been president for almost two years and we really stepped it up. We have won against ISIS. We have beaten them and beaten them badly and taken back the land. Now it is time for our troops to come back home.

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VAUSE: CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has reported extensively from Syria and has more now on this decision from the Trump administration.

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NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, this was quite baffling, totally unexpected. Nobody saw this coming. I don't think even the troops on the ground in Syria thought they would hear the news they did today. They've had a significant role, an outsized role for their numbers in fighting ISIS and providing some kind of peacekeeping balance there because the Syrian Kurds, the fortise (ph) is for them, are considered terrorists by Turkey, a U.S. ally to the north.

And they've also kept Russia and Iranian influence in check. We saw ourselves in February, their work there but also we have exclusive footage of the past few days, showing the fight against ISIS is far from over.

WALSH (voice-over): Flying low over the fight against ISIS, you can see the battle has been brutal. But it is far from done. ISIS is regrouping out there. Just 10 minutes before Trump's mission accomplished tweet, claim responsibility for an attack in the city of Raqqah.

These pictures are just days old from the city of Hajin (ph), where ISIS' remaining leaders, like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and diehards refuse to give in.

Whatever you hear, this is not defeat. Regardless, the Pentagon is leaving. The coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, her statement said, but the campaign against ISIS not over. We have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign.

But a sudden withdrawal defeats two major U.S. policy goals here. A tiny number of U.S. special forces were limiting Iranian and Russian influence here, calming allies in the region like Israel. They were also keeping in check the Kurdish fighters, who fought ISIS alongside the U.S.

Turkey calls them terrorists and has threatened a full-scale attack. But that bloody confrontation was unlikely as long as the U.S. was here. It was a startlingly complex mission performed by a tiny number of Americans, which we saw first-hand in February.

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WALSH: Does your head begin to spin occasionally when you just look around, going, where do the enemy stop and where does the good news begin?

MAJ. GEN. JAMIE JARRARD, COMMANDER, SPECIAL OPERATIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA: It can be complex out here if you try to take in to all those factors. The good thing about being in the military is that we usually have a military mission. And our military mission out here is defeat ISIS.

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WALSH (voice-over): Even back then, their mission was a geopolitical nightmare. Their heavy firepower killed dozens of Russian mercenaries and Syrian regime fighters when they tried to retake an oilfield from the Kurds.

Every time, over the past year, Turkey threatened to attack the Syrian Kurds, the ISIS fight took a back seat while the U.S. calmed things down. With this sudden, brash rush to the exit, the U.S. leaves another vacuum in the Middle East which will benefit Turkey and Russia but also leave the Syrian Kurds who defeated ISIS very much on their own.

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WALSH: So what next, the term --

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WALSH: -- "rapidly," which is how quickly they say they'll be leaving, is relatively elastic. I don't think anyone expects them to pick up sticks and depart tomorrow. But they'll certainly leave many questions in that area.

This is a Trump policy; it may happen differently. It may not happen exactly as advertised. But at the same time, too, he is showing his geopolitical desire to perhaps get himself out. Now he believes the fight against ISIS is over. I think many in the region will hope that they're adequately diminished and they don't come back and have a real territorial presence -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.

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VAUSE: Live now to Istanbul, CNN producer Gul Tuysuz.

OK. So Gul, assuming that the U.S. forces are actually withdrawn from Syria as the president says they will be. The question now is how much time will there be before the Turkish president gives the military green light for that military operation to establish safe zones along the border with Syria?

A military operation which will target U.S. allies, the Kurdish fighters, who have taken up territory there?

Because Erdogan wants those fighters pushed back away from Turkey.

GUL TUYSUZ, CNN PRODUCER: That's right, John. Well, in terms of the timing of a Turkish operation, we don't know. But Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been over the last couple of weeks saying that they could go in at any moment.

And that was a big problem when there was a U.S. troop presence on the ground there because it would mean that Turkey and -- Turkish and U.S. forces would have to face off against each other in a very complicated battlefield. But this announcement by President Trump that he will be pulling U.S. troops out of Syria is welcome news for Turkey. A senior Turkish official told CNN that they welcomed this decision and that Turkey and the U.S. are working very closely on this.

But they also pointed out, again, hinting at the possibility of a Turkish operation saying that the U.S. withdrawal does not weaken Turkey's resolve to combat terrorism in Syria. And specifically, going against the Syrian branch of this Kurdish militia that has been fighting domestically here in Turkey, as well.

Turkey views the Kurds in Northern Syria as an extension of what they call a terrorist group and they have been very vocal about wanting to go after them. And all of this is coming after a phone call between the Turkish president and President Trump.

And again, that senior Turkish official saying that this announcement by President Trump is within the framework that was hammered out between those two leaders.

But the pullout of the U.S. troops from Northern Syria is going to end up moving some front lines. It is going to create a vacuum. Who is going to fill that vacuum is a Turkish operation going to end up going -- it is it going to be able to remove those Kurdish militias from the border is something that we're going to be watching for, John.

VAUSE: Gul, thank you. Gul Tuysuz there in the Istanbul with the very latest on the reaction of Turkey.

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VAUSE: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and she is with us now from San Diego in California.

Gayle, right now, of all the places where U.S. forces should be deployed, where is there a bigger national security risk?

Is there -- is it Syria or is it the southern border with Mexico?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I would just say this, John. I mean, you know, the ISIS fight is very much ongoing. I just came back from Northeast Syria on Saturday.

And what you see on the ground, you know, one of the commanders I was going to interview actually had to postpone an interview because one of her fighters was taken to a local hospital because ISIS had placed an IED under her car this weekend.

So, what you see is a fighting force that has really worked to being an incredible partner to the United States throughout this ISIS fight and that has even today kept the pressure on ISIS as it tries to re- emerge in Raqqah. And what you see is the story that so few people are noting, which is this real forward momentum and real forward progress on the ground, brought to you by moms and dads who are fighting every day for their future, who have a level of stability because of U.S.-backed forces, who are in turn protected by the fact that the United States forces are there.

VAUSE: OK, I'm going to take Syria that as opposed to the border with Mexico. You know, in just having these U.S. forces in Syria, it's a modest force, about 2,000 troops. But they've sort of been acting almost like human shields for the Kurdish fighters and they've been preventing the Turkish military from conducting this operation in safe zones.

Because they will essentially target the Kurds there who have been the U.S. allies. And so, if the U.S. forces are withdrawn from Syria, what that message is clear is that basically, you have an unreliable partner in the United States, well, in the other hand, you have Russia and Putin who've backed their guy, Bashar al-Assad, all the way.

LEMMON: Yes.

VAUSE: So, if you team up the Americans, you risk a stab in the back, you stay with the Russians, you've got a loyal friend to the end.

LEMMON: This has always been throughout the entire discussion, which has been Russia has been all in on the side of the regime and the United States has kept its focus on the ISIS fight.

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LEMMON: The challenge has been, especially when you talk to those who are on the ground, it's convincing his partner for us the local forces to do -- really take the brunt of the casualties, to put their young people on the line, their lives on the line.

And you can see in cemeteries across Northeast Syria of the photos of young women and young men given their lives in the ISIS fight with a real connection and impart being a partner force of the American forces.

So, the question is, you know, who gains if there are no U.S. forces in the area?

Throughout for the last 12 months of that, I've been on the ground visiting, local forces will say, the Russians, the Iranians, the regime, all have said, look, you can't rely on the Americans, right?

You were not sure they're going to be there for you.

Are you really sure you want to hitch your wagon to the United States?

And I think this will call into question a number of those decisions.

VAUSE: And just a few days ago, the State Department special envoy for the campaign against ISIS told reporters, "If we've learned one thing over the years, enduring defeat of a group like this, is an ISIS, means you can't just defeat their physical space and then leave.

"The enduring defeat of ISIS means not just the physical defeat but make sure that we are training local security forces."

So, here now is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, with the progress report on training local forces, which has been the primary mission of the U.S. in Syria.

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GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: With regard to stabilization, we still have a long way to go. And so, I'd be reluctant to affix the time.

We estimate for example about 35,000 to 40,000 local forces have to be trained and equipped in order to provide stability. We're probably somewhere on along the line of 20 percent through the training of those forces.

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VAUSE: You know, withdrawing U.S. troops in Syria is not necessarily all bad but pulling out unilaterally without a broader political deal in place, there are security guarantees, you know, your Kurdish and Arab allies who fought with you and alongside you and died with you, it seems foolhardy at best.

LEMMON: I think everyone's trying to figure out what the policy actually mean. I attended the opening of the Raqqah Women's Council this summer, which was an incredible event. And the thing that was most remarkable about it was there were no U.S. forces visible. This was local Arab forces and Kurdish forces together, but predominantly Arab, who were providing security.

And I think because the world is so used to, seeing U.S. policy is unsuccessful. People almost aren't accustomed to realizing the fact that this policy is actually producing forward momentum amid a very fragile ecosystem, right?

You see real gains amid a very fragile environment and security threats which loom. And so, when you see local forces who are actually doing the job, you know, you talk to U.S. forces, there's huge respect for the partner forces and the reliability that they've offered in this ISIS fight. You do think, the question is what comes next?

VAUSE: Well, what is interesting is what comes next, is that General Dunford made -- you know, the point that the U.S. mission in Syria has two objectives. It's training local forces, but also they're there as a backup to diplomacy.

In other words, with no military skin in the game to back up diplomatic efforts by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then Russia can just stop pretending it actually wants to negotiate a peaceful end to the fighting and just ignore Pompeo and do what they want. LEMMON: Well, this is the thing. So, Raqqah, I was in there April and August and then last week. And what you see is the city that is really working to begin on its feet, right? Though the one-time capital of the so-called caliphate in -- of ISIS.

You really see this city where shopkeepers, you know, one perfume entrepreneur, I interviewed. I said, "Why did you start a perfume shop?"

And he said, "Well, you know, that even cigarettes and perfume are things that everybody need."

So they're not luxury.

All right and you see people, entrepreneurs like that who say listen, "We are trying to get on with our life, I only want to know is that we have some shot at continued stability." And that is what the U.S.- backed forces have been providing.

A level of security and stability so that Raqqah didn't become Baghdad in its worst moments.

VAUSE: Yes, it's -- you know, it does seem more and more likely that -- you know, for Syria, if they want the stability, when we hear this from the refugees who are returning, they're putting their faith in Putin. They're not putting their faith in Washington and that's where the U.S. will lose out on all of this. But Gayle, thank you. Good to see you.

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VAUSE: Financial markets in Asia are feeling the impact of another interest rate hike in the United States, the fourth one this year. Look at the numbers. Nikkei down by 3.25 percent or 3.33 percent. Hong Kong down by 1.5 percent, the Shanghai Composite almost down by almost 1 percent.

And U.S. Federal Reserve's unanimous decision on Wednesday to increase interest rates a quarter point immediately triggered a sell-off on Wall Street. The Dow fell 350-odd points to close at its lowest level in 2018. The Nasdaq down more than 2 percent while the S&P 500 dropped 1.5 percent.

The rate hike came in defiance of Trump. U.S. presidents typically don't --

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VAUSE: -- comment or interfere with the Fed, which is meant to be politically neutral. But Trump has been an outspoken critic of recent Fed policy. On Tuesday warned it should not make yet another mistake. The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, brushed all of that aside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: The political considerations have played no role whatsoever in our discussions or decisions about monetary policy.

We're always going to be focused on the mission Congress has given us. We have the tools to carry it out. We have the independence, which we think is essential to be able to do our jobs in a nonpolitical way.

We at the Fed are absolutely committed to that mission and nothing will deter us from doing what we think is the right thing to do.

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VAUSE: Ryan Patel is a veteran business executive who helps companies grow internationally and he joins us from Los Angeles.

OK, Ryan. Yet the president made it pretty obviously did not want this rate hike and he has not held back criticizing the Fed in the past. Here's the sample.

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TRUMP: I'd like to see the Fed with a lower interest rate. I think the rates too high. I think we have much more of a Fed problem that we have a problem with anyone else.

My biggest threat is the Fed because the Fed is raising rates too fast. And it's independent, so I don't speak to him. But I'm not happy with what he is doing.

I think the Fed is making a mistake, they are so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy.

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VAUSE: And here's a typical headline, this one back in July, when the Fed raised rates, "Trump Lays into the Federal Reserve, Says He's Not Thrilled about Interest Rate Hikes."

And then in October, "Trump Attacks the Fed as Stocks Fall and the Midterms Loom."

OK, so, in a way it seems he almost forced the Fed to go forward with this rate increase, even though it may not be needed but to simply to prove its independence.

RYAN PATEL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think it's a big -- I think if you would be talking if they actually chose not to, we'd to be talking about how this is actually influenced.

I think you and I spoke at beginning of the year, we guessed that it was going to be more to the four times that they were going to increase the rate this year and there was no doubt about it.

And then, over the last month and a half, there was some question behind it.

So, to me, I think they had no choice. And then they also kind of for next year's forecast, they actually gave a little back and said instead of doing three times and said two, maybe to set itself up away from President Trump, maybe push back and saying that they weren't going to actually -- they were doing that on their own accord not so much dependently.

VAUSE: Yes, I was wondering if that announcement because originally there was a network of three interest rate increases for 2019. Now, they're saying for we were like two. I was wrong and though it was a few crumbs they threw to the president may be to try to keep him happy.

PATEL: Well, I -- you know, truthfully, I don't think they threw to the president, I think they threw to Wall Street. I really do. I think because people were really, really getting nervous on, OK, we hit four times this year, there most investors were hoping that that wasn't going to happen and that they were going to push into next year.

And now, the rhetoric, I think the bread crumb was, well, we're going to do two. And maybe not the beginning of the year, maybe later during the middle of the year. And I think that will probably ease this off a little bit going over, at least in the first quarter.

VAUSE: Yes, the Federal Reserve still sees the U.S. economy which is performing well, admitting some conditions have tightened.

"The Washington Post" reports, "The Fed expects unemployment to fall to 3.5 percent next year, even lower than this year and inflation to remain at a modest 1.9 percent.

"The Fed typically hikes interest rates to keep inflation in check, but the central bank slightly lowered its inflation forecast of next year, a sign Fed leaders are not expecting a major surprise."

You know, if the main goal of the Fed is to keep inflation around 2 percent, why hike rates. You know, for very long time, the pole has been no inflation. Yes, I know and that's where the debate happens. I mean, I think personally that they're doing this is to make sure there isn't surprises.

There is this unknown that's going be going on next year, what we call, you and I would talk about, this trade war, right?

And they have come out and said in this speech like they're keeping eyes on the economic global -- you know, perspective. Well, you and I both know what that is. It's the policy of the U.S. going back and forth with all these countries. And I think that will play they were keeping that in their back pocket to be able to be ahead of that curve.

If they see something in the economic data that feel like that the U.S. would be further and hurt in something in a time like this but they've obviously slowed down the GDP number going into this later, this year and next.

VAUSE: So, this decision on interest rates by the Fed, it was a loss for the president also lost for the president is how lawmakers have managed to come together with a -- you know, a holiday deadline, they passed, you know continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded but in that C.R. there is no money for the president's wall.

So, two strikes at Donald Trump at the end of the year. You know, this is a president who keeps talking about the wall that it's coming here he is.

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TRUMP: We need security. We need a wall.

We build a wall to keep the drugs out.

More than ever we need the wall.

Don't worry, you're getting the wall.

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TRUMP: Don't worry, OK? I heard some ...

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VAUSE: Well, you guys are getting the wall and other thing that's not happening is that Mexico is not paying for it. And Donald Trump, you know, is claiming it that the Mexicans are. He put out a tweet.

We don't put this on a bumper sticker, so you can see what this would be like in a campaign.

So, who's going to pay for the wall?

"Mexico is paying (indirectly) for the Wall through the new USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA. Far more money coming to the U.S."

You know, it's just not quite as catchy, is it?

But what is he talking about?

Can you explain the logic here?

PATEL: Well, I don't know what's catchy, I have no -- you know -- this is to me it's about -- you know, even this thing about the Federal Reserve or why he's speaking even though he knows that he's not directly giving any he's -- they're independent.

Is that if the Federal Reserve -- again, back to this, if it doesn't happen in his -- according to his way, he will look down upon when it comes to the reelection time.

Just imagine if we going to a recession, because of the Federal Reserve increases interest rates or because of this wall coming out from somewhere else.

Trump promised these two things during the campaign, a strong economy and having the wall. These are the two things that he needs to show some kind of attribute for. And right now, they don't look pretty right now.

VAUSE: Yes, you know, as much as Mueller is a threat to his presidency with the investigation into Russian collusion, you know, a slowing economy and a potential recession is just as a bigger danger politically for this president whose -- you know, bank his reputation on being the business guy in the Oval Office. Ryan, good to see you.

PATEL: Likewise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: After months have passed, a Yemeni mother will see her son, who is dying in California. She has landed in San Francisco after winning a battle against the U.S. travel ban. She got a waiver and we're live at the airport for the very latest.

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VAUSE: A Yemeni mother who has been separated from her dying son in a California hospital has arrived now in San Francisco after being granted a waiver from the Trump administration's travel ban.

Shaima Swileh has been apart from her 2-year-old son, Abdullah, since October. But now the U.S. government is allowing her into the U.S. and allowing to stay on a spousal visa.

Her son and her husband are both U.S. citizens and they came to California seeking treatment for the young boy's brain condition which turned out to be fatal. The boy's father says this travel waiver for his wife will allow them to mourn with dignity. CNN's Dan Simon at the airport this hour in San Francisco.

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VAUSE: So, Dan, when your child is dying, time is precious.

Do they know how much time the mother and son, kept apart, how much time do they lose because of this legal fight over the travel ban?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know it has been about three months. What a scene here tonight at the San Francisco airport, as you had dozens of Yemeni Americans here to welcome Shaima Swileh to the United States.

Also John, to draw attention to what they say are the inequities of the Trump administration's travel ban. You could tell that the mother, Shaima, had gone through an incredible ordeal; she was completely overwhelmed.

Really, who wouldn't be, being swarmed by all these cameras?

First time to the United States, getting off a long plane ride. And she's been through one heck of an ordeal, obviously experiencing the pain of a mother whose son has this terrible condition and obviously the hardship of trying to gain entry into the country.

We're told that she reached out to officials in Cairo, State Department officials in Cairo, some 28 times to get this waiver and eventually it was granted to her but not until you had the media spotlight draw attention to this case.

This is what the father said just a short time ago. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI HASSAN, ABDULLAH'S FATHER: This is the big time for our family. But we are blessed to be together. I ask you to respect our privacy as we go to be with our son again.

The Muslim ban has hurt Yemen American families and needs to end.

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SIMON: Well, the waiver may have been granted but it certainly doesn't ease the pain. From here, she headed straight to the hospital in Oakland, California, to be with her son, to be in his hospital room, to touch him, to kiss him, really to say goodbye to him in his remaining days. We're told that life support is going to be pulled. The family made that painful decision.

VAUSE: This is so horrible. It is such -- it is a difficult story. I guess it is just one example of a family's struggle because -- because of these security measures that are put in place by the United States.

How many others have similar stories to tell?

SIMON: It is a great question. That's what her attorneys and advocates wanted to stress, that, look, this is just one example. They were able to put a spotlight on it.

They're really asking the question, how many other examples are there?

They say it is just -- just a powerful example of what they say is an immoral travel ban that was instituted by this White House and it was upheld by the Supreme Court just this past summer.

VAUSE: Dan, thank you. It's a sad story, I guess no happy endings there for that family. But Dan Simon, live for us there in San Francisco, thank you.

The body of a little girl who died in U.S. border custody will be repatriated to Guatemala on Sunday. Border Protection says the girl and her family had access to food and water when they were detained. Her father claimed the girl was in good health. But now attorneys for the family say that neither the girl or the father were actually given any water while they were being held in detention.

The head of U.S. Border Control says the agency is not equipped to handle the surge of families coming through the remote New Mexico checkpoint.

Well, read my lips. Stupid woman or stupid people? The latest debate dividing the British Parliament. We'll explain in just a moment.

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[00:30:00] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody, thanks for staying with us. I'm John Vause, with an update now from the top news stories this hour.

Donald Trump says ISIS has been defeated. He's ordering all U.S. troops out of Syria. The move is taking U.S. lawmakers and allies by surprise. Even senior Trump administration officials have said the terror group is still a serious threat.

U.S. Senate has passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown. It will keep things running through February 8th, but it still needs approval from the House, by Conservatives, urging President Trump to veto the bill, unless he gets funding for the border wall. If the measure fails, key agencies run out of funding, midnight, on Friday.

Wall Street closed Wednesday, at its lowest level for the year. The Dow has been in positive territory before the U.S. Federal Reserve announced its fourth interest rate hike of 2018. The move was expected but still triggered a steep selloff for Dow, ending the day down, 351 points.

British business groups are the latest to point out the obvious, time is running out as Brexit inches closer, less than 100 days now, until the U.K. leaves the E.U. Still no indication if they'll reach a deal. Businesses have been preparing for a no deal scenario and now have gone after the country's politicians.

Five leading groups say businesses have been watching in horror, as politicians have focused on factional disputes rather than practical steps that business needs to move forward.

Meantime, lawmakers in parliament are furious with Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, after he appeared to call the prime minister, a stupid woman. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF U.K.: They said they'd put down a vote of no confidence, then they said they wouldn't, then they said they would, then they didn't, but it wasn't effective. I know it's the Christmas season and the pantomime season, but what do we see from the Labour (INAUDIBLE) Right Honorable Gentleman? He's going to put a confidence vote. Oh yes, he is. Oh no, he isn't. I've got some -- I've got some news for him. I've got some advice for the Right Honorable Gentleman, look behind you. They're not impressed and (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Now, Jeremy Corbyn insists he did not use the words, stupid woman, he says he was actually referring to other members of parliament and said, stupid people.

Joining us now from San Francisco, Democratic Strategist, Caroline Heldman, she's an Associate Professor of Politics at Occidental College, Caroline, thank you for being here with us, good to see you.

CAROLINE HELDMAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICS, OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE (via Skype): Good to see you, John.

VAUSE: OK, explain here why the pairing of the words, stupid and woman, is a loaded sexist comment, because we don't often hear men being, you know, insulted by calling each other, a stupid man.

HELDMAN: Right. So, it actually is a gender slur because it tries to denigrate a woman based upon a stereotype, which is the idea that women and pairing those words together is not random. It's very targeted and very sexist.

And, in fact, not the first time that we've heard it in the parliament, you know, whether it is John Bercow allegations against him, earlier this year, where a number of other prime -- members of parliament who have used this word, in order to target female members of parliament.

And of course, it's not just in the U.K. but, we can't avoid the fact that this is a gender slur and it's not something that a prime minister face, regardless of whether or not you agree with her policies.

VAUSE: And the fact that Corbyn was made in parliament, where all British citizens regardless of gender or religion, or race, or whatever, are all meant to be considered and treated as equals.

HELDMAN: Indeed. And in fact, you have a Democratic crisis when you have female politicians so vastly underrepresented, and this is a global problem, right, where 51 percent of the planet is female, and yet, only 23 percent of political positions are held by women and only 6 percent are held by women heads of state.

So, May, Prime Minister May, being treated in this fashion, unfortunately, she's not the only one. It's a pretty common practice where female politicians, you know, are harassed. In fact, 44 percent are harassed online, with threats of sexual violence.

[00:35:12] And actual violence occurs in about one in four women who serve in political office, whether it's sexual harassment or jostling, so it's actually a crisis that the Amnesty International and United Nations have started to study this idea that when women get into positions of power, they are bullied, and sometimes, it's physical.

VAUSE: So, when Theresa May says that comments like this might actually discourage women from running from office, you know, some people saw that as just, you know, politics and you know (INAUDIBLE) statement, but there is actually, at least (INAUDIBLE) to back it up.

HELDMAN: Well, John, I would argue there's actually research to back it up, in the sense that we actually know that when girls see female politicians being mistreated, it actually discourages them from having ambition for public office.

And we're raised in a culture, across the globe, it doesn't matter what country you're in, girls are told that politics is not for them. And so, when you see something as obvious as Theresa May, being called a stupid woman, which -- you know, he can deny that he said it, but it's very obvious to anyone who has seen the video, that that's exactly what he said.

All the little girls looking at that and thinking, you know, this is not a place for women. This is not a place that I want to be. And until we deal with the fact that we don't fully accept women in politics, then all of these countries that have women vastly underrepresented, are essentially not Democratic, because they're not giving women an equal chance to be political representatives.

VAUSE: I wonder why Corbyn -- I mean, he denied he said it (INAUDIBLE) that just seems ridiculous. If he did say, why not just admit it? Say, look, it was part of the back and forth of a very heated moment into the question time in the House.

You know, we could see Theresa May, she wasn't holding back going after Corbyn or there were no personal gender slurs. You know, she's going after his leadership and the loyalty of his party, but you know, it was a heated moment.

HELDMAN: It was a heated moment. And in a heated moment, it's not OK to use racial slurs, it's not OK to use gender slurs to denigrate your opponent. Even though you're having this political battle, which is great, I mean, I love watching U.K. politics because it's a lot more authentic and real than countries, for example, like the United States, we're much more staid and professional.

These open exchanges are where you get to see the people's passion. But when you have to resort to slurs, because you don't like what your opponent is saying, I think you've crossed a line. And it's a line, in this case, that could discourage girls and women from running for political office.

VAUSE: It just also seems, in the moment, for Corbyn, to man up and say, yes, I said it. I am -- I am sorry I said it. You know, but it's also this slur, this, you know -- you stupid woman, it's based purely on gender. And in ways, it's linked to this gender pay gap.

And there was this new report which came out, which is the gender pay gap, you know, the difference between what women earn and what men earn, men earn a lot more. That pay gap will eventually close, but it's going to take 200 years before it closes. And it -- that pay gap it says, it would because women are considered to be not as good at their job as men.

HELDMAN: Well, and that plays into every stereotype, right? We actually know that's not the case. We know there are no differences in terms of men and women in productivity, in terms of men and women in skills. Women, actually, have surpassed men, in terms of advanced degrees. That actually happened in most advanced industrialized nations in the 1980s.

So, yes, this idea that the wage gap is somehow natural or the natural order were somehow legitimate, it's actually a function of gender discrimination. And so, when you use slurs like stupid woman, you're reinforcing a culture that values men and what they do, more than women and what they do.

And the striking thing, I think, with the prime minister, is that it doesn't matter how powerful a woman gets, she can still be denigrated using a gender slur, and will be the target of such, in fact, more so, as she rises. For example, the leader of the Labour Party, in New Zealand, was asked what her maternity plans were, seven hours after she was elected.

There are all sorts of cases across the globe where the highest- ranking women are denigrated using their gender. So, what does it mean if this is how we treat the most powerful women in the cultures?

VAUSE: Yes. What about the most powerless? Yes, it's a good point, Caroline. As always, good to see you, thank you.

HELDMAN: Great to see you, John.

VAUSE: Coming up here, whatever happened to you when they go low, we go high? And Former First Lady Michelle Obama, apparently, using the Trumps as a punch line.

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[00:40:00] VAUSE: America's Former First Lady Michelle Obama knows how to get a laugh or two, and she did just that during a talk show. But, the chuckles seemed to come at the expense of the Trump family. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The band seemed to wish Michelle Obama was still First Lady. Earlier, she and Jimmy Fallon surprised tourists when their elevator opened.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST OF THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON: Do you want to see a magic trick?

MOOS: But an even bigger surprise, was the Former First Lady's response when Fallon showed her a photo taken right after --

FALLON: The Trump inauguration, just waving from Airforce 1. MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: That's like --

FALLON: Can you just -- walk me through --

OBAMA: Bye Felicia.

MOOS: Just two little words.

OBAMA: Bye Felicia.

MOOS: Maybe you remember hearing, bye Felicia, about a year ago, when Former Trump Adviser Omarosa got dissed by ABC anchor, Robin Roberts.

ROBIN ROBERTS, ANCHOR AT ABC: She says she has a story to tell. I'm sure she'll be selling that story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will see.

ROBERTS: Yes, she won't. Bye, Felicia.

MOOS: What does Felicia mean? It comes from a classic stoner comedy, Friday, that annoying character gets the brushoff from Ice Cube.

ANGELA MEANS, ACTRESS: Craig.

ICE CUBE, ACTOR: Bye, Felicia.

MOOS: When Mrs. Obama said it, most people took it as dissing the Trumps. Columnist Piers Morgan wrote, stop it Michelle, for someone who hates going low, your (BLEEP) sniping at Melania just to sell books is a cheap, tacky shot.

Critics definitely weren't letting Michelle Obama forget about her famous high-low rule.

OBAMA: When they go low, we go high.

MOOS: Somewhere in the middle was Michelle's face, when she mentioned another inaugural moment.

OBAMA: And then the Tiffany's box. It was just all, you know, a lot.

FALLON: Yes.

MOOS: Ah, yes, the awkward Tiffany box handoff. The box containing a picture frame, Mrs. Obama couldn't figure out what to do with it, which is odd, since eight years earlier, she presented a similar box containing a leather journal and pen, to Laura Bush, who stuck it behind her back when they posed for a photo, and discreetly passed it off once inside. It's not nice to say bye, Felicia, to a box.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

OBAMA: Bye, Felicia.

MOOS: New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is up next. You're watching CNN.

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