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Corbyn Denies Calling Theresa May "Stupid Woman"; U.K. Health Industry Planning for Delays if No Deal; Trump Tower-Moscow Talks Went Well Into 2016; Judge to Decide if Harvey Weinstein Case Will Proceed; Cubans Won't Have to Defect to Play U.S. Baseball. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired December 20, 2018 - 01:00   ET



[01:00:38] JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Mission accomplished. The U.S. president declares ISIS defeated, makes a surprise announcement that U.S. troops in Syria will be coming home.

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

Stupid woman or stupid people? Britain's opposition leader denies calling the Prime Minister a stupid woman, claiming he was insulting every lawmaker in the lower House.

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

U.S. president has announced the full and rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, claiming ISIS has been defeated. That decision has taken almost everyone by surprise. And flies in the face of advice from many in Congress and his own administration.

About 2,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to Syria. A modest number tasked with training local forces to maintain security. A mission which will end it seems, after this tweet from the president.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria. My only reason for being there during the Trump presidency." The White House later released a video statement.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, our boys, our young women, our men, they're all coming back, and they're coming back now. We won, and that's the way we want it, and that's the way that they want it.


VAUSE: CNN though has obtained exclusive images from Syria which tell a different story. Widespread destruction from an ongoing fight against ISIS. And just moments before the president's initial tweet, the terror group claimed responsibility for an attack in Raqqa. CNN's Barbara Starr picks up our coverage now from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Devastation and room for miles in Eastern Syria seen an exclusive video obtained by CNN as ISIS fighters make their stand. Still, despite the reality on the ground, President Trump, says ISIS is defeated and ordered the surprise withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. ground troops stationed mainly in Eastern Syria where ISIS still controls territory.

Leaving the Pentagon which does not believe ISIS has been completely defeated, scrambling to devise a way to safely get troops and their equipment out of harm's way. And the suddenly reshaped Middle East.

SETH JONES, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: This clearly sends a message both to Moscow and Tehran that Syria, and frankly, bigger parts of the Middle East are yours.

STARR: There is confusion on all fronts. Several allies were caught unaware. On Tuesday, the State Department was adamant that ISIS fight is not done.

ROBERT PALLADINO, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, UNITED STATE, DEPARTMENT OF STATE: We've made significant progress recently in the campaign, and but the job is not yet done.

STARR: An official DoD estimate says there may be up to 30,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Just days ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the U.S. was not close to finishing its task of training local forces to fight ISIS.

GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, JR., CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: 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.

But with regard to stabilization, we still have a long way to go. And so, I'd be reluctant to affix the time.

STARR: The planned pullout comes just a day after the U.S. announced it was selling Turkey a Patriot missile defense system, something Turkey wanted. And now it's raising questions whether Trump's decision paves the way for Turkey to move against their longtime rivals, the Kurds who've been allies of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

JONES: Erdogan has been asking the U.S. to leave so that he can deal directly with his Kurdish problem. And in -- and in return, the U.S. may be pushing for something including greater arms sales. Maybe a way to balance against Turkey's relationship which has grown stronger with Moscow.

STARR: Though a State Department spokesman tells CNN, it has no connection to other policy matters.

With mounting opposition in Congress from both Democrats and Republicans, it is Defense Secretary James Mattis that may face a very tough road ahead trying to work with Congress to make the president's desires happen. Barbara Starr, CNN, The Pentagon.


[01:05:16] 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. 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.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and she is with us now from San Diego in California. Gail, 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 commander's I was going to interview actually had to postpone an interview because one of her fighters was taken to a local hospital because ISIS has 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 Raqqa.

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 (INAUDIBLE) 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.


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. 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.

[01:10:49] 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.


DUNFORD: 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.


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 Raqqa 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 (INAUDIBLE). So, Raqqa, 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 Raqqa 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.

LEMMON: Great --

VAUSE: Tensions are rising on the border between Israel and Lebanon after Israeli forces uncovered tunnels which they say we're dug by Hezbollah, a militant group guilty of war crimes according to Israel's prime minister. Here's CNN's Ben Wedeman reporting from the Lebanese side of the border.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The line that separates Lebanon from Israel is tense at the best of times. Ever more so, now, Israel is searching for tunnels it claims Hezbollah has dug into Israeli territory. A soldier keeps a close eye through his scope on the CNN crew on the other side of the fence known as the Blue Line.

Since the Israeli operation, dubbed Northern Shield began more than two weeks ago, they've uncovered at least four tunnels. Hezbollah closely aligned with Iran has no comment.

[01:15:10] Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declared the tunnels amount to an act of war. The rhetoric on both sides is taken on a menacing tone.

Last month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, warned his fighters would respond if Israel strikes.

"Any aggression toward Lebanon," he said. "Any raid on Lebanon, any shelling of Lebanon will definitely, definitely, definitely, be answer."

Lebanon and Israel have been officially in a state of war since 1948. In the summer of 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought for more than a month, but since then, the point is prevailed.

The possibility of small incidents, however, sparking a broader conflict always looms large.

We are right on the border between Israel and Lebanon. And just to give you an idea how close everyone is to one another, this is a Lebanese Army position. Over there under the camouflage are Israeli troops. And right there are U.N. peacekeepers.

Hezbollah's forces are nowhere to be seen. Many of them simply local residents who joined the group. On this hilltop, we met two young men who said they had come to enjoy the view. This man who identified himself simply as Abu Wahab, told me, "God gives strength to the army and the resistance, we are with them."

The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon or UNIFIL is tasked with implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the 2006 hostilities, but also stipulated that armed groups, meaning Hezbollah should disarm.

But in Lebanon's complicated political landscape, Hezbollah has managed to keep and build up its arsenal and send its fighters to bolster the Syrian army in its war against the rebels. Israel, where a Hezbollah is growing ever stronger almost daily, sends its warplanes into Lebanese airspace.

The Lebanese government has responded to the tunnel report, saying the Lebanese army has been instructed to take all necessary measures to implement Resolution 1701, and maintain calm on the border.

UNIFIL spokesman, Andrea Tenenti, stresses the importance of continued calm despite violations by both sides.

ANDREA TENENTI, SPOKESMAN, UNITED NATIONS INTERIM FORCE IN LEBANON: Yes, there been violations from both sides of 1701. What's important to emphasize, that's there have been violation but it will bring the stability in the South of Lebanon.

WEDEMAN: Stability, yes. But one wrong step and it could blow. Ben Wedeman, CNN, South Lebanon.


VAUSE: Financial markets in Asia are feeling the impact of another hike in U.S. interest rates. The fourth one so far this year.

Let's take a look at the markets, we had the Nikkei down by almost three percent. Hong Kong down by 1-1/4. Shanghai Composite down by about half a percent, as well. The board of the U.S. Federal Reserve unanimously decided Wednesday to raise interest rates at quarter point, triggering a sell-off on Wall Street.

The Dow fell more than 350 points closing and its lowest level of the year. The Nasdaq lost more than two percent. The S&P 500 down 1-1/2 percent. 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.


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.


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's maybe push back and saying that they weren't going to actually -- they were doing that on their own accord not so much dependently.

[01:20:28] 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 breadcrumb 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. 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 two 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.


TRUMP: And we need security, we need the wall. We need a wall. We'll build the wall to keep the damn drugs out. More than ever, we need the wall. Don't worry, you're getting the wall. Don't worry, OK? Here some --


VAUSE: Well, (INAUDIBLE) to getting the wall, and the 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 -- their 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 rate, or because of this wall coming out from somewhere else.

He promised these two campaigns. One is the having a strong economy and one is 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.

VAUSE: Well, still to come here. For months, she was prevented from visiting her dying son in the U.S. He goes to the Trump travel ban. But now, his Yemeni mother has arrived in California, where doctors say her son has just days left to live.

Plus, more questions surrounding the death of a migrant child in U.S. custody. As final arrangements are put in place for her to be taken home to Guatemala.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [01:27:10] VAUSE: The Yemeni mother is on her way to a hospital in California to see her dying son to hold his hand and kiss him goodbye. Shaima Swileh's flight from Egypt to San Francisco, touched down just a few hours ago.

She had been refused entry to the U.S. since October, because of the Trump administration's travel ban. After taking legal action, she was granted a waiver by the State Department.

Her husband and 2-year-old son are both U.S. citizens and traveled to California for advanced medical treatment for the little boy's genetic brain condition, which now appears to be incurable. And Shaima will be allowed to stay in the U.S. on a spousal visa. Her husband says, the family will now mourn with dignity. Now they are together, they have decided to end life support.

The body of a migrant child who died in U.S. border custody will be repatriated to Guatemala on Sunday. Border Protection, says the migrants have access to food and water while they're detained, and the father claimed his little girl is in good health.

But now, attorneys for the family say neither she nor her father were given water during their detention. Ed Lavandera has details.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin arrived at this remote border checkpoint with her father. The station was closed. There were only four Border Patrol agents on duty to handle the 163 migrant refugees who turned themselves over to the agents.

Customs and Border Protection officials insist the father and daughter were given food and water as they waited nearly eight hours for buses to drive them to a Border Patrol Station, 95 miles away. But now, attorneys for the young girl's father paint a different picture.

CHRISTOPHER BENOIT, ATTORNEY TO CAAL FAMILY: What we do know, and what our client is unequivocal with is that no water was provided to either him or his daughter. That they were provided with limited bathroom facilities.

LAVANDERA: Homeland security officials have not responded to this latest accusation. According to the timeline released by Customs and Border Protection, Jakelin started showing signs of distress just before the bus departed from the port of entry checkpoint to the Border Patrol station in Lordsburg, New Mexico.

REP. RAUL RUIZ (D), CALIFORNIA: There is this a small little table, right? And you know about this big, this wide, that's just --

LAVANDERA: Congressman Raul Ruiz who is a doctor was part of the delegation that toured the facilities. He says he was stunned to see the room where border agents used a table in a utility room as a bed to treat the young girl who had stopped breathing. RUIZ: And I'm not saying that they didn't try. I'm saying that there are some clear under-resourced, under trained, under equipped, and lack of standards and procedures that reflect the highest possible care that we can give to any child.

LAVANDERA: CBP officials say, the decision to keep Jakelin on the bus was the best means to provide the child with emergency care. But the father's lawyers questioned whether that was the best decision, and want to know why they didn't choose to airlift her from the checkpoint area sooner.


ENRIQUE MORENO, FATHER'S LAWYER: At some time before the bus left, sometime around 5:00, there was an indication of distress and a decision was made at that point to transport her by bus anyway.

One of the fundamental questions that needs to be answered that we don't have an answer for is if in fact she was in distress.

LAVANDERA: It is hard to overstate the remoteness of the Antelope Wells outpost on the U.S.-Mexico border. Customs and Border Protection officials say human smuggling routes into this area is a brand new phenomenon. In the last two months officials say extremely large groups of migrant refugees have been arriving together, smugglers leaving parents and children on America's doorstep in the middle of nowhere.


VAUSE: Ed Lavandera reporting there.

We'll take a short break.

Next up here on CNN NEWSROOM. Read my lips -- what did Jeremy Corbyn mouth during question time? It's a question defining an already divided Britain as Brexit looms.

Plus with no deal in sight, the U.K. Health Institute prepares for the worst case scenario which includes shortages of critical medical supplies.


VAUSE: Thanks for staying with us, everybody.

I'm John Vause with an update about top news this hour.

U.S. lawmakers and allies are reacting with surprise, some with indignation at Donald Trump's decision to pull all American troops from Syria. The President tweeted Wednesday that ISIS has been defeated but many in his own government saying otherwise. About 2,000 U.S. personnel are stationed in Syria. Their main mission is to train local forces.

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown. The measure keeps everything running until February 8th but it still needs approval from the House where some conservatives are urging President Trump to veto the bill unless he gets funding for his border wall. If the measure fails, key agencies run out of money at midnight on Friday.

British business groups are the latest to point out the bleeding obvious -- time is running out as Brexit inches closer. The deadline for the U.K. to leave the E.U. is now less than a hundred days away. But still there is no indication that anything has been done to agree on what will happen the day after Brexit.

[01:34:55] Businesses have been preparing for the worst case scenario -- a no deal Brexit and are lashing out at the country's politicians. Five leading groups say "Businesses have been watching in horror as politicians have focused on fractional disputes rather than practical steps that business needs to move forward."

Meanwhile lawmakers are furious with Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn after he appeared to call Prime Minister Theresa May a "stupid woman". Take a look.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: They say they'd put down a vote of no confidence. Then they said they wouldn't. Then they said they would. Then they did it but it wasn't effective. I know this is Christmas season and the pantomime season.

But what we see from the Labour front (INAUDIBLE). He's going to put a confidence vote. Yes, he is. No he isn't.

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 neither is the country.


VAUSE: Corbyn insists he said stupid people referring to everyone in the lower house and he says because of that there's no need to apologize.

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 with us. Good to see you.


VAUSE: Ok. Explain here why the pairing of the word "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 are stupid, right. And so pairing those two words together is not random. It is very targeted and very sexist. And in fact, not the first time that we've hear it in the parliament, you know, whether it is John Bercow, allegations against him earlier this year or a number of other members of parliament who've 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 should face regardless of whether or not you agree with her policies.

VAUSE: And the fact the comment 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 inf fact, you have a democratic crisis when you have a female politician so vastly under-represented. 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 is a pretty common practice where female politicians, you know, are harassed. In fact 44 percent are harassed online with threats of sexual violence. And actual violence occurs in about one in four women who serve in political office, sexual harassment or jostling.

So it is actually a crisis that the Amnesty International and the United Nations have started to study. This idea that women get into positions of power, they are bullied. And sometimes it is physical.

VAUSE: So when Theresa May says that comments like this might actually discourage women from running from office, some people saw that as just, you know, politics and you know, not actually a realistic statement but there is actually at least physical (ph) evidence 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 -- he can deny that he said it but it is 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, no 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 under-represented 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 denies that he said it. He

said "stupid people". That just seems ridiculous. If he didn't say it, 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. There are no personal gender slurs. She's going after his leadership and the loyalty of his party. But, you know, it was a heated moment.

[01:39:52] HELDMAN: It was a heated moment. And in a heated moment, it is 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 is a lot more authentic and real than in 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: And just also, it seemed a moment for Corbyn to man up and say yes, I said it. I am sorry I said it. But there's also this slur, this you know, stupid woman, it's based purely on gender. And in a way it's linked to this gender pay gap. And there was this new report which came out which said that the gender pay gap, the difference between what women earn and what men earn, men earn more, that pay gap will eventually close but it's going to take 200 years before it closes. And that pay gap is there simply 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 aren't differences in terms of men and women and productivity, in terms of men and women and 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 or somehow legitimate is -- it is 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 our cultures? VAUSE: Or the most powerless. Yes, that's a good point. Caroline --

as always, good to see you. Thank you.

HELDMAN: Great to see you -- John.

VAUSE: Well, the U.K. health industry is preparing for a no deal Brexit. The big concern is the shortage of medical supplies coming from Europe, potentially held up at the border for months.

But as CNN's Samuel Burke reports, some pharmacists say they're already seeing shortages.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go. So it's routine.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Routines that are part of the fabric of the U.K.'s national health service, the supply chain for prescription drugs for conditions like these anchored in the European Union for more than 40 years.

Now that arrangement is at risk under a no deal Brexit. The Brexit Health Alliance, a non-political group representing the health sector says 37 million patient packs including prescriptions are imported from the E.U. every month. 45 million are exported to the E.U.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at the insulin, you can see it's been made in Denmark.

BURKE: So the devalued pound then makes that much more expensive.


BURKE: Pharmacists are also facing uncertainty over future drug supplies from the E.U. Now, Britain's health ministry advises that in the unlikely event of a shortage, pharmacists can provide an appropriate alternative medicine to their patients.

MITRA ZAIMI, PHARMACIST: We've got a lot of people coming in in with prescriptions where we turn them away and we say look, I can't get hold of this item. But we fear we're going to get a lot more shortages. And the medicines that we're worried about are mainly the anti-diabetic and the inhalers. They tend to be out of stock.

BURKE: The health minister says its planning for the worst. 500 companies that supply medicines and medical supplies told to increase stockpiles by another six weeks. To expect delays of up to six months at the borders due to new customs checks. To seek alternate routes of shipment for drugs including air freight and increase additional warehouse capacity for drugs at ports.

That also includes increasing refrigerator capacity at warehouses to stockpile medicines like insulin that must be kept at low temperatures.

What about people who say that we're scaremongering talking about stock piling drugs?

LAYLA MCCAY, BREXIT HEALTH ALLIANCE: I think that having pharmaceutical companies stock piling is in order to reduce the risk of scaremongering. We need to know that in the worst case scenario if there is no deal and there's lots of disruption at the borders then we have put the right plans in place.

BURKE: The fear is real but the Brexit Health Alliance says if Theresa May gets her plan through, it would meet the major concerns of the health industry. Medicines and medical supplies would continue to cross borders without custom checks during a transition period.

[01:44:59] Still for James Moore who also takes multiple injections of insulin every day, he's planning his own contingencies while Britain is still in the E.U.

JAMES MOORE, PATIENT: I could take my prescription, go into a French pharmacy and catch it. It is possible to conceive of hopping across the channel and doing it right now or flying across the island.

BURKE: This holiday season, the one gift James and many other desire above all an end to the uncertainty for what comes after Brexit.

Samuel Burke, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: Another Moscow mystery and Donald Trump -- just how advanced were those plans for a Trump Tower in Russia's capital. When we come back, the ever changing answer.


VAUSE: Donald Trump's outside counsel Rudy Giuliani is changing the story again about negotiations for the Trump Tower in Moscow. During the 2016 campaign, then candidate Trump repeatedly insisted he had no business dealings in Russia, no dealings with Russia -- nothing to do with any Russians.

According to special counsel Robert Mueller, a Moscow Trump Tower potentially could have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Trump Organization. And it seems advanced negotiations were under way.

On Sunday Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash it was a real estate project. There was a letter of intent to go forward but no one signed it. But someone did sign it.

CNN's Chris Cuomo obtained the letter. Not only is it signed, it is signed by President Donald J. Trump.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The lengthy letter of intent is dated October 28th, 2015 -- four months after Donald Trump announced his bid for the presidency. It bears Trump's signature script and while the letter was non-binding, it detailed how any eventual Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow would have handed the Trump Organization a $4 million dollar upfront fee, a percentage of the sales and control over marketing and design. The deal also included an opportunity to name the hotel spa after Trump's daughter Ivanka.

But a few days ago, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani directly contradicted what is now in black and white, telling CNN "It was a real estate project. There was a letter of intent to go forward but no one signed it."

Today Giuliani admitted to the "New York Daily News" that it was signed but said the letter was BS because it didn't result in a deal adding, "That was the end of it. It means nothing but an expression of interest. That means very little unless it goes to a contract and it never did."

But the discrepancies are just another example of the President's changing stories when it comes to his business dealings with Russia. He distanced himself from any deals throughout the campaign and early days of his administration.

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Putin. I've never spoken to him.

I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we've stayed away.

SCHNEIDER: But the President's former personal lawyer and now convicted felon Michael Cohen revealed to special counsel Robert Mueller that conversations about the Trump Tower Moscow project continued until at least June 2016 after Trump secured the Republican nomination.

[01:50:06] And Sunday Giuliani said in Trump's answers to Mueller's questions, the President admitted talks went all the way through the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Donald Trump know that Michael Cohen was pursuing the Trump Tower in Moscow into the summer of 2016?

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: According to the answer THAT he gave it would have covered all the way up to November -- November, 2016. He said he had conversations with them about it. The President didn't hide this.

SCHNEIDER: Mueller's team maybe looking into how the prospects of a Moscow deal could have played into Russia's interference in the election. Meanwhile this document, now giving a small glimpse into a likely Mueller related mystery that could mean more trouble for Trump.

The ruling from the D.C. federal appeals court means an unnamed company owned by an unknown foreign country must comply with a grand jury subpoena to hand over information related to a criminal probe.

This mystery company could be anything from a sovereign owned bank to a state-backed technology or information company. And Mueller's team has targeted foreign companies before. In fact the special counsel indicted three Russian companies in February for an elaborate social media scheme that was meant to influence voters in the 2016 election

Jessica Schneider, CNN -- Washington.


VAUSE: Well, a pivotal decision could come Thursday in the case which sparked the #MeToo movement. A judge is expected to rule on a motion to dismiss sexual assault charges against Harvey Weinstein, the most powerful titan of the film industry.

CNN's Jean Casarez has details.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein is facing a key court hearing in New York Thursday. Weinstein is facing five sexual assault and rape charges involving two women. His fall from grace in large part sparked the #MeToo movement with countless women coming forward with stories of sexual assault and harassment by powerful men after more than 80 women accused Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault or rape, allegations that span several decades.

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: I fought with this volley of nos which he ignored. Who knows? Maybe he heard them as maybe; maybe he heard them as yeses. Maybe they turned him on.

CASAREZ: Weinstein pleaded not guilty to the felony charges and has vociferously denied all of the allegations against him. While his legal team is gearing up for what could be a huge blow to the #MeToo movement. A judge is expected to rule Thursday on several motions, including a defense motion to dismiss the entire case.

This comes after several missteps in the investigation that led to one count of criminal sexual act in the first degree to be dismissed back in October. One detective was accused of coached another accuser after he allegedly told her to delete any cell phone messages she didn't want to turn over to prosecutors. That detective is now the subject of an internal investigation and has not returned CNN's request for comment.

Weinstein's attorney, Benjamin Brothman accused investigators of undermining the judicial process, telling CNN, quote, "This case is falling apart because it is a fundamentally bad case and bad cases eventually fall apart even when law enforcement officials try and stack the deck against the accused."

Brothman is asking for an evidentiary hearing if the judge does not throw out the case on Thursday to put police and even prosecutors on the witness stand. Prosecutors are pushing for the case to be brought to trial.


VAUSE: Well, Cuban players have been a mainstay of U.S. baseball for years. And coming up here, details on how the best in Cuba will get a shot at the majors and they won't need to defect.


VAUSE: A shot at the U.S. baseball majors just got a whole lot easier for players from Cuba. The MLB and Cuban Baseball Federation have reached a deal which will allow Cubans to play professionally in the U.S. and Canada, bringing to an end the days when they first had to defect.

Reporting in now from Havana, here's CNN's Patrick Oppmann.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cuba's National Baseball Federation says it has signed a historic deal with Major League Baseball that will allow Cuban players for the first time to go directly from Cuba to play in the U.S. legally.

Previously under the administration of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and then his brother Raul Castro, if a Cuban player left for the U.S. they had to go through a third country. They were breaking Cuban law and they were prevented from coming back to the island and they're banned essentially from ever playing baseball here.

It's going to be very different now. If a player has competed here in Cuba for more than six years in the national league and is 25 or over, then they will be able to go and get signed by a U.S. team. They will have to give about a quarter -- up to a quarter of their bonus back to the Cuban National Federation which is of course part of the Cuban government.

So the Cuban government does stand to reap millions of dollars from this deal which they say they will put into their baseball league which lacks resources. Many of the best players have gone to the U.S. They will not be, under this deal, able to come back and play.

But from now on, players who do follow this pathway that's set out by the Cuban government, they will be able to come back and play and live here. They will be able to go back and forth. And really for many of the younger players who are probably considering leaving this island for the first time, there's a way for them to go and compete in the big leagues legally and be able to come back to Cuba.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN -- Havana.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. My colleague Nick Watt will take over right after a short break. You're watching CNN.