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CNN NEWSROOM

Mattis Quits Over Trump's Decision On Syria; Brexit Talks Paused For British Parliament Recess; Has Trump Betrayed The Kurds In Syria; China Behind Scheme To Steal Business Secrets; Gatwick Airport Resumes Service After 32 Hour Shutdown; Cartoonist Finds Rich Material In Trump; James Mattis Resigns Over Foreign Policy Issues; Gatwick Airport Back to Business; No Budget, No President's Signature; Stock Markets Wave Red for the Holidays. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired December 21, 2018 - 03:00   ET

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


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[03:00:00] NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR: -- CNN Newsroom.

Ahead this hour, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is stepping down. The reason is deep differences with President Trump.

And travel chaos it's right before the holidays. Drones shut down London's Gatwick airport but the airport is not reopening.

Plus, the U.S. House votes on a new deal to avert a government shutdown. Now it's up to the Senate which seems unlikely to work out the major sticking point before the deadline arrives.

Major developments -- major chaos in Washington. First, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quits. In his resignation letter to the president the four-star general calls out President Trump for not backing key allies and not doing enough to stand up to America's enemies.

The catalyst appears to be Donald Trump's shocking decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

And now this. A U.S. defense official says that the U.S. military has also been othered by the president to withdraw about half of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

So, let's start with the Mattis resignation. This looks like a turning point for this administration as president and perhaps even this country.

So, first of all, Trump tweeted this. "General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February." Notice there Trump said, Mattis is retiring. That's not the way Mattis put it.

He said he is quitting over profound differences of opinion with the boss on just how to treat America's allies and enemies. Mattis said the president should have a secretary of defense who is better aligned with the president's view. CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke with Stephen Miller, a senior advisor to President Trump. And Miller downplayed any suggestion of a rift between the president and Mattis, insisting the secretary was simply retiring. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: James Mattis is retiring, at the same time as Mattis said the president is entitled to a secretary of defense that has strong alignment with his views. And I think that's something that All Americans can agree with.

(CROSSTALK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: But being (Inaudible) Stephen--

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: It's also -- it's also -- well, it's also very normal--

BLITZER: Hold on a second.

MILLER: -- at this point in the administration to have turn over. Secretary Mattis had always been clear to the president from the beginning, he didn't plan on staying through the entire administration.

But this is an opportunity for the whole country to get a new secretary of defense who will be aligned with the president in these critical issues, whether you're talking about in Syria, whether you're talking about across the Middle East in general, whether you're talking about other countries paying their fair share and the whole America first agenda of this president.

BLITZER: But in his letter Mattis lays on his views. And let me just briefly summarize some of those views, it's a very long letter that he writes. He stands by, he said, treating allies with respect and being clear eyed about malign actors and competitors. And then he says, because the president has the right to a defense Secretary whose views are better aligned with his, he is stepping down.

That sounds to me, Stephen, like a very strong rebuke of the president's policies, isn't it?

MILLER: Well, it sounds to me like Secretary Mattis believes the president is entitled to a secretary of defense who is better aligned with his views. At the same time this president had a great relationship with Secretary Mattis and thank him for his service.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Now there's been a chorus of fear coming from many directions today decrying the president's decision to pull those troops out of Syria and bemoaning General Mattis's resignation.

On Twitter, Senator Marco Rubio, he is a Republican, he writes, "We are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances, and empower our adversaries."

John Brennan, former director of the CIA also on Twitter. He writes, "OK, Republicans, how much longer are you going to let this farcical presidency continue? Are you waiting for a catastrophe to happen before acting? Disaster looms."

Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and House minority leader says she is, quote, "shaken." And an anonymous House Republican and Trump supporter tells my colleague Jim Acosta "The wheels may be coming off."

And there's more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We need a sense that we have a president who is going to take the time to make the right decisions and provide stability for this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

PANETTA: If the president doesn't begin to do that then I think there's a real question about whether he's implementing the powers and duties of the presidency the way they're supposed to be.

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The president has taken a wrecking ball to every pillar of stability and security we have a record over the past 67 years.

[03:04:54] REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) CALIFORNIA: I hope the person that takes this job understands who are allies are and does not alienate us from them, and understands who our adversaries are and stands firm against them, as General Mattis warned in his letter that that must always be the case.

And also presses upon the president about the rule of law and the human rights that we value in the U.N. convention that we follow to make sure that the president's worst instincts don't materialize, and that we slowly erode and slip into an authoritative regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: Joining me now, retired rear admiral John Kirby, who served as a spokesman at the State and Defense Departments during the Obama administration.

John, it's hard to keep up with the number of public figures in the U.S. on the left and the right who were coming out to express fear and concern now that General Mattis is taking his hand off the tiller and leaving the administration. Are they right to be quite this concern?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, I think they are and I don't want to sound hyperbolic about that, but Secretary Mattis has been a very stable leader there at the Defense Department, very measured and pragmatic in the advice and counsel that he gives the president of the United States. He believes in strong military power, but he also believes as he wrote

in that letter, in the power of alliances and partnerships and how important it is for the United States to fight alongside allies and partners in whatever region whatever struggle that we're engaged in.

And I think it was principally that issue and the president's refusal to abide by our commitments to alliances and partnerships, particularly in and around Syria that led Secretary Mattis to this decision.

So, yes, I think they are very right to be concerned. I've known General Mattis now for many, many years. You are not going to find a finer, more upstanding, more honest and more driven leader in terms of character.

WATT: And if they are concerned about the safety of the U.S., should we all be this concerned for the safety of the world?

KIRBY: Well, you know, I don't know that -- you know, that's a pretty long bridge to cross here that his resignation is going to have, you know, dramatic international security ramifications, at least immediately. I don't know that I would go that far.

But I do think that what I'm worried about is whoever Trump gets to replace Secretary Mattis it's likely going to be somebody who is much more ideologically aligned with Trump's world view. One of the things that he and Mattis clashed over was America's leadership in place in the world. Whether it's the Iran deal, whether the embassy moved to Jerusalem, troops at the border. I mean, of Syria, and now Afghanistan.

So, you're probably going to end up with a new secretary of defense who thinks a lot more like Trump and that's not necessarily good for the United States and I don't think it's necessarily good for our allies and partners around the world, because now there will be no check on some of Trump's more strong, and maybe more reckless impulses.

WATT: Yes. I mean, listen, Mattis made it very clear in this letter. That he is resigning because he and Trump are not on the same page when it comes to how to deal with their allies and also how to deal with, I believe he called them malign actors was it--

KIRBY: Right.

WATT: -- in the world. So, yes. I mean, presumably Trump will replace him with somebody who does agree with him, who does agree with America first. And Mattis from the inside of this administration clearly does not.

KIRBY: Yes. Look, there's a line in Mattis's letter. This gets to your question perfectly, where he says something of the effect that, you know, the president deserves to have a secretary of defense who is more aligned with your views.

And while in the macro sense I think that's true, you know, all cabinet members are sort of, you know, supportive of the general vision of the commander-in-chief and the president they serve.

You want a defense secretary, particularly in these challenging times and some of the conflicts that we've been talking about who can stand up to the president of the United States and speak truth to power, who can challenge those world views and try to sway the president into a better, more sound way of making decisions.

And so, this is the concern I think that that you have is he is going to follow Mattis's final piece of advice and get somebody that is much more aligned with his world view, and that is not going to be good for our allies and partners. It's not going to be good for NATO.

And I think it's going to be just a yet another signal to Putin and to President Xi in China and even to Kim Jong-un in North Korea that the United States not only cannot be counted upon but we cannot be counted upon to be leaders on the world stage.

WATT: And I just to talk a little bit about how this went down, the letters. So, on Thursday, President Trump tweeted that General Mattis was retiring. Now Mattis could have gone along with that narrative, he could've gone quietly into the night. He'd been sort of undermined by his boss over Syria. It would have been understandable for him just to resign quietly and leave the administration and shake hands and go, but he didn't. He wrote this letter.

Why do you think he took this pretty bold step?

KIRBY: This it's -- this kind of maneuver is exactly what you're expected to do when you are a senior military leader.

[03:09:58] He is, what he's done here is very much in keeping with our traditions. When you ethically and morally can no longer support your boss, in this case, the commander-in-chief, President Trump, you have an obligation to resign. And to do so in writing and formally by explaining the reasons behind your decision.

So, he did something that four-star generals and admirals are all taught to do. When he comes to that point very much in keeping with military tradition. It doesn't surprise me that this is the way he chose to do it.

I suspect wisely he also chose to do this to get it out on the record so that it was clear why he left and that he wasn't being fired and the president's notion of retirement was false.

I can tell you that Secretary Mattis I've spoken to people that know him well, they'll tell you that the last thing he ever wanted to do was quit this job. He is not a quitter. He is a former marine and marines don't quit, and he's never not accomplished the mission that was assigned to him.

This is the first time in his professional life where he's chosen to walk away from the task at hand. That is a big step for a man like Jim Mattis.

WATT: And this, I mean, he is supposed to be staying until February until the successor is found, but surely after this letter that his position is not tenable. I mean, he has to go sooner than that.

KIRBY: Well, no, I think he'll actually stay until February. I mean, I don't know that I would say it's untenable. It's certainly going to be uncomfortable and probably awkward for him, and some of the national security meetings and some of the sessions that he'll have with the president and the rest of the cabinet.

And there, it's impossible that certainly some of our adversaries who are out there will consider him a bit of a lame duck and will simply not be willing to either meet with him or meet with him substantially on anything. So, he might find his job a little uncomfortable and a little tougher to do over the next couple of months. But knowing Secretary Mattis the way I do he will stay until the end of February just like he promised he would.

WATT: John Kirby, thank you very much for your insights.

KIRBY: My pleasure. Thank you.

WATT: Now Syria isn't the only country that could see a drawdown of U.S. troops. So, U.S. defense official tell CNN that the military is been ordered by the president to start planning the withdrawal of about half its forces from Afghanistan.

An Afghan official told CNN Friday that they had not discussed the matter with the U.S.

Our Ivan Watson is in Hong Kong with more. So, Ivan, were the Afghans taken by surprise here?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me just read to you some tweets and I don't know if we can get it up on screen. It just crossed from the chief advisor to the Afghan president, Fazel Fazli, who in one of them, he writes, "If the few thousand foreign troops that advise, train, and assist leave, it will not affect our security.

In the past four and a half years our security is completely in the hands of Afghans and the final goal is that the ANDSF, that's the Afghan Armed Forces will stand on their own feet to protect and defend soil on their own."

So, some patriotism there in response to reports that the U.S. could drawdown its presence significantly. This is the longest running U.S. foreign conflict, Nick, going on for some 17 years and it is not going well.

I'm going to site some statistics coming from, basically the U.S. military's accountant organization over Afghanistan cigar which says that "Afghan government control or influence of its districts reached the lowest level, 55 percent since this organization began monitoring it." This is due to -- according to an October report. Going on to say that the "Afghan government controls or influences districts in which about 65 percent of the population lives."

Going on then to say that the 12 percent "Afghan security forces are 11 percent below their target strength, and that 12 percent of Afghanistan's districts are now reportedly under insurgent control or influence."

The Afghan president has said that some 29,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed or wounded since 2015. Senior U.S. military commanders are calling this a stalemate. That said, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff has recommended as early as December 6 against a U.S. drawdown. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH DUNFORD, CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: You have not recommended that we leave Afghanistan because, again, in my judgment, leaving Afghanistan not only would create instability in South Asia, but in my judgment would give terrorist groups the space within which the plan to conduct operations against the American people, the homeland and our allies. And that really is the problem we're trying to solve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: That was echoed by President Trump's appointee to take over the U.S. military Central Command. He indicated earlier this month that if the U.S. withdrew precipitously that it would not be enough for the Afghan government to remain standing.

[03:14:55] That said, the State Department announced a new initiative calling on the Afghan government and the Taliban to draw up negotiating teams to engage in negotiations, a new diplomatic thrust, aiming to try to find a way out of this long-running and bloody stalemate. Nick?

WATT: And Ivan, I just want to ask you briefly about Mattis. Did he get on with the Afghans, how was he viewed in the region in general?

WATSON: He was viewed as he's been pejoratively described by some Trump supporters as a globalist. He viewed the importance and strategic value of alliances in the region.

And I recall a speech in June 2017 shortly after the Trump administration had taken office when he addressed military commanders from around the region and concerned that people were expressing that the U.S. would not adhere to its alliances.

And he said he paraphrased Winston Churchill and he said when the U.S. exhausts all our other options it would do the right thing, seeking to reassure U.S. allies in the region. The U.S. has mutual defense treaties with the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, all countries that have relied on this defense umbrella. Far from perfect that it is since the end of World War II. Nick?

WATT: Ivan in Hong Kong, thanks a lot.

Now, as we've reported, the U.S. military is going to pack up and leave Syria. But where does that leave the Syrian Kurds who have been battling ISIS with Washington's help. Unfortunately, it's a tough spot they've been many times before. Details ahead on the CNN Newsroom.

Plus, Gatwick airport is back open after a 32-hour shut down but the pre-Christmas travel nightmare isn't over yet. Plus, Thursday was a bad day for the Dow Jones. And global markets are reflecting them. We'll break it all down ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATT: London's Gatwick Airport is open for business after a 32-hour shut down. Flights have now started to arrive and depart. It should ease the pre-Christmas chaos caused by drones flying around the airfield. All flights of the U.K.'s second biggest airport were grounded, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded.

[03:20:01] CNN's Anna Stewart joins us now from Gatwick. Anna, so what's going on? Some good news?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Well, yes, some planes are taking off, some planes are landing. It's pretty limited still though, so the disruption continues. And of course, huge knock on effects.

Now I actually just spoke to the assistant chief constable who is looking after this investigation in the peaceful (Ph) here in Sussex which is the area I'm in.

He says that they have (Inaudible) within yesterday. They don't obviously have the drones. They don't have the perpetrators but they do have much better ways of mitigating the risks around the drones. He wouldn't tell me all the various options. He says some are very high- tech. He doesn't want to share that necessarily with the perpetrators. Some are low-tech. They are more willing at this stage, they say to shoot the drones out of the sky given the huge disruption there has been.

That was seen yesterday. It was pretty much off the table. We were told it was too dangerous. They are feeling more confident. But let me show you how it all unfolded over the last 36 hours.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART: Runways were closed at 9 p.m. Wednesday after two drones were initially cited. It was briefly reopened at 3 a.m. but only for 45 minutes. The drone was spotted again.

Police say the devices are buzzing over the runways to intentionally cause disruption, impacting 120,000 passengers who were struggling to fathom why anyone would do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you're doing you're making everyone's life a misery. I'm sure that was what their intention was in the first place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was like, why, why do they do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like this is the prank. I feel like people just want to be cool and be on the news.

STEWART: Some people have been stranded here since last night.

CHRIS WOODROOFE, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, GATWICK AIRPORT: This is deliberate act. This is someone who is seeking to disrupt those passengers, and it's so disappointing that you've got a perpetrator of a drone around there punishable by five years imprisonment, who has now disrupted 120,000 passengers' journeys this close to Christmas.

STEWART: Drones present a major risk to aircraft flying into an engine or a windscreen could have catastrophic consequences, which is why in the U.K. it's illegal to fly a drone above 120 meters and within one kilometer of an airfield of airport.

But tracking the perpetrators is proving difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, obviously this is an ongoing investigation and incident. There have been a number of sightings of a drone or drones today which we are investigating. We're working very closely with Gatwick. We got a number of resources deployed in order to try and find who is responsible and bring this to a resolution effectively.

STEWART: Police believed the drones used today are of an industrial specification which means they could have a long-range and may not even require an operator.

LEWIS WHYLD, DRONE EXPERT: This is a huge problem for the civil aviation authority. We have companies using the blockchain Factom to create a live map of all drone flights in the U.K. But in the event of a rogue operator, then some kind of physical interaction will have to take place, the drone will have to be destroyed or captured because you can use signals jammers but they have it fly by wave points or artificial intelligence and so they just wouldn't work.

So, the only way to be sure would be to knock it out of the sky really.

STEWART: The U.K.'s aviation regulator like many around the world, have been looking to increase drone regulation. And for the passengers trying to travel to and from Gatwick day, that can't happen soon enough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART: So, the police I've spoken to today say they still hope that justice will be done. You can get up to five years for flying a drone near within a kilometer of an airport and also the disruption that they've had here could have consequences as well.

It has been huge. A 120,000 passengers at least impacted so far, Nick, and more are expected to be today because it's still pretty much limited takeoffs and landings here.

WATT: Anna Stewart at Gatwick airport, thanks a lot for checking in.

Now to Washington. Pre-Christmas budget chaos there. The House of Representatives has passed a revised spending measure that gives President Trump the $5 billion he does really want for his border wall, but the Senate still needs to vote on the measure and they will probably block that bill.

That means a partial U.S. government shutdown kicks in less than 22 hours from now.

Our man on the Hill Manu Raju reports.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The House narrowly passing a bill to keep the government open but also, it provide President Trump with his demands for $5 billion in money for the southern border for his wall, something the Democrats are rejecting.

Now, it passed the House. It has no chance of passing the Senate on Friday where the Senate is expected to reject that measure, then the question is what's going to happen afterwards. President Trump is signaling to his allies he's not going to give in, that he will not sign any bill whatsoever that does not have money for his wall. While the Democrats are saying they're not going to give any money for his wall.

[03:24:57] So, which side will blink? Will there be a prolong shutdown and how detrimental will this be to the government, the U.S. economy? Roughly a quarter of the government could shut down if there is no deal by the end of the day on Friday that includes major federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, the Food and Drug Administration and others, and roughly 400,000 workers or so could be affected.

Now what will happen after the Senate votes? That's a question that I put to the Majority Leader of the House. The Republican Kevin McCarthy who told me it's up to a compromise. The Senate has to compromise with the House and the president to sign a deal.

But getting all that together by the end of the day Friday seems increasingly unlikely, which is why many people on Capitol Hill now believe a shutdown is almost certain.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.

WATT: And global markets are reacting after another brutal day of losses on Wall Street. European markets have just begun trading for the day after Asian markets closed mixed.

Now CNN business correspondent Eleni Giokos is following it off from Johannesburg. So, what's happening? Take me through it.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, there is so much that is happening. All I can say is a sea of red across the board across global markets.

I want to take you back to what happened overnight in the United States. It's actually the U.S. markets that is causing a lot of this contagion of negative sentiments throughout the world.

The U.S. markets close in negative territory once again. And I want to also take you back to the day before. We also went down quite significant, a few hundred points on the Dow. Last night we're on 2 percent, down 2 percent of 400 point plus, NASDAQ also sitting in negative territory.

And of course, this is what happened with the Federal Reserve earlier this week when we saw an interest rate hike of a quarter of a percent. Now you know investors are very jittery. They are very worried about the possibility of slow growth environment, and of course, some are talking about a recession.

The Federal Reserve also pointing to the fact that we might even see more interest rates hike next year. So, the days of cheap money are over, and of course that is scaring the emerging market scenario as well.

Asia overnight closed in the red. The Japanese stocks are sitting in bear territory officially. There we saw the Bank of Japan keeping rates unchanged. now you'd think that that would keep investors happy. But in fact, loose monetary policy in Japan is also scaring investors because it's cheap money that are also -- that are also creating a bit of havoc there.

The Nikkei was down 1 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong up slightly and the Shanghai composite, guess what, Nick. The Shanghai is down around 20 percent year-to-date. So, definitely no good news.

You mentioned the European markets, they are of course also under a lot of scrutiny. Lots of fragile moves that are coming through, as well. We're worried about Brexit, we're worried about what we're going to be seeing in terms of growth in Europe. And if the U.S. and China don't sort out their problems, well this is going to fault it through into higher European stocks are going to fare for the rest of the year.

And of course, we only got a few days of trade left, right. So, not much optimism that we are going to end the year off on a positive note.

WATT: No. OK. I'm going to hang on to a little bit of here. Could the holidays be a benefit here?

GIOKOS: Yes.

WATT: A bunch of bankers going home having a whiskey, chilling out, stopping this light.

GIOKOS: Listen, they are going to have to have quite a bit of whiskey and perhaps just some comfort food as well.

Look, over the holiday season we see very low volumes coming through and that it either exacerbates moves to the positive or the negative. We're hoping that we are going to see a little bit of positive momentum heading into 2019.

But remember, this is a lot of uncertainty with China and of course, the United States. You're worried about Brexit. You're worried about the oil price. A weaker growth environment is going to add a lot more pressure on the commodity prices. And of course, emerging markets have been doing really badly.

So, if people don't focus on the fundamental factors, and let me tell you. Fundamentals are looking pretty good right now and to stop focusing on all the noise we might just start the year of on a positive note. I'm also feeling hopeful that people are going to sit and take a little bit of a break and chill as you say.

WATT: Eleni, thanks a lot for keeping an eye on all that from down there in Johannesburg.

GIOKOS: Thanks, Nick.

WATT: Now, still to come, why some of President Trump's critics say he is betraying a key ally by pulling U.S. troops out of Syria.

Plus, China is fighting back as the U.S. accuses it of working with a group of hackers to steal intellectual property from businesses around the world. The latest on that is next.

[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NICK WATT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Nick Watt. Let's update you on our top stories this hour. The U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis will leave the Trump administration by the end of February. The senior U.S. official's says Mattis resigned over President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces in Syria, a move Mattis vehemently opposed.

The U.S. is also planning a troop draw down in Afghanistan. A defense official tells CNN, military leaders have been ordered to plan the withdrawal of about 7,000 troops from the country. Afghan official's tells CNN on Friday, they had not discussed the matter with the U.S.

And Brexit talks are on polls as British members of Parliament go on Christmas recess. They'll be back in session on January the 7th. Just two days later the heated debate about Prime Minister Theresa May's much unloved Brexit deal will resume. It is not clear yet when a vote will take place.

Now, President Trump claimed ISIS has been defeated in Syria, but Kurdish fighters are very much still at war with ISIS in the country. A dramatic video obtained exclusively by CNN shows that deadly fighting. And it's fueling criticism from Mr. Trump's opponents who say his decision to pull military support away from the Kurds is another U.S. betrayal of this key ally. Our Arwa Damon reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: History has often been unkind to the Kurds, a cycle of repeated betrayals. When the U.S. led coalition expelled Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait in 1991, then President H.W. Bush encouraged the Iraqi people to oust the dictator all together. GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is another way for the bloodshed to stop and that is for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters in to their own hands, to force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.

DAMON: In response, Iraq's Kurds rose up against Saddam. But when his elite forces advance north, the Kurds got no help. Millions fled to the mountains and many others were slaughtered trying to resist.

During the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Kurds were again enthusiastic allies, assisting American and British forces in their drive to Baghdad. When ISIS swept to Iraq four years ago, Kurdish resistance was crucial in keeping the militants at bay. They were instrumental in the fight to liberate Mosul.

In Syria, the U.S. turned to the Kurds there, the YPG as key allies. The main ground force that led deliberation of Raqqa, ISIS's headquarters. But in both Iraq and Syria, the Kurds have been allies of convenience, deserted when no longer needed in the geopolitical chessboard.

Last year, the U.S. stood by while the Iraqi military drove the Kurds back from territory they held during the fight against ISIS.

[03:35:01] MASOUD BARZANI, FORMER PRESIDENT OF IRAQI KURDISTAN (through translator): We said that the people who were verbally telling us they were old friends and will support us, that they would have supported us, or if not, stay silent, but it was clear that we were alone with our mountains.

DAMON: In Syria that history is repeating itself with President Trump's shocking announcement of a swift American withdrawal, especially as the battle against ISIS, despite what he may claim continuous. It's not just about leaving the front lines vulnerable when it comes to the Kurds. Turkey, who classified the YPG as terrorists, is threatening to send more troops over the border, as it did last January which impacted the battle against ISIS.

KARRIN VON HIPPEL, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: The Kurdish fighters who are working with U.S. in the South of Syria fighting Islamic State abandon that battle and went up to support their brothers and sisters up in the north, so we likely to see something like that happen again, so it's going to hurt the really the endgame for the fight against the Islamic State in terms of the territorial controls in Syria.

DAMON: And then there's the message that they sends to America's other allies, be it local forces on the ground or on an international level. It's one that is perhaps already known, that America will always and only act in its own perceived self interests no matter what the local, regional or international costs. Arwa Damon, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department has charged two Chinese nationals for their role in stealing trade secrets from dozens of U.S. companies and hacking into military servers and the U.S. says, Beijing knew all about it. The U.K., Australia and New Zealand are also condemning China saying it is involved in cyber theft of intellectual property, but Beijing insists, the charges are based on lies.

CNN Senior Producer, Steven Jiang joins us from the Chinese capital. Steven, who's lying and who's telling the truth?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Nick, when it comes to evidence this digital evidence cited in these latest indictments actually also mentioned many of previous reports by cyber security firms around the world. It seems to clear according to these reports that these alleged hackers have left their footprints and also their techniques and practices were a very much clearly spelled out.

The Chinese site so far hasn't really addressed the specifics in these reports. Instead they have really repeated their long-standing positions, you know, angrily rejecting these accusations, calling them pure fabrication out of thin air, vile in nature, another smear campaign by Washington with a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman really demanding the U.S. to drop these charges against the Chinese nationals or a face potentially negative consequences in bilateral relations.

But here's the thing, what's different this time -- because we have seen these back and forth between the two sides before, what's different this time is it's no longer just the U.S. accusing China. It's the U.S. government and 11 other nations, basically banding together and presenting this united front, calling out China on these unacceptable practices of stealing trade secrets and sensitive information through state-sponsored hackers. And they were basically telling the Chinese government, you had been caught red-handed again, you have to stop doing this, because we have concrete proof.

And you know this are very, very sensitive areas were talking about when it comes to technologies. These hackers have been targeting aviation, missile technology, maritime technology, satellites, all these things that Chinese have been trying very hard to become a global leader in. That's why Washington is very much concerned.

And there's one thing to know that is there is no extradition treaty between China and the U.S. So it's very unlikely we will see these two Chinese men appear at the U.S. courtroom anytime soon. But U.S. officials have stressed, they are aware of this, but what they're doing is sending a very strong message to Beijing, their clearest signal yet that now it's an increasingly international consensus on these issues when it comes to China's behavior, when it comes to economic espionage. Nick?

WATT: Steven, thank you very much. Now, China is the toy makers of the world, but if the trade war between China and the U.S. which is by the way, fueled in part by that alleged theft of intellectual property, if that continues into next year, those playthings will become a lot more expensive for American consumers come next Christmas. CNN's Matt Rivers explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Santa's workshop China edition, no

elves but these workers are busy making sure American parents can spend their hard earned money on presents, namely toys.

The U.S. Toys Associations says around 85 percent of all toys sold annually in the U.S. are made at factories like this one here in China. Billions of dollars worth are shipped each year, sold by companies in the U.S.

[03:40:02] This particular factory makes foam figurines, Batman, Spiderman, Darth Vader, Footballs, or the Tennessee National Guard, and Minions but these guys and the rest could be more expensive next Christmas.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China wants to make a deal and it's not just acceptable to me, yet China's taken advantage of the United States for many, many years.

RIVERS: The U.S. and China are locked in a trade war with negotiations ongoing after a meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the G-20 this month. There's hope for a deal, but if it falls through, get ready for more tariffs.

REBECCA MOND, VICE PRESIDENT, THE TOY ASSOCIATION: Quite simply, tariffs are attacks on consumers.

RIVERS: The U.S. has already put tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports to the U.S. In other words, U.S. companies have to pay more to buy Chinese products. And the administration has threatened to tax $267 billion more. Toys had largely avoided that tax for now, but if the trade war continues, they will get hit too.

MOND: If tariffs were to go into effect on toys sold to United States that would be devastating for particularly for small companies.

RIVERS: They would avoid those tariffs if they imported from somewhere else, but China is unique, the skilled labor here, the established supply chain, the same factories capable of making different toys depending on demand, no other country can do that.

So even if tariffs are put in place, experts say that moving all of this to another country like say, the United States, just doesn't make financial sense. The companies will keep buying Chinese products, even if tariffs make them more expensive. And that extra cost will likely get passed on to the consumer, a.k.a. you, mom and dad.

Imagine this, he says, they need to spend $150 or $200 on what used to cost just $100. It is going to be tough, especially for medium and low income Americans.

The Trump administration says tariffs are a tool to force China to change. For decades they've stole in U.S. intellectual property and best practices, and a restricted market access for American companies, that is a fact, but changing that behavior with tariffs has a cost.

Trump's policy was meant for helping the American people, but it's a double edge sword. It hit China, but it's also going to hurt American wallets, unless both sides can come to an agreement. So if you don't want next year's Christmas to cost more, you'd likely hope for a deal and for President Trump to turn his attention to some other pressing for some policy issue. Matt Rivers, CNN, (inaudible), China.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now the pre-Christmas travel chaos has eased just a bit. Now the Gatwick Airport is open again after a full shutdown. The very latest just ahead.

[03:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATT: Dubai International Airport is celebrating its 1 billionth passenger. The owner went to a nine-year-old boy visiting with his family from the United States. Airport officials gave the family VIP treatment with passes to top attractions including the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. The airport was built in the 1960 and it is considered the world's busiest international travel.

We are turning now to London's Gatwick Airport, operations there are finally starting to resume. Flights are now landing and taking off. The airfield was closed for more than a day, stranding tens of thousands of passengers, because repeated drone citing. Now, police and the British military are searching for drone operator.

Let's discuss this a little further with the Independent Senior Travel Editor, Simon Calder, who is joining us now from London. Now Simon, this was not the airlines fault. So what rights to passengers have for the pain and suffering that they've cause, any recourse?

SIMON CALDER, TRAVEL EDITOR, THE INDEPENDENT: Most definitely, unlike most parts of the world including the United States, European passenger right's rules are very, very specific. Yes, absolutely. The airlines are not responsible for this. But they have an explicit duty of care, whenever they cancel a flight or it's heavily delayed, they have to look after passengers.

We're now up to, including today's cancellations, around 150,000 people who are not where they need to be. And the airline, when it cancels a flight, has a duty of care offering a flight on a replacement service offering hotel accommodations and providing meals.

But I spoke with many, many people here at London Gatwick Airport, passengers, some of whom have been sleeping in the terminal and they just woke up on their third day here, saying that their airlines had simply let them down.

WATT: I mean, Simon, we've seen the emotional toll reported by you and others in that area, people are obviously trying to get places for Christmas, tired, snot-nosed (ph), kids causing problems, I mean, the worst time of the year for this to happen. Listen, so that is the emotional toll. I mean is there any figure that we could put yet on the financial cost of this, or I mean, it's still ongoing, it's too early? CALDER: Most definitely. By about midnight last night, when we had the entire day's operations canceled, I was computing around about $12 to $15 million. That is going to increase. And this is all happening, much of that is the actual cost of looking after passengers, much of that is happening at a time when, of course, the airline should be making an absolute fortune.

But just looking at all the canceled flights and going -- due to go out from here to places like Boston, to New York, to Florida, which aren't going, the airlines have to hand that cash back to the passengers, which they would have been paying high fares for.

So I'm afraid, from everybody's point of view, this is a disaster. The amount of emotional grief is inestimable, of course, but hard financial reality is going to cost the airlines and the airport, which is also a commercial undertaking, very, very dearly.

WATT: And listen, I mean, I'm wondering how airports around the world can stop this happening again. I mean, you know, modern drones they can have a range of seven kilometers. So, I mean, that is a big radius that police have to enforce to stop try and stop this happening again. I mean, this is quite easy to do. It was clearly done, the airport says, deliberately and deliberately caused this destruction. What are airports going to do to stop this happening again?

CALDER: Well, every single airport, starting Gatwick, is now urgently reviewing, what so the security measures they can put in place. Of course if you look at some airport I'm thinking, particularly of Tel Aviv in Israel, the drone wouldn't have lasted about five seconds before it was taken out. There hasn't been necessary or hasn't been built to be necessary, but of course, you have 150,000 passengers here who wish that Gatwick had taken more care.

Executive's at all big airports around the world will be looking at measures from having particular protection in terms of actual drones that can go and capture rogue drones and maybe even the medieval solution of training up birds of afraid (ph) to take out rouge drones. But it is a very, very complex business and of course, it's not going to be switched on automatically overnight.

[03:50:06] These things will take a long time to put into place. Meanwhile, of course, the aviation industry is just hoping that there are not copy cat attacks on the freedom to fly as we've seen here South of London.

WATT: And Simon, very quickly just to finish, do you think that they are going to be able to get everybody to where they need to go before Christmas?

CALDER: I fear that they won't, I hope that they do, of course. We are not going to see a full day's operation today. With a wish (ph) of luck, they might be 95 percent back to normal tomorrow, but there's just simply so many people desperate to get places and so few seats to carry them.

WATT: Simon Calder at Gatwick thanks a lot for your time. Now, 2018 has been a year of political absurdities in the U.S, but for one political cartoonist here in Atlanta, it's been a gold mine of material.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATT: A human error is being blamed for a foul up involving Amazon's virtual assistant. A user in Germany asked his Alexa unit to play back his own recordings. Alexa is program to respond to voice commands, but Amazon says the customer accidentally got access to more than 1000 recording from another Alexa user. The company says the case appears to be isolated, and it says, it has since resolved the issue.

Now, some comedians and political commentators say that this current White House is so out of the ordinary, it is actually beyond satire. But one political cartoonist is having no trouble gleefully mining material from President Trump. Robyn Curnow has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE LUCKOVICH, POLITICAL CARTOONIST: He had the first lips. Trump has tiny eyes.

I really love drawing the hair, because it's so abnormal. I was giving him a little tiny hand.

CURNOW: Drawing Donald Trump, political cartoonist, Mike Luckovich said this is his job, every weekday in a messy office full of years of Pulitzer Prize winning cartoons, piles of discarded commentary and old sketches.

LUCKOVICH: Trump is exhausting. I really like being up on the news and commenting on everything that's going on, but it's so exhausting.

CURNOW: Sharp and biting political cartoons, a sign of a free press, but political cartoonist some staff are becoming more rare these days with news rooms cutbacks and sometimes political pressure. Luckovich began at the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 1989.

LUCKOVICH: My very first cartoon, I drew from my grandmother, I think I was like 14. I drew a drawing of Richard Nixon. There's never been and I hope there never will be another President like Trump. I try mock him with his look and with long tie. I use to draw Obama with really huge ears. I often draw him with -- instead of the American flag on his lapel I draw the Russian flag. I've never done that with another president.

CURNOW: Of course, not everyone thinks it's funny, judging by the hate mail he gets. Kevin Riley of the AJC edits the newspaper.

KEVIN RILEY, EDITOR, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: Mike will show us -- show me a rough draft, a sketch of what he is planning to do.

LUCKOVICH: Kevin, may I show you some sketches?

CURNOW: Riley says it's important to balance Luckovich's cartoons with one showing an opposite viewpoint.

[03:55:01] RILEY: Every now and then I have to say, Mike, are you sure you want to do this one. How do you like this one? Mike won't take it easy on anyone, when someone does something that appears to be hypocritical, that person can probably expect that Michael will have something to say about it.

CURNOW: So when you looked back over the year, what are your favorite cartoons?

LUCKOVICH: I just did this one. This is after the meeting with Nancy Pelosi on Trump's wall, which she, you know -- which is Nancy Pelosi.

CURNOW: Some cartoons make an emotional impact too.

LUCKOVICH: I did this one a few weeks after hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, as Trump is saying, finally got my wall which is a mausoleum wall.

CURNOW: This might be a local newspaper, but global leaders are just as much a target.

LUCKOVICH: I love drawing Putin. I often draw him shirtless, this was after I think Helsinki summit. And he's saying here, I grab him by the presidency. When you're a dictator, he lets you do it.

CURNOW: Luckovich says, there's so much material in the Trump presidency, he turned it into a book.

LUCKOVICH: I think that when this era of Trump is over, I think people will like having something that they can looked back and say, oh remember when he did that? Remember when he tweeted this?

CURNOW: So do you think, you're book is like a historical document?

LUPICA: Only funner (ph).

CURNOW: a bold record of the politics of the day. Robyn Curnow, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now, does President Trump think Mike Luckovich is funny? I'll go out on a limb if you're speculations say no. No, he doesn't.

Anyway, moving on, a young man in Taiwan got in a whopper of a fender- bender. But he may be spared a half million dollar repair bill. The restaurant worker who apparently works two jobs, this was early in the morning, apparently he fell asleep at the wheel of his Mitsubishi SUV and crash into a parked car. But not just any parked car, a Ferrari and that Ferrari hit another Ferrari which hit another Ferrari and hit yet Ferrari, four expensive Ferraris in all.

Now the honorable driver says that he will pay up what he owes once the insurance companies figure out what they will cover, but here is the good news. Dozens of good samaritans have already come forward and said that they will give him cash to help pay for these repairs. As I said, young kid, working two jobs and that is about the worst thing that -- it's not the worst thing that can happen when you fall asleep at the wheel, but it's pretty bad.

Anyway, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Nick Watt. The news continues with Max Foster in London. You're watching CNN.