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Trump Blames Democrats for Looming Government Shutdown; Only Hours Until Partial United States Government Shutdown; Trump Is in Turmoil, Mattis Quits, Shutdown Looms, Troop Pullout; People in Hungary Protest Against Slave Law; Schumer To Trump: You Will Not Get Your Wall; U.S. Senate Voting On Funding Bill That's Likely To Fail; Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg Has Cancerous Nodules Removed; Mattis Resigns Over Policy Disputes With Trump; U.S. Tariffs Could Make Toys Expensive For Americans; Afghan Refugees Celebrates First Christmas In U.S. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 21, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] HANNAH VAUGHN JONES, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hannah Vaughn Jones in for Hala Gorani. Tonight, another day

of chaos at the White House. Donald Trump's foreign policy decisions lambasted by Democrats and Republicans alike. Meanwhile, Congress is

desperately trying to find a solution to stop a government shutdown. It does not look good. Also, tonight on the program, travel chaos after

reports of another drone in the area. What's happening at that airport right now? It's coming up. Now there is really no other way to describe

it than chaos. A flurry of news engulfed the White House over the past 24 hours. U.S. President Donald Trump's secretary of defense resigned in

protest of his decision to pull all American troops out of Syria. There's word Donald Trump wants to slash in half the forces in Afghanistan too.

And then the partial government shutdown. Just hours away. Should Trump's insistence on funding for a border wall has the government on the verge of

furloughing hundreds of thousands of workers just days before Christmas. The President spoke about it just moments ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to be working very hard to get something passed in the senate. There's a very good

chance it won't get passed. It's up to the Democrats. So, it's really the Democrats shutdown. We have done our thing. When Nancy Pelosi said you'll

never get the votes in the house, we got them. We got them by a big margin. 217-185. Now it's up to the Democrats as to whether or not we

have a shutdown tonight. I hope we don't. But we're totally prepared for a very long shutdown. And this is our only chance we'll ever have in our

opinion because of the world and the way it breaks out to get great border security.


JONES: So, there's a lot to cover in Washington right now. Ryan brown joins us from the pentagon. Sarah Westwood at the White House. Welcome to

you both. Ryan, you first and for our international viewers, a lot of focus, of course, over first Syria and now Afghanistan. In terms of a

troop withdrawal or a draw down at least in U.S. numbers. What's the latest? What is the Pentagon planning for?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Hannah. There's focus on the situation in Syria. First up, because, of course, Secretary

Mattis we are being told was really kind of motivated on this issue when we went to talk to the President yesterday submitting the resignation and

worked up about the idea of the U.S. abandoning its local allies and both Kurd and Arab and leaving them to the mercy of the players in the regime

and worked up about that we're told and helped was kind of a last trigger that helped lead to this resignation. Now, again, he is still being

directed and he is in the job. He said in his resignation letter he'll be here until the end of February and they're moving ahead with the plans to

draw down in Syria we're being told. That process, the order has yet to be signed but as soon as it is signed it -- we're being told it could be 120

days it needs to be completed by so a pretty ambitious timetable for drawing down 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria and being told on the ground in

Syria fighting against ISIS is continuing. It's currently going on. U.S. backed forces are fighting there. And so there is still very much a fluid

battlefield situation with this political movement. Afghanistan, no formal decision announced yet and told there's active planning, direction to cut

approximately 50 percent of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and both these announcements, both the new -- both bits of news met fierce opposition of

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

JONES: Thank you very much. Let's go to Sarah Westwood at the White House. We heard from the President not too long ago. Of course, this

government shutdown is now looming. The clock is ticking on that. Just ten days ago the President said that he would own it. He would own the

shutdown if it happened. Now not so much.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right. The President has been all over the map coming the shutdown. Like you mentioned, first

saying that he would be proud to shut down the government. Now basically placing responsibility at the feet of senate Democrats who have all along

said they would not vote for $5 billion or anything close to that worth of funding for the border wall. The President also, his aides were signaling

as recently as earlier this week that he was prepared to sign a short term spending bill that would have kept the government open until February 8th

and passed the senate unanimously and then yesterday the President summoned White House Democrats to the White House and said he would not sign the

stop gap funding bill and would fight for the funding given that the house is about to change hands.

[14:05:00] It is about to come under Democratic control in the first week of January and the President recognized it could be the last chance to get

the border wall. In addition, he was coming under extreme pressure of conservative allies both in the media and Capitol Hill not to cave which is

what they viewed his approval of the continuing resolution as, surrender on the funding. So now the President is trying to brand this shutdown as one

of the Democrats making and although it was his series of decisions that led Republicans and Democrats to this point and at the moment the house

passed spending deal with $5 billion for the wall in it just doesn't look like it has the votes in the senate. That is being voted on as we speak

and so it looks like the government is headed to a partial shutdown at midnight tonight with no alternatives on the table.

JONES: OK. So, the clock is ticking on did government shutdown but I'm wondering whether we need to focus on maybe the President's Twitter feed to

find out what is his primary focus right now? There's so much going on immediately around his administration in Washington. Is he focused on

finding a replacement defense secretary? Is he focused on another cabinet reshuffle? Government shutdown? Mueller probe? What's the top of the to-

do list, Sarah?

WESTWOOD: Judging by the Twitter feed, he is preoccupied with the prospect of a shutdown and tweeted a half dozen times this morning turning the blame

to Democrats. Articulating the desire for a wall and the White House hasn't really put forward any alternative plan with the reality that the

current plan that passed out of the house that $5 billion in funding for the wall just doesn't have 60 votes in the senate. The President has

pushed for the unrealistic prospect of invoking the nuclear option, giving senate leadership the ability to pass with 51 votes but won't happen and

the White House hasn't said what else they might look at in terms of a deal. Where they might be willing to start the negotiations with the

Democrats. That's why a shutdown is looking so much more inevitable, Hannah, because the President isn't saying what he's willing to consider.

JONES: And Sarah, I guess with all of this chaos that's been described going on around the President right now, that almost works to his favor in

some respects because it means he gets to diverse attention from the things he doesn't talk about and presumably, the Mueller investigation Russia


WESTWOOD: Right. The week is packed with things causing alarm on both sides of the aisle here in Washington. You have the withdrawal of troops

in Syria. The resignation of Jim Mattis, someone considered an adult in the room. You have the President pushing the government toward the brink

of a partial shutdown and you have the Russia investigation looming over all of this. And widely believed that investigation could reach a peak in

the weeks ahead. So, the President will be heading into the new year, the new reality of divided government in Washington with that investigation

hanging over his head, with potentially a shutdown ringing in the new year and chaos in the west wing, Hannah.

JONES: Sarah Westwood, live for us at the White House, thanks so much. Ryan Browne earlier at the Pentagon, thanks to you.

Now whatever Mr. Trump is thinking about the world is focused on the military moves. Turkey is making it very clear that following a U.S.

withdrawal from Syria it will go ahead with threatened military action against one of America's main allies in the region. But President Erdogan

says he'll wait longer to begin the assault after talking to Donald Trump just last week. President Erdogan is vowing to clear northeastern Syria of

Kurdish fighters. The same U.S.-backed fighters who played such a critical role in beating back ISIS. Turkey now says it will take up the fight

against ISIS in the area. Kurdish leaders warn their own battle against ISIS could come to a halt if Turkey attacks and France and Germany warning

a troop withdrawal risks endangering the campaign against is. Now more from senior international correspondent Arwa Damon. Let's talk first of

all about this threat of a Turkish attack against the Kurds. If the Turks attack the Kurds, does that then mean that the Kurds stop fighting ISIS and

presumably that means that Donald Trump's theory of ISIS defeated is dead in the water?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of things about Trump's theory about ISIS being defeated first and foremost,

the very fact they are not. May have lost territory but there is still very intense fighting that's happening in the eastern part of the country

and elsewhere, as well. We have been hearing from the Kurdish leadership is concerns of what a potential Turkish incursion to do to the front lines

they are on coming the battle against ISIS.

[14:10:00] Taking a look at what happened this past January when Turkish forces pushed into the city of Afrin close to the Syria/Turkey border we

saw Kurdish fighters pull back from the front lines with ISIS to defend their brothers as they call it that were fighting there and we are hearing

that very same thing could then happen which would potentially weaken the Kurdish forces on the critical front line with is, especially if when this

does transpire they don't have the support of the U.S. that being said, of course, there are coalition partners on the ground but this whole move

really is so shaky on so many levels, especially if we go back to a couple of core issues. One of the main sticking points that caused such a

freezing in U.S./Turkey relations was America's backing of the Syrian Kurds. Turkey views them as one and the same as the separatist group, the

PKK and for so much time has been asking America to back down on their support for the Kurds. The U.S. has not done that and then all of a sudden

you have this tweet from President Trump and not just backing down for their support of Syria's Kurds but a complete and total withdrawal. So,

there's so many moving parts at this stage.

JONES: I want to ask you, as well, Arwa, about Afghanistan. Learning of a possible draw down of U.S. troops there, as well. I mean, the conflict in

Afghanistan is going on for so long and people might be questioning now what happens, who fills the vacuum if troops leave. What is the state of

play in Afghanistan now?

DAMON: 18 years and you think about that number and it is quite stunning to a certain degree, especially when you look at the gains that the Taliban

managed to make in recent years. Capitalizing on the fact that the U.S. did actually decrease the number of troops it has on the ground and also

because you do have a significant to a certain degree void in governance and afghan security force not necessarily capable of holding on to gains

that were made. Afghanistan does risk becoming a much more violent place should a premature U.S. troop draw down take place and we are hearing the

President's intended to do what is happening. Again, another you down and not withdrawal and contrary to the guidance of his top military leadership.

And then what does Afghanistan end up looking like? And a lot of the questions to be posed not just by those that fought on the ground and

afghan people but observers is, what was the point of fighting for 18 years if Afghanistan or huge chunks of it fall back to the Taliban creating not

just a volatile Afghanistan but more volatile region? There's always going to be that debate of why stay when you're losing the battle? Flip side is

if you try to extract yourself from the battle what's the most responsible way to do it? Is this, in fact, the most responsible way to move forward?

Many say, no, it isn't.

JONES: Arwa live for us there in Washington. We appreciate it. Thank you.

Now the White House is heading into the holidays and winding down the year in a state of disarray. The Trump administration is juggling several major

policy fights with domestic and global consequences. David Gergen, a former adviser to four U.S. Presidents and our senior political analyst

joins us from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Great do see you. First of all, I want to play you -- this is a sound bite from Senator Bob Corker talking

about the comings and goings in the administration. This is just him speaking today. Let's listen.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R) TENNESSEE: I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our

country from chaos.


JONES: David, my apologies. That was from earlier on in the year and been a lot of talk about this administration having no more grown-ups left. Is

that patronizing or just chaos as Bob Corker referencing there that's just a reality check for us all to accept now?


JONES: Right.

GERGEN: Frankly, there are many people who are now jittery and nervous, afraid of where we're heading because there seems to be no strategy across

the challenges, no plan "B" if plan "A" doesn't work. It's sort of making policy shooting from the hip. And frankly, the President's tendencies to

act out of impulse, to ignore the advice of people who know far more of the subject, coming home to roost.

[14:15:00] Whether it's Mattis, Syria, Afghanistan or also whether it's the economy, the stock market, Nasdaq negative territory now, I mean, heavy

negative territory, bear market negative territory. As well as Mueller and other things. Everything's coming together at once and creating a sense,

oh my god, where are we and what's going on? People say I have real fear. I think we'll get through this. I think he should be able to find a former

military person who -- you have to bend the rules to get him, there are people out there, great patriots to come in for Mattis and nonetheless

Mattis was a symbol to the world of one person in this administration who is a source of -- was an anchor and would restrain the President from

impulsive decision making and he resigned over that.

JONES: He seemed to show in his letter of resignation at least that he understood that the President -- that he wasn't going to be able to reach

the President with the reasons for leaving. It was more of an appeal seemingly to Republicans to the party, as well, to do something about it.

Are they going to act on this?

GERGEN: Well, I must say that this is the first time in the two-year history of the administration when Republicans are really separating

themselves out. They're peeling off now. Expressing differences and views. There was -- always a sort of hyper loyalty and sort of turned the

Republican party into a Trump party. But now, Republicans are reasserting themselves, finding their voices. It's really significant that twice over

the last few days that the Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican, has twice rebuked the President for once on a budget and the fight over the

budget and secondly on Syria. I think what's been important to American history all along are checks and balances in the system. Are there forces

out there that can keep a President in check from doing really crazy, stupid things? And I think we are beginning to see that on the Republican

side. It's not widespread but we're beginning to see it for the first time.

JONES: And, David, a lot of people also saying that this is just more out of the Trump playbook, more tactics to draw people away from, say, the

Russia probe, ongoing Russia probe and keep the President on the front foot in terms of what everyone's talking about. Do you think that's the case?

It's one hell of a diversion, isn't it?

GERGEN: Well, it is. The President himself and one report, person on the inner circle, said he was in a tailspin. That he is sort of lost his

bearings. I do think that that's been true. The way he's played this, the budget fight, he's twice painted himself into a corner leaving himself

very, very few options and having to look very weak or impulsive or out of touch as he tries to struggle to find a way out. I think this is -- I

don't think that this is simply a masterful diversion plan. And by the way, the sense is that Mueller's not going to be reporting anyway in

January. Probably mid-February before he reports. So --


GERGEN: You know, instead of Mueller dominating, we have the budget and Syria and Mattis and chaos dominating the news.

JONES: Yes. But, you know, even if Mueller doesn't report back until February, you know, it is still going to be quite a busy year. Let's say

for the President.

GERGEN: Sure. Oh Yes.

JONES: An uncomfortable year. What else do you expect to come in this 2019?

GERGEN: Well, you know, the interesting question is whether it's in the interest of both parties on Capitol Hill to occasionally find a bill to

agree on. They have just lost in the madness. People are not paying much attention. The President's just signing today a bill far reaching and very

bipartisan. Both parties joining in on criminal justice reform, something long needed and long talked about and not done. We just had earlier this

week when the President seemed to be ready to get -- to drop his idea of a wall, and we had a unanimous vote in the senate. Democrats and Republicans

passing continuing resolution as it's called and kicking the can down the road but they came together so there is -- I think by and large not much

done especially getting closer to 20 and the re-election. But there may be opportunities to come together for the sake of the country and I still hold

faith for that and women in the politics now and I think women are going to bring a calming voice and be more collaborative and want to work across the

aisle along with veterans who have been elected.

[14:20:00] JONES: Yes. Of course, Democrats will be in the control of the house and prove its own problems for the President, as well. David, so

good to talk to you. Appreciate it. Merry Christmas to you, as well. Thank you.

GERGEN: Very kind. Thank you to you and your family.

JONES: All right. Still to come tonight on the program, up again then grounded again and then up again, again. What is happening right now at

Gatwick airport? After a fresh drone sighting. That's next.


JONES: Welcome back. It's been another day of uncertainty for thousands of travelers at Gatwick airport outside London. Planes are flying again

but after yet another flight suspension due to a drone sighting in the area. This all happening after the airport shot down operations for the

better part of 32 hours when drones were spotted flying near the airport on Wednesday. Richard Quest, anchor and CNN's aviation expert, here with me

at the moment. How damaging is this for Gatwick?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR AND AVIATION EXPERT: Only in the sense of the first major airport in the world closed down for quite so long in a

dramatic fashion. No other airport in the world looking at this rubbing their hands with glee and feeling -- there but for the grace of god because

what the Gatwick experience is showing the difficulty of dealing with the situation and if you look at the sort of equipment allegedly being brought

in, these drone busters, these drones that are supposedly able to jam the signals, all this sort of stuff, well, if you think about every airport

having to start deploying this, the expertise necessary, you start to realize what a mammoth operation we're talking about.

JONES: Let's move on to a slightly different topic. The markets at moment, of course, a looming government shutdown in the U.S. right now.

What's happening?

QUEST: Off 170 odd points on the Dow. Started higher for the day. The losses dwindled and the market has gone down and what we'll see for the

foreseeable future. Up a bit, down a bit. Really nasty falls and the mood has settled down. There was a moment of cheer when the New York Fed said

that, of course, the fed was going to be data dependent and the reality is the mood set. The perception has set that the bull market is over. Hard

times ahead and that next year will be worse than this year.

JONES: I want to take you back to Gatwick because it's the last Friday before Christmas. So many people caught up in this. Who has to pay the

price of this, the delays? Is it just everyone out of pocket?

QUEST: Delays for the passengers?


[14:25:00] QUEST: Airlines. EU 261 is the law and the rule. Although the British authorities have now designated this as an extraordinary

circumstance, extraordinary circumstance, so the airlines don't have to pay compensation for your lost flight but they have to pay for what's known as

care and comfort. They have to make sure you're well looked after, watered, fed and if necessary, you have a hotel. If you're waiting at

Gatwick and you choose to go back into London for a hotel, your reasonable expenses will be defrayed by the airline and it's going to cost them

millions. EU 261.

JONES: OK. And so, overall, does this mean more airlines might try to go out of Gatwick?

QUEST: No, no. It can happen to any airport. Gatwick was one runway and was hear about the hullabaloo, can't we get a single runway to operate?

Now imagine on a plane coming in to Gatwick and you don't know whether there's a drone out there waiting to be sucked into the engine.

JONES: Safety risk, of course. Hugely invent and rather be grounded than up there.

QUEST: I flew in this morning on a 767 into Heathrow, it was windy enough without worrying about drones.

JONES: Very good to you. You will be back next hour. Thank you for your time.

QUEST: And now imagine being made to work hundreds of hours of overtime with a chance you might not get the extra pay for years. And not being

able to object because the order is coming from the government itself. Well, that is what is happening right now in Hungary and you can imagine

people are furious. There have been days of protests, including some scheduled in the past couple of hours. Probably not how people choose to

spend the weekend before Christmas. Our Ben Wedeman is there live in Budapest for us. How big is the protest and how many people overall

affected by the so-called slave law?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The protest today is smaller than the one last Sunday which had about 11,000 people. Today,

it's just a few thousand. Of course, keeping in mind Tuesday is Christmas. And it is very cold here. So, that may explain the turnout. Although we

did speak with a leader of the parties who's pushing this movement along and he expects the movement to pick up after the holidays. Now, how many

people will this so-called slave law affect? It's hard to say but keep in mind the government is not ordering people to work 400 hours overtime.

This is a modification to the labor code which says that employers can ask employees to work 400 hours overtime and won't necessarily get paid for

that overtime for three years. Now, what this means is that essentially people here will have to go back to a six-day work week. And this is

something that has angered Hungarians across the political spectrum.

So, for instance, behind me there's a group from the socialist party waving the red flags and other people of nationalist parties so this country which

has been divided certainly over the last eight years, Viktor Orban, as prime minister, seeing that for the first time a broad range of political

groups are coming out to protest this situation. What's interesting about all of this is the reason why the government had to institute or pass this

so-called slave law is that there is an acute labor shortage here. The reason why there's a labor shortage is because Hungary unlike Germany in

the summer of 2015, it did not allow any refugees or migrants any way to live here. They'd said move along. They went to Austria, Germany. So,

there's a very -- unemployment rate is very low. I think 4.4 percent. But that in itself poses many problems for this country. So, it's a

complicated situation. But this slave law is something that seems to have divided -- rather, united previously divided people in this country.


JONES: Yes. Ben, interesting you say that. The fact that the protesters from various different political factions. But the government seems to

have one main culprit for it. Explain to our viewers why George Soros is being mentioned so much.

[14:30:00] WEDEMAN: George Soros is, of course, Hungarian born. A multi- billionaire who's an avid funder of liberal causes. He was the man who founded here in Budapest the central European university which is a beacon

of pro-European liberal thought and, therefore, they like to point to him as the man who is sowing divisions and opposition to the government here.

But there's a certain irony in all of this and that is that Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary since the year 2010, in 1989 he received a

fellowship from the Soros Foundation to study in oxford but he obviously over the years has decided that this is a man whose ideas, whose liberal

ideas, do not go well with his increasingly authoritarian position on politics, the media and, of course, now this slave law. Hannah?

[14:30:03] JONES: Yes. Certainly changes seeing the prime minister.

Ben Wedeman live there for us there in Budapest. Thank you, Ben.

Still to come tonight, the U.S. Congress is scrambling to avert a partial government shutdown as President Trump refuses to back down on the border

wall demands.

We'll take you live to Capitol Hill for the very latest.

Plus, a U.S. Supreme justice has surgery for cancerous lung nodules. The diagnosis for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, next.


JONES: The clock is ticking down in Washington as the U.S. government hurdles towards a partial shutdown should no spending deal be reached

before midnight. That prospect is looking increasingly likely as the Senate takes on a funding bill that seems all but sure to fail. The Senate

minority leader says support for the president's border wall demands simply just aren't there.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: There are not the votes in the Senate for an expensive taxpayer funded border wall. So, President

Trump, you will not get your wall. Abandon your shutdown strategy. You're not getting the wall today, next week or on January 3rd when Democrats take

control of the House.


JONES: President Trump is now blaming Democrats for the looming shutdown after saying he'd own it himself. Just 10 days ago. Ryan Nobles is

following the developments for us on Capitol Hill. He joins us now.

Ryan, what's the latest on this? Just hours to go.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, we're in a holding pattern, Hannah, because the Senate has begun the process of taking

up this new continuing resolution that would indeed keep the U.S. government funded through February 8th, but also includes a funding for

border security or a border wall as the president intended. And Democrats just aren't interested in passing that through. It's a much more difficult

process in the Senate than it is in the House because it requires 60 votes in order to pass and there are not 60 votes to pass this type of


But before they even get to that the 60-vote mark, there is a procedural motion, a motion to proceed that has to take place and that looks like

there's a serious chance that that won't even pass because there are not enough Republicans that are in favor of even dealing with this legislation

on any level.

So right now, Mitch McConnell started the voting process. He's the Senate majority leader and he's now put a hold on it while they wait for some

senators to return, many of these senators had already left for the Christmas holiday to make sure that they have the votes inline to at least

get to the next step.

[14:35:04] And then somewhere along this process, Hannah, frankly hoping for some sort of a holiday miracle that some sort of deal can be created

that would be enough for Democrats to support it and Republicans to get on board and have this wrapped up by midnight tonight which honestly looks

very unlikely.

JONES: Yes. The president himself just in the last couple of hours saying it looks very likely that there will be some kind of a shutdown vote.

There won't be enough votes there on Capitol Hill.

In the event that there is a shutdown, what does that mean in practice?

NOBLES: Well, this isn't as bad as it could be, Hannah. They did pass legislation earlier in the year that would keep at least 70 percent of the

U.S. government funded for several years. So this only impacts about 30 percent of the federal government but that's still a significant amount of

people that will be impacted.

There'll be somewhere in the range of 300,000 federal employees that could potentially not be paid over the Christmas holiday. It means things like

national parks will not be available to Americans. To visit over this holiday season. So there is a significant impact on the day-to-day

operations of American government.

For instance, the Department of Homeland Security falls under the umbrella of this shutdown. So this is important. This is big. This is not

inconsequential but it is enough for the president to say he is willing to put this on the line in order to get funding for his border wall even

though, even at this 11th hour, it doesn't appear to be realistic.

JONES: And of course the president heading off to Mar-a-Lago for his Christmas break. Everyone else planning for their Christmas break, as well

and all this looming over them.

Ryan, we appreciate it. Thanks very much. Stay across it for us, I know you will.

Now, to other news and the U.S. Supreme Court has announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had two cancerous nodules removed from her lungs today.

She is OK. The court says there is no evidence of any remaining cancer in her body and she told supporters in New York last week that her health is

just fine.

Well, our legal analyst Joan Biskupic joins us now from Washington. Joan, good to see you. For our international viewers, many will have heard of

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They all know that she's something of a national treasure in the U.S. of her significant public service over many, many

years as well.

But just explain why she, in her role as justice on the Supreme Court, is so significant to the fabric of American society right now.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thanks, Hannah. That's an excellent question because, you know, this news became so important the minute it was

released from the Supreme Court today.

She is the leader of the liberal wing of this very tightly divided five- four court so she's very crucial now. But even before she got on the Supreme Court, she was a leader in the women's rights legal movement and

that helped, you know, pave the way to her becoming the icon that she is now.

I'm sure you've heard about her notorious RBG status. She's the subject of books, of movies. So she is probably the most closely watched of our nine

justice because of what she stands for but also because of her relevance to the law in America.

Now, she did have that operation. The court has told us that she is not undergoing any follow-up treatment and I think that's important. She had

two previous serious bouts of cancer in her life that required a lot of follow-up treatment.

In 1999, she survived colorectal cancer and then in 2009, she survived in the more serious pancreatic cancer. Because of those, she's been in the

routine of getting checked regularly. And I think, Hannah, as you know, this cancer was discovered after she had fallen and cracked some ribs on

November 7th. And they waited to schedule the surgery until today. And now she has two weeks before the court returns to active session when she

would presumably would recuperate.

JONES: And justices to the Supreme Court in the U.S. are appointed for life. You can retire, though. And, of course, we've seen just in the last

year this very, very contentious Senate hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, for Justice Kavanaugh, as well, which I guess is another reason why everyone is

so concerned about RBG.

BISKUPIC: Yes. You put it exactly right. You can retire. And in fact, Justice Anthony Kennedy who just did retire paving the way for the Brett

Kavanaugh nomination was just a youthful 82 compared to 85-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

But I should note that back in 2010 when Justice John Paul Stevens stepped down, he was 90 years old and Justice Ginsburg has been there talking about

John Paul Stevens as being a bit of a model. She does not want to leave the court while President Trump is in office. You know? She's really

trying to hang in there.

And given the news we heard today, it looks like things might be good going forward but she is 85 years old.

[14:40:08] JONES: well, we wish her well and we appreciate your analysis on this, as well. Joan Biskupic, thank you.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

JONES: Now, we are learning more today about the resignation that sent shockwaves across the U.S. and rattled many American allies around the


Defense Secretary James Mattis decided to step down right after one last meeting with President Donald Trump failed to change the president's mind

about withdrawing troops from Syria.

Officials say Mattis was livid at the idea that the U.S. would abandon Kurdish fighters, a crucial ally against ISIS and expose them to a possible

bloodbath by Turkish forces who have been threatening to put Kurdish militia men in ditches.

Let's get some perspective now from CNN's national security analyst Sam Vinograd who joins us. Sam, good to see you. Let's talk about

Afghanistan, to start off with, because this is the latest turn in all of this that there could be a drawdown, a significant drawdown in U.S. troops


Why has the president announced this now given that the diplomacy in Afghanistan is at such a crucial point with negotiations ongoing with the


SAM VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think the president has made a formal announcement yet. What we've seen, unfortunately, is a

leak of potential policy decisions come out over the last few days. And as we consider with a potential withdrawal in Syria would look like which the

president has announced, we have about 2,000 forces in Syria, we have over around 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan who are working to train, advise,

and assist Afghan national security forces while this political track is ongoing.

The U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad who was just in the region trying to make progress on the political front. And so

it is very unclear why we would withdraw the security support if the political track is moving forward which there are slight glimmers of hope

that it is.

JONES: OK. And then moving on to Syria, I mentioned there in the introduction about the Kurds and we were speaking to Arwa Damon earlier, as

well, about Turkey's -- Turkey already coming forward saying that they would want to launch some kind of an assault in northeastern Syria in order

to push back the Kurdish fighters who are there. Turkey considers them to be terrorists, as well, on Syrian soil right now.

Would the Kurds consider this to be a betrayal by the U.S., the fact that they've been such a prominent fighting force for U.S. and coalition forces

for years now? And if it is such a betrayal, does that mean that other American allies should be fearful?

VINOGRAD: It's more than betrayal. We are surrendering them to Turkish whims. We know that Erdogan has designs on the Kurds. He's had designs on

the Kurds for decades and he's planning to slaughter them.

So the U.S. president is leaving them to Erdogan and Erdogan said earlier today that he's going to take over the U.S. mission in Syria to counter

terrorism. Well, our mission in Syria is to train these Kurdish forces. And there's an operational element to our betrayal of the Kurds.

If around the world local forces know that the United States cuts and run - - cuts and runs and leaves them exposed to actual massacre, who are we going to work with on the ground when another crisis erupts? Who are we

going to call from a coalition standpoint if we're now abandoning the counter ISIS coalition when the next ISIS is born?

So Secretary Mattis has strategic differences with the president. But as an operational commander, you have to bet he was asking himself how he

could go forward and implement missions knowing that he wouldn't be able to rely on local forces to trust the United States again and probably wouldn't

be able to rally allies to work with us as readily.

JONES: Yes. And interesting that there's been so much criticism following Mattis resignation from other Republicans, as well, as to Donald Trump's

policy. This is from Mitch McConnell. I just want to read you some of this, Sam, and get your reaction to it. He said, "I believe it's essential

that the United States maintain and strengthen the post-World War II alliances that have been carefully built by leaders in both parties. We

must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and our foes and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter."

Should America's allies be particularly worried right now?

VINOGRAD: Well, they should certainly be worried if it was just up to the president. The president has --

JONES: Right.

VINOGRAD: -- truly trashed every alliance that we have. There are very few issues that have bipartisan support in the United States right now.

We're literally about to shut down our government over a border wall.

One issue that there's bipartisan support around is our alliances. There have been calls to support NATO. And there have also been calls from both

sides of the aisle to counter Russia, for example, which is something that General Mattis referenced in his letter. So I do think the U.S. Congress

will keep a lot of pressure on the president to maintain those alliances despite what he's going to say, despite what he's going to tweet and they

do have some leverage over that in terms of allowing him to pass a budget and getting things like the national defense authorization bill here in the

United States through the U.S. Congress.

[14:45:05] JONES: OK. So he is, of course, commander in chief but he can potentially be reined in as well. Sam Vinograd, we have to leave it there.

Thank you so much.

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

JONES: Thank you.

All right. Still to come tonight, when it comes to stocking fillers, China's toy production makes even Santa's elves jealous. We unwrap the

trade war's toll on toys, coming up next.


JONES: Welcome back. For some of you, the words LOL surprise and for real might sound like internet jargon. But depending on the Christmas shopping

habits, you might know they're some of the hottest toys around right now.

If so, you'll also know that toys, unfortunately, don't come from Santa. At least, not originally. He, of course, just delivers them. Many of

them, in fact, are made in China. But as the trade war drags on, there's a chance many toys will come a lot more expensive for American consumers next

Christmas. Matt Rivers explains.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL 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. Toy Association 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. This particular factory makes foam figurines, Batman, Spider-Man, Darth Vader,

footballs for the Tennessee National Guard and Minions that 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 just not acceptable to me. 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 G20 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 a tax 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 have 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 the 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


So 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, AKA, you, mom and dad.

[14:50:09] "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 stolen U.S. intellectual property and best practices

and they've 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-edged sword. It hit China but it's also going to hurt American


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 foreign policy issues.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Lingwu (ph), China.


JONES: More to come on the program, including in a year that seen increasing challenges to migrants and refugees trying to get to the United

States, one family has overcome hurdle after hurdle and is now celebrating its first Christmas in America.


JONES: An Afghan refugee family who fled the violence and uncertainty of the homeland five years ago are experiencing something they could hardly

have imagined. They're kicking off early Christmas celebrations in America. Our Lynda Kinkade has more now.



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: This is the Christmas like no other. A first for this refugee family. Their present? A new life in

America. Five years after fleeing Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This got to be kidding me. This is a big jacket. Oh, yeah. Oh yeah.

KINKADE: These two families have never met but the spirit of the season of giving has brought them together. The International Rescue Committee which

helps refugees start their lives in the U.S. helps match families wanting to donate with new immigrants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes. That's right.

KINKADE: It's a merry moment now but for Ali (ph) and Akila (ph) and their two young sons, 7-year-old Daniel and 3-year-old Martin, it's been five

years of living in limbo since they fled Afghanistan.

It was the dangerous journey that led them first to Indonesia where they applied for refugee status with the United Nations which eventually

referred their case to the United States.

To be resettled as a refugee is so rare it's like a Christmas miracle. Less than one percent of refugees around the world ever get that


Here in the U.S., under the Trump administration, refugee resettlement is headed for a historic low. Next year, it'll be capped at 30,000 people.

That's a far cry from 1980 when 200,000 refugees came here to call America home.

After U.S. President Donald Trump took office, a new process meant the family had to redo some of the screening checks which delayed their arrival

by another year.

[14:55:59] ALI: When there was, like, something was not happening, especially for our family, like we would get really, really stressed and we

keep praying. We ask our friends to pray for us. And at the end, it has turned out to be wonderful.

A hammer.

KINKADE: So far, life for Ali in the U.S. is the American dream. He has a job as a plumber's associate, he's bought a car and his oldest son is going

to school. Something he dreamed about during the years of uncertainty in Indonesia while the refugee claim was processed.

ALI: He was watching YouTube series involved the yellow bus going to school and he was like, when he come, he saw the first line, I'm going with

that yellow bus to the school now? I'm allowed to go to school now? Yes. He was very excited.

Oh, I really need this.

KINKADE: Ali is excited about his new home, too, and says he feels welcomed even in this political climate where not everyone shares his

enthusiasm for refugees.

ALI: Our favorite place is like drift town, going to Walmart, you know? People are amazing. If they don't say hello, if they are not smiling, if

they are different, we just say they don't know us.

KINKADE: Ali says one of the best gifts this holiday did not come in a box.

ALI: This is the best present as soon as we touched down. We are free. We don't have to be afraid of leaving home, saying goodbye to family and

say I'm going to work and we don't know what happened by the time I come back home.

KINKADE: And it's the gift that will keep giving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa. Look. This is my favorite.


JONES: What a heartwarming story. Lynda Kinkade with that report. Nice to end the show on that some jolliness, especially as we go into the

festive season.

Coming up next, we've got the one and only Richard Quest. He's going to be in the hot seat with his show "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." Not quite sure he's

going to have quite so much jolliness, Richard, with the markets, but we will see, at least.

In the meantime, my thanks to you for watching and stay with us. More CNN top of the hour.