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Partial U.S. Federal Government Shutdown Commences; Senate Possibly Negotiating Bill to End Partial Government Shutdown; Reporting Indicates President Trump may have Pulled U.S. Troops from Syria in Response to Taunt from President of Turkey; James Mattis Resigns as U.S. Secretary of Defense; President Trump Reportedly Floats Idea of Firing Federal Reserve Chairman; President Trump's Promises to Build Border Wall with Mexico Debated; Analysts Examine Possible Effects of Government Shutdown on National Security. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 22, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I hope that's not your holiday table. Let's all hope for more independence and bipartisanship in the new year. I'm off next week for the holiday. Have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is Saturday, December 22nd. I'm Victor Blackwell.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Leyla Santiago in for Christi Paul this morning. And we are now hours away from a crucial moment in this ongoing shutdown. The Senate convenes at noon. Will they vote today? Will they have something to vote on today?

BLACKWELL: Yes, this year's third partial government shutdown is now entering its 11th hour. And thousands of federal workers may now have to wait, many of them continuing to report to work with no idea when they will get their next paycheck.

SANTIAGO: And now the week after he told Democratic leaders, remember this, he would be proud to take the blame for a border wall shutdown, President Trump says it's the Democrats' fault.

BLACKWELL: The shutdown caps out a really rough week for the White House. There was the dramatic court appearance from the former national security adviser Michael Flynn, resignation letter from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and the worst week on Wall Street in a decade. Let's now bring in CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne, we have got a couple of hours now until the Senate convenes. What are we expecting, what are you hearing about what's going to happen?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. There are a number of things could happen. They're negotiating behind the scenes. I had a chance to talk to Senator James Lankford. He is a Republican from Oklahoma on the appropriations committee. And what he told me is the hope was, the hope is that perhaps when the Senate convenes at noon, they might be able to offer Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a deal, saying this is what we have agreed on behind the scenes. If that does not happen at noon, he says expect to see a much longer period of time when you have this government shutdown.

So the hope was that they were working on a number, anywhere from $1 billion to $5 billion for border security, or as the president likes to say, the border wall. The latest that we heard the Democrats were sticking much closer to $1 billion, less so than to $5 billion, but something that was in the works.

But equally important was language behind this. Would it be a border wall per se, or things like technology and staffing, things that are more generic in their language to beef up security and perhaps more palatable and acceptable for the president to sign into law. So that is what we're waiting to hear for. Next two hours really pretty critical here.

I did also have a chance to speak to Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of the fifth district of Maryland. He's the incoming majority whip. And surprisingly he seemed pretty optimistic about the process and what has happened here, and that is largely because you've had some pretty powerful players in the administration who were here on Capitol Hill trying to negotiate what would be acceptable to the president. I want you to listen to just a little bit of the interview.


REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MARYLAND: I am hopeful. President Obama, this is in the Senate, not the House. But we have many people in the administration, including Mr. Pence and Mr. Mulvaney, and I think Mr. Kushner, participating in these discussions, and that's hopeful because they have, we would think, influence with the president of the United States, which is important, because the problem is the president of the United States agreed to an agreement that would could pass and the government would not have shut down and he changed his mind. So that the president is going to be critical to be involved in this discussion.

And as I understand it, the discussions are going on this morning, this afternoon. The Senate comes in at 12:00, but I don't think they will be doing anything. The agreement is they will not do anything until they have an agreement which the president agrees to, the Senate agrees to, and House agrees to. So I am hopeful that the earliest I think that that could be done is probably Sunday in terms of vote, but hopefully the latest would be Thursday. I don't think we'll come back Monday or Tuesday, Christmas. And Wednesday will be a travel day, so Thursday I think would be the soonest we could do that.

But I am very hopeful that the president will come to grips with the fact that they don't have funds for the wall, but they do have votes for heightened security at the border. We're all very concerned about security at the border. People cannot be coming into the United States that are not authorized to do so, that we don't know about, and that pose a danger to our people. Congress that comes across, we need to make sure that it is appropriate, so that there is agreement that we need to make the border secure. What there's not agreement on is that we think the wall is not very

effective. We think the wall is a waste of money. And as a matter of fact, Mick Mulvaney, interestingly enough, he said that he thought the president's thoughts about the wall were, and I quote, absurd and childish. That's pretty tough language for now the acting chief of staff to have said about this proposal.

[10:05:07] So we ought to get that behind us, and concentrate hopefully on discussions on ways that we could perhaps invest in greater technology, greater personnel to make sure borders are not porous.


MALVEAUX: Victor, it's important to note that those comments made by Mulvaney, that was during the campaign season as Trump was a candidate, and not the president here. He's since changed his tune on that language there, of course. But also it is important to note that Steny Hoyer's own district, 62,000 federal government employees, and he talks about the real need to wrap this up relatively quickly, that it is going to be very difficult for those employees as they are furloughed, as they don't get paid in time during this holiday season. So that is one of the incentives.

The other really important thing that he did say, and the big question is, is whether or not the president is really good to his word. If he says and conveys this to Pence and Kushner and the others who are negotiating on his behalf that he is willing to accept a deal, will he keep that deal if the Republicans and Democrats actually announce this, and say this is what we're voting for. That is a critical point here, procedural move that they agreed to yesterday that all three sides have to vote on something that is real. It is not a test vote, something that is real. And that's going to be a real risk for Republicans to take, to believe at his president since he went back on his word just on Wednesday and blew all of this up, and here we are now.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. Suzanne Malveaux for us there on Capitol Hill, and we'll look forward to what happens at noon today. Thank you so much.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

SANTIAGO: And President Trump says that he cancelled his trip to Florida so that he could stay in Washington to, quote, wait for the Democrats. Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip, joining us now with what you're hearing on your end.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leyla, the president is here at the White House, apparently waiting while others negotiate on his behalf. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the vice president, Mike Pence and Mick Mulvaney, his soon to be acting chief of staff and the director of the Office of Management and Budget, have been working on Capitol Hill to try to get something negotiated that would bring an end to this shutdown. But as Suzanne just laid out there, the sticking point here right now

is what is President Trump going to accept. And can anyone on Capitol Hill trust that at the end of the day he will stick by his word and sign something that they take a vote on. President Trump has not been clear about what the compromise level of border security is sufficient for him. He pushed Republicans to pass $5 billion, but that figure is viewed as nonstarter in the Senate.

So if the number is going to be less than that, White House aides aren't saying what level President Trump will accept. He is facing an enormous amount of pressure from his base, from conservatives on the right who say Mr. President, stick it out. Meanwhile, he has been quiet, instead seeking to try to reshape and reframe the blame game for this shutdown, saying that this is the Democrats' fault. But the question is, where is the compromise going to come, and when will he say where he stands on these key issues? Leyla and Victor.

SANTIAGO: Abby Phillip, thanks so much.

So what's at stake during a shutdown? At least 420,000 federal employees will be expected to work without pay until lawmakers can make a deal. About 380,000 employees will be placed on furlough as we head into the holidays.

BLACKWELL: Essential services like Social Security will still get funded, and the mail will be delivered. Federal employees who keep people safe like the military and law enforcement officers will keep working. Let's bring in Josh Rogin, CNN political analyst and columnist for the "Washington Post." Josh, first to you, I want to get to a couple of topics, this shutdown, but also the General Mattis, Secretary Mattis, and his resignation. What we're seeing here -- is there a carryover, a crossover between what we're seeing both on Capitol Hill there and some of the, I don't want to say resentment, but the disagreement that we're seeing from members of the Senate and now also having to deal with this shutdown.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there is. I think what you're seeing is a buildup of resentment on both sides of the aisle about President Trump's negotiating style, the way he deals with people, the way he deals with Congress, or you could apply it to diplomats or the military or his own cabinet. His style of brinksmanship and then chaos and then unpredictability and then ultimately resolution, may have worked for him in business, but in government it really hurts a lot of real people, and those numbers that you put up are a stark example of that, 400,000 people working without pay, another 400,000 not working in the Christmas season.

[10:10:02] Let's assume all of the vital national security functions are still staffed, do you want to go to the airport on your holiday travel and meet and be checked by a TSA agent who hasn't been paid in two weeks? That person is not going to be very happy either. And the irony is that we all know how this is going to end. They're going to make a deal. It's not going to be that much different than the deal they already made and that the president reneged on. So that suffering is really just the president's leverage over the people that he's trying to influence. BLACKWELL: And they may just get to the continuing resolution that they were passing to get to February at the end of this anyway.

Let's move now to the resignation letter, and some reporting actually from your paper, the "Washington Post" there, is that this decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria started, at least the latest iteration of it, from a call with Turkey's Erdogan a week ago Friday in which the president of Turkey seemingly taunted President Trump and asked him why do you still have troops there, why are you backing the Syrian Kurdish fighters if you say you've already won. And the president said, OK, you're right, I'm getting out.

How does that correspond with what we saw from Secretary Mattis' letter in which he had some comments about the malign actors and the strategic opponents that he's learned about in his career, comparing to what the president views as those strongmen's taunts?

ROGIN: Right. It is just shocking to think that the president of the United States could reject all the advice of his senior cabinet members and not even ask the advice of his military before making a major military decision, and do it off of the taunt of the president of Turkey. If that's really what happened, that's just a total breakdown in national security decision-making that has really devastating consequences.

But what James Mattis is trying to say is that's not really the only issue. For him that was just the straw that broke the camel's back. He has been dealing for two years with a president who he says doesn't believe in basic tenet of treat your friends well and treat your enemies not so well. It is kind of like an axiom of national security and foreign policy making. He doesn't believe that the president shares his values when it comes to what America stands for and what's America's role in the world. So you take that big idea that James Mattis has been struggling with for two years about here's a president who doesn't agree with what America has been doing in the world for 80 years, and then you take that second idea of he is not listening to anyone except maybe the president of Turkey, and you put those together, and it is just too much for even James Mattis to suffer. And I think a lot of other people in the government feel the same way.

BLACKWELL: Josh Rogin, thanks so much for being with us.

ROGIN: Thank you.

SANTIAGO: Breaking news this morning, CNN sources telling us he is less than impressed with the man he appointed to head the U.S. Federal Reserve, so much so that Trump has been floating around the idea of firing him. We'll be right back.


[10:17:02] BLACKWELL: President Trump is said to be less than impressed we should say with Jerome Powell, the appointed chair of the Federal Reserve. Sources now tell CNN this morning that the president has been talking with his legal advisers about whether he would be allowed to fire him. SANTIAGO: The president blames the Fed's interest rate hike for the

markets plunging this week. Wall Street just had its worst week since the 2008 recession, slumping 411 points on Friday. For more on this, let's go ahead and get on over to our senior economics analyst, Stephen Moore, who has also been an informal adviser to the president. Stephen, let me just start with, you have advised President Trump on this. Where would you start? Would you tell him he should do this, and where would you stand on what could happen if he does fire Powell?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: First of all, Powell has turned out to be a catastrophic choice. The decision that the Fed made to raise interest rates this week was really an act of economic malpractice. And we have deflation in the economy now. You saw while Chairman Powell was speaking the stock market fell by 600 points. In a time when we need to get more dollars into the economy, he was pulling back on it.

So Trump certainly is angry at Powell, as I think a lot of American investors and American workers should be angry at him. I am not a lawyer so I don't know exactly what authority he would have to fire Powell. I think the most important thing is that the Fed needs to have an emergency meeting right after Christmas and reverse this bad decision that was made. This is a really bad, obviously bloodbath week for the stock market. I would simply say to people who are investors who are watching this show, if you look at stocks today relative to the earnings of companies, stocks are really, really cheap right now. Now is not a bad time to be getting into the market. There's an old rule, you want to buy stocks low and sell them high, and you've got really low prices out there. So that's my little financial advice for the morning.

SANTIAGO: All right, Stephen, so you're standing by Trump in saying that Powell, your words, not mine, has been catastrophic. You're also standing by him on the shutdown. You have said that he should be able to get the $5 billion to build this wall. My question to you is what happened to Mexico is going to pay for the wall?

MOORE: Well, look, I do favor getting the wall built. I'm not a fan of the government shutdown. I think it's a shame that the government is shutdown. By the way, the workers will be taken care of. All of the workers, the workers furloughed will get paid. I've lived through about 12 of these government shutdowns. The government workers always in the end get paid. But it is a shame to me, frankly, that they can't just make a deal here.

[10:20:04] SANTIAGO: OK, OK, but Stephen, let me interrupt you there. What happened to Mexico is going to pay for the wall? I understand you want a wall. I understand you get the repercussions of a shutdown, but as someone who stands by Trump on this, what happened to Mexico paying for the wall?

MOORE: They don't want to pay for the wall. That's the problem with this. They have stonewalled, excuse the pun.

But my point is, look, where we are now, they're not that far apart. You have $1 trillion spending bill. They've got $1.5 billion for funding, Trump wants $5 billion. Just cut the difference down the middle, get the government back open, continue with the border security.

The reason I'm for the wall. Two reasons, number one, I think border security is really important for the country. Number two, I think the American people, we need to have real immigration reform where we let in the immigrants into this country that we need. We need more immigrants today, not less. But the point is they have to come in legally. And I think that's where the American people are. We need a system where we have a secure border. I used to tell Donald Trump build the wall, but make sure it has big gates so people can come in legally. And I think that's the system we need.

SANTIAGO: And the asylum process that we've seen many of those migrants use, especially, in the caravan is the legal way to do so. Stephen, I lived in Mexico, I know for a fact the Mexicans maybe not so much stonewalled, they have never said they were going to pay for the wall. I spent two years asking them, and that has not changed. I thank you for your time.

MOORE: Thank you, merry Christmas.

SANTIAGO: Same to you.

BLACKWELL: Let's also remember, when Stephen says workers will get paid the longer this goes, for people that live paycheck to paycheck, and that used to be me, and it is still a whole lot of people, when you miss one day, the bottom can fall out. So hopefully leaders in Washington remember that as they play games going back and forth with this shutdown and rhetorical games of who owns it. There are people that need that money and they rely on it on the day they're due it for doing the work they do.

Now let's move on. We are fact checking the president's claims on boarder wall funding. You're not getting the whole truth from the president about the wall, what has been done, and what he promised. We have got the facts. We'll be right back.



[10:26:49] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of wall has been built, we don't talk about that, but we might as well start, because it is being built now, big sections of wall. And we will continue that.


BLACKWELL: That was President Trump during that contentious Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. He is claiming there that the border wall that he promised during the campaign and for the first two years of his administration is being built. This is not a new claim. Here's the president just a few months ago at a rally in June.


CROWD: Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, it's happening. It's not build that wall anymore. It's continue building that wall, because we're building it.



BLACKWELL: Look at this. His supporters have even traded in those "Build the wall" signs for "Finish the Wall" signs. So is this true? Has Congress approved funding for the border wall?

Here are the facts. The week President Trump signed a bill in March, he tweeted "Got $1.6 billion to start wall on southern border." He's referring to this section of that huge funding bill, nearly $1.6 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection procurement, construction, and improvements paying for six projects on the border. Not one of them is a border wall. Look, "fencing," "fencing," "fencing," "planning," and design," and "technology." No mention of border wall. In fact, there's no mention of that phrase in the entire law. I checked. And aside from 14 miles of a secondary barrier near San Diego, which is still not a wall, the rest is fencing.

Now, if you think we're just playing a game of semantics here, consider this. The border wall prototypes in southern California, remember those? Congress set aside $20 million to build these eight samples. These were the finalists. One of them was presumably to become the great border wall the president promised during the campaign. He first toured them in March just days before he signed that funding bill into law.

So which one is being built? Not one of them, because the same funding bill that allocated $1.6 billion that the president brags about also says that money can only be spent to build designs deployed the prior year. So no money to build anything new. No new wall designs, not the concrete barrier that candidate Trump promised, certainly not one of the protypes. Get this, he toured them in March, March 13th, and then 10 days later he signed the bill that made it illegal to build them.

Bottom line, as the president fights for billions to finish the concrete border wall that he promised during the campaign, remember that despite his claims, he hasn't received a single dollar to start it.

And joining me to discuss, former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz and CNN political commentator Alice Stewart, and former south regional director for President Obama's 2012 campaign Tharon Johnson. Welcome to both of you. Good to have you here in Atlanta.


BLACKWELL: All right, so Alice, let's start here with the definition of the wall. I want to start with the definition from candidate Trump and then what he tweeted this week. Let's start with the president.


[10:30:04] STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Let's defend our national security, let's put America first, let us not spill American blood to fight the enemies of other countries as is the case in Syria.


BLACKWELL: That's the wrong sound bite. Do we have the right one? So we don't have the right one. What the president said as a candidate is that it would be concrete and rebar, reinforced steel, and that he'd use 90-foot concrete parking deck plank, right. He also said it would not be a fence, it would be a wall. Then this week tweeted out from his account, he said a big beautiful, right here design, the "steel slat barrier, which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful." That's a fence, Alice. What happened to the concrete wall that he was promising?

STEWART: This is all semantics. This is clear that no matter what you call it, no matter how you slice this, the Democrats are going to be opposed to it. And what we found out yesterday, that if we refer to it as something different than a wall, then Democrats are a little more willing to negotiate.

But let's be clear, one thing is for certain, President Trump campaigned on building a wall, he campaigned on securing the border, he campaigned on making this a national security issue, and this is more than his ability to try to follow through on the campaign promise. And he has dug in his heels and he is really working hard to get that done. He said I need $5 billion. He is willing to negotiate. He mentioned that yesterday with senators.

But this is a matter of Democrats coming to the table and making the hard decision, do they want to close the border or do they want to close down the government? They have the opportunity to open the government, but they have to close the borders.

BLACKWELL: What's the evidence that he is willing to negotiate?

STEWART: He made that clear yesterday. He talked with senators yesterday and said I am not hard and firm on this $5 billion, provided the Democrats are willing to negotiate, and that is something that gave them confidence in moving forward.

He also said, look, I come from a position of strength at this point, I'm in a better negotiating position. If I stand firm now on this $5 billion and try to get them to come up on 1.6, but he is using it to make a point. He has made it clear he knows about the art of the deal. We're going to have less negotiating power as Democrats move and take control of the House in January. Look, I've talked with people that have spoken with him yesterday and today. He's in a good mood. Right now he understands he's in a position to where the Democrats really need to work with him, and he realized they have a tough decision between opening the government but also keeping the borders closed. BLACKWELL: I don't know that his mood is that relevant here, if he is

having a great day or not. And are you a great dealmaker if the government shuts down? How good of a job are you doing if you get to the point where you can't keep the machine running?

STEWART: No one likes the fact that we have a partial government shutdown over Christmas or anytime.

BLACKWELL: Then he could have signed the CR and got to February.

STEWART: It effects a lot of people. But this is also an opportunity for him to continue to relate to not just the base, but people that voted for him across the country in flyover America and rustbelt states, that your voices are being heard and I am following through on this important campaign promise.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about this. What Alice says it that it's semantics, although the president was very clear about what he wanted to build. Whether it is the right thing to do or not, we can have that conversation and have for three years now. But to you, is she right, that whatever it is, Democrats are not going to support it because it is a Trump proposal and you don't want to give it away.

THARON JOHNSON, FORMER SOUTHERN REGIONAL DIRECTOR, OBAMA 2012: This is the third Trump partial shutdown. Let's make sure we know for our viewers that this is the third time this has happened. The second thing is, Victor, that it was candidate Donald Trump who said that Mexico was going to pay for the wall. Democrats didn't say that. And so now that he knows that he can't get funding for Mexico, we're still waiting on this sort of proposal because he had a good relationship negotiating with Mexico.

Now Democrats move forward. Why would we negotiate with a man who is very temperamental? Let's not forget that there was a deal on the table that came from the Senate that President Trump was going to support. Some of the people said, hey, he was going to support this deal. And then he started looking at people on other radio shows and FOX News started pushing back on him, then said, you know what, no, I'm not accepting the deal. So he is throwing temper tantrums.

And we know he is in a good mood because right now he is in the White House, and there's golf out there, waiting to basically board Air Force One one to go to Mar-a-Lago to play some golf. But this is a who has that manufactured this crisis. I think Democrats are to be applauded for staying strong. They has said, listen, when the president said that he would support a bill that they were going to put forward that did not include the funding, the president said he was going to do that. But then he sent the vice president and Kushner over to Congress with a very strong message saying that he will not support any bill that does not include --

BLACKWELL: But Democrats reportedly were going to put $25 billion on the table for the wall as part of the DACA deal several months ago to keep everything moving. Is there something that can be added to this so that the president can get his $5 billion? Is there a negotiating point for the Democrats, or are you going to out the clock until January 3rd?

JOHNSON: I think that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer went to the White House, you remember this meeting. They went there willing to negotiate.

[10:35:02] But we saw a man who basically said, and I paraphrase, I will take the mantle and basically shut the government down if you do not include funding for the wall. And so I do think that Democrats were in a posture before the midterms to say let's work with him. But we remember how DACA turned out. The president again went back on his word. He basically publicly said he would support DACA, and then he lied to the American people and switched his positions.

STEWART: I'll say this. As a Republican who voted for this president and support his policies, I never thought that we would build a wall that Mexico would pay for, and I think a lot of Republicans realize that. But that moving forward, I always did believe that he had security of our border and our national security at hand, and this is more than just immigration, illegal immigration into the country. This is also about bringing illegal drugs into the country, which is a tremendous problem. So we have a dual purpose here. Not only is it economic, its's a national security, it's a drug enforcement issue, but it's also a way that the president is able to follow through on something that he was really firm in running for president.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this. I heard so many people now say that I never believed Mexico would pay for the wall. Did you say that during the campaign?

STEWART: I sure did.

JOHNSON: You're one of the first.

STEWART: I certainly did. And I said that repeatedly. But I always knew that that was an issue that resonated with his base, you would go to a rally and they would say build the wall, and who will pay for it, I understood that. But it's the policy. That wasn't exactly the tone and tenor I resonated with, with a lot of things, but the policies of securing the border, fighting illegal immigration, fighting drugs into the country, I had faith that this president would make that a priority.

BLACKWELL: We've got to wrap it there. Alice Stewart, Tharon Johnson, thank you both.

STEWART: Thank you.


SANTIAGO: President Trump angry over Defense Secretary James Mattis' resignation, but it's not his departure that has the president fuming. We'll explain next when we're joined by Samantha Vinograd and General Spider Marks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:41:30] SANTIAGO: President Trump is angry over Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' resignation letter. A source close to the White House telling CNN that Trump, quote, hates the letter, but hates the coverage more. Upset that Mattis was often called one of the adults in the room, Mattis' abrupt resignation stunned U.S. allies and took all of Washington by surprise. It came on the heels of President Trump's announcement to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and possibly Afghanistan.

So let's discuss. Joining me now is CNN military analyst Major General Spider Marks, CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd. Sam served also on President Obama's national security council. Let's go ahead and first of all listen to reaction from lawmakers.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: I think we're going to pay a price for it if it is not reversed.

SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) TENNESSEE: It's hard to imagine that any president would wake up and make this kind of decision with this little communication, with this little preparation.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: To say they're defeated is an overstatement and is fake news.


SANTIAGO: General, Samantha, I'm going to you now for your reaction. Sam, I'll start with you. What's your take on what this will actually mean around the world?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Leyla, I think this is going to have a direct operational impact on our ability to protect ourselves going forward. We have a Peter cried wolf scenario unfolding in front of us. The United States founded the global coalition to combat ISIS, it is now about 79 countries and organizations. We're now announcing that we're withdrawing from the coalition. We did the same thing on the agreement with Iran. We pushed and led efforts for it to start in the first place, then we unilaterally withdrew.

Who is the president going to call when he needs to build a coalition on any issue going forward, ghostbusters? He is not going to be able to call his allies. He's not going to be able to credibly say that we need help to combat our enemies, whether it's on alliances to combat enemies like Iran or other terrorist groups down the road.

SANTIAGO: General, so many people talked about our Kurdish allies and what this could mean for that relationship. And you hear Russia praising the decision. Do you worry about that?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, big time. And of course, Russia is going to see this as a great victory on their part. The big-ticket item here really is Russia's engagement in that part of the world and Iran's influence, how that effects our partners in the region, especially Israel. And then what can the United States do going forward if it needs to reinsert itself?

And some have said, quite frankly, look, if we depart, we may have to go back in. The difficulty with all of that is the crumbling effect of relationships that exist with those partners in the region that have been doing the heavy lifting. When you look at what has happened to ISIS over the course of many years, the campaign that has been in place for many years, ISIS has been reduced in capabilities. It still exists and it will continue to exist as an ideological, very influential and galvanizing, violent extremist force out there that is going to continue to draw folks to its ranks.

The Kurds have been doing all the heavy lifting, the incredible work, to reduce ISIS in place. They have done that with support of the United States, and clearly at odds to the Turks who see the Kurds as a legitimate problem. So with the United States departure we now have a mix where it now becomes a free-for-all. Frankly, it's kind of been a free-for-all, but the United States presence is to our great advantage as a stabilizing force, primarily in terms of our alliances and partnerships in the region.

[10:45:14] SANTIAGO: Let's turn now to the shutdown, what we're dealing with right now. Sam, how do you see this impacting national security in terms of a global perspective?

VINOGRAD: I think that we're trying to tackle massive national security issues at a major handicap when you compare the U.S. government to, frankly, any other government around the world. We have 380,000 less government employees that are even able to check their BlackBerrys and work on e-mail starting at midnight last night. What other country is operating without its full team on the field at this point? Literally nobody else. So we are less fully staffed when compared to others.

I noted this morning that the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, a key U.S. embassy, a key outpost for important efforts with Pakistan in Afghanistan, countering terrorism, they tweeted that they wouldn't be tweeting anymore because they're not fully staffed because of the government shutdown. We are not able to perform regular, run of the mill national security functions because we have so many less employees showing up to work. And even those that are, aren't getting paid.

SANTIAGO: But General, President Trump says that the shutdown is because of security. He is arguing that the border wall is the reason we need to hold off with moving forward with less than $5 billion for a wall. Is that how you see it?

MARKS: No. I think the issue really is, to Sam's point, government has a list of key and essential personnel and organizations that will continue to be engaged, lean forward, do their jobs. And that has everything to do with military, law enforcement as necessary, Border Patrol, TSA, et cetera. I'm not concerned about security right now going forward in the midst of a shutdown.

We created this incredible government that we are a part of which is an invitation to struggle. We're going to routinely have challenges and disagreements like this. A shutdown is incredibly unfortunate, not just this time of year but at any time. But what we have simultaneously is a number of issues that are taking place with our deployments and our engagements as we try to build partnerships internationally, on the global stage, and now we have got this other part, which is all part of the mix, the discussion on the shutdown. I think going forward, the summary is we're going to be OK, though.

VINOGRAD: Can I just make one point to slightly disagree with the general. This is about our actual security in the sense that this isn't just a short term security issue. Many of the employees, or several of the employees that are not showing up to work are working on security issues that are more long term. So when you look at the State Department strategy to combat illegal immigration and the staff that would be working on things like governance, supporting better conditions on the ground in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, those are the kind of functions that are not deemed essential under a government shutdown because it is relative to doing things like TSA, CPB, and other functions like that. We have to take a long view here. It is not just about meeting a tactical threat at the moment of shutdown. It is about keeping us secure over the long term.

SANTIAGO: All right, Sam Vinograd, General Spider Marks, thank you both so much for your perspectives.

MARKS: Thanks, Leyla. Merry Christmas.

SANTIAGO: Same to you.

BLACKWELL: We're a little over an hour away from a critical meeting on Capitol Hill over the partial government shutdown. The Senate reconvenes at noon eastern. CNN is there live as lawmakers arrive to try and find common ground. Will they be able to come up with something, anything to even vote on today?


[10:53:33] BLACKWELL: A reminder, be sure to join CNN for your big New Year's Eve celebration. Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen co-host CNN's New Year's Eve coverage live from Times Square with Brooke Baldwin and Don Lemon. Everything starts at 8:00 eastern, only on CNN.

SANTIAGO: This week's Mission Ahead, one company has the solution to easing severe drought. This technology called cloud seeding and can literally make it rain.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is almost like you guys are creating clouds out of nowhere. You actually target storm systems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's no clouds in the sky that has any moisture in them, then we can't do anything. What we can do is tap into what's there and assist mother nature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What exactly is cloud seeding? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cloud seeding is really an enhancement of the

natural precipitation process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In other words, Weather Modification International is literally making it rain. To do that, pilots target clouds full of moisture and eject small amounts of an inert chemical. Then the water in the cloud condenses around the new particles and gets heavy, falling to the ground as precipitation. Even though cloud seeding has been around for decades, the scientific data to confirm it's working is relatively new. That hasn't stopped companies from recognizing benefits. Idaho Power is one of Weather Modification International's clients. The hydroelectric power company says that last year's cloud seeding program has provided a 300 percent return.

[10:55:02] How many homes can that power? What are you getting out of that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On average, and in excess of 60,000 homes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's $9 million worth of water that otherwise may have never fallen on these mountain tops. Weather Modification says the benefits could extend beyond business.

Do you see cloud seeding as potential drought solution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to solve large climate shifts, but cloud seeding is part of a solution, it's part of a healthy water management program.


SANTIAGO: Interesting concept. We will continue to watch the developments on the shutdown. Thanks for watching.

BLACKWELL: Yes, much more ahead in the next hour of CNN Newsroom. Our colleague Fredricka Whitfield will pick it up after a quick break.