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President Declares Isis Has Been Defeated in Syria; President Trump Calls For Full and Rapid Withdrawal of U.S. Military Forces in Syria; The New York Times Reports: The President Erupted in Anger in Front of Numerous White House Officials Saying he Needed his Attorney General to Protect Him; Republican Lawmaker Calls Out His Party For Using Toddlers' Logic on Government Shutdown; Indonesia Tsunami Hits Islands of Sumatra and Java, 20 People Dead and Another 165 Injured; Ruth Bader Ginsburg Recovering From Surgery to Remove Growths in Lungs. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 22, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] ANA CABRERA, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for being with us on this Saturday. The government is shut down likely for Christmas. Why? The wall.

Mexico won't be paying for it, and if your tax dollars don't go to picking up the tab, the government won't be opening for business anytime soon. Happy holidays. Welcome to the chaos that has taken hold almost two years since President Trump took office.

The President declared this week that ISIS has been defeated in Syria. Disagreeing, the Secretary of Defense who quit one day later, and now we just learned the man who leads the fight against ISIS isn't celebrating either. He is leaving too. How do we get here, with one tweet from the President once again rocking the globe.

President Trump calling for a full and rapid withdrawal of U.S. military forces in Syria; the news stunning allies and even those in his own party.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If Obama had made this decision, Republicans would be all over him.

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

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Colossal in my mind, mistake, a grave error.


CABRERA: Again, on the heels of Trump's Syria decision, Defense Secretary James Mattis heads for the door. And in a clear rebuke of the President, his resignation letter, evidence of a stunning divide.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe that it is right for me to step down from my position.

A House Republican who supports President Trump says that Mattis' departure, "the wheels may be coming off."

And now, what if President Trump's worst nightmares a reality? Wall Street suffers its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis. And today, we learned the President has begun calling advisors about whether he has the legal authority to fire the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The Chief of Staff, who was supposed to clean up the mess, John Kelly is out. Trump's original Secretary of State, who was seen as an adult in the room, Rex Tillerson already gone and the President recently told the world, Tillerson his pick was lazy as hell and dumb as a rock.

The Attorney General, President Trump again says, Jeff Session should be ashamed of himself. And we just learned who was supposed to be his replacement temporarily, President Trump has been lashing out at him, Matt Whitaker, for not doing enough to protect him from Robert Mueller, as though that's the Attorney General's job.

But perhaps the President was emboldened and now believes, because we also learned Whitaker rejected the advice of an ethics official, who said he should recuse himself as well.

A White House in chaos, a volatile stock market, and a partial government shutdown, a wall Americans were promised they were never going to have to pay for the in the first place.

Welcome to President Trump's America. The President and first lady will be in the nation's capital for Christmas. That is a change of plan. CNN Sarah Westwood joins us now at the White House.

Sarah, the Trump family intended to be together at Mar-a-Lago for the holiday. In fact, the First Lady had already left for Florida. So, why did they decide now to have Christmas in Washington?

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Ana, just moments ago, the White House announced this change of plans from the President that, due to the government shutdown, the President will be remaining in Washington and the First Lady, Melania Trump, who travelled down yesterday to West Palm Beach will actually be returning to Washington to spend the holidays here with her husband.

And obviously, the objects of the President going on vacation in West Palm Beach during a shutdown of his own making would not have been good and we should note, by the way, that the Secret Service is one of many government agencies, nine of them that are not funded due to this partial government shutdown.

And the President is still not signaling publicly what exactly he might be willing to consider in terms of a deal that might reopen the government and restore some sense of stability to Washington.

White House officials are saying that the President still expects to receive that $5 billion number, but it's very clear at this point that he is not going to get anything close to that from the Senate, where we needs at least 10 Democrats to come to his side to start the process of reopening the government.

President had lunch today here at the White House with Republican lawmakers; no Democrats were in attendance. And those who were in attendance were mostly conservative allies like Congressmen Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, Senator Lindsey Graham, allies that already agree with the President's strategy of shutting down the government.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel said earlier today that the logjam will persist until the President is able to huddle with the Senate Democrats who really are the ones needed now to get negotiations kickstarted again.

But the President is not indicating yet what he'd be willing to consider. And this just caps off what has been a really chaotic week for the President as he just ticks through everything that has been plaguing this White House.

[19:05:00] And this is before the era of divided government that we are hurtling toward very fast when Democrats come into power in January, the President will be facing this kind of legislative stalemate and much more, and the President doing so with many vacancies throughout his West Wing and cabinet.

So this could be a very difficult time for the President in the weeks ahead, Ana.

CABRERA: Sarah Westwood, thank you.

One person the shutdown will not affect, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his investigation will continue unimpeded, and there is a new reporting he might be interested in. CNN has learned that President Trump has lashed out at his new Acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker at least twice in the last few weeks.

We're told President Trump wanted to know why more wasn't being done to control prosecutors from bringing hush money charges that implicated the President.

Now remember, Whitaker is who President Trump personally appointed to oversee Mueller. Trump passed over other high-ranking officials when he made that pick. And even though an ethics official said there's at least an appearance of a conflict of interest and would recommend Whitaker recuse himself from the Russia probe, Whitaker isn't planning to do that.

CNN's justice reporter Laura Jarrett has more on that.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: New details on Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker's role in overseeing the Russia investigation, after he rejected the advice of Justice Department ethics officials who said he should step aside. Whitaker, who's never been briefed on the Mueller investigation, is

expected to start getting updates now that he isn't recusing himself. However, Whitaker was given a heads-up that President Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen would plead guilty before it was publicly announced.

Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein promised the investigation would continue to be managed properly.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We've continued to manage the investigation as we have in the past, and it's being handled appropriately.


Rosenstein's office will continue to manage the Special Counsel investigation day to day, but Whitaker can block any significant steps Mueller wants to take, for now, an investigation that Whitaker long criticized before joining the Justice Department.


MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: That Attorney General doesn't fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to an absolutely -- almost a halt.


Even echoing President Trump's words, saying the Special Counsel investigation could become a "witch-hunt" in a CNN op-ed last year. Whitaker's decision not to recuse himself explained in a letter sent to lawmakers saying that an ethics official had told Whitaker staff he should recuse himself from supervision of the Special Counsel investigation, because it was their view that a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts likely would question the impartiality of the Acting Attorney General.

That appearance of a conflict not enough to convince Whitaker to recuse the Justice Department outlining his reasons in the same letter saying ethics officials could find no personal or financial interest that would require recusal that Whitaker had not made comments about the investigation since rejoining DOJ to work for Jeff Sessions, and that Whitaker thought Mueller was "a good man" and would only go after legitimate targets.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was my first choice from day one.


The administration now about to face similar issues with Bill Barr, the President's permanent pick for Attorney General who is also a Mueller critic.

The former Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush writing in an unsolicited memo this past June calling the Special Counsel's obstruction of justice investigation "fatally misconceived" with "potentially disastrous implications for the Presidency," saying Trump's firing a former FBI Director James Comey was squarely within the power of the President.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I find that very troubling as well, but we see this constant pattern.


Democrats now crying foul on the President's choices.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: It appears that the number one qualification Donald Trump's looking for in an Attorney General is someone that will try to undermine the Mueller investigation.


Laura Jarrett, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: With us now, CNN Presidential historian Tim Naftali and Trump biographer and author of The Truth About Trump, Michael D'Antonio. Gentlemen, we know Trump was upset Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe.

At one point, The New York Times reported, "The President erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials saying he needed his Attorney General to protect him." Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy as Attorney General had done for his brother John F. Kennedy, and Eric H. Holder Jr. had done for Barack Obama.

Tim, is that what an Attorney General is supposed to do, who that's supposed to be?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No. Well, to use the RFK example is amusing. I mean, RFK after all was John F. Kennedy's brother and there was no doubt a closeness between them.

[19:10:00] And many people criticized and that led to laws about nepotism. It's very surprising, but not at all unusual for the President to try to desperately find an example that would legitimate his having a protector, as opposed to an Attorney General who's there to enforce the law.

CABRERA: Michael, why do you think Trump has this idea that this is what an Attorney General is supposed to do? MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP: Well, it's a fantasy that suits his need right now. He doesn't have a true grasp of history and he doesn't really locate himself in a continuum of American life.

So I don't think he thinks back to what previous Presidents really were about, and I don't think he thinks forward more than a few days to consider the trouble that he's making for himself. So for him, the fantasy of Attorney General that would stand up for him, no matter what, what he would call the Roy Cohn of Attorney Generals, and Roy Cohn was a person who was ultimately driven out of his law practice by his wrongdoing, is just something pleasing to his ego. It's got nothing to do with how the government functions.

CABRERA: It is hard to understate just how chaotic of a week this has been. We've seen Republicans long loyal to President Trump use expletives in reacting to what's happening. Tim, help us understand this moment.

NAFTALI: Well, I mean this moment is the culmination of many moments. And I asked myself, I having studied the Nixon years, I was hopeful that Republicans would do now what they did in '73 and '74.

The biggest and best bulwarks against Nixon's abuses of power then were Republicans. There were Republicans in government and there were Republicans in Congress.

I had naively hoped that I would see, or we would see, the same kind of spine in the Republicans of today, but I don't see it in their DNA. I think the Republican Party of today is fundamentally different from the Republican Party of the '70s.

In the '90s, there was a shift, and so the folks that are there now don't understand that there are moments when you have to think constitutionally, when you have to think about nation over party; it's really sad.

So, when I hear about Republicans who are unhappy and are using F- bombs, they have only themselves to blame at this moment.

CABRERA: General Mattis quit this week, we know because really he was the last general Trump had installed around himself, but he felt like he wasn't being listened to. General Kelly is leaving next month, General McMaster is already gone.

Michael, you and I talked a lot about Trump appointing these generals in the first place, why he loves generals. I remember you pointing out he went to a military school. Why do you think he's now pushing them away?

D'ANTONIO: Well, there's a real irony here because the military is the ultimate team and Donald Trump is not a team player. He's never been a team player and now he should be on what would be Team America or Team USA, defending our values, promoting our interests around the world in a consistent fashion.

But as all these generals have discovered, this is a person who's not on the team; he's off on his own. He's not even the captain of the team, he's exhibiting no real leadership, he's just impulsively doing things.

So, there's a problem here with a President who's not based in the same reality the rest of us occupy, and he can't get anyone to play along with him because no one understands the game.

CABRERA: Earlier, I spoke with a woman who has worked for five defense secretaries, both Republicans and Democrats. I asked her about these relationships between the President and his Defense Secretary, and if they typically follow a "my way or the other way -- the highway" dynamic. Here's what she said.


MARA KARLIN, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No. Traditionally, you have a dialog and one would outline a number of different options and the pros and cons of those options. But indeed, at the end of the day, it is the President's choice and the appointee that is the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State has to decide, can they go along with this or not.

And I think what we've seen over these last few days is that Secretary Mattis saw that he could not go along.


CABRERA: Tim, can you think of a time when a President and his Defense Secretary really butted heads like this?

NAFTALI: Oh yes I can.


NAFTALI: But they didn't do it publicly, and that's the difference. Mel Laird wanted America to get out of Vietnam faster than Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger wanted to get out of Vietnam. And Mel Laird was a former member of Congress, he had buddies in Congress, and he played Nixon.

And the reason we got out of Vietnam as fast as we did, it wasn't fast enough, but as fast as we did was because of this man, Mel Laird. Now, he did it behind the scenes and he did it -- he didn't do it publicly because he wanted to succeed.

[19:15:00] We have had Presidents -- we've had Presidents fire Secretaries of State -- I mean Secretary of Defense. Harry Truman did it for one, he fired Louis Johnson. Barack Obama pretty much fired Chuck Hagel.

But what we haven't seen before is a Secretary of State go public and say that the American President, our President, is not committed to collective security, is not committed to allies, is not committed to NATO, and that that his vision for American defense is not the vision of defense that every post World War II Secretary of Defense has tried to implement, and that's astounding. There have been 26 of them, this is the first time a Secretary of Defense has ever said to the world that we have a President who doesn't understand allies.

CABRERA: Howard Rains is the former editor of The New York Times and said he believes Mattis' letter, as he's leaving, is going to go down in the history books. Do you agree?

NAFTALI: It's one of the great state documents of the United States and it's a challenge to national security Congress -- members of Congress, I'm not going to be partisan here, Republicans and Democrats.

They have a chance, starting in January, to use subpoena power to ask questions of the Trump national security team, what is your strategy, where are you going, okay pull out of Syria, what happens when Iran takes control? Okay, pull out of Afghanistan, what happens when the Taliban starts to assist Islamists again?

There's got to be these questions, there's got to be a use of subpoenas, there has to be a willingness to step up and say, even though Congress is not number one in making foreign policy, it has a role to play and let's see it do it.

CABRERA: Right, Tim Naftali, Michael D'Antonio, great to have both of you with us, thank you guys, especially on the holiday weekend, really appreciate it.

With the government shut down likely to pass -- last past Christmas, a departing Republican Congressman is slamming the members of his own party that he says are beholden to Right Wing media figures. He joins us next, live here in the CNN Newsroom.


The government shutdown blame game is on, and a Republican lawmaker is calling out his party for using "toddlers' logic."

Retiring Pennsylvania Congressman Ryan Costello warning there is no pressure on Dems, then Dems controlled the House on January 3, and then Dems have more leverage. The notion that a shutdown creates more pressure on Dems is toddler logic.

Congressman Costello is joining us now. If it is toddler logic to think the Dems will cave here, who do you blame for this government shutdown we are in?

REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, it's the President; I mean he said it's his shutdown. The Senate -- just a little bit of history here, the Senate passed a bill 100 to 0 funding the government, known as a Clean CR.

After the 100 to 0 vote, the bill came to the House. A couple of talk- show hosts were screaming and yelling and saying we need to get more border money. The President all of a sudden changes his mind and isn't -- doesn't find the 100 to 0 vote acceptable, even though he initially did.

A couple members of the Freedom Caucus gin everybody up, and by the end of a Republican conference meeting, we don't have enough votes to pass that Clean CR and so we had to put a bill on the floor that increased funding for the border wall $5 billion and did what we needed to do on disaster relief funding of an additional $8 billion, and sent the bill back to the Senate that we knew the Senate was not going to take up, because you need eight Democrats in the Senate to vote for the bill.

CABRERA: Right, there's the--

COSTELLO: And no Senate Democrat right now--

CABRERA: --they have to get over and they wouldn't be able to do that with Republicans alone in the Senate. But you voted for this House Spending Bill that has--


CABRERA: --the money for the wall. Even though I know you're lukewarm on the idea, you just expressed how you are upset with the process and you think it's the President's fault we're in a shutdown.

COSTELLO: If I can explain that.

CABRERA: Given now with government is expected to be in a shutdown until December 27 perhaps even longer, will you vote the same way?

COSTELLO: So I will -- when I get a bill that funds the government, I will vote for it. I would have preferred to have a Clean CR vote, we didn't have that, and so my vote was either vote no, which then means you're voting to shut down the government, or vote yes for the additional disaster relief and border security funding.

I would note though, the $5 billion border funding, this past summer I actually voted for $25 billion more in border security. There was a compromise bill that some centrist Republicans put forward that would have given the President $25 billion, and it also solved the DACA problem that we still have, the DACA fix and some visa reform measures that were needed.

And so, I would say to my most conservative Republican colleagues in the House, if the border -- if the wall is what you care more about than anything, then why did you vote no this past summer for five times the amount and to solve an issue which most of 85 percent, 90 percent of Americans think we should have solved the DACA problem by now.

So, in the land of common sense, what -- we're not in it right now and the shutdown is because the President wanted to shut down. I don't know why he wanted to shut down, if it's over the border wall, then this past summer he should have pushed the compromise immigration bill that he -- if he had pushed, we would have been able to send it over to the Senate. So, that's my frustration. CABRERA: The President today is having lunch with lawmakers at the White House and I just want to show you who's on this list. I'll name just a couple, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Far-Right GOP contingent in Congress. Not a single Democrat is in the room. No Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Is this productive?

[19:25:00] COSTELLO: Well look, if everybody's hungry and they want to have lunch, by all means, but I don't know how you solve a problem unless he's telling them to get onboard and vote for the Clean CR.

I mean, yes, I don't know what to tell you. Those are the folks right there that vote -- that are against the Clean CR.


COSTELLO: Those are the ones that are against funding the government right now. If somehow they have - maybe there's some--

CABRERA: Do you think you are going to be in Congress when the government actually reopens?

COSTELLO: I think that there's a better than likely chance that I will not be, because I don't know why Senate Democrats would vote for a bill right now when they will have even more leverage on January 4, when the Democrats take back the House.

This honestly is really, really simple stuff, really simple. But for some reason, there's a couple of people out there that I think are just missing the boat, and one of them's the President.

CABRERA: Well, we also saw conservative media and its influence it has over the President, essentially shaming him for conceding initially when it was reported he would sign the Clean CR. Does this show that the President cares--

COSTELLO: And he should have stood up to them.

CABRERA: --more about what people like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh think over his own policy advisers and experts?

COSTELLO: Yes, I do.

CABRERA: All right, okay. Yes, mike drop there. We know Defense Secretary James Mattis left because President Trump wouldn't take his advice. Now, we hear top US envoy in ISIS -- in the fight against ISIS Brett McGurk is leaving. Do you think more people will follow their lead?

COSTELLO: I don't know, but that is a much more existential deep- seated long-term problem than this government shutdown, not making light of the government shutdown.

But a month ago, we had defense -- a top defense official say ISIS was not yet defeated in Syria. You know who likes that decision in Syria the most right now, Russia and Iran. Not many people are comfortable with the very abrupt decision that was made and we did not even notify our allies in advance.

And so, I think when we have, and I'm not in the Senate, but we're going to ultimately have Secretary of Defense nomination hearings, and where we're headed from a foreign policy perspective, we have a lot of our allies that are not happy with us and frankly don't trust us the way that they've historically trusted us.

That gives me much, much greater concern and I would say to all Americans, focus in on where we're headed over the next two years, because the stability this globe relies on strong, clear, dependable, reliable American leadership.

And what we did in Syria, and folks like Senator Graham, many stalwart Republican members in the Senate take great exception of the decision that was made and I would join them in taking exception of the decision that was made.

CABRERA: I went to add into this whole crazy week a new reporting that the President lash out at his Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker at least twice in the past month for letting prosecutors in the Michael Cohen case portray him in a negative light that he ended up being implicated in a federal crime.

This, as former Attorney General Loretta Lynch was being grilled at Capitol Hill this week, Republicans continuing to be outraged about her meeting with President Bill Clinton on that airport tarmac, are Republicans going to have the same outcry about President Trump's interactions with Whitaker?

COSTELLO: I don't -- I can't speak for other Republicans, but I can tell you that the Clintons should have met -- should not have met with Loretta Lynch. I think the optics of it were bad, I don't know what was or wasn't said.

And President Trump, who has made no bones about saying has acted inappropriately with his statements related to the Mueller investigation, appears to be doing the same as it relates to the Southern District of New York Prosecutor's Office.

Someone such as myself, all I can do is say that I take issue with it. I think, as we head into the New Year, obviously the Democrats are going to control the Judiciary Committee and the Oversight Committee.

I suspect you're going to have a lot more hearings oriented around the types of questions you raised just there.

CABRERA: Congressman Ryan Costello.

COSTELLO: But he shouldn't have said it, no, he shouldn't have -- that conversation shouldn't have happened with Whitaker, if it did.

CABRERA: Congressman Costello, thank you for spending time with us. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you and your family, and good luck in whatever is next for you. COSTELLO: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thanks. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is recovering today after a surgery to remove growths in her lungs. CNN's Sanjay Gupta is going to tell us what this means for the 85 year old Justice's health.


[19:30:00] Breaking news out of Indonesia now, where officials have just confirmed 20 people are dead and another 165 injured after a tsunami hit the coastal areas of the islands of Sumatra and Java.

Two people are still missing, dozens of buildings are damaged. Officials say the tsunami was likely due to a combination of underwater landslides triggered by the eruption of a nearby volcano, along with the full moon.

Superhuman, like a cyborg, machine like, not typical descriptions of an 85 year old woman; the exception, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As she recovers from surgery to remove two malignant nodules on her lung, the people who know her best say her extraordinary strength and determination will pull her through.

I want to bring in CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta now. And Sanjay, Justice Ginsburg is 85 years old. How serious of a procedure is this for someone her age and what might the recovery be like as well?

[19:35:00] DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN'S CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean I think you know regardless of your age, this is a -- it's a serious procedure. It involves anesthesia, it involves opening the chest cavity and basically removing one of the lobes of the lung.

So it's a big deal. I think in anybody certainly age plays a big factor here. She being 85, she's certainly shown how tough she can be, everyone talks about that with regard to Justice Ginsburg. But I think the recovery is going to be a few days certainly.

One of the questions that I think people have and they did not talk about this in a statement, was this a traditional sort of procedure, meaning that there's a larger incision or was this a less invasive?

There are techniques, Ana, that it can be less invasive to accomplish the same thing, using video, using robots, things like that to make it a quicker, shorter procedure and less time in the hospital. But regardless, I think a few days for certain she was expected to still be recovering.

CABRERA: And my understanding based on that statement is that there was no other trace of additional cancer, therefore no additional treatment, does that make sense to you?

GUPTA: Yes, so there's a couple of things that they're sort of making note of. One is exactly what you said, there was two nodules they found, they were in one of the lobes, the left lobes of the lung. And by removing the entire lobe, they're confident that they got the nodules and anything else that may have been surrounding that.

The second point that they make is that there was no other evidence of disease elsewhere in the body on scans. And the reason they point that out, Ana, is when you see something in a lung, the question you ask is, did this start in the lung or did this start somewhere else in the body and spread to the lung?

She's had colon cancer in the past; she's had early pancreatic cancer in the past. So it's a question they needed to answer is, is this metastatic disease? Does not appear to be, we don't know for sure until they give us a definitive finding on those nodules, but it does -- it appears to be all originated in the lung and stayed in the lung.

CABRERA: As you point out, she's had these other cancer scares. She's overcome those previously, now it's the third. Does this make her more likely to get cancer yet again?

GUPTA: It's a great question. I mean I think certainly people who, as you're getting older in years, your propensity or likelihood of developing certain cancers goes up. The colon cancer and the early pancreatic cancer it's quite likely have nothing to do with this. This is more just a sort of mutations that do develop in our bodies, certainly that become more common as we age.

But it's a good question, is she someone who's just likely to develop other cancers even after this one? I don't know, I think that's a hard question to answer.

CABRERA: It seems like good news that they found this early, that's my interpretation of the fact that it was so isolated. But had she not fallen and fractured her ribs last month, I can't help but wonder how might this have gone differently. Has that fall turned into be -- into a blessing in disguise?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean what we can say is that they probably wouldn't have found this, had it not been for the fall, because she didn't seem to have any symptoms from this. She wasn't having shortness of breath or some sort of pain related to these lung nodules. So almost certainly, Ana, they would not have found this without the CT scanner scans that were done at the time of her rib fracture that found this.

I think the second part of that, Ana, as well is that maybe it would have never been a problem in her life as well, right. We don't know how would these nodules have affected her life if at all in the future. But in medicine, it's one of these things, now that they saw it, and I'm sure they had the conversation with her, said look we don't know what it is, could be cancer, here's what we think the best way to proceed is.

And they waited six weeks, that rib fracture was November 7, and we're now middle of December, near the end of December. So they thought it was okay to wait six weeks. They weren't that worried about it, they probably scheduled it now so she could have some time to recover over the holidays.

CABRERA: We know she works out regularly. GUPTA: Yes.

CABRERA: We've shown the clips here when we were promoting her big documentary. She's quite the exercise buff, has already returned to her exercise routine following her rib injury. Does that impact her ability to be able to bounce back from a health scare like this?

GUPTA: Well, I will tell you this. I heard that she was back in the gym just as soon as she got out of the hospital after a rib fracture. I've broken ribs in the past, I was in bed for a week. So, just in terms of toughness, it's a--

CABRERA: Strong lady.

GUPTA: Yes, and this procedure -- the likelihood they had to make an incision, they may have had to move her ribs a little bit, not to actually re-break anything, but there is a recovery involved. Given how quickly she recovered from a rib fracture six weeks ago, I think it does you paint a favorable picture for her recovery from this procedure as well, because it's a similar area of the body, similar sorts of pains as well.

CABRERA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, good to have you with us, thanks for sharing.

GUPTA: You got it, thank you.

[19:40:00] CABRERA: Cut your hair or don't compete, a high school wrestler forced to make that choice during a competition; more on that controversy just ahead. Plus, the perils of falling asleep at the wheel, the must-see surveillance video next.

But first!


GILDA RADNER, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: Hi I'm Gilda Radner and okay now.

People want to know what made you funny. From the time I was a kid, I loved to pretend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was the very first performer chosen for the cast of Saturday Night Live.

RADNER: Dear Roseanne Roseannadanna.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just loved her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I basically stole all of my characters from Gilda. I can do almost anything if people are laughing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gilda was just not quite herself. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One morning, she just said I don't know what's wrong with me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A comedian gets the most unfunny thing in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She felt that she could be of help and that's exactly what she did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How often do we get to know exactly how brave we are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I always felt that my comedy was just to make things be all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love Gilda, New Year's Day at 9 p.m.



CABRERA: Cut off your dreadlocks or forfeit your wrestling match. That demand coming from a high school referee this week in New Jersey, and video of this player submitting to the impromptu courtside haircut, has since gone viral.

It happened Wednesday in Buena, New Jersey. And while the student athlete was -- has maintained, I should say, a low profile staying quiet, we have heard from officials in his school district as well as the State Athletic Association. And Polo Sandoval is joining us now with more details.

Polo, what are those officials saying?

POLO SANDOVAL, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: As we've seen in some of these pictures, Ana, as you know it's very important to also understand what happened before this and the school district there laying out basically a timeline, aside from saying that this referee is not expected to officiate any matches until this whole situation is reviewed.

The New Jersey Attorney General's Civil Rights Division now saying that it is looking into the possibility of bias being a factor during this incident. According to the school district, the varsity wrestler that you see here stepped onto the mat on Wednesday to compete, before the referee told him that his hair length and his headgear were just not in compliance with the regulation.

So, faced with the option of forfeiting the match, the school district saying that the wrestler then agreed to have his hair cut on the spot; the district then also explaining that none of its staff influenced the student to make this decision. The district also pointing out that the referee does not actually work for them, but instead is part of the New Jersey's State Interscholastic Athletic Association, known around here as the NJSIAA. Who are they? It's basically the governing body that we see in other parts of the -- in other states as well. They oversee high school athletics. So, a question now that the school district -- that the NJSIAA and mainly the State AG Civil Rights Division going to have to answer here, was there -- was this a case of bias?

I should mention usually that athletic authority lead these kinds of investigations involving players and coaches. However, the referee is technically a part of this association, so it cannot investigate itself, and that's why the state is leading this investigation.

I should note that we did have an interesting statement that was added by the head of that Athletic Association, mainly Larry White who wrote in part, "As an African-American and parent as well as a former educator, coach official and athlete, I clearly understand the issues at play and probably better than most. The NJSIAA takes this matter very seriously and I ask that everyone respect the investigatory process related to all parties involved."

Again, this is coming from the Head of the Athletic Association in the State of New Jersey saying we need to have all of this play out. CNN has actively reached out to, not only the parents of the player, but also the referee in question. Have not heard back from either parties at this point.

CABRERA: That's wild.


CABRERA: I'm curious to know if this has happened before, if this is just a one-time thing, and how unusual it really is. Thank you, Polo.

SANDOVAL: And what the state will rule.

CABRERA: We'll see.

SANDOVAL: Thanks Ana.

CABRERA: Thank you very much, we'll be right back.


CABRERA: After months of legal wrangling, because of restrictions imposed by President Trump's travel ban, a Yemeni mother has finally arrived in California to be reunited with her dying toddler son. The mother has spent more than a year trying to get a State Department waiver that would allow her to join her husband and her two year old son in America.

Dan Simon has the latest on this family's plight.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dozens of Yemeni Americans came to the International Terminal to welcome Shaima Swileh to the United States and also to draw attention to what they say are the inequities of the Trump administration travel ban. And you could tell that the mother, Shaima, she was completely overwhelmed by the situation. Really who wouldn't be! She had a long plane ride first time to the

United States, and you could see that she was just overwhelmed by the situation with all of those cameras in her face. She's been through one heck of an ordeal, first experiencing the pain of a mother whose son has this terrible condition. And second, the ordeal of just trying to gain access to the country.

We're told that she reached out to the Embassy in Cairo, Egypt some 28 times. She'd been living in Cairo, worked very, very hard to try to come to the United States, and it was ultimately the media attention that really forced the State Department to grant this waiver.

This is what her husband said just a short time ago.


ALI HASSAN, FATHER: This is difficult time for our family, but we are blessed to be together. I ask you to respect our privacy as we go to be with our son again.

The Muslims been has hurt Yemen-American families. That need to end.


SIMON: While the waiver may have been granted and she's now in the country, but it certainly doesn't erase the pain. From here, we're told that she went to the hospital to be with her son, to touch him, to kiss him; he has very little time left.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.

CABRERA: This is from that, you have to see it to believe it file, a BMW flies through the air in this terrifying video, as the driver in Slovakia who fell asleep at the wheel.

[19:55:00] He drifted off the roadway and then launched off a guard rail before entering that tunnel. And look at that he grazes the top of the tunnel before he lands. The craziest part here is the 44 year old driver walks away with just minor injuries.

That does it for me tonight, thank you for being with us. I'm back tomorrow at 5 p.m. Eastern. A CNN special report, The Curious Case of the Killer Clown is next.