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Tsunami Kills at least 168 People in Indonesia; Trump Administration Turmoil; Dems: No Funding for Border Wall with Mexico; Football Player Death; Deck the Halls with Trump. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired December 23, 2018 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And live from Atlanta, we are following the breaking news from Indonesia. The death toll continuing to rise in West Java following a tsunami. Hello, I'm Natalie Allen.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm George Howell. Welcome to viewers here in the United States and around the world. Here's the latest as we know it.

Officials say at least 168 people are now confirmed dead. Hundreds of others are hurt. This after a tsunami hit a popular tourist coastline in Indonesia, parts of Java and Sumatra.

ALLEN: You can see the tsunami devastated communities here, collapsed homes, areas in Banten, south of Lampung, and Pandeglang were severely affected. Some are only about 55 miles or 90 kilometers from the capital, Jakarta.

A volcano may have triggered the wave, which caught people off guard. We want to warn you: some of the video you're about to see is disturbing and this video shows the moment a concert was ongoing. They didn't know just behind them a wave was about to consume them as you see there.

Horrible. The band kept playing, unaware of what was about to happen.

HOWELL: Let's get the very latest details from our Ivan Watson, following updates in the region in Hong Kong.

Ivan, what is the latest that we know about?

What happened and where do things stand right now?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This was a Christmas holiday weekend in Indonesia. A lot of people in this coastal area, local Indonesian tourists. So these beach areas, the hotels full of people that were trying to relax when this tsunami hit at 9:37 pm on Saturday night. Now the cause of the tsunami, according to Indonesian authorities,

appears to have been an underwater landslide caused by a volcanic eruption at Anak Krakatau. That's translated of Child of Krakatau. It's a volcanic island that got that name because the island was created about 50 years after the 1883, just cataclysmic eruption of Krakatau, which killed at least 30,000 people and actually plunged global temperatures due to the massive ash cloud as a result of that.

The authorities say that this volcano had been active in recent months but that the tsunami may have been aggravated by the fact that there was a full moon Saturday night and that it had recently been high tide. So that sent a wall of water, perhaps heights of 1.5 meters, traveling at high speed inland at distances of about 500 meters.

Again, according to Indonesian authorities, 500 meters inland. Some of the aerial footage that we have seen does not show all of the buildings in coastal areas knocked down that -- we can actually see that some roofs are intact. That might be good news but the death toll stands at 168 dead, more than 700 wounded and hundreds of houses destroyed, boats destroyed as well.

When it comes to that video you showed of the concert, that was being performed by a band called Seventeen. It was a concert that was at the ended by dozens of people from a state power company, when the wall of water broke through the stage there.

The lead singer of the band issued a statement on Instagram the following morning, quite emotional as you can understand from the content of his message. Take a listen.


RIEFIAN FAJARSYAH, SINGER, SEVENTEEN: I just wanted to say that our bass player, Bani, and our manager, Oki Wijaya, passed away. I also ask for prayers for my friends, Andi, Herman and Ujang, who is still missing at this time. Also my dear wife is still missing. The rest of us have broken bones, minor injuries, including me. But we are fine. Please pray that we can find Andi, Herman and Ujang and my wife.


WATSON: George, Natalie, the Indonesian president has sent messages of condolences to the victims of this disaster and, again, we are still getting pieces and learning more as the emergency rescue teams get to the scene, as they move heavy equipment to the --


WATSON: -- scene as well along this long coastline.

In the meantime, a spokesperson for Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency was commenting about the early warning systems for tsunamis and he says, in this case, it was not triggered because there was no earthquake, no seismic activity. This appears to have been caused by, he says, an underwater landslide. Again, caused by a volcano for which he says there was no warning

system. And he's now calling for a multihazard, early warning system for these types of eventualities.

HOWELL: It just seems like people didn't see this coming and now we're, of course, seeing the aftermath of what happened. Ivan Watson, live for us in Hong Kong, thank you for the reporting.

ALLEN: And for more now we're joined on the phone by Kathy Mueller. She is in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and she's with the Canadian Red Cross.

Kathy, we know you're very busy. Thank you for talking with us. As Ivan was just reporting, this was a bizarre phenomenon, it seems, a tsunami out of nowhere, triggered by what looks to be a volcanic eruption.

Can you give us a sense of the vastness of this area that was hit?

KATHY MUELLER, CANADIAN RED CROSS: From what we're understanding, Natalie, it was a wide swath of land, one kilometer long, which has been impacted by this tsunami. The main access road to a very popular beach resort area, as was mentioned, for the local tourists and the main access road is also damaged.

So that is hampering efforts to actually get to the area that is impacted. And then it's not just going to be the highly populated areas that need attention but any of the remote areas, where people may be impacted and we'll have to make sure that we get to those communities as well.

ALLEN: All right. I'm sure communications are impacted. We do know people are missing, 168 confirmed dead right now.

Any idea how many people may be missing from this?

MUELLER: That's always so hard to say and especially we're still in the very early hours of the response. What the Indonesian Red Cross has done in the past, for example, with the Sulawesi tsunami, which they're responding to, they set up this restoring family events program. So they work at reuniting families who may be missing or separated during a disaster such as this.

So the days to come, things will become much clearer as to what the impact is, how many people are affected, what kind of support they're going to need in the weeks and months ahead.

ALLEN: And you are in Sulawesi and they had a devastating earthquake a few months ago, more than 2,000 people died there. This is a region that sees a lot of this activity but it must be traumatizing.

What are you hearing?

MUELLER: Oh, it is. These people, I wouldn't say they're used to earthquakes but they're in the Ring of Fire, so the country is prone to getting them. Back in late July and early August, the Lombok experience, a series of devastating earthquakes and then the earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi at the end of September.

And now this one towards the end of December in the western part of Java. So what I'm seeing in Sulawesi and I'm sure the same is the same and it's going to be the same in Java is that people are terrified. They would rather stay in a tent than move into any kind of a taller structure because anytime there's an aftershock they're afraid that that structure is going to come down on top of them.

It takes a long time to help people, especially the adults, to work through --


MUELLER: -- that they're experiencing. We find children tend to rebound a lot quicker, we know that they're very resilient. And so the teams of the Red Cross volunteers, they go in and play with the children, get them to try and just be kids again and laugh and play. And we find that they respond really well to that.

ALLEN: Right.

Is there any danger, Kathy, that you're aware, that this could happen again since this volcanic eruption?

And I'm sure what's adding to people's anxiety, is the fact this seemingly came out of nowhere.

MUELLER: Well, yes, I'm no expert on volcanic activity. But from what I understand this is an extremely rare event. So you know, the chances of it happening again, who's to know? But what our priority now is, is to make sure that we're going in, we're providing people with --


MUELLER: -- the basic necessities that they need. Things like clean water and some tarpaulins to protect them from the rain. It's the rainy season right now so it's bad enough that people have already lost their homes. We want to make sure they're somewhat protected from the elements.

By doing that, hopefully we can keep disease at bay, which, of course, is always a risk when the infrastructure and everything collapses after a disaster.

ALLEN: Right. Well, we know that homes have been destroyed. Hotels have been damaged. Restaurants in the area. We'll continue to follow the information as it comes in; it's still early on here. Kathy Mueller, we appreciate you talking with us. Thank you.

MUELLER: Thank you.

HOWELL: And again, this tsunami likely triggered by a volcanic eruption that set off underwater landslides.

(WEATHER REPORT) HOWELL: Obviously, this is a developing story. We understand that more a hundred people have been killed, so many people have been injured. We'll continue to follow the developments out of Indonesia.

But other stories we are following this day, the U.S. government shutdown. About a quarter of the federal government is not open for business Sunday morning and both sides appear to be digging in for what could be a long wait.

ALLEN: Also ahead here, the sudden departure of this man, President Trump's point man on ISIS.

Coming up, how will the region react to a second high profile resignation?

We'll have a live report.






ALLEN: We will spend the next two hours of our program bringing you more updates on our breaking news story from Indonesia. Authorities saying Saturday's tsunami killed at least 168 people when it slammed into parts of West Java and Indonesia.

A little after 9:00 pm at night there, more than 740 people are injured. Some people are still missing. Hundreds of homes are damaged and along with businesses and hotels.

HOWELL: Natalie, looking at these images, not to sound cliche here, but people didn't see this thing coming. You see the aftermath there, a volcano may have triggered the disaster, setting off underwater landslides.

One official says that the disaster struck without warning. The official said Indonesia lacks equipment to warn of an underwater tsunami threat. We'll continue to follow developments there.

ALLEN: Back to the story there from the United States and the government shutdown that's still underway. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are working without pay for now or staying home on furlough.

HOWELL: Not exactly what people wanted for Christmas.

ALLEN: Right.

HOWELL: Mr. Trump sent Vice President Pence to Capitol Hill on Saturday to try to work out a resolution. CNN's Sarah Westwood reports, so far, there's no deal.


SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is still not signaling what he'd consider in terms of a deal that could get 10 Senate Democrats on board and start the process of reopening the government.

White House officials say the president is not budging from his demand for $5 billion for the border wall and they say that money has to be used for the construction of a physical barrier along the southern border.

They say it can't just be used for border security in general, which is one of several potential options that had been floating around Capitol Hill amid the shutdown talks. But make no mistake, despite that current hardline stance, the president has been all over the map when it comes to the funding fight.

First saying he'd be proud to accept responsibility for a shutdown if it was over money for his border wall, then through aides signaling he might be willing to --


WESTWOOD: -- entertain a temporary spending deal passed by the Senate that would have kept the government open through February 8th.

Finally, by Thursday, rallying House Republicans to pass a funding mechanism that did contain $5 billion for the wall, buckling under pressure from conservative allies on Capitol Hill and in the media to avoid what they described as a surrender on the border wall.

The president held a lunch here at the White House on Saturday with Republican lawmakers. No Democrats were in attendance. And those who did attend were mostly conservative allies, like Congressman Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Senator Lindsey Graham, allies of the president who already agree with him when it comes to the strategy behind the shutdown.

And as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said earlier Saturday, the logjam will persist until the president huddles with Senate Democrats to talk about a potential compromise.

But the lack of clarity surrounding what exactly the president might be willing to entertain has caused headaches for some lawmakers, who really have no idea what kind of deal the president might support beyond that hardline stance for $5 billion.

Vice president Mike Pence is leading negotiations for the White House side but earlier this week Pence told lawmakers that the president might be inclined to sign that temporary spending deal, something that turned out not to be true.

Heading into Christmas, both sides appear very entrenched. Washington appears poised to enter what could be a lengthy shutdown. The president canceling his plans to travel to West Palm Beach, Florida, over the holiday amid the legislative logjam -- Sarah Westwood, CNN, the White House.


HOWELL: That's not the only thing the president is facing. A second senior U.S. official has quit over President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. The person, Brett McGurk, was a key diplomat in the region. He worked as the U.S. special envoy to the international coalition fighting ISIS.

ALLEN: He was in Iraq and had just finished briefing partners that the U.S. would stay in Syria when he learned President Trump had reversed course. His resignation on Friday came one day after U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis quit over the same thing.

HOWELL: And this tweet from the U.S. president, claiming not to know his own envoy. He belittled McGurk as an Obama holdover and, quote, "grandstander," who is going to leave the administration soon anyway.

ALLEN: Joining me now is political analyst Peter Mathews, a frequent guest of our program.

Peter, thank you for being with us.

PETER MATHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Good to be here, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. It's the holidays, happy holidays to you. I don't know how much happy holidays is going around Washington because this is the first time in 40 years the government will have been closed three times in one year and now Congress says, well, we'll take it up after Christmas.

What do you make of the impasse and who is to blame for it?

MATHEWS: Well, they almost had a compromise worked out a few days ago and then Trump threw a tantrum and said he wanted money for the wall and he's not backing down because someone on FOX News said he was backing down, he shouldn't do that; always looking toward his base.

He said I won't go for the deal and then the deal was off and so the whole thing ended up falling apart. I would blame him the most for it, actually, in the end.

ALLEN: Do you think that President Trump is surprised that the hardliners will hold him to this wall?

I mean, he did promise it. He did say Mexico would pay for it. That's not going to happen. And then he seems willing to compromise but then those who really believe in him say, wait a minute, you're not doing us right.

MATHEWS: He's always concerned about those really hardcore right- wingers who he may lose and a few percent loss among them could cost him the election next time, he thinks. And he won't win anyway because very few people support him. But he's really beholden to that right wing, extreme right wing, and he's causing a disaster for himself and for the country, in a sense, and chaos to say the very least.

It's not good what he's facing right now with the stock market going down and all the other things happening. A lot of it has to do with the uncertainty brought about by this kind of behavior.

ALLEN: Right. There's so much going on with his presidency. This is probably the last thing that people wanted to deal with. The government shutdown. But here we are. Democrats indicate they have no plans to fund a wall. Never did.

Let's listen to the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, talking about the shutdown and then after that Democrat leader Chuck Schumer and then we'll talk about it.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY.), MAJORITY LEADER: Democrats have rejected that reasonable request. They have refused to meet President Trump halfway and provide even one-fifth -- one-fifth -- of the resources for the border they were willing to provide just a few months ago -- just a few months ago. There's no bright line of --


MCCONNELL: -- principle that separates hundreds of miles of physical barriers in 2006 from new physical barriers in 2018.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: It will never pass the Senate, not today, not next week, not next year. So, Mr. President, President Trump, if you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall, plain and simple.


ALLEN: Is it plain and simple like that, Peter, do you think?

MATHEWS: It really is because a majority of the Congress does not want the wall. That includes a large number of Republicans who are concerned about that. And yet he wants to be very strongheaded about it and say we have to have the wall.

He thinks -- he campaigned on it and he has to stick to the campaign promise. He's bringing the whole party -- his own party will be brought down because of that. Look at what happened in the election, the midterms showed that people who were against that wall and wants to fix the immigration problem in a better and different way, won a landslide victory. And I don't know why Trump didn't see that and see he's going in the wrong approach in what he's doing right now.

ALLEN: If he does not get his wall, then what for his election chances? MATHEWS: Well, I'll tell you what, I don't think, as it's going right now, he'll get re-elected to begin with. If he doesn't get his wall, he'll probably lose some of his own hardcore base of supporters. He's not going to get anyone else to support anything else that he's done. He has really jeopardized the country and the policies of the country and the feeling of who we are as a people.

So he won't win either way, in my view. He continues this way, it's not going to help. If he changes his ways, it might help a little bit. I'm not sure if it will be enough to get him over the top in 2020.

ALLEN: Let's discuss the other top story this week, first the Secretary of Defense quitting a part of Mr. Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria. And now another top official is quitting for the same reason. Brett McGurk was a special envoy fighting ISIS in the Middle East. And President Trump says his quitting is no big deal.

Is it?

MATHEWS: It's a very big deal because not only was he the envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS and, as importantly, he was a close ally of General and Defense Secretary Mattis. With Mattis going and him falling suit right, after it's a one-two punch for showing the world that President Trump is losing some of the best talent that he has in the government.

And it's very destabilizing for people who think, what can this president do, he's done not so well, even with such good support.

How will he do without this kind of support and this kind of talent?

It's a very interesting thing that's happening right now. We're in a very critical juncture in so many ways, in this presidency and what's come of it so far, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Well, we'll wait and see what happens next with this story and, of course, the government shutdown. Peter Mathews, always appreciate your insights.

MATHEWS: Thank you. Take care, Natalie.

HOWELL: Still ahead this hour, we'll continue to follow the developments from this deadly tsunami that took place in Indonesia. We'll hear from a reporter on the ground near the disaster area. Stand by. We'll be right back.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news. ALLEN: Breaking news, we continue to follow and keep you updated on out of West Java. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell.

Crews continue searching for survivors. This after a tsunami swept across parts of Indonesia on Saturday night.

ALLEN: The disaster hit popular beach areas in Sumatra and West Java. Officials say the death toll right now, 168; hundreds more hurt. And this is how it happened, they believe. A volcano may have triggered this tsunami by setting off underwater landslides.

At least one official says the disaster struck without warning because of that.

HOWELL: And we have been following this disaster, the results of what happened there, for the last several hours and we're starting to hear now from those on the ground, including our colleagues at CNN Indonesia.

ALLEN: Here's a report from our correspondent, Roni Satria, from Java.


RONI SATRIA, CNN INDONESIA CORRESPONDENT: The first time I came, arrived in the location, I saw dozens of houses were damaged and destroyed. And I saw the waves in the sea, because the main street in the land is very close to the beach. And the waves is very high.

And it's around two hours local time before right now. We were instructed by the local police to find a shelter in a higher place due to the high tide that possibly will also take place in this location.

And my location right now is about five kilometers from the beach, which is not very high and not really close and very safe. And a lot of people, and the people including us with the team, were panicking at the time of the alarm by the police, who instructed us to find a place here.

And we are stuck right now until we are permitted back to the beach again, because we want to see that the damage that impacted the most is around 30 kilometers from my location right now.

And also we want to see whether the aid from the Natural Disaster Agency has already been mobilized. Also we see that a lot of heavy equipment's already been mobilized also with the personnel that clean up the mud and also the routes. And also there are many covering the main street, becoming the access from the place on the beach, which is very popular for the tourist attractions here.


HOWELL: So we got a sense of what it was like right after this happened and that reporter explaining that, you know, it was pretty scary. You know, just to be in that situation and not know what was coming next.

But let's show our viewers again the aerials of the aftermath at this point. Keeping in mind Indonesia, a nation that sits on the Ring of Fire, people there are accustomed to these big earthquakes but never prepared for these things when they happen like this. You're seeing the devastation along the coastline.

ALLEN: Right. Sulawesi nearby, a few months ago, 2,000 people killed there after an earthquake but this, again, reportedly was triggered by a volcanic --


ALLEN: -- eruption and perhaps a water slide. That's why everyone was caught off guard because there was no warning and, again, that band that was performing, the leader saying that his manager, his bass player and his wife, all missing.


Moving on now to developments in Washington, D.C., the resignation of a second senior U.S. official in protest of President Trump's decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria. Brett McGurk was America's top diplomatic person in the global fight against ISIS.

Despite battlefield gains, McGurk believed that the mission was not finished and he viewed President Trump's move as reckless.

Let's bring in CNN Gul Tuysuz, who is following the story live for us in Istanbul.

Gul, tell us more about the integral role that McGurk played in that region.

GUL TUYSUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He had probably the hardest job in the administration. He was the special presidential envoy to the global coalition to combat ISIS.

That meant that he had to corral dozens of different actors and nations in the region into coming together to form the backbone of the fight of ISIS. That meant he was a mainstay in the region.

You could see him traveling from -- into Iraq, to Syria and really he was the man who was seen as the architect of the U.S. policy. And here, for example, in Turkey, people would watch to see what McGurk was going to say and do and what the U.S. was going to do in Syria.

He brought, you know, years of experience, having been instrumental in the building of that coalition to combat ISIS. And over his tenure, you could see that ISIS, which held vast swaths of territory across Iraq and Syria, has now been degraded. They still maintain a presence there.

And there are pockets of it along the border with Iraq and Syria, where they have been mounting attacks again. But really, McGurk, was instrumental in putting together the rather successful fight against ISIS. And his departure is definitely going to be leaving a big gap, coupled with the resignation of Mattis as well.

To have the U.S. president coming out and saying that he didn't know McGurk, that's just disingenuous at best.

HOWELL: It was a very odd tweet to say the least.

Has the Turkish government addressed this?

TUYSUZ: Well, Turkey came out and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they welcomed the U.S.' decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. There were only about 2,000 of those troops.

But really they had an impact that was outsized for their numbers. They were instrumental in beating back ISIS. And really this announcement that the U.S. is pulling out of Syria puts the U.S.' main ally on the ground in Syria, a Kurdish fighting force, in jeopardy.

That Kurdish fighting force is seen by Turkey to be an extension of a terrorist group that they have here at home.

So really with the U.S.' departure, what's going to happen to that Kurdish fighting force as they become exposed to the possibility of a Turkish incursion in to Syria, not to say the least of which what's going to happen to the fight against ISIS, those remaining remnants of ISIS, that are there?

And they are a security threat not just to Iraq and Syria but, of course, to the world.

HOWELL: Gul Tuysuz, live for us in Istanbul, thank you for your reporting.

ALLEN: Ahead here, a story regarding sports and possible racism. It has to do with a haircut. This high school athlete wrestled with an ultimatum: cut off your dreadlocks or forfeit the match.

HOWELL: Plus in May, a college football player collapsed and died. And could paramedics have gotten to him sooner?

What newly released video shows. We're back after a break. Stay with us.





HOWELL: Welcome back. Let's get caught up on the breaking news we're following out of Indonesia. Authorities say that Saturday's tsunami killed at least 168 people when it hit parts of Java and Indonesia. More than 740 others injured and hundreds of homes, as you see there, have been damaged. ALLEN: Also hotels are damaged and a lot of people are there for the holiday. This is what they believe was behind it, a volcano may have triggered this disaster by setting off underwater landslides.

One official said the disaster for that reason struck without any warning. He said Indonesia lacks the right equipment to warn of an underwater tsunami threat.

HOWELL: A Congolese boy who traveled to the United States to have a facial tumor removed has died. The 8-year old arrived in Los Angeles earlier this month. After being sponsored by the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, which was started by the former NBA player, Dikembe Mutombo.

The foundation said Saturday that Matadi Sela Petit died after suffering a rare genetic reaction to anesthesia during surgery. It added the boy's memory will inspire them to further improve the lives of Congolese children.

ALLEN: An advance team of U.N. observers has arrived in Yemen to oversee the cease-fire in that country's four-year-old conflict. The delegation will focus much of their attention on the port city of Hudaydah.

HOWELL: That port is the lifeline for goods and humanitarian aid coming into the country. Fighting has also shut it down and led to a severe shortage of food across the country.

Newly released video is raising questions about how quickly emergency personnel responded to a U.S. college football player who collapsed during practice.

ALLEN: Nineteen-year-old Jordan McNair died after apparently suffering heatstroke and collapsing earlier this year. For more on the developments, here's CNN's Nick Valencia.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The video that you're about to see had been requested for months by the media but those requests were repeatedly denied by the University of Maryland, saying that they wanted the state attorney general to finish they're investigation before the clips were released.

Now here we are, more than six months since Jordan McNair's death, seeing this video for the very first time. And it includes surveillance footage as well as bodycam footage. What's evident in this is the frustration on the part of the first responding officers, only could be described as a lack of urgency on behalf of the paramedics responding to the scene.

We want to be very clear about something. An independent report said that those paramedics could have gotten better directions and that led to the lag time in them responding.

You never see McNair -- [04:45:00]

VALENCIA: -- in these video clips. In fact, large portions of it is redacted to keep from putting out medical information about McNair. But what is clear is the frustration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they at least bring him inside?




VALENCIA: The first ambulance to arrive to the scene did not have any paramedics. That's the standard operating procedure in Prince George's County. It took another seven to eight minutes for the second ambulance to show up. That ambulance did have paramedics.

But by the time that Jordan McNair got to the hospital, an independent investigation concluded that too little was done too late.

If you remember when this happened initially in May, two weeks later after that initial off-season workout, McNair died as a result of what his family said was heatstroke. The investigation into his death led to the firing of D.J. Durkin, the head football coach there at the University of Maryland.

And we also saw the strength and conditioning coach step down. Now witnesses said it was that strength and conditioning coach who continued to run McNair even after he complained of not feeling well. We also saw ramifications for the university president, who is expected to step down in June of 2019 from his post.

What is still unclear is if the family of McNair will pursue civil litigation. We did reach out to the family attorney but we have yet to hear back -- Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


ALLEN: That is such a tragedy. And this next story is really disturbing. It involved an incident at a high school wrestling match and is being investigated for potential racial bias.

HOWELL: Officials in New Jersey launched an investigation after a referee told a black wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit the match. He did it. He cut off his dreadlocks. He won the match but had to cut his hair.


Polo Sandoval has the story.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The school district has been told that the referee in question will not be officiating any matches at that particular high school campus until a review of his actions has been performed.

We should also mention that the New Jersey attorney general's civil rights division now investigating this, looking into the possibility that bias was a factor in Wednesday's incident.

The school district offering a timeline of what happened here. The varsity wrestler stepped onto the mat to compete before the referee told him that his hair length and also his head gear were not in compliance with regulations.

Well, faced with the option of forfeiting the match, the school district says the wrestler then agreed to have his hair cut right there on the spot. The district saying that none of the staff influenced the student in his decision.

The district also pointing out that the referee in question does not actually work for them but interested is part of New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association or the NJSIAA.

That's basically the governing body that oversees high school athletics. The question that the school district, that the NJSIAA and mainly the state AG's civil rights division are now working to answer is, was this a case of bias?

Usually that athletic association would investigate these kinds of incidents between coaches and staffs, et cetera. But in this case it's a state's attorney general's office and civil rights division that will be taking the reins, since the referee is technically a member of that athletic association.

On Saturday, the executive director of that athletic association added a personal touch to the statement that he released, writing, in part, and I quote, "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."

We should note that CNN has actually reached out to not only the parents of this varsity wrestler but also to the referee in question. And we are yet to hear back -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


HOWELL: That story is making the rounds across social media and, you know, he cut off his dreadlocks.

But the question is, why?

Was it absolutely necessary to do that?

ALLEN: Right, they talk about regulations but watching that, that was very disturbing. HOWELL: To say the least.

We'll be right back after a break.






ALLEN: Canadian peacekeepers in Mali got an early Christmas surprise this weekend -- a visit from their prime minister.

HOWELL: Justin Trudeau met with troops on Saturday to thank them for their service and he shared a turkey dinner with them and even dropped off a Foosball table. About 250 Canadian military personnel are stationed in the West African nation.

The U.S. president had planned to visit his Mar-a-lago resort but changed course and remains in Washington because of the partial government shutdown.

ALLEN: Hard to celebrate when you're president and when the government is shut down.

If he needed any last minute ideas to decorate the White House during the stay, well, our Jeanne Moos has some suggestions.



JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump has been petting the Christmas tree hauling horse, lighting the national tree, even popping out of a mocked-up chimney like Santa Claus.

But who knew he'd end up as an ornament?

His son, Don Jr., posted this meme on Instagram, "Couldn't decide between an angel or a star. So I picked both," prompting someone to comment, "Mr. Mueller is coming to town."

We know what makes the president merry.

TRUMP: I told you that we would be saying Merry Christmas again, right?

We're saying Merry Christmas again.

We are going to be celebrating Merry Christmas again. MOOS: His other son, Eric, celebrated by hawking the all-new ornaments from the Trump store. The Trump helicopter sells for 55 bucks.

Bet you can't tell what this is. It's the Trump golf bag ornament.

And this is Trump Tower.

Tweeted a critic, "If you shake the Trump Tower globe, does it snow indictments?"

And for Trump foes, there is a mockup ornament of the baby Trump blimp.

TRUMP: I'm saying --


TRUMP: -- Merry Christmas to whoever the hell wants to hear it.

MOOS (voice-over): But here is something you won't find for sale on the Trump website.

MOOS: Meet corkscrew Donald, the perfect way to open a bottle of fine Trump wine.

MOOS (voice-over): It was created by the same designer who dreamed up the Hillary nutcracker, twisted gifts for under the tree or on top of it -- Jeanne Moos, CNN -- must be a Democratic cork -- New York.


HOWELL: Jeanne Moos.

ALLEN: What next?

HOWELL: All right. Let's just move on to the partial government shutdown that is affecting much of the holiday season for people.

ALLEN: Some of those furloughed workers might put some of those ornaments on the tree. I don't know.

One holiday favorite, though, is already feeling an impact, we are talking about the national Christmas tree near the White House. The Park Service, get this, closed the site on Friday after a man climbed the tree and refused to get down for an hour.

HOWELL: Now they can't reopen it because there aren't any funds to fix some of the problems that the man caused.

ALLEN: Goodness.

What next, George?

HOWELL: I don't know. All right, let's update on this major story that we're following, this breaking news out of Indonesia. A tsunami that has killed at least 168 people, more than 740 others who have been injured. It struck Saturday night without warning. It's believed to have been triggered by a volcanic eruption that set off underwater landslides.

Some 30 people are said to still be missing.

ALLEN: Yes. The disaster hit beach areas in places Banten, South Lampong and Pandeglang. Some of those are only 55 miles or 90 kilometers from the capital, Jakarta. More than 500 homes severely damaged, along with at least nine hotels and dozens restaurants. We'll have more live coverage of this story coming up in our next hour. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Stand by. More news after the break.