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Tsunami Slams Into Indonesian Beaches Killing At least 222; Government Shutdown; U.S. Envoy In ISIS Fight Resigns; Referee Tells Wrestler To Cut Dreadlocks Or Forfeit Aired 6-7a ET

Aired December 23, 2018 - 06:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Leyla Santiago in for Christi Paul.

And we will begin today with some breaking new out of Indonesia where we have just learned at least 222 people are now dead after a large tsunami crashed into the region last night. Hundreds more are injured and dozens right now still missing.

BLACKWELL: The tsunami slammed into residential areas destroying everything there. Look at this. The official say there was no warning before this hit. We are learning this was likely caused by underwater landslides triggered by a volcanic eruption.

And now look at this moment. It's the moment the tsunami crashed into a live concert.


BLACKWELL: Red Cross officials say they expect this death toll, the number of people killed, will rise.

CNN's senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is following the latest. Ivan, what are you learning about how this happened and what is happening now?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the tsunami struck at about 9:30 on Saturday night. Victor and Leyla, this is a holiday weekend in Indonesia. The Indonesians have Monday and Tuesday off for Christmas Eve and Christmas, so the tourist hotels, this coastal area along the Sunda Strait in Western Java had a lot of Indonesian tourists when this tsunami struck. Now Indonesian authorities are saying there was no tsunami warning because there was no earthquake registered. Instead, they are blaming this on a volcano.

It is Anak Krakatau, this volcanic island. It translates as Child of Krakatoa. Some of our viewers may have heard of Krakatoa. It was a cataclysmic volcano in the same area in 1833 that killed more than 30,000 people and resulted in the creation of this volcanic island that has been active in recent months.

But the authorities in Indonesia are saying that even though there were eruptions throughout the autumn, what may have made this more deadly is the fact that there was a full moon Saturday night and it was also high tide. So it sent this deadly wall of water out towards the surrounding beaches, in some areas, a meter and a half high, going in some 500 yards inland and smashing through areas crowded with tourists.

So the Indonesian president he has put out his condolences. We are hearing about emergency crews going to the areas. There are hundreds of homes and buildings that have been destroyed.

Some of aerial footage we have seen is encouraging because many structures still look like they are still standing, but as you saw in that terrifying footage from that concert, you had people out on a Saturday night partying, celebrating when this natural disaster struck -- Leyla, Victor.

BLACKWELL: And there have been other natural disasters recently that hit Indonesia. Of course, we remember the great tsunami that hit several years ago. Ivan Watson, thank you so much for your reporting from Hong Kong there.

SANTIAGO: And so let's go back to that video that Ivan was just talking about. It's the moment that tsunami crashed into a band playing a live show.


SANTIAGO: Just hearing the screams that come from that it's chilling.

BLACKWELL: And again no warning. It just comes from behind them and knocked them off the stage. Now the lead singer of the band posted this video on social media just hours after the tsunami.


RIEFIAN FAJARSYAH, VOCALIST, SEVENTEEN BAND (through translator): I just want to say that our bass player Bani and our manager Oki Wijaya passed away. I also ask for prayers for my friend Andi, Herman, 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.


BLACKWELL: The latest numbers we are just getting in. Again, 222 killed, 843 people injured and 556 homes, 9 hotels, 60 restaurants there, 350 boats damaged and still they are looking for 28 people unaccounted for.

[06:05:08] Those numbers will fluctuate so soon after a tragedy like this. The roads have been demolished so they are having difficulty getting into the major areas where people are.

SANTIAGO: Which will be a problem for aid.


SANTIAGO: Those organizations that are trying to get in there to bring the clean water, to get to the children, to get medical supplies in, that is where you will expect things to happen quickly, but with the situation, the conditions being the way they are for, you know, we don't know how long, that will be an issue for sure.

BLACKWELL: Now of course we will continue to bring you the latest on this throughout the morning.


SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Washington appears poised to enter what could be a lengthy shutdown.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am proud to shut down the government for border security.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: No further votes will occur until the president and Senate Democrats have reached an agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: White house officials say the president is not budging from his demand for $5 billion for a border wall.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: President Trump, if you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall. Plain and simple.


SANTIAGO: The other big story of the day is lawmakers battle it out over a border wall budgeting. The shutdown nightmare is likely to continue through Christmas.

BLACKWELL: So the next formal Senate session is scheduled for Thursday but it's not just the shutdown fight that has so many people in Washington worried. The president is triggering let's call it concern as he puts the idea of firing the fed chair, announces sudden troop withdrawals and struggles to fill in unprecedented number of cabinet vacancies.

CNN correspondent Ryan Nobles joins us live now from the White House. Ryan, the president is staying in Washington for Christmas now canceling that trip to Mar-a-Lago.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Victor, Leyla, good morning from Washington. Where there's anything but calm and quiet here just two days before Christmas. You're right. President of the United States choosing to go stay here in Washington which is rare for any president. Not just Donald Trump who often enjoys travelling to his Mar-a-Lago estate over the holidays.

The president, in fact, his wife Melania Trump is expected to come back here to Washington as well and they are expect to see the shutdown through the Christmas holiday because the Senate will not return to a formal session until Thursday and that is because we are dealing with a stalemate here in Washington. Both sides not budging at all in their demands.

The Democrats on Capitol Hill asking for a clean continuing resolution that would keep the government open until the first week in February, while the president is insisted that he gets at least some level of funding for border security which would extend to the construction of that wall on the southern border. Now initially the president wanted at least $5 billion to begin that process.

They have made some progress in negotiations. We are told that vice president, Mike Pence, the director of the Budget Office and the incoming chief of staff Mick Mulvaney telling senate leaders over the weekend that they would be willing to negotiate $2.5 billion for that wall but the Senate Democrats turned that number down. So at this point, it is a staring contest between these two sides and neither seems to be in the mood to budge. And as a result, some 800,000 federal workers will be off the job through the Christmas holiday -- Leyla and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Ryan Nobles for us at the White House. Thank you.

Now one of the president's most outspoken critics, Republican senator Bob Corker, joins Jake Tapper for an exclusive interview this morning. Be sure to watch "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER" at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

SANTIAGO: It would be an interesting interview for sure.

Listen, first defense secretary Mattis, now another official leaving his post in the Trump administration after the president's decision to withdraw troops from Syria. Who he is? Why his decision matters, next.



SANTIAGO: Another high ranking official in the Trump administration has quit over the president's sudden decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

BLACKWELL: According to two senior officials Brett McGurk saw the decision as reckless and could not bring himself to defend or execute it.

CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott explains. ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the U.S. envoy in charge of the fight against ISIS has resigned. Brett McGurk told Secretary Pompeo on Friday night that he would be leaving his post on December 31st.

Now McGurk was expected to leave in February to take up a post at Stanford University, but his decision to leave early came on the heels of President Trump's sudden announcement that he would be withdrawing all troops from Syria.

Now McGurk just days earlier was talking to reporters about the new U.S. policy to stay in Syria. Not only to defeat the remnants of ISIS but also to counter Iran. In fact McGurk was in the region meeting with coalition partners to discuss this policy and was sitting with Iraqi leaders, talking about the U.S. commitment to stay in Syria when President Trump tweeted that the U.S. would be withdrawing from Syria.

People familiar with McGurk's thinking say that not only did he feel his credibility was on the line but also he didn't feel he would be able to defend, let alone execute that policy. McGurk has been the envoy dealing with the 70 plus-member coalition to fight ISIS since 2013. First serving as the deputy John Allen and then taking over as envoy himself, clearly has done a lot to reduce the presence of ISIS.


But as he said, there is still remnants and he said it would be reckless for the U.S. to withdraw precipitously. I'm also told that decision by James Mattis, who he was very close to, affected his decision. McGurk saying that he could no longer serve the president in this policy against Syria.

Elise Labott, CNN Washington.

SANTIAGO: Thanks, Elise. Now for more on this let's bring in the CNN political analyst and Princeton University historian and professor Julian Zelizer, and commentary writer and editor for the "Washington Examiner" Siraj Hashmi. Thank you guys so much for joining us.

Siraj, first, I'm going to start with you. The president tweeted this. Let's go ahead and take a look to remind our viewers.

He says, "Brett McGurk who I do not know was appointed by President Obama in 2015. Was supposed to leave in February but he just resigned prior to leaving. Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!"

So President Trump is essentially admitting to not knowing the guy leading the fight against ISIS after declaring they were defeated. Stop me if I'm wrong here, but shouldn't they have been having these conversations? Should not there be briefings that would have him know who McGurk was?

SIRAJ HASHMI, COMMENTARY WRITER AND EDITOR, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Quite possibly. I mean, right now President Trump isn't really doing himself any favors by withdrawing 2,000 troops from Syria. Basically it should give Americans pause when Russian President Vladimir Putin, ayatollah -- the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini as well as Bashar al-Assad claim this as a victory.

I mean, with respect to McGurk's role in defeating ISIS or at least 99 percent of ISIS cannot be understated. Now it's possible that he might be inflating his own significance but he did get Turkey on board with basically trying to stave off defeating the Kurds and the Kurds were absolutely integral and critical in defeating ISIS. They lost upwards of 10,000 troops in fighting ISIS.

So the fact that President Trump doesn't know who McGurk is probably isn't a good sign but again he is the commander in chief and I don't expect him to know who everybody is in the federal government.

SANTIAGO: All right. So we are talking about ISIS here. Julian, McGurk stood in front of reporters at a state department briefing now long ago, possibly his last statements on -- public statements any way, before Trump's tweet saying that ISIS was defeated. That is what Trump says. And he promised that America was in the fight for the long haul.

Let's take a listen to that.


BRETT MCGURK, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY TO THE U.S.-LED COALITION FIGHTING ISIS: Nobody is saying that they are going to disappear. Nobody is that naive. So we want to stay on the ground to make sure that stability can be maintained.

I think it's fair to say Americans will remain on the ground after the physical defeat of the caliphate until we have the pieces in place to ensure that that defeat is enduring.


SANTIAGO: Trump says defeated. McGurk says not defeated, no one is that naive.

Who is right here? You know, how do we see ISIS in terms of how strong they are right now?

JULIAN E. ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look. It's clear they have been weakened over time starting with the Obama administration right through today. The United States has made a lot of progress. It's also clear they haven't gone away and many officials are saying this is not over, the risk remains, the battle continues.

So President Trump really seems to be the outlier here and his own officials have been saying otherwise. So that is part of what is going on with the reaction to the pull-out. Part of this is about substance, opposition to the pullout and part of it is about process.

When there is no clarity on what has to happen next the idea of suddenly doing this impromptu fashion, leaving allies not knowing what is going on for him, for Mattis was really a huge mistake.

SANTIAGO: And we see that the gunmen in the Christmas market in France pledged allegiance to ISIS and two Scandinavian hikers were beheaded by killers pledging allegiance to ISIS. You know, ISIS has a way of spreading mistrust for the U.S. They constantly in propaganda say these are guys you can't trust. They will abandon you.

Does that impromptu, as you said, Julian, leaving of troops in Syria sort of play into that narrative and should we expect ISIS to use that to try to recruit people in the future?

ZELIZER: Well, they will. It looks like ISIS will use whatever they can to recruit people. And we have to remember there is the threat of the body of ISIS, which is diminished and then the lone wolves who pledge allegiance to ISIS which, obviously, can happen anywhere in the world.

But the key to taking that on is to have strong alliances. It's to maintain really close relations with other countries so that we can locate and find where the threats are.


And that is what was so troublesome about doing this to allies, not really telling them what the United States is out and doing. So that is the basis of the critique.

SANTIAGO: All right. Siraj, transitioning here to the government shutdown. It will last at least until next Thursday. The Senate has adjourned with little expectation of a quick deal.

Where do we find middle ground here? How do you see it?

HASHMI: Well, right now, President Trump did himself a huge service by at least shutting the government down for his base. Now, if he caved on funding for the border wall, that is a huge concession to make, especially given early this year when he didn't get any funding for the wall. He got $1.6 billion for border security but not funding of the actual construction wall.

With respect to his actual base, there won't be a second term if he doesn't at least get a little bit of funding to help start construction of the wall. So just the fact that he is actually fighting for it is a good sign for him.

Now, again, if this bleeds into January and the Democrats take control of the House, he might have a steeper hill to climb. But with respect to federal governments being furlough, this is obviously the promise that they'll get back pay, maybe some of them might get their pay checks a little bit late. But this is right now politically speaking working out to the president's favor probably more -- probably better than he expected.

SANTIAGO: Julian, your take?

ZELIZER: Well, perhaps but I think there's also many Republicans who are not happy with this. This is not what they wanted. They didn't want this to happen during unified Republican control of government. And I do think there's a lot of concern politically in terms of how this affects the standing of the party.

And it's also a question of governance. Put politics aside, kind of regular government shutdowns which seems to be a norm in the Trump era is not good governance. The president has the power now to move this forward, to reach a deal.

And so the question is does he do that or he continue to stand his ground over what is essentially a monument. It's not about border security. This is really a monument and I think that is where many Democrats feel they are taking him on.

SANTIAGO: Third shutdown this year. Julian Zelizer and Siraj Hashmi, thank you so much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

HASHMI: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: New Jersey state civil rights officials are looking into an incident during which a high school's referee told an athlete, he had to cut his locks or forfeit a wrestling match. The video of the wrestler submitting to this haircut right there next to the mat has since gone viral. This happened on Wednesday in Buena, New Jersey.

And CNN's Polo Sandoval has details.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN 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 the bias was a factor in Wednesday's incident.

The school district is offering a time line of what happened here. The varsity wrestler stepped onto the mat to compete before the referee told him that his head length and also his head gear were not in compliance with regulations. 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 his staff influenced the student in his decision. The district also pointing out that the referee in question does not actually work for them but, instead, is part of New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association or the NJSIAA. It's basically the governing body that oversees high school athletics. The question that the school districts that the NJSIAA and mainly the state A.G. 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 staff, et cetera. But in this case, it is the state's attorney general's office's 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, Larry White 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 of 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 actively reached out to not only the parents of this varsity wrestler but also to the referee in question. We are yet to hear back. Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.

SANTIAGO: And we are following breaking news in Indonesia. The death toll climbing after a tsunami slams into beaches without warning.


Astonishing and terrifying new pictures coming in to NEW DAY this hour.

BLACKWELL: Plus, we know President Trump likes to watch himself on the news but a new claim in an article says that he is watching even more and trusting his staff even less. More on that is coming up.


BLACKWELL: Welcome back. I'm Victor Blackwell.


SANTIAGO: I'm Leyla Santiago in for Christi Paul and we are continuing to follow the breaking news out of the Indonesia. At least 222 people are dead after a large tsunami crashed into the region overnight. Nearly a thousand more injured, dozens are still missing, and those numbers could change.

BLACKWELL: It certainly will fluctuate. Officials say there was no warning before the tsunami slammed into the residential areas, destroyed everything. Look at the water coming in here.

We are learning this was likely caused by underwater landslides that were triggered by a volcanic eruption and take a look at this. It's the moment the tsunami crashed into a live concert.


BLACKWELL: Absolutely no warning. I want to bring in CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. Allison, we are hearing this was caused by an underwater landslide.

I don't think -- I know I've never heard of it. Many people probably haven't heard of it. Explain what it is.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. It's one of those concepts that we often will hear related to earthquakes but this was actually triggered by a volcano. OK? So here is what happens. You have the volcanic eruption and often time the rock or the ground around it gets displaced. It falls down. But this time it's under water and in doing so, it's going to displace that water around it and that ends up triggering the tsunami around it.

The key thing with a lot of underwater landslides is they are very localized. So the areas that get hit get impacted very severely but it's not very widespread. This isn't going to travel to the rest of Asia or Australia or other continents like some tsunamis would.

Now here is where we've been talking about. This is in between the volcano itself Krakatoa is between the islands of Java and Sumatra. And both of those islands along their coast lines that's where you had some of those big tsunami waves begin to impact.

Here's an interesting note too. This is a look at the satellite imagery. Right here you could actually see the eruption plume on satellite at the moment that the eruption actually took place.

Again, this happened on Saturday. There was absolutely no warning for these people. Part of that reason, again, is due to they just don't have the infrastructure for a lot of these warnings in advance -- warnings for this particular location. We know that it was triggered by likely an underwater landslide from that specific volcano.

The full moon also it was spring tide that also played an impact because the water level is going to be naturally just a little bit higher to begin with even before the tsunami began to push that water back in -- Victor.

SANTIAGO: And so my question for you, Allison, is we have now learned how this works and the impact of it, but is it done or is there still a threat for more of these underwater landslides resulting from the tsunami?

CHINCHAR: Unfortunately, yes. This volcano is not just going to shut off because it already erupted once. It's still likely that it's going to continue erupting. And because of that additional underwater landslides or even landslides above the water, both of those are still possible. And because of that, yes, it is still very likely that you could have some subsequent tsunamis.

So for those regions around there, they will still have to remain on high alert because of it.

BLACKWELL: So this location is thousands of miles away but it's still connected in some way to the other big story we are talking about this weekend. The government shutdown here in the United States. How are these two connected?

CHINCHAR: The difficulty of getting information. Two sources that we often use is the U.S. geological survey, the USGS and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. My producer and I, Hailey (ph), we have commented how difficult it has been to get information about this. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for example has not issued any statements since prior to the shutdown. Even under circumstances where they don't think there is a tsunami threat, they will still post on their Web site saying we are aware that this has happened, we are monitoring it but we don't see a threat at this time. They haven't even done that.

Another organization which is the local organization in Indonesia that monitors this, the BMKG, their Web site is crashing constantly because it's the only outlet people can get information because the two U.S. sources are not providing information. So it's been very difficult to get not only up-to-date information, but any information at all because of those two organizations not being able to put out any information.

BLACKWELL: Allison Chinchar, thanks so much. We will check back in a moment.

SANTIAGO: Another week. Another dramatic staff shake-up at the White House. This morning, "The New York Times" giving us a unique insight into the president's isolation and how he is spending more and more of his time. Brian Stelter has that story next.



SANTIAGO: A new article in "The New York Times" paints a picture of President Trump as well as just being lonely. The author interviewed 30 current and former staff members and many of whom say the president is as confident in himself as ever and trusts almost no one around him.

BLACKWELL: So this piece, "A War Waged Every Day, Waged Increasingly Alone," that's the name of it.

CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter joins us now. Brian, this is a really dark portrait of the president being erratic at several intersections.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It is. Dark is an excellent word for it. We are hearing more and more accounts of the president being isolated and this latest one from Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker of "The New York Times" is especially worrisome. Whether -- no matter what you think about politics or the president, some of these details is worrisome.

Here is some of the quotes from the story describing Trump being hard on his staff citing Larry Kudlow for example.


It says, "Trump can be hard on his staff. He regularly curses at them, some say. Even his humor can be abrasive. When Larry Kudlow, his economic adviser, returned after a heart attack this year, the president ribbed him in front of aides saying (ph), 'Larry, you're here six weeks and you had a heart attack?' Others laughed uncomfortably."

The point about cursing comes up repeatedly in the story as well. "The New York Times" not quoting the curse words but saying they happen frequently. Another portion of the story that is set out to me as someone who's interested in the president's media diet. We know he watches a lot of television. He's probably already up right now watching television.

Here's part of what the story says about his increased television consumption. It says that, "The midpoint of his term, Mr. Trump has grown more sure of his own judgment and more cut off from anyone else's than at any point since taking office. He spends ever more time in front of a television, often retreating to his residence out of concern that he is being watched too closely. And (ph) as he sheds advisers at a head-spinning rate, he reaches out to old associates, complaining that few of the people around him were there at the beginning."

We know of course the turnover at the top of the Trump administration has reached 65 percent, according to the Brookings Institute. The detail about him being worried about people watching him suggests the kind of paranoia "The Times" story doesn't directly say that but certainly hints at it throughout the story.

Look it's not just "The New York Times." "The Washington Post" and CNN and other outlets have had reporting along these same lines recently describing the president feeling isolated as he's making these decisions that are causing a lot of pullback (ph) as he's forcing government shutdown, et cetera, et cetera.

You would hope we would be heading into a merry Christmas season but instead the president is seemingly kind of alone at the White House. It's nice at least that Melania and their son Barron are coming home from Mar-a-Lago for Christmas to be with him.

SANTIAGO: But, you know, you bring up the shutdown. He talks about the Democrats taking over the House or excuse me the article talks about the Democrats taking over the House saying that he was happy that they won and privately told associates that he is glad Democrats won in the House in last month's midterm elections. Saying he thinks that guarantees his re-election because they will serve as useful and antagonists.

Do you think we will see that sort of play out? I guess I wouldn't be too shocked.

BLACKWELL: Yes. That does outweigh their now subpoena power and their ability to have some oversight over this president.

STELTER: Right. I believe that the president is saying that to his friends and his colleagues in private. He is certainly able to rationalize pretty much the situation and find a positive for him in it. It's the power of a positive thinking, perhaps.

But we know that he changes his tune from day-to-day or even from minute-to-minute on Twitter, so I don't always put too much stock in those claims. I think it is notable the last few days we have seen the #TrumpResign trending. We've seen editorials in major papers expressing more concern than ever before.

So we have these two counter forces at the same time. One is he may feel more optimistic, he may feel that the Democrats are going to overreach and help him in 2020. While at the same time we have an incredible amount of noise on the left demanding that this presidency come to an end.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Speaking of the noise, I think the way this pretty lengthy piece ends --


BLACKWELL: -- is quite poignant in which they quote a former undersecretary at this administration working under former secretary of state Tillerson. And the quote here is, "What I'm trying to figure out is where does it end? The language gets coarser on all sides. The respect for the office of the presidency seems less to me than it was. How do we move people back or are we in a new reality?"

A question that I think a lot of us are asking especially as we go into that 2020 cycle.

STELTER: All right. "Are we in a new reality?" This is the conversation I have with friends all the time. Is there going to be a post-Trump that feels more normal, goes back to pre-2016 or is there no such thing as that anymore and is it all this way from now on?

We see a lot of the Democratic contenders in 2020 taking positions on that right now. Beto O'Rourke and others coming out with comments and speeches and essays trying to stake a claim to that argument, whether there is a new normal or not.

The idea that the president leads by his gut is something that comes up in "The Washington Post" this morning as well. The idea that, you know, he says, you know, I go by my gut and other people have thoughts in their brains but my gut is the best. That is going to be tested the next two years like it never has been before.

BLACKWELL: Brian Stelter, good to have you.

STELTER: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Do not miss Stelter's show "RELIABLE SOURCES" that's at 11:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

SANTIAGO: And take a look some of the incredible images coming in from Indonesia where that deadly tsunami hit.


FAJARSYAH (through translator): My dear wife is still missing. The rest of us have broken bones, minor injuries, including me, but we are fine. Please pray.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): That water came so fast. So many people were running and were washed away.

DWI (ph) RAHAYU, YAYASAN PLAN INTERNATIONAL (on the phone): The volcanic eruption is less likely to be warned. It is quite (INAUDIBLE). And although it is not being clarified whether it is due to the volcanic eruption or some other movement in the ocean floor and all that. But, yes, it is quite sudden.


SANTIAGO: Quite sudden. Very little warning there.

This just in. Police in London have released two people who were arrested in connection with the drone chaos at Gatwick airport. Sussex police say they have not been charged in this.

BLACKWELL: Yes. London airport is back on schedule after drones delayed almost 150,000 passengers. About a thousand flights were cancelled or diverted during this 32-hour shutdown. There is a $55,000 reward for anyone who can help in the investigation.

SANTIAGO: When we come back, something I just know. I mean, just know that this guy, Victor, has been waiting so patiently for all morning long.

BLACKWELL: Love the stories about the royals.

SANTIAGO: We are gearing up for the royals.

BLACKWELL: Yes, can't wait.

SANTIAGO: And all of -- calm down. As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spend their very first Christmas as a married couple with the queen. So we're going to keep Victor around? I just know we will.

BLACKWELL: I will --

SANTIAGO: You will have to stick around.

BLACKWELL: I will suffer through.

SANTIAGO: Yes. OK. Calm down.



BLACKWELL: Yes. We know it's Christmas eve eve. But we are getting you ready for the big CNN New Year's Eve celebration. Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen co-hosting CNN's New Year's Eve coverage live from Times Square with Brooke Baldwin and Don Lemon. The festivities start at 8:00 p.m. only on CNN.

SANTIAGO: I like that music. Can we keep that going? BLACKWELL: Nice (INAUDIBLE).

SANTIAGO: OK. I'll be joining them so I'm very excited as well --


SANTIAGO: Mexico City.

BLACKWELL: OK. All right.

SANTIAGO: Yes. Very excited. I'll see you then.

Another thing I'm very excited about.



Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will spend their very first Christmas as a married couple with the queen and all eyes are on that growing royal baby bump.

BLACKWELL: Our CNN international correspondent Erin McLaughlin has more for you.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just like last-minute gift shopping, Britain's royal family has kept their own Christmas tradition for generations, sending cards with official photos to friends, family, and loyal subjects. This year's card shows Prince William and wife Duchess Cambridge at home with their three children George, Louis and Charlotte.

Prince Charles and wife Camilla recently celebrated the princess 70th birthday. And finally --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her royal highness the Duchess of Sussex.

MCLAUGHLIN: -- Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, the wife of Prince Harry.

The couples delivered their own version of a royal Christmas card. The photo taken as they watched fireworks the night of their wedding last May. Meghan Markle now visibly pregnant with the couple's first- born royal due in the spring, feeling more at home in the U.K. with each passing day.

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: It is such a pleasure to be here in my new home of the U.K.

MCLAUGHLIN: (INAUDIBLE) with the royal florist at this nursing home, bringing Christmas cheer. And giving a royal sigh.

MARKLE: Oh. MCLAUGHLIN: Out of excitement for the season and the joy of expecting her first child, telling residents she was feeling very pregnant that day.

Markle is set to spend her first Christmas with Prince Harry as a married couple with her new in-laws in the winter home of Harry's grandmother Queen Elizabeth. She already visited last year breaking tradition as they weren't married then.

Now she comes as a royal still adjusting to her new role and to British culture just as the British are adjusting to her.

Bonnie Greer, an American who has lived in Britain much of her life have received honors from the queen for her work in the arts is an acquaintance of Prince Charles.

BONNIE GREER, AUTHOR: There are rituals. So for instance there are hierarchies of highnesses. So if Catherine is in the room her highnesses she is higher than Meghan's highnesses and people are curtsying and bowing and deferring all over the place to each other and of course the queen is the highest. So all of these kind of things are going to hit her.

MCLAUGHLIN: Still the British are already adjusting to her and taking her to heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't wait to see the real baby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she is a great addition. I love her style and her attitude.

MCLAUGHLIN: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry now preparing a new home for when baby makes the royal three. Meghan Markle also brings her own Christmas song to everyone she meets. Erin McLaughlin, CNN, London.


SANTIAGO: Very cute to see that growing bump but she must be exhausted, right? I mean, she's pregnant and she's got a lot of things going on and she has to make all of these appearances.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Pretty intense schedule.


All right. More news straight ahead at the top of the hour. As we go to break, we present the glee club from Georgia's Utopian Academy for the Arts.

UTOPIAN ACADEMY FOR THE ARTS (singing): Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.


Round yon virgin, mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night. Shepherd quake at the sight. Glories stream from heaven afar. Heavenly hosts sing alleluia. Christ, the savior is born. Christ, the savior is born.

Silent night, holy night. Son of God, love's pure light. Radiant beams from thy holy face. With the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.