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Faith Leaders Speak about Leading Through Natural Disasters; Who's Been Naughty and Nice in 2018 Politics? Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 25, 2018 - 07:00   ET




SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is an intense place. It's not abnormal people come and go.

[07:00:46] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It appears this president likes to operate by chaos.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very happy with almost all of my cabinet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An ardent Trump supporter would read this and have to have pause. This is the nervous breakdown.

TRUMP: The United States will not be a refugee holding facility.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We can enforce our immigration laws without breaking families apart.

KIRSTJEN NIELSON, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We will not apologize for the job we do.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. President, I'll lend you my pen. You can fix it yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, it is the eye of the storm here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just pushed the window out and I tried to swim out. The current just takes me down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one for the history books.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Imagine that hitting you at 100 miles an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's obliterated. It's awful to look at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have never seen anything like this here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It hurts, a lot, in my head. I actually have no house anymore.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to a special Christmas edition of NEW DAY. I'm John Berman, along with Alisyn Camerota. Merry Christmas.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas to you.

BERMAN: Jinx. Buy me something expensive.

We have a big show for you, as we celebrate this holiday season. We talk to faith leaders bringing hope to their communities that have dealt with disasters, what they will tell their congregations this year.

CAMEROTA: Also, it's Christmas so we have a naughty and nice list, all of our own. Who made the list in Washington? Chris Cillizza is going to play our political Santa Claus.

BERMAN: So this year marked by cultural shifts. What made headlines? From gun violence to family separations and another step in the #MeToo movement. We talk to the people who made a difference over the past 12 months.

CAMEROTA: And after you open all of your gifts, what better way to relax than to enjoy a movie? We have the films you and your family should not miss during this holiday break. All of that and more ahead, but first, let's get a check of your headlines at the news desk.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning and merry Christmas. I'm Manu Raju.

Day four of a government shutdown with no sign of a deal to end it. Most lawmakers fled the capital for the holiday, but President Trump scrapped his getaway plans. He's waking up at the White House; and that's where we find Abby Phillip, live with the latest.

Good morning, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Manu, and merry Christmas.

Here at the White House, it's been a quiet morning so far for President Trump and Mrs. Trump, who have spent the night here after Mrs. Trump returned to the White House yesterday to celebrate Christmas with her husband.

Now, President Trump did spend New Year's Eve on his phone tweeting some 12 times about the government shutdown, about his defense secretary, James Mattis, and a slew of other issues. The president seeming on the defensive about a number of controversies he is facing toward the end of this year.

But at the close of the day, reporters asked the president as he was in the White House with Mrs. Trump participating in NORAD Santa tracker calls, what's the latest on the government shutdown? Has any progress been made? And here's what he had to say.


TRUMP: There's nothing new. Nothing new with the shutdown. Nothing new. Except we need border security.


PHILLIP: Now, President Trump also spent the afternoon in church. He and the first lady went to the National Cathedral to mark Christmas Eve in church, and President Trump today is here in the White House. We'll see what the day brings. But clearly, President Trump has a lot on his mind going into this Christmas season -- Manu.

RAJU: Abby Phillip, live at the White House, thank you.

Yesterday the Dow and the S&P suffered their biggest Christmas Eve declines in history on the heels of a tweet from President Trump critical of the Federal Reserve. Stocks initially fell after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted that he had spoken with bank CEOs to assess the health of the banking system. The market did recover by late morning but slid even lower after President Trump tweeted, "The only problem our economy has is the Fed."

People from around the world flocked to Bethlehem in what is believed to be the city's largest Christmas celebration in years. Huge crowds gathered for a massive parade and also flooded the Church of the Nativity revered as the traditional site of Jesus' birth.

[07:05:03] I'm Manu Raju. Merry Christmas. More headlines in 30 minutes.

BERMAN: So it can be hard to keep hope and faith in turbulent times, but for our next two guests, their faith has only deepened in the face of natural disaster.

Joining us now are Father Michael Nixon, the pastor of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Panama City, Florida. It was severely damaged during Hurricane Michael. And Pastor Josh Gallagher, the lead pastor of the Paradise Alliance Church, which survived the Camp Fire in California.

Pastor Josh, I want to start with you. You actually moved to Paradise to be a pastor.


BERMAN: Recently.


BERMAN: You went there, you know, I suppose you could look at it one way and say that you went there just in time to serve the need that you couldn't have imagined even was going to be necessary.

GALLAGHER: Yes, we had just been in Paradise for three months. Everyone came up to me after and said, "I am so sorry this happened right after you got there."

I simply said, "I guess God said it's time for me to actually get working and doing something that he wants me to do."

CAMEROTA: And was the church destroyed?

GALLAGHER: The church is still standing. The building is still there.

CAMEROTA: But the homes of some of your staffers have been destroyed.

GALLAGHER: Yes, 16 out of the 22 staff members lost their home, including myself, in the fire.

CAMEROTA: And so how are you getting through that?

GALLAGHER: One minute at a time. One hour at a time. Our faith, my faith, has definitely deepened through this, because if Jesus can come back from the dead from that disaster, I believe that even in the middle of this disaster, he can bring us back.

BERMAN: So Father Michael, let's get a status report from Florida. You know, your church was severely damaged.

FATHER MICHAEL NIXON, PASTOR, ST. DOMINIC CATHOLIC CHURCH: Yes. Yes, we lost several of our main buildings. Our church structurally, is still there, but is unusable on the inside. So we have no usable buildings, including our house, as well, and so it's just kind of trying to find a new normal.

We are meeting in a tent and -- but we were meeting outside, having services outside. I did two weddings outside at our outdoor altar and grotto. And we've been meeting in a tent and using our parking lot up until recently has been for aid and distribution for the wider community.

BERMAN: How do you juggle your survival needs with your spiritual needs or the spiritual needs of your congregation?

NIXON: That's -- it's been a question we've had to ask every single day. Because it's been changing each day since the storm. There's new challenges that come up. But trying to meet the need that's right in front of us, which obviously has been food and water and aid and with Catholic Charities and many volunteers, we've been giving out -- we've served thousands and thousands of people since the storm, but also their spiritual needs, too.

Because we started -- we were thinking maybe we should give people -- offer people Bibles and rosaries, because many people aren't Catholic in our surrounding area, just to offer it to them. But seeing the response of people so grateful for that was almost -- it was kind of restoration of just my own faith that people are looking for that, looking for their spiritual needs to be met, maybe even more so than their physical needs.

CAMEROTA: Have these things changed the way you minister? Have they changed the message, for instance, to your parishioners? What do you tell them after something like this happens?

GALLAGHER: Hope. We talk a lot about hope. That we believe God is going to do great things in and through the midst of this tragedy. That's probably the one word that people are holding onto more than ever, at least for us, maybe for you, as well.

NIXON: Absolutely. I think hope, particularly as we enter into Christmas, for us the Christmas season, that God is not scared of our mess. He enters right into the messiness and brokenness of this world and that there's beauty this that, because in the midst of the mess, God is loving us and saving us; and that's where our hope lies.

GALLAGHER: Absolutely.

BERMAN: You guys are well-trained. You spend your lives getting ready for different types of things, but I doubt that the training included the fires that you had to go through or those winds, which were bonkers. I was there. So tell me about those moments, the intersection there.

GALLAGHER: Those moments, it's literally just one prayer at a time, seeking wisdom and counsel from a lot of other godly people in my life that I trust, other pastors, other congregants. And just saying, OK, here's the next situation. What should we do in the middle of this? And we just take it a step at a time.

NIXON: And going through the storm, I think we were in our house, the rectory at the parish, as part of our roof came up. And it was myself and my associate pastor and our seminarian that's getting a lot of training right now in disaster recovery, and my dog. So we were just all there as the roof came off, but we knew that we'd have the opportunity following the storm to be able to reach out to people, that people were going to be in need. So it was a blessing for us to be there to begin helping out.

Catholic Charities said, "Hey, we've got a water -- truck full of water. Can we deliver it to you guys the day after the storm?" And so we started unloading that by hand, which was awful, by the way, and took forever. But it was a lot of work but people kept coming. That grew into an operation that was serving thousands of people a day. So it was kind of amazing, just that opportunity to just be faithful to the moment in front of us.

CAMEROTA: I think we have video of the aftermath.

NIXON: Yes. That's our parish hall there.

CAMEROTA: That's your parish hall.

[07:10:08] NIXON: Yes, you see that throughout. Even now, months later following the storm, that you still see neighborhoods that are -- still look like that and where the rubble is still piled higher than cars and just -- just trying to -- trying to slowly piece things back together, but it's really tough.

BERMAN: Josh, I think we have some footage -- I think we have some footage of your house.

GALLAGHER: Yes, this was a video that I shot right after I was able to up and see our house. As you can see the other houses on both sides of us are still there, but ours is destroyed. When I shot this video, it was actually just something personally I did for myself, because I needed to have a moment where I say in the middle of all this tragedy, I still believe that God is good.

I was just going to keep it for myself but I actually posted it on social media. And it actually went viral, because I think people, again, they're looking for that hope. Because when hard times hit, our faith doesn't collapse. It actually brings us above our circumstances. It doesn't deny our circumstances, but it transcends our circumstances is what I like to believe.

And so when I was shooting that video just for myself I said, "I need this more than anyone else," but there are many people in our community and across the nation and the world that also needed that reminder, as well.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about that, right? So there are people who are struggling today. The holidays are hard for people. Even if you haven't lived through a fire or a devastating hurricane, holidays can be hard. There's a lot of loss and pain. And so, Father Michael, what do you tell people who are watching who may not be feeling joyous today?

NIXON: Absolutely. I love the fact that -- that Christmas, we celebrate God entering into -- into this world, and in a lot of ways in failure and brokenness. And Joseph and Mary can't find -- there's no room at the inn, that it's poverty. It's all these things that touch us, poverty and loss and uncertainty. And what I keep saying is that God is not afraid of our mess. So if we're experiencing that, that's OK. It's OK to be experiencing sorrow and sadness, and -- but don't be alone in that and to allow God into that. That's really what -- prayer is where we allow God into loving us there in the midst of our brokenness. And it's through that, through actually experiencing that that we begin to find hope and healing.

BERMAN: Pastor Josh, is that how you see it?

GALLAGHER: Absolutely. One of the great things, and I've already seen hope arising and God already starting to work through this, the town of Paradise is closed still. But we were able to talk to town officials, and we asked, "Can we have a Christmas Eve service starting off, basically rebuilding our community?" We brought all the faith leaders together. Everyone said, "We want to do this."

We talked to the town officials. They said, "Let's make it happen."

So we are celebrating Christmas Eve together as an interdenominational community event in the middle of this tragedy, celebrating the birth of our savior. I can't think of a better way to start a community rebuild than on that event.

CAMEROTA: That's really good. BERMAN: Pastor Josh Gallagher, Father Michael Nelson -- Nixon, I should say, thank you so much for being with us today. Really great discussion. Thank you.

NIXON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. So Santa, he's making his list. He's checking it twice, going to find out which politician played naughty or nice or, frankly, both, as most do. We're breaking it all down for you next.


[07:17:18] CAMEROTA: Well, I think it's fair to say 2018 has been a very busy year in Washington. In the spirit of Christmas, we wanted to put together a list of who's been naughty and who's been nice. That one is very short.

BERMAN: I was going to say, like, you got enough paper?

CAMEROTA: So let's get so the point with Chris Cillizza, CNN Politics reporter and editor at large. So is the naughty list longer?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: It could have been. Due to producer demands, I kept them relatively even.


CILLIZZA: Also, I don't have my white beard, my Santa beard.

BERMAN: I did a whole piece on --

CILLIZZA: That's a missed opportunity. Leave it at that.

BERMAN: -- real -- real-beard Santas versus --

CILLIZZA: Fake-beard Santas?

BERMAN: Well, I don't want to talk about it. You know, it's Christmas morning, but there's a whole thing. Real-beard Santas is a real thing. Trust me on this. I want to start --


BERMAN: -- on the nice list. I want to start on the nice list here. The coveted first spot, I understand from my notes here, is Michelle Obama.

CILLIZZA: Yes. So nice and naughty is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, but I think Michelle Obama, broadly speaking, had a very nice year.

First of all, she's probably the most popular politics-adjacent figure in the country. She's not a politician. She's never run for anything, but I have said for a long time -- I think we all agree -- if she did ever want to run for something, she would be right at the front of the line.

Obviously, her memoir came out. She's spoken out a little bit more about Donald Trump. She's spoken about her own experiences and her own marriage, and I think has helped a lot of people in talking about struggles she has had. So I'm going to put her, both for political and personal reasons, on the nice list.

BERMAN: I will say, she is the only person who actually gives the Shermanesque answer to "Are you going to run?"

CILLIZZA: Yes, which is --

BERMAN: She says no. Not now, not ever. Never.

CILLIZZA: Yes. Which -- it's true. Her husband once famously said, "I wasn't interested in running" and -- as somebody who covers politics, I've seen it happen enough that people who say no sometimes change. I would agree with you, Mr. Berman, it is very, very, very unlikely.


CILLIZZA: But if she did, she would be a force to contend with.

BERMAN: His next column is she's running. I mean, that's --

CILLIZZA: 2019, 2019.

CAMEROTA: Your next pick is a strange one for the nice list, funerals.


CAMEROTA: Explain.

CILLIZZA: Yes, you don't usually think of "Funeral, that was really fun." And I don't mean fun as much as I mean what we saw at John McCain's funeral and then George H.W. Bush's funeral is a celebration of the possibility of politics being different than it is right now.

You had speeches that were given, sometimes by Democrats and sometimes by Republicans. You had a coming together, broadly speaking, of the political community to say, "Look, I didn't agree with John McCain on everything, or I didn't agree with George H.W. Bush, but this was someone who was a fundamentally decent person, who cared deeply about his country and tried his best to help make it a better place."

[07:20:00] Unfortunately, those are sort of oases in the broader political desert to which we are in. But I do think those moments -- and I think they reach beyond just people like me, a political crowd. I think they reached a broader crowd to remind people that politics can be a noble pursuit.

BERMAN: All right. You went out on a limb for pick No. 3 on the nice list. You say puppies basically, or dogs.

CILLIZZA: Yes. Great year for dogs. H.W. Bush's dog, Sully, got more television time than me.

BERMAN: I took a selfie with Sully.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he took a selfie.

CILLIZZA: He is a big celebrity now. I'm a little bit jealous.

BERMAN: You're just mad at his bookers, but that's OK.

CILLIZZA: I am. And by the way, I bet you didn't know this. Do you know who got a new dog in 2018? Ostensible 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden got a new dog. I'll be doing a long piece analyzing the implications of his dog choice name, Major, as it relates to his presidential candidate.

CAMEROTA: Interesting.

CILLIZZA: Good year to be a dog. 2018 the year of the dog.

CAMEROTA: Can we move on to your naughty list?

CILLIZZA: Absolutely. Please.

No. 1, Paul Manafort.

CILLIZZA: Yes. So to your earlier point, the naughty list could be longer than this, but that graphic only fits three. So yes, Paul Manafort, so he was convicted of eight counts by a jury of his peers. A lot of people like to forget that. This was not a Democratic thing, jury of his peers.

Then he pled guilty in the Mueller proceeding. Then he broke his guilty plea --

CAMEROTA: Un-pled guilty.

CILLIZZA: -- by lying to the Mueller special counsel and backchanneling information to Trump. So it's lying on top of lying. It is literally lying liars. And he is going to jail unless Donald Trump pardons him, which I think would be hugely politically problematic. But he is going to jail for a not insignificant amount of time.

My guess is Manafort is the one out of all of this who spends the most actual time in jail.

BERMAN: So why are House Republicans on the naughty list?

CILLIZZA: Because they never figured out a way to deal with Donald Trump.

On its face they're on the naughty list because they went from the majority to the minority. They're going to be in the minority in 2019. The minority in the House is the worst possible place to be. You really can't do anything.

Remember the minority in the Senate, you can get some -- you can block some things, get some things done. House minority very difficult.

And I think the reason for it is the suburbs. Is their inability to figure out how close should we be to President Trump, can we distance ourselves, should we distance ourselves? They didn't really act. And by not acting I think they doomed themselves.

I always remind people, Congress is a separate branch of government that is set up to offer checks and balances on the executive, and to interact with the judicial. They have not conceived themselves outside of Donald Trump's whims and vagaries. And I think they paid the price.

CAMEROTA: No. 3, you have Cynthia Nixon. What did she do to you?

CILLIZZA: This should be No. 1. OK?


CILLIZZA: And I will tell you why. As New Yorkers, you can identify with this.

Cynthia Nixon, as many people know, ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against Andrew Cuomo for governor in New York as a Democrat. In the course of that campaign, she is shown going into a deli and ordering the following: lox on a cinnamon raisin bagel.

CAMEROTA: You're right. That's horrible.

CILLIZZA: I mean, that's like a history's greatest monster type of situation.

CAMEROTA: Is it? Of all the high crimes and misdemeanors this year, that one ranks at the top to you?

CILLIZZA: Yes, I mean, I think it's No. 1 with a bullet. You can't do that. It's just plain -- forget the politics of bagel ordering. That's like John Kerry, by the way, ordering -- asking what kind of cheese came with his steak and cheese. But you can't order lox on a cinnamon raisin bagel.


CILLIZZA: It's not right. Nature frowns upon lox and a cinnamon raisin bagel.


CILLIZZA: We should all come together to condemn that kind of bagel ordering. It's not right, and I won't stand for it.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you've made a good case.

CILLIZZA: Thank you. BERMAN: Unity. That is something we can all agree on.

CILLIZZA: Right. It's bipartisan unity. Donald Trump, well, I don't know. He might order a cinnamon raison bagel with lox.

CAMEROTA: He ate pizza with a fork and knife.

BERMAN: Wasn't there like a pizza with a knife and fork. Yes, the pizza with the knife and fork. That's like Obama wearing a tan suit. I mean, these are things that just don't --

CAMEROTA: That are unacceptable.

CILLIZZA: When I remember Cynthia Nixon's gubernatorial campaign, it will be for that disastrous bagel order. And I am not alone.

CAMEROTA: No, no. We see how strongly you feel about this.

CILLIZZA (singing): I am not alone, singing here with you.

BERMAN: Merry Christmas.

CAMEROTA: There's a lot of singing.

BERMAN: Merry freaking Christmas.

CILLIZZA: We did it. Next year, I'll have the Santa beard.


CILLIZZA: It will be real.

BERMAN: All right.

CAMEROTA: Uh-oh. All right. 2018 featured historic moments, the #NeverAgain movement after the Parkland school massacre; the Kavanaugh hearings; family separations at the border. Some of the people behind the year's most powerful scenes join us next.


CAMEROTA: Good Christmas morning, everyone. Welcome back to a special Christmas edition of NEW DAY. We have a lot to get to in this half hour, including historic moments from this year that will impact generations to come.

BERMAN: And we have the movies you need to watch this holiday break. First, though, let's get a check of your headlines at the news desk.

RAJU: Good morning, and merry Christmas. I'm Manu Raju.

The government shutdown is the lump of coal in America's stocking this morning. Negotiations stalled between Democrats and Republicans. President Trump tweeting yesterday he's all alone in the White House, waiting for Democrats to come and make a deal. At a Christmas event last night, the president stayed on message. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There's nothing new. Nothing new in the shutdown. Nothing new. Except we need border security.


RAJU: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the incoming House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, released a joint statement, accusing the president of spending Christmas Eve, quote, "plunging the country into chaos." The president ended his day with his wife, attending services at the National Cathedral.

The latest government figures in the devastating Indonesian tsunami showed at least 429 people were killed. Disaster officials say the massive wave injured nearly 1,500 others, with 154 remaining missing. Officials say the height of the wave --