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Trump to Visit Troops in Surprise Visit to Iraq; Entertainment Highlights in 2018. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 26, 2018 - 15:30   ET



NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he has already confirmed the initial suspicions by clarifying to troops in his remarks to them, that these are the troops that will be expected to pick up that slack when the withdrawal from Syria is completed, that the troops stationed in Iraq will be expected to do border work to stop those ISIS elements that still continue to exist along that western border of Iraq and along the Iraq-Syria border. But the bigger concern is what this telegraph to leaders within the region.

This has already been an incredibly unsettling, unstable time for regional leaders, they're waiting to see whether Turkey will fill that security gap, whether Turkey will take the lead in fighting ISIS inside Syria. As President Erdogan has already said he would like to.

They're waiting to see what this means for Iraq, if the American troops stationed in Iraq will pick up that slack. What does that mean for what the Iraqi government can expect with regards to support from America. It really only adds to this morace of instability and insecurity Ryan.

NOBLES: And now to Ivan Watson, and of course, there's still the matter of Afghanistan, Ivan, and the president has signaled that he's prepared to move troops out of that region. How do you think all this impacts that decision making process?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well yes, will he address the 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan? We've heard that the White House is drawing up plans to cut that presence in half.

Afghanistan is America's longest running overseas conflict and decisions like that have huge ramifications for central Asia, for the stability of the Afghan government. This is a war that is not going well after 17 years.

The Afghan government, according to U.S. military estimates has only about control over about 55 percent of the country. There are horrific Taliban and ISIS attacks that are going off every week, every month.

A U.S. General injured in an assassination attempt that succeeded in killing the police chief of Kandahar at the beginning of the fall, a horrific terror attack that took place in the Afghan capital just this week with the death toll in the dozens.

But, the announcement that the White House was talking about drawing down troops there was one that caught many allies there in the region by surprise. The U.S. is one of some 41 NATO contributing countries that are par of a coalition that are on the ground in Afghanistan, the U.S., the biggest troop contributor, but it definitely rattled and unsettled some of the allies there as well as the Afghan government that relies on this international coalition there and raises some real questions about whether or not the U.S. is a reliable ally in a place even as complicated and bloody as Afghanistan.

NOBLES: And before we go to break we do have a new piece of information that just crossed from the pool. It's traveling with the president, and Nima, if you could react to this.

The pool traveling says that the president did not meet with the Prime Minister of Iraq during his visit to the country, which we've been talking about, was an important part of this trip, not just meeting with the troops but meeting with the political leaders there. Nima, what does this say about this process, if the president didn't get the opportunity to talk to one of the Iraqi leaders about these decisions that he's made regarding the troop withdrawal and his commitment to keeping American troops in the country?

ELBAGIR: That immediately speaks to this being for domestic U.S. consumption. And it's, as Ivan was just saying about the concerns in Afghanistan, if this is going to be one of your key allies in the remaining fight against ISIS, to not meet with the Prime Minister of Iraq is -- it's extraordinary. There really is no other word for it.

NOBLES: All right, Nima, Ivan, Fred, thank you all for your perspectives, we appreciate it. We do need to take a break. We'll be right back with more of this breaking news of President Trump visiting the troops in Iraq.



NOBLES: And back now to our breaking news, President Trump living up to the promise of visiting troops in a combat zone while doubling down on why he's not ending the partial government shutdown.

In a surprise appearance the president spent three hours at the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. He also discussed the government shutdown stalemate with U.S. military members there. Trump is demanding funding for his border wall, which Democrats are resisting.

The president reportedly said this to the troops about Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, he said quote, "Nancy is calling the shots. The American public is demanding a wall."

Meanwhile, we are just minutes from the closing bell and Wall Street is bouncing back in a big way, erasing all of the losses from the worst ever Christmas Eve. CNN's Alison Kosik tracking all of the action for the New York Stock

Exchange. Alison, I think that this is a bit of a surprise that the stock market would be doing so well after what we saw on Christmas Eve.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, maybe it's because President Trump hasn't tweeted about the financial markets, that's just a guess, but investors clearly dipping their toes back in the water, maybe sticking their whole foot in there.

But, just a little perspective for you, the Dow still has a lot of ground to make up because just in the month of December the Dow has shed thousands of points. And look, these concerns, they still remain.

You can see the volatility and beneath that volatility, even with these green arrows, the concerns are still there, of higher interest rates, of the unresolved trade situation and it's effects on corporate America, slowing global economic growth and now a new one, political risk. This is now part of the playbook on here on Wall Street.


When in the past President Trump's tweets and his statements used to kind of be background noise, now his tweets and statements attacking Fed Chairman Jay Powell are actually moving the markets but driving them down.

It's undermining confidence and although it's been quiet today, Trump's unpredictable nature continues to be an underlying threat to the stability of the market, Ryan.

NOBLES: Right. Alison Kosik live at the New York Stock Exchange, Alison, thank you. And back to our breaking news more on President Trump's surprise visit to Iraq. We'll have more on that when we come back.



NOBLES: And back to our breaking news about the President and First Lady's surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq. During his speech to the troops, President Trump described how he told the Generals that they would get no more extensions when it came to pulling out of Syria.

Let's bring in retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He's a CNN military analyst. Colonel I wonder, the President essentially revealing to these troops these behind the scenes conversations he's having with the Generals about this really important strategic decision. Is this uncommon for a Commander of Chief to do especially during a visit like this?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Very uncommon, Ryan and really the big thing that we're looking at here is the fact that he is - the President is so open about his motivations when it comes to withdrawing troops from Syria.

I think that - what the troops are getting is a bit of inside (ph) baseball and I think they're grateful to hear some of that but the real problem is that other people are listening in to this and they understand that the President is basically moving everything out of Syria, placing it in to Iraq.

That gives Russia, Syria and the form of the outside regime and Iran as well as ISIS an opportunity to maneuver and that can be a very dangerous game and it may force the President ultimately to reverse course depending on how things go in Syria.

NOBLES: What - you know the President also indicated that he's in no rush to nominate a new Defense Secretary. In fact he said that the Deputy that he's appointed, the Deputy Secretary Shanahan could be in the office for quite some time.

Interesting first, again that he makes this news in front of a crowd of troops but what's your overall reaction to that time line?

LEIGHTON: Well I think it's very interesting because the Department of Defense is one of the most critical functions of the U.S. Government and it's really important not only from a stability factor but also from the messaging that it sends to foreign powers that we have a permanent Secretary of Defense in place as the Secretary - as the actual confirmed secretary.

To put Mr. Shanahan in acting position probably doesn't disservice (ph) not only to the department of Defense but also to Mr. Shanahan and I would suggest that the President really look very carefully at making sure that we have a permanent replacement for Secretary Mattis in that position as quickly as possible.

There's too much going on not to do that.

NOBLES: And quickly if you can also respond to the fact that the President was initially supposed to meet with Iraq's Prime Minister but that meeting was cancelled. Was that a missed opportunity for the President?

LEIGHTON: Absolutely, Ryan and I think anytime you are on foreign soil it is really an obligation of the President to meet with the Head of Government and possibly the Head of State of the country that's being visited.

Iraq is not part of the United States. Iraq is a sovereign nation and we owe the courtesy that - to the Prime Minister for the - our Head of State and Head of Government to visit him so I think it was a definite missed opportunity. I would also hope that the President would go to Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

NOBLES: OK, Cedric Leighton, I appreciate your perspective. Thank you for being on.

LEIGHTON: You bet. NOBLES: And we want to go to the breaking news on the stock market bouncing back now nearly a thousand points in the green after the worst Christmas Eve sell off ever. We'll be back in a moment.




NOBLES: A lavish royal wedding, the death of Queen of soul and diversity at the box office. CNN contributor Nischelle Turner takes a look back at the top entertainment stories of 2018.

ROSEANNE BARR: Jackie, would you like to take a knee?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: A TV star booted off her own show, "Getting Crazy Rich" at the box office and Kanye's White House Romance, here's a look at the top entertainment news makers in 2018.

Number eight Ariana Grande "Thank You, Next". The lyrics say it all. Ariana Grande's newest single is a deeply personal look back at 2018. A year filled with young love, break up's, and heart ache but "Thank You, Next" capped off, she says, one of the best years of her career and the fans agree.

Ariana's fourth album, "Sweetener" skyrocketed to the number one spot on the Billboard Charts. On Spotify she broke the global record for the biggest opening week by a female artist and her star studded music video became the most watched premier on YouTube.

Number seven, pay and inequality in Hollywood. Hollywood fights to close the gender pay gap. At the Golden Globes, stars wore black to support the Time's Up movement and raise awareness on issues like pay inequality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here standing in solidarity with women everywhere.

TURNER: This came on the heels of an announcement from E NEWS host Catt Sadler who say's she left the network after learning her male co- host was making nearly double her salary. Just days later we learned Michelle Williams was paid $1,000 to reshoot scenes from "All the Money in the World" while co-star Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million.

Wahlberg pledged support for Williams, donating the entire sum of his payment to the Time's Up legal defense fund.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, Bill Cosby once nicknamed "America's Dad" is convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tonight, Bill Cosby, once nicknamed America's dad is convicted of three counts of aggravated, indecent assault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cosby, any comments sir?


TURNER: Bill Cosby was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home, sentenced up to 10 years in prison and will be classified as a sexually violent predator for life. Cosby's case was the first celebrity sexual assault trial, conviction and sentencing since the start of the Me Too Movement.

But another industry heavyweight, Harvey Weinstein, was arrested and charged with rape and sex abuse from incidents dating back to 2004. He faces dozens of additional accusations, but denies all allegations of quote, "non-consensual sex." Investigations are underway in the U.S. and abroad.

Number five, Kimye boards the Trump train. Kim and Kanye dived head first into politics. First up, Kim's plea for President Trump to commute the sentence of first time non-violent drug offender Alice Johnson.




TURNER: After a trip to the White House and some words of advocacy on twitter, Trump commuted Johnson's sentence. She was freed from prison after serving 21 years. Meanwhile, Kanye's bromance with the president flourished.


KANYE WEST, RAPPER: I love this guy right here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TURNER: They've admired each other since 2014, but Yeezy sealed the deal during a bizarre visit with the president to discuss prison reform. The wild antics went on and on, leaving Trump speechless.




TURNER: Number four, Aretha Franklin dies.


Saying goodbye to a legend, Aretha Franklin died at her home in Detroit from pancreatic cancer in August. In the wake of her death thousands of well-wishers lined the streets to honor her life and career.


And her famous fans were just as sorry to say goodbye, from Stevie Wonder, to Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande, and also Smokey Robinson. It was a tribute fit for a queen. Aretha Franklin was 76- years-old.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Breaking news in the world of entertainment, the top rated television comedy of the year is now canceled.


TURNER: Number three, Rosanne's reboot drama. The show was booted off ABC in May after the show star made racist comments about former White House Aide Valerie Jarrett on Twitter. And as they say in Hollywood, the show must go on. Just months later the network announced the show would return without it's namesake as "The Connors."


EMMA KENNEY, ACTRESS: Do we have to keep talking about death all the time? It just keeps reminding me of grandma.


TURNER: The spinoff, which chronicles life after the sudden death of Rosanne Connor premiered to 10.5 million viewers. That's down 35 percent from the original reboot.

Number two, box office diversity. Diversity ruled at the box office, Marve's "Black Panther" smashed records, bringing in over $1.3 billion worldwide. Starring a mostly black cast and helmed by a black director, this superhero flick resonated with theater goers everywhere.


CONSTANCE WU, ACTRESS: So, your family is rich?

HENRY GOLDING, ACTOR: We're comfortable.

WU: That is exactly what a super rich person would say.


TURNER: And social media favorite, "Crazy Rich Asians" exceeded the industry expectations, making over $237 million globally. It's the first major studio film to feature a predominantly Asian cast since "The Joy Luck Club," but that's not all, ticket sales showed the romcom became the highest grossing romantic comedy in the U.S. in 10 years. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARISSA WARD, JOURNALIST: The countdown to the royal wedding is very nearly over Don.


TURNER: And number one, a royal wedding. A storybook wedding for Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle. The royal couple tied the knot in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle. The dress, the ring, the fashion and the fascinators, and of course, the Queen and a princess.

No royal wedding is complete without a star-studded guest list, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, Oprah and the Beckhams. But the Duke and Dutchess had even more happy news to share. A royal baby's on the way, due in 2019.

Well, the year did end clouded in controversy. Kevin Hart stepped down as the host of the Oscars after homophobic tweets from his past surfaced online, so the question is, who's going to step in? Well, we will find out very soon.

Nischelle Turner for CNN, Los Angeles.

NOBLES: Nischelle, thank you. And that does it for me. I am Ryan Nobles. Dana Bash continues our breaking news coverage of President Trump's surprise visit to Iraq and the major stock rebound on Wall Street as we count down to the closing bell.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Welcome to a special edition of The Lead. I'm Dana Bash in for Jake Tapper. We begin this afternoon with major breaking news on two fronts. Look at that, the Dow is up over 1,000 points after a tumultuous Christmas slide.