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Chaotic Markets in 2018; Government Will be Shut Till New Year; Russia and Syria Acts After U.S. Troops Withdrawn; Japan Leaves IWC; Anti-government Protests Grew in Sudan; A Message of Peace From Two Great Leaders. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired December 26, 2018 - 03:00   ET



[03:00:00] CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Cyril Vanier. We're live from the CNN center.

Ahead this hour, global markets look to reverse the recent stock slide while Donald Trump looks for somewhere to put the blame.

Plus, less than a week after the U.S. announced its Syria pullout, Russia and the Assad regime are planning their next move.

And Japan is getting back into the commercial whaling business. Drawing criticism from conservation groups around the globe.

Europe's main financial markets are closed today so investors will be looking to Wall Street to turn around the December doldrums dragging down stocks around the world.

Tokyo manage to recoup some of Tuesday's thousand point loss. The Nikkei finish the day up 171 points. That's a gain of a less one percent. And in China the Shanghai composite closed down a quarter of 1 percent.

U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to push Wall Street in a positive direction. He says with prices low, this is a great opportunity to buy stocks. Wall Street is on pace for its worst December since the Great Depression. And President Trump is looking for someone to blame.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you still have confidence in Secretary Mnuchin?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I do. He's pretty talented, and very smart person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the Fed chairman?

TRUMP: Well, we'll see. They're raising interest rates too fast. That's my opinion. But I surely have confidence, but I think it will straighten. They're raising interest rates too fast because they think the economy is so good. But I think they will get it pretty soon.


VANIER: Let's go to London with CNN's business tech correspondent Samuel Burke is standing by. Sam, let's start with Asia. After a tough beginning to the week we were looking to those markets and see how they would react, in the end not a big swing one way or the other.

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of volatility right now whether it's in Asia or the United States. Those remarks from President Trump now on top of a report from CNN that said that actually he's very upset with Secretary Mnuchin overseeing the treasury and the comments that he made which really surprise the markets.

He called up to say, basically, don't worry, there's liquidity in the banks but nobody was worried that there was liquidity in the banks. We spent the past 10 years making sure that there were liquidity in the banks, so it created two scenarios. One, is there something that we don't see here that we need to be nervous about. And the other scenarios, is he doing something just to please the president?

And a lot of times the markets want to see that the people who were kind of running the levers are working independent of the president. So, basically, we see here yes, there's a little bit of an upswing in some of the Asian markets down and others. At the end of the day it is all volatility.

VANIER: So, what are we looking at then ahead of the few hours market reopening?

BURKE: Well, those comments from President Trump combined with the CNN report have made it that the S&P is a little bit shaky at the moment as we look at futures. At the end of the day, you have to remember that we have had 10 years, an incredible run, even though this month has been down.

What you're seeing right now is one of the worst Decembers in history for the S&P and down just about 11 percent. But of course, a bull market can't last forever. We're talking about the longest bull market in history.

On top of that, you have to look at the fundamentals of the country. If you look at the GDP in the United States the fundamentals are actually looking quite good. So, it wouldn't be unprecedented after the type of drop that we've seen in December for all of a sudden people to come and say hey, things are a lot cheaper. Maybe it's time to buy.

VANIER: All right. As Donald Trump said, now is the time to buy. Samuel Burke reporting live from London. Thank you. I appreciate it.

It looks increasingly likely the partial shutdown of the U.S. government will drag into the New Year. At the White House on Tuesday, President Trump said he won't back down on his demand for $5 billion for a border wall. And he blamed the shutdown on Democrats who have balked at approving funding for that wall.


TRUMP: I can't tell you whether the government is going to be open. I can tell you it's not going to be open until we have a wall or fence or whatever they'd like to call it. I'll call it whatever they want. But it's all the same thing. It's a barrier from people pouring into our company -- into our country.


VANIER: Alice Stewart does me the great honor of joining me on Christmas night in the studio. You were a CNN political commentator and Republican strategist.

[03:04:55] Donald said he'll keep the government partially shut until he gets the funding for his border wall. But the Democrats, this is what surprised me. The Democrats have no political incentive to give it to him.

The first thing they're going to do and they've said as much, is on January 3rd they're going to -- they're going to put a text to the floor that could reopen the government and they'll dare Donald Trump to strike it down and keep the government shut. How does this work out for him?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. The Democrats have zero incentive and motivation to build Donald Trump's big beautiful wall or steel slats. But they do have motivation to address an issue that 85 percent of people in America want to see addressed which is providing protections for DREAMers, children of illegal immigrants who were in this country, DACA.

They want that. That is something they can't get done. And this is an opportunity for Democrats to say to this president we will work towards the money that you want for your big beautiful wall if you do what Democrats have wanted and 80 percent of Americans want is providing protections for DREAMers.


VANIER: But they say--

STEWART: So, this is an opportunity for them to get what they want and the president to get what he wants.

VANIER: But on the wall specifically, they and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have said no, never, no way, we will never give money for the wall. For security yes. But for the wall no.

STEWART: Right. And that is -- that's where it's time to come together and have this conversation. They, Chuck and Nancy have had a couple of meetings with this president. And they said no, we're not going to give you money for the wall, but we'll give you $1.3 billion for border security. The president said I want five billion for my big beautiful wall. Now it's time to come to the middle and have these conversations. VANIER: Real quick before I let you go. The markets are not doing

well. How serious a problem is it for this president? Because it's starting to raise questions of maybe there's going to be a downturn in the economy. This is a president who has said it's all about people's bottom line.

STEWART: It's a concern. I look at the markets like I look at a lot of things when it comes to this president, and politics long ball. And not looking at it from the short-term. And I think this president has a lot of knee-jerk reactions. I think his frustration with the Fed right now is more of a personal issue. He asks them not to raise interest rates, however they did.

The problem internationally, I mean, world markets, look at this. There is uncertainty across the world when it comes to the what's going to happen with Brexit is going to happen with the U.S.-China relations, what's going to happen with the markets across the world.

So, the overall worldwide economic uncertainty makes what's happening in America even more great. Overall, the economy is I think on an upward trend. We need to let things play out. I'd like to think that things are going in a good way in an upward trend and the world needs to just to have faith in the long-term stability of the American market.

And I think the Fed did the right thing. I would like to think the president would layoff them for a while and things will play out.

VANIER: Well, he says -- he says now is the good time to buy. Alice Stewart, thank you. You've got to come down visit your family more. It's such a treat to have you on set.

STEWART: Thank you, Cyril. I love--


VANIER: Thank you.

STEWART: I love being here. Thanks.

VANIER: Thank.

Now President Trump has a head plan to be at his Florida resort for the Christmas and New Year holidays but decided to stay in Washington during the government shutdown. So, he talked via satellite with troops on U.S. bases around the world on Christmas day, but he wasn't exactly festive.

The president told reporters the Democrats are hypocrites because they denounced his decision to fire James Comey as FBI director more than a year ago. Then he added this.


TRUMP: It's a disgrace what's happening in our country. But other than that, I wish everybody a very Merry Christmas. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.


VANIER: For the first time in Mr. Trump's presidency Democrats will have the majority in the House when the new Congress convenes in January.

Syria says three of its soldiers were injured in an Israeli missile attack Tuesday. The state-run news agency said air defenses intercepted Israeli missiles in an assault on an ammunition depot near Damascus.

In a statement on Twitter, Israel defense forces said an aerial defense system intercepted an antiaircraft missile launched from Syria. No injuries or damage were reported.

Meantime, Russia and the Syrian regime are reinforcing their troops following President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. soldiers from Syria. The reinforcements will be west of a strategically important city in northern Syria. The Kurdish held town of Manbij.

Let's got to CNN's Gul Tuysuz in Istanbul for the latest. Gul?

GUL TUYSUZ, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Cyril, after the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria we've been seeing movement on the ground there in Syria. Basically, you have the Turkish military sending in the military vehicles down to the border. But you also have movement on the inside of Syria in, as you mentioned that town of Manbij. That is a town that is strategically located. It's to the west of the Euphrates River.

[03:09:54] And their of course, we had the Kurdish forces controlling the area with the backing of U.S. soldiers. And we also had a Syrian regime forces and Russian forces. And just yesterday, we saw those positions getting reinforcements, some 40 pickup trucks, personnel carriers, military vehicles were sent by the regime to a town on the outskirts of Manbij called Arima where they're basically bolstering their positions.

So, we're seeing a lot of movement of heavy weaponry in that area. And of course, there was a roadmap for the strategic town of Manbij that was agreed to by the U.S. and Turkey that roadmap map was supposed to come to some sort of conclusion to who controls Manbij. It had been slowing down recently, the U.S. and Turkey had this roadmap but they weren't really making progress on it.

But Turkish officials coming out and saying that before the U.S. withdrawal there will be more concrete steps taken to basically implement that roadmap for the future of Manbij. But really, this -- all of these developments just goes to show you that the ripple effect of the U.S.'s surprise decision to withdraw its troops is really starting to take effect on the ground in Syria. Cyril?

VANIER: What's going to happen to the Kurds? The Kurds who had been under U.S. protection? TUYSUZ: Well, the U.S. has been backing that Kurdish fighting force that you just mentioned, and basically, they have been the main partners for the U.S. on the ground in the fight against ISIS in Syria, but Turkey, which is right next door to Syria and shares a very long border views that Kurdish fighting force as an extension of what they called a terror group here in Turkey.

So, with Turkey over the last couple of weeks, threatening to carry out an operation into Syria to expel those Kurdish forces. We don't know what's going to become of them. Turkey says that they are basically going to be fighting what they call a terror corridor on their borders and that they are determined to carry out this operation.

Turkey of course is going to also be taking on a much greater role in the fight against ISIS, but will they be focusing mainly on ISIS or more so on those Kurds is something that we don't know at this point. Cyril?

VANIER: All right. Gul Tuysuz reporting live from Istanbul. I appreciate your insights. Thank you.

Next up on CNN Newsroom, Japan pulls out of the International Whaling Commission to defy a decades-old ban.

Plus, violence is Sudan as security forces used live ammunition and teargas on large crowds and anti-government protesters. Stay with us.


VANIER: Rescuers in Indonesia are using drones and sniffer dogs to search for survivors of Saturday's tsunami.

At least 430 people killed and that number is expected to rise even further because more than 150 are still unaccounted for.

[03:15:02] Indonesia's Geological Agency says it suggested its sensors near the Anak Krakatoa volcano which caused the tsunami to detect volcanic tremors instead of just these stronger earthquake tremors.

Japan is leaving the International Whaling Commission so it can restart commercial whaling in July. The country says it will only hunt whales with healthy population numbers and only within its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone in accordance with international law.

Let's go live to Will Ripley in Hong Kong. Will, Japan has never got along with this whaling commission, now they're gone.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Cyril. There's been so much tension for so many years, and so really, this announcement doesn't come as a huge surprise, especially after Japan recently failed to win the support of the IWC.

They were trying to make it easier to get the votes to end the commercial whaling ban. This has a lot to do with Japanese culture. The ruling party is very nationalist and they believe that whaling is a part of Japanese heritage. Centuries of tradition.

They have grown increasingly frustrated with the international criticism over these expeditions. These whaling expeditions that they have set out for research purposes but have been accused by many nations basically using his cover for commercial whale hunting.

So, because of this, because they are now leaving the IWC Japan will resume commercial whaling operations beginning in July of next year. This is directly defying a 1986 ban on global whaling and it is understandably being condemned by, you know, animal-rights whale rights activists, including Greenpeace.

And Sam Annesley who is the executive director of Greenpeace Japan. I want to read you a portion of his statement that he sent to CNN because he says this announcement was deliberately timed over the Christmas holidays." Quote, "It's clear that the government is trying to sneak in this announcement at the end of the year away from the spotlight of international media, but the world sees this for what it is."

It goes on to say, "the declaration today is out of step with the international community. Let alone the protection needed to safeguard the future of our oceans and these majestic creatures."

But the Japanese government has a different take on all of this. Their chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga said that while Japan will be whaling in its own waters, they are going to give something to animal-rights groups because they are going to stop their controversial hunts in the Arctic.

Those hunts have been a source of major friction between Japan and Australia, Cyril.

VANIER: Is it sustainable, Will? I mean, when they start their commercial whaling again in July. Are there enough whales in the sea to be sustainable?

RIPLEY: I think it really depends like anything on who you ask which experts you speak with. Greenpeace points to studies that show that many whale species are endangered because of modern flea technology. They point to overfishing and not only on Japanese coastal waters, but also on the high seas and they say that that has caused the depletion of many whale species.

They say, you know, whale populations, especially larger whales, blue whales, fin whales, sei whales they say they have not recovered. Now Japanese fisheries have a different take. They say that certain types of whale like the minke, for example, have recovered sufficiently to resume what they call sustainable hunting.

Now, Japan is not the only country by the way, that is doing this, Norway and Iceland are also openly defying the ban on commercial whaling. Cyril?

VANIER: Live from Hong Kong. Thank you. And Sudan is cracking down on massive antigovernment protests across the country. Witnesses say security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas into crowds on Tuesday. At least 37 people have been killed since the protest began a week ago according to Amnesty International.

The demonstration started over fuel shortages and a spike in food prices, but they were growing to wider calls for President Omar al- Bashir to resign. He says the protesters are traitors and foreign agents.

Joining me is Isma'il Kushkush, a Sudanese-American independent journalist. Start by telling me if you can what's going on in the capital right now to the best of your knowledge. Are there more protests planned and what's the security deployment like?

ISMA'IL KUSHKUSH, JOURNALIST: Right. So, today, trade unions, only trade union organized a march where they met in downtown Khartoum and had a memorandum that they wanted to deliver to the President Omar Bashir, calling for his resignation. They were met with tear gas and bullets and violence.

Sudan has been erupted in protest for the past seven days against high bid prices. But given the -- that being the trigger --but given the overwhelming -- the overall political discontent in the country people have taken from protesting high bid prices to calling for the resignation of the president and for the regime to fall.

[03:20:02] VANIER: This started as a grassroots movement a week ago, but I know the political opposition now supports it. Is this still a people's movement?

KUSHKUSH: Yes, I think it's definitely a people's movement. I mean, it started without any particular organization without any political party or group organizing this. It started against high prices between the bread -- the price of bread triple from one pound to three pounds.

It started with high school students in the northern town of Atbara which has a long history of rebel organizing. But they went to different cities and then to the capital. But it's now found support from the political opposition who called for their political bases to join the protest. Whether they're political actors or even professionals, journalists, doctors, engineers and others to join the protest.

VANIER: The president promised reforms to address all of this. The price of bread, the fuel shortages to just improve the economy. Was that just a line to appease the protesters or do we know if he's got real measures in the works?

KUSHKUSH: Well, there are (Inaudible) many that government says that will take, such as raising the minimum wage and -- but -- let's -- this has been said before, and I think what the protest, the protesters, this is just repeated that's been said before. That they haven't seen any meaningful change whether economic policy or opening up the political park station in the country.

VANIER: Protesters have been demanding the ouster of the president as you told us. And they've been chanting an Arab Spring slogan that we used to hear across the Arab world in 2011. Does this feel like an Arab Spring moment to you? I mean, a turning point for Sudan and perhaps for the rule of Omar al-Bashir?

KUSHKUSH: Well, I mean, in 2011, protests took place in Sudan as well. They were crushed. Protest do takes place again in 2012 and 2013 and again, they were put down violently.

I would say that this time, though, it does feel a little different, it does feel more serious. People are unsatisfied with the political situation, even more so with attempts to allow the president to run in 2020 for the upcoming elections. He's already been in power for 30 years. So, there is just a great deal of anger and frustration. It does feels that today especially, it might be a tipping point.

VANIER: All right. Isma'il Kushkush, we'll have to k ep a very close eye on this and see how it develops more protests planned in the coming days. This been going on for a week. Isma'il, thank you so much for joining us.

KUSHKUSH: Thank you.

VANIER: A message of respect and peace from Queen Elizabeth and Pope Francis calls for greater understanding. The countries he singled out in his Christmas prayers, next.


VANIER: Twenty-eighteen has been a year marked by bitterness and division. But unity was that the theme of two heartfelt Christmas messages Tuesday from Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth.

CNN's Leone Lakhani looks at the holiday greetings from Buckingham Palace to Vatican City.

[03:24:58] LEONE LAKHANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A message of love, acceptance and respect from two world leaders this Christmas day. At the Vatican Pope Francis used his annual address to pray for countries ravaged by conflict. He called on the international community to set aside difference in Syria for the sake of nearly six million people forced to flee their homes after years of war.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): May the international community work decisively for a political solution that can put aside divisions and partisan interests, so that the Syrian people, especially all of those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere can return to live in peace in their own country.


LAKHANI: Standing at the balcony of St. Peters Basilica the pontiff said his thoughts also turned to Yemen where he hopes to choose would finally bring relief to people exhausted by war and famine. It comes as the United Nations says the war in Yemen has put it to the brink of the worst famine in 100 years.

Here in the U.K. Queen Elizabeth the second said the message of peace on earth was never out of date.


ELIZABETH ALEXANDRA MARY, QUEEN OF ENGLAND: Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding.


LAKHANI: The 92-year-old monarch is neutral on political matters, but her message comes as a country remains divided on a Brexit deal as the U.K. prepares to leave the European Union in March.

Leone Lakhani, CNN, London.

VANIER: And you may have heard about President Trump's Christmas Eve phone call with a seven-year-old about Santa. We now have video of the little girl that Mr. Trump spoke to and how their conversation went from both sides.


TRUMP: What are you going to do for Christmas?

COLLMAN LLOYD, SEVEN-YEAR-OLD FROM SOUTH CAROLINA: Probably put out some cookies and then we're hanging out with our friends. So that's pretty much all.

TRUMP: That's very good. You have a good time.

LLOYD: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: Are you still a believer in Santa?

LLOYD: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: Because at seven, that's marginal, right?

LLOYD: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: Well, you just take care and enjoy yourself.


VANIER: So, President Trump got a lot of criticism on Twitter for his remark that believing in Santa at age seven is, quote, "marginal."

Well, the little girl who lives in South Carolina, said it's the first time she ever heard that word. But yes, she still does believe in Santa. Thank you for watching CNN Newsroom. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got

headlines for you again in just a moment.