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Wall Street and the DOW Go for a Wild Ride; the Tragic Death of Felipe Alonso Gomez; U.S. Government Shutdown Drags On; Blizzard Conditions Threaten Large Parts of the United States; Winter Storm Disrupts U.S. travel, Sparks Blizzard Warnings in Midwest; America's Oldest WWII Veteran Dies At Age 112; Transformer Explosion Lights Up New York Skyline; Witches Object To Trump Use Of "Witch Hunt". Aired 2-3a ET

Aired December 28, 2018 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:01] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The partial U.S. government shutdown, yeah, it is still a thing. And no sympathy from the U.S. President who claims without proof it is mainly Democrats affected. We'll explain or try to.

Plus, Wall Street goes for a wild ride. Despite Thursday's late day rally, there is still plenty of reason for investors to be concerned, worried there. Also ahead this hour, a top Trump official is headed back to the border, this after a second migrant child dies in U.S. custody.

We are live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. And we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm George Howell. The CNN Newsroom starts now.

At 2:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast, we are seven days in now and no end in sight. The partial U.S. government shutdown drags on. The U.S. President continues to dig in, and Congress has gone home for the year. In the middle of it all, some 800,000 government workers unsure of when they will be paid next. NN's Abby Phillip picks it up from here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With the government still partially shutdown and no end in sight, President Trump was back at the White House and tweeting after his surprise trip to Iraq, after claiming this week that federal employees supported the shutdown.

DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Many of those workers have said to me and communicated stay out until you get the funding for the wall. These federal workers want the wall.

PHILLIP: The President is now taunting Democrats in a tweet, by claiming without evidence that most of the 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown are Democrats. That comment prompted backlash from one of the largest unions representing federal employees. The head of the American Federation of Government Employees writing in a statement, a government shutdown does not help one political party or anyone federal employee more than another. It hurts all of them. It hurts their families. And it hurts all of our communities. The President doesn't appear to be budging from his starting position.

TRUMP: Whatever it takes, I mean we're going to have a wall. We're going to have safety.

PHILLIP: Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders doubled down, saying in a statement, the President does not want the government to remain shutdown, but he will not sign a proposal that does not prioritize our country's safety and security. Yet while in Iraq, Trump repeatedly refused to say if he'll compromise and accept less than $5 billion in wall funding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if it comes down to 5 billion to 2 billion for border security in the conversations with Democrats --

TRUMP: You know, as you know, we've already a lot of wall. We're building a lot more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's there because you come down from the $5 billion to 2 billion?

TRUMP: Here's the problem. Here's the problem we have. We have the problem with the Democrats, because Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots, not Chuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you accept 2 billion instead of 5 billion?

TRUMP: I'm not going to talk about it now. But I will say this. We've been building a lot of wall.

PHILLIP: Even on his first trip as President to a U.S. combat zone, Trump's penchant for politicizing events for the military continued. As soldiers looked on, he once again attacked Democrats and pitched his border wall.

TRUMP: We want strong borders in the United States. The Democrats don't want strong borders only for one reason, you know why, because I want it.

PHILLIP: The President also drawing criticism for rallying troops with a lie about their salaries.

TRUMP: You just got one of the biggest pay raises you've ever received. They said you know we could make it smaller, we can make it 3 percent, we can make it 2 percent, we can make it 4 percent, I said no, make it 10 percent, make it more than 10 percent, because it has been a long time, it's been more than ten years.

PHILLIP: The fact, military pay has increased every year for three decades. And the Trump era pay raises have each been less than 3 percent, not anywhere near the 10 percent he claims. Still, the President keeps repeating it over. TRUMP: In 2019, we want to give you your largest pay raise in over a decade.

PHILLIP: And over.

TRUMP: That also includes raises for our military, so I know -- first time in 10 years.

PHILLIP: And the White House also accused the Democrats of leaving town while the government was shutdown. But it should also be said that Republicans have also left town, including the President's negotiator, Jared Kushner who has been working with Vice President Mike Pence on negotiating with Democrats these last few days.

Meanwhile, President Trump does remain here in Washington. And there's no indication that he plans to return to Florida where the rest of his family is spending the holidays. At the end of the day, there does not seem to be much urgency here in Washington to resolve this problem, and the shutdown could last for many more days to come. Abby Phillip, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[02:05:09] HOWELL: Abby with the reporting. Thank you. And now for context, let's bring in James Davis, James, the Dean of the school of Economics and Political Science at the University of St. Gallen this hour live for us in Munich, Germany, a pleasure to have you with us on the show today.

JAMES DAVIS, UNIVERSITY OF ST. GALLEN: Good morning, George.

HOWELL: Let's start with the showdown over the border wall. This shutdown showdown, as you could call it. The word now, James, this could go for several weeks into the New Year. And neither side really having the motivation to move toward the middle, lawmakers even seem less optimistic. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the Democrats are not willing to put up even 2.5 or 2.6 billion, they were never serious about it. They were wanting amnesty portion but not the border security portion, and when you look at that, that's one of the tragedies of today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: James, how do you see this playing out?

DAVIS: Well, let's remember that there's about 1.7 billion in the budget this year for a border wall. And with that 1.7 billion, the administration has spent something like six percent. So they haven't even spent the money that's been allocated already for them. The President could have had more money had he gone for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

That was the deal that the Democrats were offering him a year ago. And he did get money for the border wall. He hasn't spent it. So the question now going forward is who is going to swerve in this game of chicken that we're playing. Who is going blink first? And I think at the end it's going to be whoever the public begins to blame for an ongoing shutdown.

Right now it looks like the public is blaming the President more than they are the Congress. But that could change.

HOWELL: Let's talk more about the more than 800,000 people affected by this shutdown, from the State Department, Homeland Security, the Justice Department. This list goes on and on. But the President recently categorizing people affected or furloughed as mainly Democrats. How he reached that conclusion it's anybody's guess.

But what does it mean for these people that are caught in the middle, people who don't know when they will be paid next?

DAVIS: Well, I think anybody that is expecting a paycheck and doesn't get it knows what that means. That means you're not going to be paying the bills. That means your rent or your mortgage payment is going to be late. That means the payments for your children's education is going to be late. And this is not going to help matters.

But I don't think we should take the President's remarks on this too seriously. Remember, it was just a week ago that he was saying that the majority of the federal employees were in favor of a shutdown because they wanted border security. So one week, he thinks 800,000 federal employees are supporting his policies, the next week he thinks it is a bunch of Democrats who are getting punished by this.

It is really hard to take any of this seriously. But again, at the end of the day, it is going to be a question of who does the American people begin to blame for this shutdown. Right now we know 56 percent of the American people do not approve of the building of the wall. And the plurality of them is blaming the President. If that momentum continues, the President is the one who's going to have to back down on this.

HOWELL: Let's talk, James, about the President in Iraq, spending time with the troops, telling them that they were getting this pay raise for the first time in 10 years, and more than 10 years. James, that is an outright lie, it's just simply not true, not true at all. But the President is getting a lot of push back for it.

DAVIS: Yeah. I mean the President here is again using the military as a backdrop for a political campaign style statement. The President is -- you know, going against -- really two centuries worth of norms about the United States, where we try to keep the military out of politics, out of active politics. By going there, raising this issue of a pay raise in a very partisan way, lying about it in the first place.

But also signing all kinds of red caps that may or may not have been Make America Great Again caps, but, you know, they sure looked like it to me. You know signing caps, turning a visit to the troops into a campaign style rally is really against the norms of this country. And again, it is part of a strategy that he seems to be employing across the institutions of government.

He's trying to make the judiciary a prize that you win by winning the White House when our judiciary is one of our prized neutral arbiters of the law in the United States. He's trying to make the Federal Reserve some kind of a political football when the Federal Reserve banks independence is a very important part of the stability of our economy.

And now it's the military that's being used as a kind of a political prop for a President that is facing all kinds of domestic and foreign challenges and challenges. And I think the American people, but also the service men and women who are fighting for our freedom will see through this.

[02:10:06] HOWELL: And, you know, it is tradition. It is customary for Presidents of the United States to visit troops in War Theater that we're seeing this President follow that tradition here in Iraq. But to your point, he's also being criticized even in conservative media for making the trip more about, more about the campaign than the troops themselves. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would never consider us as a country as the United States suckers. We have always led the fight in every single major war. Our military men and women, I believe, deserve way more respect than that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the President had gone and made this trip which he absolutely should have done and not used it as campaign rally, because when you use language like that and the word suckers...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He talked about the border wall as well, which didn't have a place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: That back and forth on a conservative talk show here in the United States. What are your thoughts about the optics of this trip?

DAVIS: I think the optics are bad. And it speaks to the bad optics that the conservative media that has traditionally been a supporter of this President is beginning to turn on him and criticizing this kind of behavior. In fact, it is right for the Commander-In-Chief to visit the troops. I applaud him for doing so.

But it should be about the troops and not about the Commander-In- Chief. And this Commander-In-Chief has turned it into something that's all about him, all about what he's done, all about what he wants to do, instead of thanking those troops for the service that they provided to the country in a time when, you know, most of them were wishing they were back home with their families. HOWELL: James Davis, and James if I don't see you before, happy New

Year to you.

DAVIS: Happy New Year to you, George.

HOWELL: Thanks for being with us. Now to the markets, and what a ride with a side of whiplash, you could say. After plunging more than 600 points on Thursday, the DOW bounced back in the final minutes closing up more than 260 points, gaining more than 1 percent. Asian markets appeared to take it all in stride.

The Nikkei closed down. The Shanghai and Hang Seng were both up slightly. So clearly, there is volatility in play. Our Alison Kosik has more now for what to look for down the road.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. (Inaudible) a huge comeback, the DOW erased a 611 points (Inaudible), closing up by 260 points. It's an almost 900-point swing, a day after the DOW made history jumping more than 1,000 points. The trading session was marked by heavy volatility as has been the month of December. The DOW has made triple digit moves in 12 of the month's 18 trading sessions.

The year-end gyrations come after heavy losses in the market overall. The DOW was down thousands of points from its October peak. The NASDAQ is not far from a bare market. That's a 20 percent drop from a recent high. Year-end positioning is responsible for a lot of the volatility that we're seeing. But once the calendar changes from 2018 to 2019, investors will be looking for clarity, and certainty on a number of issues.

Including how many times the Federal Reserve is expected to raise rates, and whether trade situation between the U.S. and China will be resolved, back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: To talk more about this, let's bring in Ryan Patel. Ryan, a global business executive, joining this hour from Los Angeles with his experience and knowledge, thank you again, Ryan for your time.

RYAN PATEL, GLOBAL BUSINESS EXECUTIVE: My pleasure.

HOWELL: Let's talk about where things stand right now. Because obviously, we saw this course reverse, the DOW Jones rallying more than 1,000 points, great news on the surface. But people are still jittery about a slowdown and even a recession. How would you categorize the markets?

PATEL: Well, listen, if he has a great news for being down so much in the morning and then just barely getting to the top, I guess that's great news. The other day that should be the red. I think what I learned about this today is that we live in a global economy. What is different from the depression and from the recession, we got a lot more intertwined. So things like China and the U.S. trade war, news that would come out

affects the market. Things like Brexit next year will affect the market depending on how that ends. Even from the Saudi blockade to Qatar and things like Italy and even Turkey you saw that this year became issues of the markets. So those kind of things come into 2019 will have an effect that is not baked in into this market. And those kinds of fears will cause this kind of extreme days up and down because you don't know what's going to be ahead.

HOWELL: OK. So we've talked about the gains. But let's about those losses, because clearly we've seen volatility in play, there are the downward pressures as you point out of global slowdown, the trade tensions between the U.S. and China. What do you make of the losses that we've seen here in recent weeks?

PATEL: Yeah. I think I mean -- let's just talk about what just happened today. I think what happened today was the market was trying to figuring out the volatility. Is this the bottom? And the answer to that question is no. There is -- it may take a month. It may take a few months to see where the volatility will keep going until we find what the rock bottom looks like.

[02:15:02] And that's what we've seen. These kind of -- you start to see these extreme pressures from up and down, it's obviously people buying and selling. But also people are trying to figure out is this the time to get in or not. And right now, the sentiment is still not ready to buy on these kinds of dips.

HOWELL: This rally certainly welcomed by the U.S. President, who unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump enjoys hanging his hat on the stock market as he has done many times in the past. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're doing record business, record stock market, record everything. They're all doing well. And since I took office, the value of American's pension funds has increased by $2.7 trillion. That's your money. That's your money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So it's great when it is great. The mom (ph) is the word when it is not. In fact, we know President Trump phoned his advisors from Air Force One on his way back from Iraq to talk about that thousand-point gain. We know the markets can be unpredictable as we know this President takes pride in unpredictability well.

So how predictable would you say this strategy is of his to continue hanging his hat on the markets?

PATEL: Well, you know, I think that he knows no difference. I mean you saw last year, too, we went through the situation where he went up -- the market was up. And even when it had bad days, he would just ignore it. So for him, you know, I think he is -- this is going to his legacy, like when he's done with his term and his Presidency, he's going to look back and he's going to look at his legacy, and he thinks the market is going to his one.

Because he is the business guy, and you know, I think hence why he came after the Fed, right? He was blaming the Fed on why this market was going to go toward down. So needing to have kind of an actually a point that he needed to push across. But, you know, again we've known in history that Presidents don't really kind of dictate and put their hand on the economy stock market per se because it is a different animal.

HOWELL: OK. So heading into 2019, do you see us heading into a strong economy or do you expect more ups and downs like we've seen?

PATEL: Listen to this. I think you need to bring your seatbelt, George, because it's going to be a roller coaster ride for the first two quarters. Because, you know, earning seasons is right around the corner, one. And we don't know where it is going to go positive or plus. Obviously, we know the U.S. economy is 2, 3 percent of GDP. It's still pretty healthy.

But again, like I said, you don't know what is going to happen with this. This China-U.S. trade piece is a big deal, and you know, these deadlines for March 1st, even the meeting for March 30th, it is on the calendar. And the market is watching what's going to happen these days. You can't ignore this when they are put that far in advance behind it.

So, you know, I feel, you know, people use the word recession in 2019, 2020, when is it. I think the first two quarters, let's get through that first and see how it will play. I think the Federal Reserve is watching this now no longer quarterly but once a month. And so that's going to a big deal here. That -- it got everybody's attention.

HOWELL: It's got everybody jittery, everybody for sure. Ryan Patel, thank you so much for your time.

PATEL: Thanks for having me.

HOWELL: Up next here on Newsroom, there is a search for answers after a second migrant child dies in U.S. Custody. And now, the Homeland Security Secretary will travel to the U.S.-Mexico to see the situation for herself. Plus, the New York City skyline, the night lit up, a brilliant shade of blue as you see there. We'll explain why and what happened as Newsroom pushes ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:20:00] HOWELL: After the tragic death of another migrant child died in U.S. Custody, the head of U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to visit the southern U.S. border on Friday. Kirstjen Nielsen made the decision after an eight-year old boy from Guatemala died in El Paso, Texas. It is the second time a migrant child has died in U.S. custody this month alone. CNN's Nick Valencia has this report for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is eight-year-old migrant Felipe Gomez Alonzo who died in border patrol custody on Christmas Eve. He had been brought to the hospital, released, and brought to the hospital again, Felipe's mother inconsolable as she waits to find out how her young son died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I want them to bring my son here. I need to see him soon. I'm very sad that he died.

VALENCIA: The family now pleading with the U.S. government to return his body to be laid to rest back home in Guatemala.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They told us they were doing what they can to get him back. But we just want them to hurry.

VALENCIA: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen calling the case, quote, deeply concerning and heartbreaking. But adding it has been more than 10 years since a child died in their custody.

In El Paso, one of the places where Filipe was held, many migrants are being released this week. In part, because the government can't handle the influx, more than 500 migrants in the last 24 hours sent to a network of non profits.

Inside this makeshift shelter, huddled around a table, a handful of migrants just released from border patrol custody. Most of them don't want to talk on camera about what they've been through. But one of the migrants agrees only if we don't show his face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language).

VALENCIA: They paid to get out. How much of a bond did you pay?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language).

VALENCIA: He shows us the paperwork they gave him as a receipt for his $10,000 bond to get out after three months in custody. He says he had to mortgage his home back in Nicaragua to pay for it. What do you say to people that think that you're criminals that you don't a business being here in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language).

VALENCIA: You have values and you have morals and you're not here to do bad. You're not a criminal.

Throughout the day here at this bus station in El Paso, we continue to see migrants dropped off by ICE. These are migrants that are dumped on the streets of El Paso with no resources and in some cases no place to go. The charities that are volunteering to help out these migrants are overwhelmed, calling this a crisis with no end in sight. Nick Valencia, CNN, El Paso, Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Let's talk more about this now with Dylan Corbett, the Director of the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Texas, joining via Skype this hour, Dylan, thank you for your time.

[02:25:01] DYLAN CORBETT, DIRECTOR, HOPE BORDER INSTITUTE: Thank you.

HOWELL: Your group focused on bringing religious and secular communities together around issues on the border. And now with the deaths of two children, what are people telling you about the government's approach given these latest tragedies?

CORBETT: You know, I think it is simply tragic that it had to come to this, what has been going on in the border for all of 2018 with policies like zero tolerance, with policies like family separation, with policies like posting CBP agents on the bridge denying people access to asylum, which is forcing people into more dangers in more remote parts of the border.

And unfortunately, deaths like this were to be expected. The U.S. government's approach had been to militarize the border in response to what is going on, the problem and phenomena of immigration at the border, and military's response deploying troops and deploying extra resources to secure the border and militarize the border has resulted unfortunately in -- unfortunately we've had deaths as a result of this.

HOWELL: Groups like the ACLU place blame squarely with customs and border patrol. The Department of Homeland Security, though, sidesteps the blame and instead points the finger at migrants themselves, as we see in this statement from the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, saying quote, our system has been pushed to a breaking point by those who seek open borders, smugglers, and traffickers.

And their own parents put these minors at risk by embarking on the dangers and the arduous journey north, your thoughts on that statement.

CORBETT: You know, I read Secretary Nielsen's statement yesterday on the death of Felipe Alonso Gomez. And what shocked me was that she blamed Congress. She blamed immigration judges. She blamed activists and advocates. She blamed the migrants and the parents of migrants themselves. But she never took responsibility.

She never took responsibilities, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. And when Jacqueline Khan (ph) died at the beginning of December, the CBP was obliged. CBP and DHS were obliged within 24 hours to inform Congress, as for the law. Effectively they broke the law by not informing Congress of the young girl's death.

By not taking responsibility for children in their custody, this is troubling because DHS and CBP have a responsibility to guarantee the safety and the security of the families in their custody, to guarantee the safety and the health and the well being of the children in their custody. Both of these children were in the custody of border patrol when they expired.

So this is troubling that the Secretary doesn't seem to think that she needs to take any responsibility for this. HOWELL: You talk about the migrants fleeing these various countries.

And as they flee, as they are detained by customs and border patrol in these different facilities, we're hearing more about the conditions there, more and more. These agents are seeing families together with children crossing the border. And we heard the commissioner for customs and border patrol say they're just not ready for it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're with these flows of huge numbers of families, with lots of children, young children as well as unaccompanied minors coming into border patrol custody after crossing the border unlawfully. They're not -- our stations are not built for that group that is crossing today. They were built 30, 40 years ago for single adult males.

And we need a different approach. We need help from Congress. We need a budget for medical care and mental healthcare for children in our facilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Dylan, you touched on this. I mean these facilities, as they are presently, how crowded are they? And what does it mean for children?

CORBETT: Very crowded. I agree with the commissioner on this. These facilities are not adequate for families. They're not adequate for children. When ICE began releasing people into the streets in El Paso over the Christmas holiday here downtown, and we encountered them, we greeted them, we gave them food and we provided medical attention when necessary.

We saw that they had not bathed in several days. They were not even given adequate nutrition. Many of them were sick. One of the children we actually had to send to the hospital because he exhibited the same symptoms that Jacqueline Khan (ph) did. She had a fever and he was dehydrated. They are in these cells.

They're called the latest (ph) for a reason because they're like iceboxes, like sardines. It is difficult to even go to the bathroom with any degree of privacy. They're no place for children. They're no place for families.

HOWELL: Dylan Corbett, we appreciate your time. Thank you.

CORBETT: You're welcome. Thank you.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on Newsroom, stuck in the snow. Plenty of people are at this point as blizzard conditions threaten large parts of the United States. We have the latest from the forecast. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:33:13] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from the ATL. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you. This hour and the big headline this day, we are watching weather conditions and storms that have proven deadly across the United States. At least two people have died in a storm that has caused heavy rain and snow in parts of the country. In the Midwest, about one million people are under blizzard warnings.

In the meantime, 50 million people are under flood watches in the Eastern U.S. this because of the same storm system. Our meteorologist Ivan Cabrera is here. And Ivan, you are a busy man.

IVAN CABRERA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed. Although, for the East Coast this time around, this is going to be a rainmaker here. It's still; going to cause delays I think at the airport (INAUDIBLE) massive, you know, snow piling kind of storm. It has been though across the Midwest. Let's talk about that because as you mentioned, George, my goodness, blowing snow. We continue with -- in fact, that 30, 40, 50 miles an hour winds across the Upper Midwest, so the snow that has already fall and has fallen with cold temperatures is just going to get blown around.

And so you basically blizzard conditions despite the fact that additional snow won't be falling. But rain will across the east and now only that but severe storms. Take a look at the radar. I mean this thing extends all the way from the Gulf Coast into Canada. This is how wide and huge the storm is. I'll focus down on the south because this area, you know, particularly heading into New Orleans and the northeastern parishes and then heading up into Mississippi as well.

We've had torrential downpour so likes of which have accumulated anywhere from six to ten inches. Imagine that, in some areas, we're getting reports perhaps about foot of rain already in the last 24 hours. That's incredible (INAUDIBLE) so obvious, you would expect the flood warnings they are in effect for many areas here. That's particularly dangerous situation. There are flashfloods warning in effect. And then the rest of the area is under a flood watch which means conditions are favorable for flooding to occur.

[02:35:06] Now from this additional rain or not just from it but because we've had so much rain across the region here, the soil are (INAUDIBLE) it's not going to take much to get flooding going, so 50 million of us under a threat here. And if you're travelling to the Eastern U.S., keep in mind, we may have some delays. I'll show you that in a second. There comes the storm. You can see it doesn't rain that much progress, so by even Friday and into Saturday, we continue with some rainfall.

Here's what we're thinking as far as the airport delays anywhere from -- as George likes to say the ATL down south here all the way up into New York, all the metros, a red plane. That is not good. We have the potential here of one to two-hour delays. That's exactly what you want as you're flying home from Christmas, isn't George? But this is what we had on the way there. So it's one of those things where at least again, we don't have to be shoveling snow. It's going to be a big rainmaker.

HOWELL: You caught me on that ATL thing.

CABRERA: I did. I did.

HOWELL: Ivan, thank you.

CABRERA: You're welcome.

HOWELL: This next story to tell you about, the actor Kevin Spacey and new details coming to light about sexual assault allegations against him. Our Miguel Marquez has the story for you.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, despite what is described as a heavy night of drinking between Spacey and the accuser. The accuser was in the frame of mind to while the actual alleged incident was occurring, the sexual assault was occurring to actually take a video of it, and sent it to his then girlfriend via Snapchat. The accuser told police that he had told Spacey he was 23, the night of the alleged assault. He was in fact 18 years old.

All of this happening in the late night hours at the Club Car Restaurant on Nantucket after his shift as a busboy there. It is something that the accuser's mother spoke out about last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATHER UNRUH, ALLEGED VICTIM'S MOTHER: The victim, my son, was star struck, straight 18-year-old young man who had no idea that the famous actor was a predator.

MARQUEZ: Now, CNN is trying to contact Mr. Spacey and his representatives for their side of the story. They've not gotten back to us. But shortly after news broke of these charges against the 59- year-old actor, Kevin Spacey posted a video to his Twitter accounts, the tone, the style, the substance of it jarring given the charges that had just been made public.

KEVIN SPACE, ACTOR: I know what you want. You want me back. Of course some believed everything and just been waiting with baited breath to hear me confess it all. They're just dying to have me declare that everything said is true and that I got what I deserved. Wouldn't that be easy if it was all so simple? Only you and I both know it's never that simple, not in politics or not in life. But you wouldn't believe the worst without evidence, would you? You wouldn't rush to judgments without facts, would you? Did you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: So clearly he uses the Frank Underwood character in that video with a Santa Claus apron in a kitchen, all of it coming at a strange time and just the way in which he does it was remarked upon by many across the Hollywood and around the world. The arraignment for Mr. Spacey on these charges is set right now for January 7th. Back to you. HOWELL: Miguel Marquez, thank you. It's not every man who gets to

live on a street named after himself. But if anyone deserved it, it was this man. Richard Overton, America's oldest World War II veteran who died Thursday remembering his long life in Austin, Texas. Stay with us.

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[02:41:55] HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell. Russia's Vladimir Putin is boasting about a significant new advancement in that nation's nuclear arsenal, the hypersonic missile. And it has the U.S. working overtime on a program to match it. CNN's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: U.S. defense officials say this is the real deal. Russia test firing its new high speed hypersonic missile, a missile that the U.S. military currently cannot defend against. Russian President Vladimir Putin pulling no punches on his intent.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (via translator): The new Avangard missile system is invincible against today's and future air and missile defense systems of the potential enemy. This is a big success and great a achievement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the weapons work as advertised, there is no current defense against them.

STARR: The Russian missile has captured the attention of Patrick Shanahan, the deputy Defense Secretary who will take over as acting Pentagon Chief when Secretary James Mattis leaves next week.

PATRICK SHANAHAN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have a number of options going on with hypersonic missiles.

STARR: Shanahan warns the U.S. needs to be able to detect the fast flying missile much further away than current radar systems can handle. The U.S. has to detect it thousands, not hundreds of miles away because of its high-speed approach. The Pentagon may spend more than one billion dollars trying to develop and field its own capabilities. The Russians are making significant yet unproven claim about their missiles saying it's capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

It flies up to 20 times faster than the speed of sound. It can adjust altitude and direction to avoid detection. Putin says it's invincible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to need a different set of sensors in order to see the hypersonic threats. Our adversaries know that.

STARR: The challenges are also political for President Trump whose relationship with Russian President Putin has been rocky since July's Helsinki Summit. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin feels incredibly emboldened. Putin believes

this is the time to press his advantage. He's put his forces in Ukraine and Eastern Ukraine. His of course taken over Crimea. He's now gaining ground in Syria. This is Russia's time in his view.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: U.S. defense officials are taking no chances on whether the Russian system works or it does not. They say they are proceeding with a U.S. program to try and match and overmatch whatever the Russians may be up to. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

HOWELL: America's oldest World War II veteran has died. Richard Overton, a longtime resident of Austin, Texas. He was also the oldest man living in the United States and he lived on a street that bore his name. Here you see him with the former President Barack Obama. Overton died at the 112 years old. The Governor of Texas calling him an American icon and a Texas legend.

With more on his life and legacy, let's bring in veteran news anchor Robert Hadlock joins now from Austin, Texas. Robert, at my old station there, our CNN affiliate KXAN-TV. Robert, thank you so much for being with us.

[02:45:17] ROBERT HADLOCK, ANCHOR, KXAN NEWS: Good to see you again, George. You know, Mr. Overton story here in Austin. Growing up here, he was an Austin legend, he was born just down the road from here in 1906, lived his whole life in Austin, went to serve our country in World War II, came back, and lived out of the spotlight, worked for the state of Texas for many, many years, retired in 1985, and then began to get on the radar of everyone around the country about five years ago when he attended a service in Washington, D.C. honoring African-American veterans from World War II. It was a life well- lived.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HADLOCK: Six years before the Titanic sank, and nearly a decade before World War one began --

RICHARD OVERTON, OLDEST AMERICAN VETERAN OF WORLD WAR II: Made in 1906.

HADLOCK: Richard Overton was born in Bastrop County.

OVERTON: Between Lockhart and Bastrop.

HADLOCK: When Overton was 35 years old --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.

HADLOCK: The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Throwing the United States into World War II. Overton enlisted nine months later.

OVERTON: I like it when I first went in. HADLOCK: He joined an all-black military unit in 1942.

OVERTON: I always liked to hunt. I always kept my guns.

HADLOCK: Becoming a skilled sharpshooter. Overton rose to the rank of Corporal, serving in places like Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, where he came under fire.

OVERTON: It is one of those things you're lucky to get out of because it's a lot of war. A lot of troops got killed.

HADLOCK: After the war ended, Overton retired and built his East Austin home. When the city had just 100,000 people.

OVERTON: Already big buildings, the highways, the streets. I seeing all of this Austin go up.

HADLOCK: 70 years after fighting in World War II, President Barack Obama invited Overton to spend Veterans Day 2013 in Washington.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, Richard still lives in the house that he built all those years ago. Rakes his own lawn and every Sunday he hops in his 1971 Ford truck and drives one of the nice ladies in his neighborhood to church.

HADLOCK: And the attention didn't stop there. In the same year, he was congratulated on his birthday by former Governor Rick Perry. ROTC members from the University of Texas in Austin Community College painted his house and landscaped his yard.

OVERTON: I appreciate it.

HADLOCK: At 109, he spent Veterans Day in the hospital battling pneumonia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He want everybody to know that he's -- he'll be just fine.

HADLOCK: And he was. Ringing in 110 with hundreds of family and friends a few months later.

OVERTON: And I feel that I made -- I made a record. That's the record that nobody have made yet.

HADLOCK: His secret, not an apple a day.

OVERTON: I started smoking cigars when I'm 18 years old. You know, I still smoking cigar, but I don't inhale the smoke (INAUDIBLE) my heart, and everything is so pretty.

HADLOCK: His advice for living a healthy long life.

OVERTON: I ask them to stay busy and talk to the Lord and live with the Lord. Don't live with the people, live with the Lord. Let him take care you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HADLOCK: Two years ago, Mr. Overton needed round-the-clock care in his home. He couldn't afford it, and the V.A. benefits did not pay for it. Word got out, a fundraiser was held. $450,000 was raised by almost 9,000 people from around the country. Quite a story.

And George, I want to thank you and CNN for getting the word out about Mr. Overton. He is an Austin icon and he will be missed here.

HOWELL: Yes, hometown icon for sure, Robert. But again, his story of service and longevity known around the world. I want to add this quote also when he spoke with CNN. This was when he was 107 years old.

Robert, he said, "I drink whiskey and my coffee sometimes. I drink it straight. Robert, what a life indeed.

HADLOCK: What a life. And he liked to hearing from the ladies too. He was a quite a gentleman.

HOWELL: Indeed. Robert Hadlock, in Austin, Texas at KXAN. Robert, thank you. Of course, our condolences to Overton's family and mine as well. We'll be back after the break.

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[02:53:30] HOWELL: Behind the New York City skyline Thursday, an electric glow lit up the night sky. Take a look at this video. That brilliant blue that you see in the background, it's the result of a transformer explosion which led to a brief electrical fire.

No one was hurt, authorities blame it on an equipment malfunction. The explosion closed LaGuardia Airport for about an hour. Things did get back to normal eventually, and after the airport switched to a backup generator.

Residents reported temporary power outages in the area. The explosion even shook some buildings in Queens. It certainly caught a lot of people by surprise. But my goodness, what a sight there.

And finally, we end this hour with a story about a phrase the U.S. president uses an awful lot. It's what he calls the investigations around Russian interference, a witch hunt. You may be surprised which group takes are the most offense to that -- offense to that. CNN's Jeanne Moos, tells us it's literally witches.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They don't fly on broomsticks. They tend not to be bewitched. By Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know I call it a witch hunt and it is a witch hunt.

MOOS: Modern-day witches are hard to categorize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

MOOS: Are you a witch?

AMANDA YATES GARCIA, THE ORACLE OF LOS ANGELES: I'm a practicing witch. That's how I make my living, yes.

MOOS: And which kind of which are you?

DAVID SALISBURY, AUTHOR, WITCHCRAFT ACTIVISM: I'm initiated into Wicca, which is the religious side of things.

MOOS: Witches tend to side with liberals. And you know what they wish, President Trump would stop saying about the Mueller investigation.

[02:55:07] TRUMP: It's a witch hunt. That's all it is. The witch hunt as I call it. Russian witch hunt. This is a witch hunt like nobody has ever seen before.

MOOS: The author of Witchcraft Activism calls the president's use of the term.

SALISBURY: It's really disgraceful. I mean, thousands of people were executed in your own suspicion of witchcraft.

MOOS: Closer to home, that where the Salem witch trials.

19 supposed witches were hanged.

GARCIA: There's a lot to be offended by, by Donald Trump, and I think his use of the term witch hunt is very low on that list of priorities for most witches. But nevertheless, it does demonstrate his ignorance as usual.

TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

MOOS: But if the president stopped saying witch hunt, he'd have to hunt for a new term. Tweeted someone, "I guess he will have to start referring to it as a wild goose chase, but then, that might offend geese."

The last time witches got mixed up in politics, a losing tea party candidate for the Senate had to proclaim.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not a witch.

MOOS: After having said she dabbled in witchcraft in high school. If there's one demographic President Trump hasn't put a spell on its witches, they'd rather put a spell on him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will catch you my pretty, and your little dog too.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

TRUMP: And it is a witch hunt. MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN center in Atlanta. Let's do it again. Another hour of news right after the break. Stay with us.

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