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Overnight: Environmental Protection Agency Shuttered; Trump Hunkers Down As Shutdown Enters Week Two; Trump Signs Order To Keep Civilian Salaries At 2018 Levels; Trump Ramps Up Threats Over Wall Funding; Homeland Security Chief Visits Border Today After Deaths Of Two Children; Hotel Employees Call Police On Man Talking On Phone In Lobby; Mayor Condemns "Discrimination" In Hotel Lobby Incident; Eight People Arrested In Death Of California Police Officer; Trump Trouble With Truth; Federal Employees Prepare For Drawn-out Shutdown; Trump Administration Rule Change Could Imperil EPA Measures To Protect Clean Air; Six People Killed In Winter Storm; 2018 Sets Record For Quiet Tornado Season; Oklahoma's Advantage Over Alabama; No. 1 Alabama Versus No. 4 Oklahoma In Orange Bowl; Clemson/Notre Dame Clash in Cotton Bowl; Top Trending Stories Of 2018. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 29, 2018 - 09:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: So grateful to have you with us here on this Saturday morning. I'm Christi Paul.


PAUL: You know, overnight, the Environmental Protection Agency closed its doors, the latest department here to close as the government shutdown enters its eighth day today.

BLACKWELL: Now 14,000 EPA employees joined the nearly 800,000 people being told to start this day with no pay or to just stay at home. While Democrats and Republicans bicker, the government employees are left to wonder and worry about what's next. On January 1st, their utilities will still need to be paid. Their rent, their mortgages all due. Last hour, we spoke with a man who represents government employees to put a human story, a face on this incident.


TONY REARDON, NATIONAL PRESIDENT; NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION: We had an individual let us know that recently his wife died. He is unable, at this time, because of this shutdown, to pay for her headstone and he said at the tail-end of his commentary to us that he is brokenhearted over that. And you know, that, I think, in some way kind of encapsulates what this is -- what's going on and what's happening to federal workers. Our federal workers do a great service to this country and to be treated the way that they are is indeed unfortunate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: Now, remember the President said he would own this shutdown. He, however, seems to be pinning the blame on Democrats right now. He's also threatening to close the southern border with Mexico if they don't fund the border wall. CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez with us now. Boris, what are you hearing from the White House this morning? And good morning to you.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good morning, Christi and Victor. No real word from the White House so far today on any progress made in the government shutdown. It's unclear that either of these sides are actually communicating at this point. The last we heard from incoming acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was yesterday morning when he told reporters here on the North Lawn that talks had broken down.

And there's one new bit, one new wrinkle in all of this this morning. The President signing an executive order late last night that froze pay raises for federal workers in 2019.

Now, we had seen this coming before. The President indicated in a letter to the OMB that he was planning to do something like this as early as August of this year, but, of course, at this time, with the government shutdown and all these workers either furloughed or having to face the fact that they may not be paid until early into the new year, it does add insult to injury to some degree.

We should point out the freezing of these pay raises does not include most members of the military and further, some form of pay raise could be included in any new bill that would reopen the federal government. Of course, then it becomes a potential bargaining chip between these two sides.

Yesterday, Mulvaney told us that he believes that all the cards are in the hands of Nancy Pelosi. He made the case that he believes Pelosi wants this shutdown to guarantee that she has the votes to become the Speaker of the House. CNN's reporting doesn't exactly line up with that. According to our count, she had the votes to become speaker well before the government shutdown.

But ultimately, you have the President and his surrogates here pointing fingers toward Democrats. Democrats are essentially saying they're not going to give the President funding for his border wall. Don't forget that Democrats have promised that they're going to bring up one of three potential measures to reopen the government as soon as they take power on January 3rd. None of them include any funding for the wall.

In the meantime, you have all these federal agencies, as the shutdown continues, that are shutting down and workers who are ultimately going to have to face some difficult times. There's a list here of agencies that we found out in recent days that were going to be shutting down.

All the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will be shut down by January 2nd. The Federal Communications Commission will shut down and cease taking complaints January 2nd as well. And listen to this, the Federal Trade Commission is having to suspend their investigation into Facebook and the social media site's potentially inappropriate use of users private data.

So again, as this shutdown continues, more people feel the effects of it and still it doesn't seem like there's any new common ground between these two sides, Victor and Christine.

PAUL: All right, Boris Sanchez. Thank you so much, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: This shutdown is affecting thousands of federal workers who will not be getting a paycheck until this is decided and Congress approves the back pay and they're talking about this on social media, talking about their worries about how to pay their bills.

PAUL: I mean, this really highlights -- Kaylee Hartung is here to talk about what they're tweeting. It really highlights the fact that this isn't just about numbers.

[09:05:01] This is about people and their lives and they're -- I'm surprised, almost, at how candid they're being on social media.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. So many of these people -- we are hearing more and more of their heart-wrenching stories where their incomes have been zeroed out and they're having to focus on the absolute essential expenses in life. We're hearing from federal workers like single parents and veterans who really depend on every paycheck to keep their families going and here's what some of them are saying on social media.

Sarah Watterson, a Marine Corps veteran, says, "My children don't care about walls. They do care about having a warm house to live in, a car to ride in, clothes to wear and food in their bellies -- none of which is possible if their mom can't go to work."

Ernie Johnson in Wyoming -- he tweets, "Thankfully my auto loan was able to defer my truck payment in January so I won't default on it and other bills this month. If no back pay, I'll likely be evicted February 1st."

Melissa in Louisiana -- she says she's a disabled veteran who's been waiting for service connected surgery for over a year. "Yes, it takes that long," she says, "Can't get my final approval because of government shutdown. This delay is making my future health care costs more expensive for all taxpayers."

And Lisa West -- she's in Maryland and tweets, "There are so many government contractors that are not getting paid and unlike federal employees, we do not get retro pay when the government shutdown is over. That income is just gone forever."

And here's what Lauren in Pennsylvania is tweeting as she says, "I depend on my child support to pay the weekly after-school care bill and school lunch payments. That support comes out of a federal correction officer paycheck so I won't have the funds for after-school care or school lunch."

You make the point there, Christi, people being so candid in this time where the struggles that they're facing are unforeseen for them.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And this is stretching across the country because the misnomer, I guess, is that they're concentrated in and around Washington D.C.. This stretches throughout our country. Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much.

PAUL: We're going to bring in CNN political commentator and political anchor of "Spectrum News," Errol Louis, as well as Kelly Jane Torrance, contributor for "Spectator USA." Thank you both for being with us this morning.


PAUL: Let's listen together here to representative Steny Hoyer. He was asked -- he said listen, Democrats are prepared to vote. They're prepared to vote on the bill -- on any bill, you know, that comes to them that has gone through and passed the Senate committee, but then he said this about President Trump refusing to accept any legislation that does not embrace funding the wall. Let's listen.


STENY HOYER, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: That's not compromise. That's not working together to accomplish an objective and very frankly, he made a promise that was a ill informed, ill-advised promise and he said the Mexican people were going to pay for it. That was baloney. He should have known it was baloney.


PAUL: Errol, is there a political price to pay the longer this goes on? Because it looks as though there really is no negotiation going on.

LOUIS: Well, that's right. And look, there is a lot of baloney that was talked about. The notion that the Mexican government was going to pay for this was always a non-starter. There is a political cost to be paid because there are lots of public employees who are not going to look kindly at either the Republicans or the Democrats, the President or the Congress if they continue to experience some hardship.

Now, we should be clear, there's some give here. There's a little bit of room. I just recently heard from somebody, a federal worker, who said, look, until the end of January, it's not going to get super critical for most people if they've got any kind of resources just because they just got a paycheck.

So if you miss two paychecks, then you've really -- you're really in bad shape. For others, it might just be an inconvenience, but the politics of the situation are not going to get more favorable over the next few days. As the 116th Congress sits and is sworn in, the Democrats are not going to make life any easier for the President. He's in a very difficult position.

PAUL: So Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts said we are on the Republicans -- we on the Republican side do not want to vote for a bill the President won't sign. Essentially, Kelly, he's laying the onus on Democrats and their leadership to come up with a number that the President apparently can stomach. Is he trying to say here that Republicans' hands are tied?

KELLY JANE TORRANCE, CONTRIBUTOR, SPECTATOR USA: You know, I think everybody feels like their hands are tied, but nobody comes out looking great here. I mean, you have Nancy Pelosi right now vacationing in Hawaii when we're hearing stories like those you reported about, federal workers worrying about how to pay their bills.

But let's face it, the Democrats, they have the upper hand here. Donald Trump said publicly in his meeting -- his famous meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, "I would be proud to shut down the government for the border wall."

[09:10:03] So it's very hard for President Trump now to paint this as the Democrats' problem. And I have to say, with the small bit of negotiation we've had, the White House does actually keep coming down. Originally, they demanded $5.7 billion for a border wall. I heard that Mike Pence in the latest negotiation, which I think was a few days ago, offered they would cut ...

PAUL: $2.5 billion.

JANE TORRANCE: They would come down to $2.5 billion. Exactly. Well, the Democrats are saying no and really, they -- I think they think that they can do better. And let's face it, the Senate voted unanimously right before the shutdown for a bill that would fund the government through February 8th with no wall at all.

Now, of course, once that happened, Donald Trump's conservative base was very upset and you had prominent conservatives like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham saying this was disappointing, this was outrageous and Donald Trump immediately backtracked. But I think because of that, Democrats see, well, Republicans once voted for a bill just a week or so ago without a border wall. Why won't they do it again?

PAUL: So Errol, Kelly brought up the point that, you know, the President is staying in Washington. He was supposed to be done in Mar- a-Lago, canceled that trip because of what they're dealing with right now. Should other members of Congress perhaps have stayed in Washington as well to work this out?

LOUIS: Well, I don't know if they had the votes to do that to tell you the truth. I mean, Paul Ryan, you know, he could have tried to round up members of his caucus and tried a couple of different bills, but the 115th Congress is over. There was -- there was nowhere else for them to go. He wasn't necessarily going to be able to force his members, many of whom lost their races -- it's one thing to ask a lame duck to go to the wall for you, you know, literally and politically, but once they'd lost their job, there's no point in coming back.

So he didn't have the votes. They didn't -- they weren't able to do very much. There was no negotiation worth having and the Democrats certainly didn't have to come back either. They had no reason to. So no, this is a question for the 116th Congress. The Republicans had full control and it's going to make it much harder for the President because Democrats will turn around and say you had full control of the government and you shut it down and so it's not going -- again, it's not going to get easier. It's going to get a little bit harder.

PAUL: Kelly Jane, I want to read you a little something from "The Washington Post" this morning talking about a major change. The Trump administration is planning to start requiring migrants stay in Mexico while their asylum cases kind of crawl through the U.S. system, the American courts and that that's something that obviously could take months and it's going to put the onus on Mexico now to hold on to those migrants until their cases is solidified.

It's been called a disaster. People there in Mexico saying there's no program, there's no funding, there's no support. Tijuana essentially is going to become a waiting room.

With that said, do you expect any legal challenges to Kirstjen Nielsen who said this policy, she argued, will eventually reduce the number of Central American migrants trying to game the system by making unfounded asylum claims. Is there a concern that situations like this that are under the radar right now could go through? That there could be movement there because everybody is so distracted with what's happening right now with the shutdown?

JANE TORRANCE: That's a great question, Christi, and hopefully, you know, your reporting and mentioning it like this will keep it in people's minds. You know, I can't understand this administration. There are actually some arguments to be made for changing that policy and, of course, Kirstjen Nielsen is not making them. Instead, she is making a, you know, frankly, in some cases, offensive argument. The idea that all asylum seekers are just playing the system.

No, I've heard, for example, that they might be able to get more asylum cases decided and through because if they keep the people in Mexico, they can go through the cases more quickly and they'll be able to not cap them. Like right now, it is capped because they can only deal with so many a day with the people there, but again, this administration isn't making those sensible arguments. They seem to be wanting to focus instead on really heated rhetoric that might appeal to some people in this polarized country, but not others.

But yes, there's so much going on right now. I mean, you have the President talking about shutting down the border. Well, why do we need a wall then? I thought that -- I thought that they were coming illegally. Shutting down the border, of course, is shutting down the legal crossing.

So you have so many confusing things coming out of this administration and I do hope that, you know, despite the shutdown, that some of these issues will be taken seriously and that, you know, lawmakers will soon return to Washington and if not open the government, at least start opening their minds to solving some of these problems.

PAUL: Well, next week, they will be back at it with a Democratic house and we'll see what happens from that point on. Errol Louis, Kelly Jane Torrance, always appreciate both of your insights. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will be visiting the U.S.-Mexico border today in the wake of the second child to die in government custody in a month.

[09:15:05] Secretary Nielsen says she wants to see firsthand the medical screenings and conditions at border patrol stations in El Paso and Yuma, in Texas and Arizona respectively. Nick Valencia is in El Paso this morning. Nick, good morning to you and what are you learning about her visit so far?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's been very cagey about the details. In fact, she's not really said anything or released any official statement. We know that she arrived here at the end of business yesterday and as you noted, she was expected to see the conditions at a variety of border patrol stations here in El Paso and also check on these medical screenings.

If you remember, it was earlier this week that she announced what she called a series of extraordinary protected measures for migrants in U.S. custody, particularly children under the age of 10 who are now going to get secondary screenings. She's going to do that, the same thing that she did yesterday, here in El Paso later today in Yuma, Arizona, Victor.

BLACKWELL: So Nick, what are you learning about, and what we've seen over the last several days, the hundreds of undocumented immigrants that have been just dropped off at a bus station or in the park across El Paso?

VALENCIA: Yes. So here's the really interesting thing to know. We've been here for the majority of the week and as you know, President Trump has declared that catch and release is over, but that's not what we're seeing here with our own eyes. We've seen a steady stream of migrants dropped off by volunteers at this Greyhound bus station behind me and it's really frustrating to local charities, if only because these types of releases by ICE onto the streets of America had been coordinated in the past before with local churches, with charities.

That's not the case and that's not what happened this week. In fact, I took -- I talked to a program director from a nearby church who tells me that even though he reached out to ICE to say that his church had the resources to handle as many migrants as needed, ICE still dropped off these migrants here at the bus station with no plan and no resources.


ANSELMO DELGADO-MARTINEZ, COORDINATOR OF OPERATIONS AT EL CALVARIO METHODIST CHURCH: We were ready. We had staff all ready to take in refugees on the -- on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the next thing we know, we're watching the news and watching them as they're dropping them off in the streets.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VALENCIA: We saw dozens of migrants dropped off here at the bus station yesterday, Victor. A very sad scene. At one point, we saw 15 to 20 migrants dropped off with about five to six children included, one of them just a baby being held in their mother's arms, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Nick Valencia for us at that bus station in El Paso. Thank you.

PAUL: We are hearing from the man who says he remembers this moment that he was kicked out of a hotel just for talking on the phone. This is an incident his attorney describes as, quote, "calling his mother while black."




PAUL: Twenty minutes past the hour right now and Portland's mayor is condemning an incident where a black man was kicked out of a hotel lobby talking on his phone.

BLACKWELL: Ted Wheeler says no one should be treated the way Jermaine Massey was while he was on the phone with his mother. Watch.


JERMAINE MASSEY: I have not moved. I've been sitting here the whole time and they're calling the police on me because I'm taking a phone call in the lobby. Did he ask any of those people that just walked by what room they were staying in? No.


BLACKWELL: Massey was heading back to his hotel room at the Doubletree Portland from a concert when he found a quiet place in the lobby to call his mom, but then he says the security guard stepped in.


MASSEY: When the police arrived, I asked them what were my opportunities here? And they told me I could either stay and ignore their requests and be arrested or I could comply and go pack up my room and leave the hotel.


BLACKWELL: Well, two hotel employees have been placed on leave. Doubletree Portland issued a statement on Twitter in which they say we will take the appropriate measures to ensure this does not happen again. We have a zero-tolerance stance on discrimination of any kind.

PAUL: Also, two more arrests made overnight after a manhunt for a cop killer in California. Corporal Ronil Singh was killed the day after Christmas during a traffic stop in Newman, California. Police arrested the suspect yesterday just about 200 miles from the crime scene. They say he came to the U.S. illegally and might have been trying to escape to Mexico.

BLACKWELL: Now, seven other arrests have been made, including the suspect's girlfriend, two of his brothers. CNN's Sara Sidner has more.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, the manhunt is over for the suspect in a police officer's killing. Now we're hearing from his devastated family.


Less than 48 hours after losing his brother, his hero, his friend, Reggie Singh stepped to the mics. He had just learned his brother's suspected killer had been caught.

REGGIE SINGH: He's not coming back, but there's a lot of people out there that misses him and a lot of law enforcement people that I don't know that worked days and nights to make this happen.

SIDNER: Ronil Singh came to this country as an immigrant from Fiji. He was living his version of the American dream. He wanted to become a police officer and he did just that. He dreamt of a family. Five months ago, he and his wife welcomed their son into the world, but at 1:00 in the morning the day after Christmas, Singh's dream abruptly ended.

RANDY RICHARDSON, NEWMAN, CALIFORNIA POLICE: I did not know Christmas morning at 4:00 o'clock in the morning when I said good-bye to him and sent him off to his family that it would be the last time that I saw him.

SIDNER: Police say Singh was killed by Gustavo Perez Arriaga who, unlike Singh, had come into the country illegally. Deputies caught up with Arriaga at a home near Bakersfield, California after a massive manhunt.

ADAM CHRISTIANSON, STANISLAUS COUNTY, CALIFORNIA POLICE: This criminal, Mr. Arriaga, crossed our border illegally into Arizona some time ago. He is a criminal. He has two prior arrests for DUI.

SIDNER: Several people were arrested, including Arriaga's brother and a co-worker who were accused of lying to authorities and impeding their ability to find him faster. While Singh's family wept around him, the Stanislaus County Sheriff could not contain his outrage over California's so-called sanctuary law.

CHRISTIANSON: And under SB-54 in California, based on two arrests for DUI and some other active warrants that this criminal has out there, law enforcement would have been prevented, prohibited, from sharing any information with ICE about this criminal gang member.

SIDNER: Some law enforcement officials completely disagree, saying the law actually encourages people to come forward who would otherwise avoid helping law enforcement because of their citizenship status, but the sheriff's sentiment has been embraced by others, including the man with the largest megaphone.

[09:25:05] President Trump tweeted about the case using it in his pitched battle to build a border wall to keep illegal immigrants out. No matter who wins the political battle, there is little that can ease the pain of the Singh family. Their one small solace? Singh's K-9 partner Sam will simply become the family pet. The police department is retiring the dog because, as the chief put it, the Singh family shouldn't have to lose another family member.

Police have arrested about six people in connection with this case and they say there may be more arrests to come, Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Next, President Trump's trouble with the truth. "The Washington Post" has published its latest tally of his false or misleading claims through the first 700 days. We'll show you what all that looks like. Facts first when we return.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got? You haven't gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years and we got you a big one. I got you a big one. They had plenty of people that came up. They said, you know, we could make it smaller, we could make it 3 percent, we could make it 2 percent, we could make it 4 percent. I said no, make it 10 percent, make it more than 10 percent.


BLACKWELL: That was President Trump having more trouble with the truth this week. Here are the facts. Troops have been given a raise every year for more than three decades. The raises for 2018 and 2019 did not even come close to 10 percent. They're 2.4 percent and 2.6 percent respectively. Now, it's day eight of the partial government shutdown over the President's demand for $5 billion to pay for a portion of his border wall and roughly 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are expected to work without pay.


And Mr. Trump made the baseless claim this week that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats.

According to "The Washington Post Fact Checker" the president has made thousands of false claims in last several months. Their count 7,546 false or misleading claims in the first 700 days of his administration.

Now when we started reporting that tally I searched for a way to make something conceptual like a false statement, tangible, visual, and I decided to use a version of a party game that I really did not like as a kid but it works like this. Guessing the number of gum balls in jars. Ever since then we have used jars of gum balls to show you the president's thousands of false and misleading claims. And here's the look at all of those debunked (ph) claims now 7,546 gum balls. We are now filling our 14th jar in fewer than two years on the job. Now for some context, after the first count in January, the president was averaging roughly five false claims per day and by the "Post's" count he's now nearly doubled that.

Joining me now Joseph Borelli New York City councilman and former Trump campaign New York co-chair, and Richard Painter, former White House ethics lawyer for the Bush administration. Gentlemen, welcome back to NEW DAY.

And, Joseph, I want to start with you. I understand that you support the president's policies, you support his judicial appointments, you support his performance with the economy thus far but are you not alarmed by just the sheer number of provable false claims the president makes?

JOSEPH BORELLI, FORMER NEW YORK CO-CHAIR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: No, I'm not alarmed. I mean, this is a guy who was speaking in hyperbole throughout the campaign. He was speaking in braggadocious manner.

I don't seem to recall and I love your gum ball idea. I think it's very creative but I don't seem to recall a similar gum ball game when President Obama was president. I think the media has reported him cannot be held to holier than now standard other than --

BLACKWELL: Holier than now --


BORELLI: Yes. No. Because I didn't see --


BLACKWELL: OK. Joseph, let me pause here for a second because this week's specifically with this example he was standing in front of men and women who are putting their lives on the line to protect all of the privileges we have as Americans they are --

BORELLI: Sure. And perhaps he (ph) -- perhaps he (ph) --

BLACKWELL: Let me finish because that was a comma. He also stood there and said that this was the first time that they'd gotten a raise, which was not true. He was not telling the about how much the raise was and we are now at 7,500 of these.

Part of the reason you didn't see this type of display and the continuing tally is because there weren't so many per day.

BORELLI: Well, I'm glad President Obama's misleading statements like manufacturing jobs aren't going to come back, didn't actually come true but that's not the point. The point I'm trying to make is maybe the president screwed up his numbers.

Maybe he meant the first in it 10 years. Maybe he meant that 2.6 multiplied by his four-year term -- 10 percent --


BLACKWELL: All of that would be wrong.

BORELLI: What I meant about holier than now -- what I meant about holier than now media coverage was that we also saw it from the same trip that the media speak in incredible terms that the troops were violating rules. That Trump had given MAGA hats. All that wasn't true and yet newspaper outlets ran stories cover to cover saying it was.

BLACKWELL: Richard, let me come to you. I hesitate to use the word lie because it's not clear -- first it's clear that what the president said was just false but it's not clear whether he is intentionally telling these bold-faced provable lies or he has no idea what he's talking about?

RICHARD PAINTER, CORPORATE LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: He's been lying his entire life. Everybody in New York knows that. Every since he was a kid and then he goes off and dodges the draft with a foot doctor who lies to get him out of the draft.

And then we have the casino buzz (ph) (INAUDIBLE) New Jersey the Trump Taj Mahal, $900 million worth. That's why nobody in New York will loan him any money and he needs to go abroad to borrow his money.

Now the bottom line here is he's been lying for decades but it's about to be over because Robert Mueller is closing in. We have the national security advisor, the campaign manager, the lawyer all headed off to prison. Felony convictions. And we're going to have a report from the special counsel coming in to Congress sometime probably in the next few months.

He could try to shut down the government over a border wall that nobody wants. He could continue to throw hissy fits. He could continue to lie but he's not going to get away with it.

And let's stop talking about President Obama all the time. I'll compare him to President Bush, my former boss, who I think was a very good president -- and I will tell you that Donald Trump lied --


BORELLI: Don't compare him to President Obama --

PAINTER: And I will tell you that Donald Trump lied.


BLACKWELL: Let him finish. He didn't interrupt you. He didn't interrupt you. Finish, please. Go ahead, Richard.

PAINTER: I am telling you that Donald Trump is a liar. Compare him to President Bush. And yes, there are things that Presidents Bush and Obama, Clinton said that turned out not to be true but Donald Trump has lied every day repeatedly.

He's lied for his entire life since he dodged the draft in Vietnam when Robert Mueller went off to fight for his country. He had a foot injury, a knee injury from playing hockey at St. Paul's School. He went got that fixed.

And then (INAUDIBLE) for Robert Mueller and we have a president --

BLACKWELL: All right.

PAINTER: -- who's a draft dodger and a liar.

BLACKWELL: Joseph, let me come to you and this assertion from the president that most of the 800,000 or so federal workers who are either furloughed or working without pay right now or guaranteed reliable pay are Democrats.

What backs that claim? And even if --


BLACKWELL: Go ahead. Finish that and then I'll have a follow up.

BORELLI: No. Frankly I don't know. I don't know where he got the information from. I don't know if that's true or not.

I imagine just given the demographic and registration data of Washington D.C. and the areas in the immediate surrounding counties that it's probably true. But I couldn't confirm that.

BLACKWELL: But the vast majority of federal workers do not live in the D.C. metropolitan area?

BORELLI: Fair enough. Like I said I'm not going to come out here with a fact that I just can't prove myself.

BLACKWELL: But you just tried to support it. Let me ask you the follow up then --


BLACKWELL: Why would it be relevant even if that were true? Not provably true but why would it matter the political affiliation of the people who are not being paid?

BORELLI: Well, you know, I hope that Democrats would call their leadership, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi who is not on vacation in Hawaii and come -- and have them come back and come to the negotiation table and perhaps accept some of the compromises that President Trump has offered on the border wall?

PAUL: A new government finding on coal power plants could lead to more toxins in your air. Here's what we know.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules on regulating hazardous air pollutants that could make it tougher to create new regulations. Essentially the EPA now says the current formula from the Obama Administration is too costly.

Environmental activists say the dramatic change first reported in "New York Times" could do irreparable harm to public safety.

BLACKWELL: Six people have died across the country after a massive storm. Where is this storm headed next? We'll take you live to the CNN Weather Center.



PAUL: Well, this massive winter storm that we've been watching the last couple of days, I don't know if you're aware, there are at least six people who have died because of it. (INAUDIBLE) Minnesota got about a foot of snow yesterday and part of the southeast got about a foot of rain.

BLACKWELL: Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joins us now from the CNN Weather Center.

Allison, this has been going on for days now. How much longer is this going to last?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Unfortunately it looks like it's going to stick around with rain chances at least through the rest of the year, especially into the southeast.

For areas of the northeast and then mid Atlantic, you're going to get a little bit of a break. Most of that rain has already pushed back out.

It's the southeast where we got one storm exiting and another one starting to arrive. So because of that you still have rain chances today stretching from Texas all way over towards Florida. Now one bit of good news is while we do expect rain and we do expect thunder, we don't expect any severe storms for today and really no severe storms for tomorrow.

The only real threat we have for severe weather for the rest of the year exists on Monday and it's going to be in this red area right here, basically portions of Mississippi and Louisiana but that's it. And even then you're mainly only focused on damaging winds. We're not expecting a tornado outbreak by any means which means that we are likely going to keep the tornado numbers that we have had so far this year intact.

When you look at this this is all the tornado reports we have seen across the country so far this year. These numbers may seem high but oddly enough this year was actually below average for a change and most importantly the number of EF4 or EF5 tornados we had zero this year. We normally would average seven.

If we really do end up at the end of the year with absolutely none of them that will be a record. We have never had zero EF4 or EF5 tornados since records have been kept in the 1950s. Now one thing to note and honestly it's probably because of that fact that we haven't had any EF4s or EF5s we also have had the fewest number of tornado fatalities since records have been kept. And the unofficial ones where that go all the way back to the 1870s.

We did have a number of 10 total tornado fatalities this year from nine separate events, Victor and Christi, but again the thing to note is I think a lot of this really has to do with people getting a lot of advanced warning and having much safer places to go when tornados do occur.

BLACKWELL: Some good news there for us. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

PAUL: So the college football semifinals are finally here.

BLACKWELL: Coy, Alabama is expected to win but you know something we do not.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The defending champs heavy favorites over Oklahoma but coming up you'll hear why history shows there's an 80 percent chance Alabama loses today. More Victor, more Christi, more NEWSROOM after the break.



BLACKWELL: College football playoff semifinals are tonight. Alabama is the overwhelming favorite against Oklahoma.

PAUL: There is an advantage however. One big one over the tide. Guess who knows? Mr. Coy Wire who knows all.

WIRE: This is fascinating. Alabama has been one of the most dominant teams in all of sports really since Nick Saban, their coach took over in 2007. Five national titles, earning a spot in every playoff but Saban -- listen to this -- is just one in four against Heisman trophy winners in his coaching career. His Alabama teams 0-2.

And today they face this year's Heisman winner Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray who has lead one of the most prolific offenses in college football history. He's so athletic that he already signed a pro baseball contract. This maybe his last football game so he tells us he's going all out and Alabama they're favored by two touchdowns but they tell us they aren't lacking any motivation either.


KYLER MURRAY, OKLAHOMA QUARTERBACK, 2018 HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER: I don't need any extra motivation. I'm not real worried about what the odds are or anything like that. When the game comes, you know, time to play, we'll be ready to play.

JONAH WILLIAMS, ALABAMA OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: We approach every game as underdogs. You know, I think that's kind of ironic considering being the number one seed. But I think that our approach to every game is we feel like we're being doubted. We feel like we always have something to prove.


WIRE: Good news for Alabama fans their quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is expected to play after undergoing ankle surgery just four weeks ago. And the other semi final Clemson favored by double digits as well. They've earned spots in two of the last three championship games. They won one of them but in the Cotton Bowl today they're facing Notre Dame without one of their best player defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, suspended after test showed traces of a banned substance.

This game though a chance for undefeated Notre Dame to shake down the echoes. The Irisher (ph), one of football's most iconic teams but they haven't won a title since 1988. Julian Love tells us they're well aware of their legacy and of what's at stake.


JULIAN LOVE, NOTRE DAME CORNERBACK: There's definitely those uncles, those dads always talking, oh, yes, back when we used to win championships and I think everyone goes (ph) in (ph) Notre (ph) Dame (ph) wants a piece of that. It's been a long grind for us, for sure, especially this team. And we're ready. We're ready to win one and it's going to take a lot for us.


WIRE: Notre Dame/Clemson is at 4:00 Eastern. The late game starts at 8:00. They're going to be awesome. I'm going to have food, drinks at the couch. Come on over, hang out. It's going to be awesome.

BLACKWELL: Will there be a caipirinha?

WIRE: Caipirinha for you.

BLACKWELL: All right.

WIRE: Yes.


WIRE: Got the cachaca ready to go.

BLACKWELL: Count me in.

PAUL: Might as well (INAUDIBLE).

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

All right. 2018 is the year of the social media activist. They took on the MeToo movement, gun violence, and introduced us to a character, barbeque Becky. The year's biggest trending stories next.


[09:53:25] PAUL: So as we close out 2018, we want to look at some of the top trending stories here.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The year 2018 was the year of the social media activists. People across the country speaking out against sexual assault, gun violence and racism. #activism proved it is a force to be reckoned with.

Here are our top-eight trending stories of the year.

BALDWIN: Time's Up in 2018. On January 1st, a group of women in the film industry unveiled "Time's Up," as an anti-harassment action plan, a sequel to last year's "Me Too" reckoning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are just pushing the movement along and doing what we can with our voices and our solidarity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here standing in solidarity with women everywhere, saying Time's Up, enough is enough on sexual harassment, assault, abuse of power.

BALDWIN (on camera): The group started a legal defense fund to support women, who encounter sexual assault, harassment or inequality in the workplace, especially those outside the entertainment industry who lack financial or legal resources.

OPRAH WINFREY, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: And now that we've all joined as one voice, it feels like empowerment to those women who never had it.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Number seven

COMPUTER VOICE: Laurel, Yanny.

BALDWIN: Do you hear Yanny? Do you hear Laurel? Similar to 2015's great dress debate, a computerized recording of two seemingly unrelated words divided the Internet again in 2018.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It literally says -- play it.




BALDWIN: It seemed everyone had an opinion, from law enforcement --

UNIDENTIFIED TUCSON POLICE OFFICER: What we've determined right now is that the audio sound that you've been hearing is actually the name Laurel.

BALDWIN: -- to Capitol Hill.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It is Laurel and not Yanny, all right? Come on. How many Laurel fans here? Yes. Right? OK, thank you.

BALDWIN: In the end, science called a winner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you heard Laurel, you are correct.

BALDWIN: And, like the dress, Yanny or Laurel served as further proof it doesn't take much to break the Internet.

Number six --

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: This amazing case of Spiderman, as he's been dubbed.

BALDWIN: He was a young migrant from Mali, living in the shadows, but in the span of 30 seconds, Mamoudou Gassama's selfless act of bravery captivated the world. Gassama scaled a four-story building in Paris with his bare hands to save a child's life.

For his heroism, French President Emmanuel Macron granted him citizenship. Gassama now works with the Paris fire brigade.

Number five, a deep sigh of relief after 38 agonizing minutes. With nuclear tensions between North Korea and the United States running high, people in Hawaii got this text, "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii, seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."

An emergency alert that sent panicked families to seek families anywhere they could. With some even put their children in storm drains. Within 12 minutes, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard tweeted this was a false alarm, but there's no word from the governor who admitted he had forgotten his Twitter password.

GOV. DAVID IGE (D), HAWAII: What happened today was totally unacceptable.

BALDWIN: It took 38 minutes for the emergency alert system to declare a false alarm.

Number four, a different kind of activism rocked the internet when dozens of viral videos exposed everyday racism aimed at African- Americans. Barbecue Becky, Permit Patty, Pool Patrol Paula, these women got the mean treatment after they called police on black people doing everyday things in public places. Even Starbucks got a share of social media scorn after two black men were arrested for waiting at a store in Philadelphia. Starbucks later apologized for the incident and launched employee anti-bias training.

Number three, Professor Christine Blasey Ford publicly recounting her alleged sexual assault.


CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, ACCUSED BRETT KAVANAUGH WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT: It was hard for me to breathe. And I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.

BALDWIN: Ford accused then-Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of assaulting her when they were just teenagers, an accusation he repeatedly denied.

President Trump mocked Ford's testimony during a campaign rally.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How did you get home? I don't remember.

How did you get there? I don't remember.

Where is the place? I don't remember.

How many years ago was it? I don't know. I don't know.



BALDWIN: In a series of tweets, Trump claimed that if the attack alleged -- quote -- "was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities."

The #webelieveDr.Ford, #believesurvivors and #dearProfessorFord started trending as hundreds of thousands of women took to social media to express their solidarity. And using the #whyIdidn'treport, countless more spoke of feeling ashamed and powerless after their own sexual assault experiences of no one believing them.

Number two, in Parkland, Florida, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School turned the worst day of their lives into a political movement.

DAVID HOGG, STUDENT: We can say, yes, we're going to do all these things, thoughts and prays. What we need more than that is action.

BALDWIN: Students created the Never Again movement to prevent gun violence and helped organize the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., which became the most-tweeted about movement of all of 2018. More than $2.5 million was raised for March for Our Lives via Facebook fundraisers. Even President Barack Obama's inspirational tweet about the march became the second most-liked tweet of the year.

And number one, never before has a president used social media quite like this. Communicating directly with more than his 57 million followers.

From antagonistic tweets about world leaders and political foes to trafficking in half-truths, @realdonaldtrump helped set the tone for the day's news coverage and political discourse. Whether he's blasting what he calls the rigged witch hunt of the Mueller investigation, calling the media fake news, or heaping praise on allies and supporters, the president tweeted and retweeted more than 3,000 times in 2018 and is the most tweeted about political figure of the year.