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Trump Ramps Up Threats over Wall Funding; Trump & Xi Discuss U.S./China Relations in Call; Many Federal Workers Worry about How to Pay Bills; DHS Secretary Visits Border Patrol Stations in Yuma; ICE Suddenly Releases Hundreds of Migrants in Texas City; Republicans Concerned about FBI Thoroughness & Impartiality; Mueller Probe Focusing on Trump Transition Team; Top Legal Cases of 2018; 6 Killed in Severe Storm System & More on the Way; Top Entertainment Stories of 2018. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 29, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Martin Savidge, in for Fredricka Whitfield.

We're now eight days into the partial government shutdown. By all accounts, not a single day closer to a deal. As President Trump and leading congressional Democrats trade blame, more federal workers are sitting at home wondering when they're going to be paid next. The EPA is the latest agency to run out of money. And 14,000 of those employees now joining the more than 380,000 people already furloughed. Nearly half a million other federal employees are working without pay.

President Trump also digging in his heels and upping the ante, threatening to shut down the entire southern border if Democrats do not fully fund his border wall.

CNN White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, joins me from the White House where President Trump will remain into the New Year, apparently, is that right, Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Martin. Officials confirming to CNN President Trump has decided not to join his family and first lady, Melania, in Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach for a New Year's Eve celebration. Instead, opting to stay in the nation's capital during this government shutdown. With the president alone here at the White House, we get tweets. And the president attacked Democrats on Twitter this morning, writing in one tweet, quote, "I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on border security. From what I hear, they're spending so much time on presidential harassment that they have little time left for things like stopping crime and our military."

A quick point there, Martin, Mick Mulvaney, the incoming acting chief of staff for the White House, told reporters yesterday there has not yet been an invitation to Democrats to come back to the White House and rejoin the president in discussions to try to reopen the government. Unclear if that invitation was extended since then. Mulvaney yesterday said talks had broken down. He made the argument Nancy Pelosi was hoping for the shutdown to ensure she got the votes necessary to become the next speaker of the House. CNN's previous reporting contradicts that. We've counted the perspective votes. From the looks of it, Nancy Pelosi had the votes to become speaker well before the government was shut down. Still, this was the position that Republicans are in right now.

On the Democratic side, Democrats have promised, as soon as they take hold of the House of Representatives, to vote on one of three measures that could reopen the government. None contain any funding for the president's promised border wall. In fact, making it unlikely to go past the House of Representatives and pass the Senate and on to the president's desk.

Further, I wanted to point out another tweet that was sent out by President Trump this morning. This one regarding a discussion he apparently had with President Xi of China. In that tweet, the president saying he a "long and very good call with President Xi. The deal is moving along very well. If it is made, it will be very comprehensive, covering all subjects, areas and points of dispute. Big progress being made"

Xi apparently had good things to say about the talks according to state media in China. The president there saying that the talks were fruitful and they will continue into the future. No real details being shared at this point. We should note one of the things Xi did say was he was looking forward to more talks between the United States and North Korea as denuclearization talks continue. Martin, there's still questions about just how effective those talks have been considering there are signs that Kim Jong-Un has not slowed down his nuclear program -- Martin?

SAVIDGE: OK. All very interesting.

Boris Sanchez, thanks very much for that.

The impact of the shutdown is becoming increasingly tangible. We're starting to hear from some of those people and their personal slowed and how they're affected. Like the story of 71-year-old Lila Johnson, who works as a janitor for the Department of Agriculture. Because she works on a contract basis. She likely won't get back pay when the shutdown is over. She shared her story with me earlier.


LILA JOHNSON, FEDERAL CONTRACT EMPLOYEE: It's hard to be out of work. Not knowing even when you go back to work, you know, I'm going to have to work a month or so, maybe more, before I even get a decent check. Now my bills and everything is steady going up. They're not going anywhere. I'm going to have to double up. And that's still going to put me in the hole. So it is very hard, you know, being head of Household, only income coming in.


JOHNSON: That's the reason why I work a part-time job. I was working at -- I'm working at U.S. Department of Agricultural for a contractor. And I don't have the leave, no vacation time to pay me until the government decides to open back up. SAVIDGE: Let me just interrupt you for a second, Lila, and I

apologize for doing that.

JOHNSON: That's all right.

SAVIDGE: But if you could, you have the opportunity, right now, to speak directly to lawmakers. What would you say to them?

[13:05:02] JOHNSON: I would say they should come to some kind of decision because people like me is struggling, working. It's hard on us. And for President Trump to be -- throwing temper tantrum about a wall. The American people -- I didn't ask for it. That's something he promised the people when he was elected. Why should we have to pay for it? They should come to some kind of agreement to open the government back up so people like me, my co-workers, everybody else can go back to work.


SAVIDGE: Just a reminder of how deeply personal this political shutdown, as it appears to be on both sides, is affecting and impacting nearly 800,000 Americans.

To talk more about this is Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times" and Wesley Lowery, who is the national reporter for the "Washington Post."

Thank you both for being here.

As Miss Johnson sort of stated very well, she didn't ask for this wall. President Trump has said something to the opposite, that actually federal workers want the wall. And we've got a CNN poll that shows 57 percent of people oppose a wall being built, only 38 percent favor it.

So, Lynn, the president really seems to have dug in his heels here.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, he has. I think the conversation needs to go back to the foundational point. He promised, no matter what you think of this wall, he promised Mexico will pay for it. That is a point of conversation that the Republicans seem to have forgotten in these months and, now, two years have gone by. So the debate over the wall would not have led to a shutdown if Trump had kept the foundational promise central to his campaign, two parts, I'll build a wall and Mexico will pay for it. He didn't have to promise Mexico will pay for it. He could have said I'll build the wall and you good taxpayers will pay for it. He didn't say that. This is not something hard to understand. We're not talking about derivative funds through trade agreements. He said something plain and simple. He's not carrying it out. I think that's something -- remember, I met Miss Johnson on my way in today and she just seems like a lovely woman, going through all this uncertainty and stress over a debate that the president says is welcome in this country. It just can't be the -- so when you look at all the workers who are having a tough time because they're not going to get their paychecks over a political debate about appropriations. That happens all the time. Congress usually finds solutions.

SAVIDGE: They usually do, though, we're wondering how long it's going to take.

Wes, I'm wondering, Democrats here, of course, they're part of the solution, they're part of equation. Right now, it appears their attitude is wait until next year. Granted, that's not far off. Still, waiting at all, not doing anything, in the public's mind, is it really that they're saying oh, it's the Democrat, the Republicans, are they just saying, it's Washington again?

WESLEY LOWERY, NATIONAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: My sense is people are thinking, look, this is Washington. That the Congress and the president can't get along. We've had this shutdown policy now as a routine part of politics in Washington for years going back to the Obama administration when a Republican Congress would not infrequently shut down the government to get funding for the Affordable Care Act.

I think the interview was extremely important and powerful because it speaks to a hidden set of people who don't come up often in these conversations. We talk often about the government workers who are out of work or not receiving their paychecks but many of them will eventually receive that back pay. People like Miss Johnson who are contractors are likely never going to receive the money they otherwise would have made. Here you have thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of people, not just the government employees, but government contractors, many of whom who were lower income, who are now going several weeks through the holidays without receiving paychecks potentially because of a political fight in Washington. This isn't about the debt or the deficit. This isn't about -- the president would argue this is about national security. In reality, it's about his border wall, something he campaigned on, something he said Mexico would pay for. Yet, here we are with people like Miss Johnson who are going to have to worry how they're going to pay their bills next month because of this fight.

SAVIDGE: Lynn, it seems to me that both sides, and I mean Democrats and Republicans and the White House, both seem to have the sense of the longer it goes on, the better it is for them. And of course, the worst it is for all of those people who are now not working or working without pay. What is the political cost here?

[13:10:02] SWEET: If I may respectfully disagree with your premise, I don't know if the rank-and-file Republican members at this stage think it's better for them. Certainly, the Democrats have their hands full now with opening day when Nancy Pelosi is sworn in as speaker and the new Congress gets going. They had a whole other agenda of things they would rather do. I think it is perilous to have a frozen Washington for any lawmaker, and the president. It will do no political good. You will have people understanding this: Government is more than doing one thing at a time in a serial matter. Border security is important. But you don't stop everything in government just to do that one thing. It's just not how government works. You have to do multiple things at one time. Maybe that will be the realization of the White House and the president to bend. The difference here is the Democrats are coming in with a resounding win in the midterms. They have a sense in the House that they have some chips and they want to see how it plays out. It will make Congress even more unpopular heading into the 2020 presidential campaigns.

SAVIDGE: I agree with you definitely on that.

Wes, what do you think about the note that came, it was tweeted, I think, suggesting these federal employees send letters to their landlords and even offer to trade out services like, hey, how about doing some painting maybe or some carpentry work in exchange for partial rent payments? What does this say about the insensitivity here?

LOWERY: Of course, I mean, I think it speaks to the dysfunction. The idea you're going to have a bunch of low-wage workers asking their landlords, you know, if I paint the walls or the fences instead of paying rent this, you know, this month because the government's having a fight and I'm not getting a paycheck. I mean, it does speak to how very often the fights and debates we have here in Washington don't translate to real people, where they're worried about how they're going to pay for the Christmas presents or how they're paying for rent in January. We're having a theoretical fight about a theoretical crisis at the border. It doesn't really exist yet. I do think there's a lot to be said to that.


SWEET: -- quickly jump in. The Coast Guard is not getting -- is being furloughed. This is a military unit. But this Coast Guard falls under the Department of homeland services. Whoever sent these suggestions to go do jobs, do they think Coast Guard workers will start working on cruise boats? What is the thinking here? It just makes no sense to not just find a solution, you know, getting odd jobs is not the solution, this isn't the fault of the workers.

SAVIDGE: Not at all. We've got to go. I'm sorry.

Wesley Lowery, Lynn Sweet, good to see you both. Thank you for joining us.

SWEET: Good to see you.

SAVIDGE: Happy New Year.

LOWERY: Thanks.

SAVIDGE: And still ahead, we're talking about the border, the crisis at the border. Two children died while in Border Patrol custody. And then there are hundreds of migrants who are suddenly released in at least one Texas city. I'll speak with the mayor of El Paso next.


[13:16:31] SAVIDGE: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is at the southern border today. The DHS secretary is visiting Border Patrol facilities in Yuma, Arizona, one day after looking at conditions and medical screening processes at facilities in El Paso, Texas. Her trip was prompted by the recent deaths of two Guatemalan migrant children in U.S. custody. We've learned one of those children was suffering from flu.

CNN correspondent, Nick Valencia, is in El Paso for us.

Nick, we've apparently just received a statement from the secretary about the visit? What did she say?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We were expecting a readout of Secretary Nielsen's visit yesterday. But now it is this afternoon, on Saturday, we're figuring out and finding out what (INAUDIBLE). This statement here reads in part -- I want to get to this, Martin, saying, quote, "The system is clearly overwhelmed. We must work together to address this humanitarian crisis and protect vulnerable populations. We know that if Congress were to act or the courts were to enforce the law as written, we could address this crisis tomorrow. Instead, we continue to do more with less." She goes on to say, "As I've said before, I ask Congress to please put politics aside and recognize this for the growing security and humanitarian crisis it is."

And this statement is included in some of the stations she visited yesterday. We expected her to visit a variety of Border Patrol stations. She visited one Border Patrol substation, as well as another Border Patrol station here. The statement concluded by saying this is the secretary's 16th stop on the southern border in the last year -- Martin?

SAVIDGE: I wanted to ask you, on top of her visit, this issue of there were hundreds of migrants suddenly released, apparently, without warning. You saw some of this. I'm wondering what can you tell us? What's going on?

VALENCIA: We're still seeing it right now. Minutes before we prepared to go on for this report, we saw a family of about five or six people being ushered into this Greyhound bus station. They had young children with them as well. We can only assume they were buying tickets for that family so they could reunite with other relatives throughout the United States.

What happened here on Christmas Day is being described by volunteers and charities as not only heartbreaking but extremely frustrating. Typically, ICE coordinates these drop-offs of migrants from custody with these local charities but that's not what happened this time.

It is important to point out to our viewers that just before midterm elections, President Trump declared Catch and Release was over. It was no longer going to be something that the U.S. did. But that's clearly not the case. That's what's continuing to happen here. More migrants, a steady stream of them, Martin, continue to show up here at this Greyhound bus station.

SAVIDGE: Interesting. Catch and Release not done.

Thank you, Nick Valencia.

I'm joined on the phone now by El Paso Mayor Dee Margo.

Mayor, thank you very much for being with us today.

I know you met with Secretary Nielsen yesterday. How'd the visit go?

DEE MARGO, (R), EL PASO, TEXAS, MAYOR (via telephone): Well, we're dealing -- I agree with the statements she released related to the broken immigration policy. Dealing with the symptoms is a result of the lack of the fortitude in Washington to deal with, on both sides of the aisle, to deal with our immigration policy. We are being inundated. We've got five times the release of migrants here since October then we had a year ago. We're averaging about 2,000 a week. And I got word yesterday -- actually this morning, they may have to increase the releases up to 500 a day and I'm not sure we can handle that.


[13:20:17] MARGO: Annunciation House is our primary NGO and they are the ones that coordinate this between other shelters. I'm not sure we can handle it.

SAVIDGE: Mayor, let me ask you, how does your community, your city's resources come into play with what is a federal issue? Is it not?

MARGO: It is. That's part of the problem. You can't apply for disaster relief when the federal government is causing the problem to begin with. We're looking at whatever we can do. Right now, the NGO, the Annunciation House, takes into donations and handles it and they're doing a magnificent job of doing that. The city provides security. Our bus system, our metro, provides transportation for the migrants to the shelters. And we'll use our office of emergency management to coordinate everything. We'll also use our medical facilities and ambulances, et cetera, if it's required for these medical checks that have been increased as a result of the tragic deaths of the two young Guatemalans.

SAVIDGE: From your vantage point --

MARGO: We've done what we've been asked to do.

SAVIDGE: From your vantage point, and as a community leader, what did you stress to the secretary that needed to be done immediately?

MARGO: We clarified the problem you announced on Christmas day that occurred a week ago, Sunday, with the lack of information. We're told that -- our agreement, the Annunciation House agreement with ICE and CBP is they will give us at least a 24-hour notice on the releases and how many.


SAVIDGE: Why didn't that happen? Do you know? Did she explain?

MARGO: It was just -- I think it was just an unfortunate glitch. This is the one time it happened. We talked about that. It didn't look willful or intentional. It was just an unfortunate glitch in communication. But I get a text message usually every day announcing the number that are going to be released. The Annunciation House talks about where they're going to be sheltered. But, I mean, we got this issue, it's continuing. We're the second largest port. We're receiving these -- like I say, daily. As I've said on previous interviews with CNN and other networks, you know, you want to know about immigration and you want to know about the border, come to El Paso.

SAVIDGE: I agree with you.


SAVIDGE: I've been down there. That is the place where you see it firsthand.

Let me ask you --


MARGO: -- at the U.S. Mexican border.

SAVIDGE: Let me ask you, before we run out of time, and I'm sorry to interrupt, but the president has threatened a shutdown of the southern border. How would that impact your community?

MARGO: It would be a killer. It would -- I mean, we have, in addition to the migrant community we're dealing with and that issue, it's commerce. We've got 23,000 pedestrians, legal pedestrians, that cross every day from Mexico. We have commerce trucks back and forth. We have 21 million private passenger vehicles on an annual basis that come north, legally. From a commerce standpoint, we're the tenth- largest port in the nation. We have $82 billion going back and forth in imports and exports. It would be a killer.

SAVIDGE: All right.


SAVIDGE: I'm sorry, we've just run out of time. But I will agree with you. If you want to see ways going on at the border, El Paso is a great place to begin.

Thank you very much, Mayor Dee Margo, for joining us.

Still ahead, secrets, lies, and thousands of e-mails while Donald Trump waited to become president. Will his transition team's dealings with Russia face new heat from the Mueller probe?


[13:27:16] SAVIDGE: Republican leaders in the House are once again raising concerns over how the FBI handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server and the Russia investigation. In a six-page letter, they raise questions over the thoroughness and impartiality of the probe and pushed for a special counsel to be appointed to review both investigations.

CNN's Sara Murray breaks it down.


SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees announcing on Friday evening they've wrapped up their investigation into the way the FBI handled Hillary Clinton's e-mail investigation, as well as the beginning of the Russia investigation.

Now, they've restated a number of the concerns that they've stated publicly. They're concerned about the way former FBI Director James Comey made the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton over her use of a private e-mail server. They took issue with the political bias on display from former FBI officers, Strzok and Page, as well as the practices of surveilling people who were close to the Trump campaign.

Now, among their issues was that no special counsel has been named to look into the way that the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and the Russia investigation were handled. Republicans say they were handled in disparate matters. Essentially, the Justice Department went too easy on Clinton and too hard on Donald Trump and his campaign.

They had an interesting explanation on why they feel like outside oversight is necessary. They say that's necessary so Americans can trust Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe. Now, they've said that they have faced allegations they were trying to discredit it, but they say it's the opposite. In this document, they say, "Whatever product is produced by the special counsel must be trusted by Americans and that requires asking tough but fair questions about investigative techniques both employed and not employed."

Now the House Republicans sent this over to Mitch McConnell in the Senate as well as Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and the inspector general at the Justice Department. The inspector general is already looking into a number of these issues. As for House Republicans, they will lose their power when Democrats step in, in January.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


SAVIDGE: Thank you, Sara.

President Trump's one-time point man on national security, Michael Flynn, now wants approval to travel to Rhode Island. Flynn asked a judge for basic freedoms as he awaits sentencing in the Russia probe after he took a plea deal.

Meanwhile, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is not charged with any crime and was free to travel to Mar- a-Lago for Christmas.

While this year, things may be winding down, both are going to be on Robert Mueller's watch.

Randi Kaye continues her special series exploring the controversies that surround the White House, including the presidential transition team.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Robert Mueller has his hand on tens of thousands of private e-mails between Trump transition team members. Part of the ongoing criminal investigation into the weeks following the election.

Under particular scrutiny, a meeting during the transition on December 1, 2016, puts Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and General Michael Flynn, his soon to be national security adviser, together in a room at Trump Tower with a Russian ambassador who has long been considered a spy. Kushner asked then Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about establishing secure lines of communication with Moscow, what some have called a back channel.

JARED KUSHNER, SON-IN-LAW AND ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The record and documents I have voluntarily provided will show that all of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign.

KAYE: Kushner told a congressional committee that he asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to rely to General Flynn.

Later, in December, Jared Kushner had another questionable meeting. This time, with Russian banker, Sergei Gorkov, who had ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. What was discussed remains a mystery. But at the time, Kushner was still CEO of Kushner Companies, which was trying to attract financing for a building project in Manhattan.

Still, the White House says there was no discussion at the meeting about Kushner's company or sanctions.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: My dashboard warning light was on and I think that was the case with all us in the Intelligence Committee.

KAYE: In a statement about the Gorkov meeting, Kushner said, "There were no specific policies discussed. We had no discussion about the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. At no time was there any discussion about my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind."

(on camera): Around Christmas, in 2016, General Flynn spoke again with Ambassador Kislyak by phone, a call the White House did not acknowledge until a month later, saying Flynn was only offering his condolences after the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (voice-over): On Christmas day, General Flynn reached out to the ambassador, sent him a text, and it said, you know, "I wish you a merry Christmas and happy New Year."

KAYE: Flynn was fired in early 2017 after misleading the vice president and others about the substance of phone calls he'd had with the Russian ambassador. Turns out, Flynn discussed sanctions, a potential violation of federal law.

Flynn later wrote this letter of resignation, explaining he'd inadvertently briefed the vice president and others with incomplete information.

Perhaps Robert Mueller will find more answers in all those transition team e-mails now in his possession.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And still ahead, from the Trump campaign to the contentious nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and even the sensitive scandal surrounding Bill Cosby, we're looking at the top legal cases of 2018, next.


[13:36:18] SAVIDGE: As 2018 draws to a close, we're looking back at the biggest legal cases, and there are a lot to choose from.

With me now to break down those cases, those believed to be the most important of the year, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor from my hometown, Cleveland --


SAVIDGE: and Richard Herman, a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor, joining us from Los Vegas, also a wonderful place.

Richard, let me start with you.

HERMAN: Hey, Marty.


Let's go over your three cases. You got Bill Cosby's conviction as number three. And then at number two you've got Michael Cohen's pleading guilty to campaign finance laws relating to paying hush money to silence two women who claimed they'd had affairs with the president. Number one on your list, Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. That turned out to be one of the biggest politically of the whole year. Explain why those and why that order.

HERMAN: The first case was really Whitaker. Whitaker being appointed attorney general, interim attorney general. This one absolutely blew me away. I almost had a coronary when we discussed it. You have to understand this individual was never vetted or approved. He was a talking head spewing pro-Trump all over the place that Mueller is a witch hunt and the whole thing is a fraud. And Trump says I didn't even -- I don't know him. I don't even know what he stands for. But I'm going to appoint him interim attorney general. This individual controls Robert Mueller. This individual has stated it's a witch hunt. It's all ridiculous. He makes the determination whether Mueller can indict anybody, whether he can prosecute anybody, whether he can do a grand jury, whether he can do anything. It's so preposterous and absurd. It typifies the whole year with Trump. Insanity and hypocrisy. Then from there you move to Michael Cohen.


SAVIDGE: OK. Wait. I've got to stop you. I've got to bring in Avery at least here.


SAVIDGE: Avery, your top three, your list was Kavanaugh's Supreme Court battle, number three? Manafort's conviction, number two? And you have Michael Cohen guilty as the biggest case of the year. So how'd you come up with that order?

FRIEDMAN: Actually, I actually had Michael Flynn as number three. I thought about it. When you think about Brett Kavanaugh, it exposed and illuminated the agony of sexual assault for every American that watched that. And now the shattered circumstance where that person accused Martin, is now on the Supreme Court. Number two I think is Paul Manafort. It manifested the outrageous behavior of an ostrich- wearing secret-communicating representative of the administration who probably has more convictions than any person in that role in American history. Finally, Michael Cohen, Martin, is in a class by himself. You wonder if the money that was paid off by Mr. Trump to Stormy Daniels and the Playboy representative is actually being used for their tour. Remember, Stormy Daniels' tour is Make America Horny Again.


FRIEDMAN: Is she using Trump money for that? Holy smokes. While we agree, we think that two of the three are right, by my friend, I don't know how Whitaker can wind up on the list because in a number of months, Martin, he's gone.

SAVIDGE: All right, Richard, let me bring it back to the Kavanaugh hearing. This was a huge moment for many people, whether you're a Democrat or Republican.

HERMAN: Right.

SAVIDGE: It brought out an issue we never want to think about, which is politicizing and politics on the Supreme Court. Yet, now we are thinking that. [13:40:10] HERMAN: And a Trump loyalist. He's a stated Trump

loyalist. Any of these decisions that come down concerning the Mueller probe or investigation that end up in the Supreme Court, you already know what Kavanaugh's positions are going to be.


HERMAN: He's close minded. He's pro Trump. That's his position. It's outrageous. It's just part of the whole insanity and hypocrisy of the year. And the significance of Manafort is while he entered into a plea deal, he was funneling information to Trump and lying to prosecutors.

FRIEDMAN: That's right. That's right.

HERMAN: This guy's an animal.


SAVIDGE: Avery, do you think it's possible -- do you think it's possible Brett Kavanaugh can be impartial as a judge now?

FRIEDMAN: No, I don't


HERMAN: Not at all.

FRIEDMAN: I don't think he can be impartial. But he's there. I think we have to recognize that political reality. People who have been appointed to the Supreme Court -- and there's one who teaches constitutional law, we've seen it for generations -- they change. And being the optimistic guy I am, I actually believe there's a possibility that, like many other people appointed to the bench, we will see an evolution. We're hoping to see something like that in the most recent appointee.

SAVIDGE: I hope you are right, Avery.

Richard, it is a delight to see you as well. I thought I'd go through the end of the year without this luxury, but what do you know? Here it is.


FRIEDMAN: And we go way back, Marty.


SAVIDGE: Great seeing you.

FRIEDMAN: You've been very, very special, Marty. We both wish you a happy New Year.

SAVIDGE: And it is right back at you both. Thank you.

HERMAN: Thanks, buddy.

SAVIDGE: Happy healthy.

FRIEDMAN: Take care.

SAVIDGE: Coming up, we're talking about severe weather. It has been whipping through the east coast. Six people have lost their lives. Now we're bracing for more severe weather. Details from the Weather Center next.


[13:45:41] SAVIDGE: Six people are dead after a powerful winter storm tore through part of the country this week. Parts of the plains and the upper Midwest were buried under two feet of snow. That includes places like Duluth, Minnesota, where people saw more than 12 inches in one day. That same system brought flooding to the south, dumping more than a foot of rain across parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar -- I chuckle because I can't get through meteorologist -- it at the Weather Center with more.

Allison, no sooner did we say good-bye to this system that now a new threat is moving in.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Especially the southeast, where you're talking only a few hours in between those two systems. The good news is for folks in the northeast and mid-Atlantic, the rain has exited. It's now out over the open Atlantic. Areas of Florida are still contending with the first system and areas of Texas and Louisiana are already starting to see some of the rain from the next system that is yet to arrive. The problem is, you really need a longer break. Part of the reason is because of how much rain has fallen in this area. You need to give it time to recede. Not just out of the roadways but also the rivers, the creeks, the streams. They need time to allow some of that swelling to alleviate before the next round of rain comes in. But we're just not going to get much time. Because some of those rain bonds have already begun in places like Texas, Louisiana and even Mississippi.

As we go through the evening hours and especially tomorrow, we're really going to see those showers become more frequent and some of those bands will be quite heavy at times. Here's why. We've got a low-pressure system sitting over the Gulf of Mexico. That is going to slide further to the north, bringing that intense moisture with it. We also have another low-pressure system coming out of the Midwest. That's going to be out of the heels of this one, providing that cold air so that folks on the back side of that system are actually going to get some decent amounts of snow.

Here's a look at the system as we go into Monday evening. You can see, places like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, you're really starting to see some of the heavier rain bands set in. Then it begins to move over towards Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Hartford, just in time, unfortunately, for when many folks will be out waiting for the ball to drop in New York. Again, not exactly perfect timing. This means if you have plans in New York City, Martin, you're going to need the umbrella, the rain jacket. We know people will still brave it and still go out, as they should enjoy it. Just make sure you have the necessary accessories to go with it.

SAVIDGE: Absolutely. Otherwise, you have a very wet start to the New Year.

All right, Allison, thank you very much for that.

There's much more ahead in the NEWSROOM. But first, a quick look at the new CNN film, "Love Gilda."


GILDA RADNER, COMEDDIANE: Hi, I'm Gilda Radner. And -- OK, now.

FRAN DRESCHER, ACTRESS: Dear Gilda, hi, it's me, Fran Drescher.


CAROL BURNETT, COMEDIANNE: Dear Gilda. I loved watching you on "Saturday Night Live."

TRACY ULLMAN, ACTRESS: Gilda Radner was a huge inspiration to me.

RACHEL BLOOM, ACTRESS: When I was about 9, I saw the sketch, "The Judy Miller Show." It inspired me to write my own one-person comedy sketch. It was directly because of you.

BROWN: Thank you for teaching us that it's OK to be unapologetically wacky and fearless.

RADNER: Dear Rosanne Rosannadana.

BROWN: You blazed a trail for so many. I am so grateful.

RADNER: Boom-ba-ba-boom.


ULLMAN: This is incredibly funny girl who's, like, equal to the guys.

DRESCHER: I started to experience cancer symptoms. I kept talking about you. And your symptoms. And then I survived. And then I thrived.

ULLMAN: Gilda Radner was a bloody great girl.

BURNETT: Not only were you brilliantly funny, you had a terrific soul.

[13:49:18] ANNOUNCER: "Love Gilda," New Year's Day at 9:00 p.m.



SAVIDGE: A lavish royal wedding, the death of the queen of soul, and "Diversity" at the box office. CNN contributor, Nischelle Turner, takes a look back at the top entertainment stories of 2018.


ROSEANNE BARR, ACTRESS & COMEDIANNE: Jackie? Would you like to take a knee?


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: A TV star booted off her own show, getting crazy rich at the box office, and Kanye's White House romance? Here's a look at the top entertainment news makers in 2018.

(voice-over): Number eight, Ariana Grande, "Thank You Next."


TURNER: The lyrics say it all. Ariana Grande's newest single is a deeply personal look back at 2018, a year filled with young love, breakups and heart take. "Thank You Next" capped off one of the best years of her career, and the fans agree.


TURNER: Ariana Grande's fourth album, "Sweetener," skyrocketed to the number-one spot on the billboard charts. On Spotify, she broke the global record for the biggest opening week by a female artist. And the star-studded video was the most watched premiere on YouTube.

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

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

TURNER: This came on the heels of an announcement of Cat Sadler who said she left the next work after learning her male co-host was making nearly double her salary. Just days later, we learned that Michelle Williams was paid $1,000 while co-star, Mark Wahlberg, was paid $1.5 million. Wahlberg pledged support for Williams, donating his entire sum of his payment to the "Time's Up" legal defense fund.

[13:55:19] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Bill Cosby, once nicknamed America's dad, is convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

TURNER: Number six, Cosby and Weinstein's woes. America's dad behind bars.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any comment, sir? TURNER: Bill Cosby was found guilty of drugging and sexually

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

Another industry heavy weight, Harvey Weinstein, was arrested and charged with rape and sex abuse from incidents dating back to 2004. He faces dozens of additional accusations but denies all allegations of, quote, "nonconsensual sex." Investigations are under way in the U.S. and abroad.


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


TURNER: And after a trip to the White House, Trump commuted Johnson's sentence and she's freed from prison after serving 21 years.

Meanwhile, Kanye's romance with the president flourished.

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

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


TURNER: Number four, Aretha Franklin dies.


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


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

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Do we have to keep talking about death all the time? It reminds me of grandma.

TURNER: The spinoff chronicles life after the sudden death of Roseanne Connor premiered at 10.5 million. That's down 35 percent from the original reboot.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: My son, it is your time.

TURNER: Number two, box office diversity. Diversity ruled at the box office. Marvel's "Black Panther" smashed records bringing in $1.3 billion worldwide. Starring a mostly black cast and a black director, this super hero flick resonated with theater-goers everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Your family is rich?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We're comfortable.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: That is exactly what a super-rich person would say.

TURNER: And social media favorite "Crazy Rich Asians" exceeded industry expectations making over $237 million globally. It's the first major studio film to feature a predominantly Asian cast since the "Joy Luck Club." But that's not all. Ticket sales show the rom- com became the highest grossing romantic comedy in the U.S. in 10 years.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The countdown to the royal wedding is very nearly over, Don.

TURNER: Number one, a royal wedding. A story book wedding for Prince Harry and actress, Meghan Markle. They tied the knot at Windsor Castle in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle. The dress, the ring, the fashion and the fascinators and the queen and the princess. No royal wedding is complete without a star-studded guest list. George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, Oprah, the Beckhams. But the duke and duchess had even more happy news to share. And a royal baby is on the way due in 2019.

Well, the year did end clouded in controversy. Kevin Hart stepped down as the host of the Oscars after homophobic tweets from his cast surfaced online.

(on camera): So the question is, who is going to step in? Well, we will find out very soon.

Nischelle Turner, for CNN, Los Angeles.


[13:59:53] SAVIDGE: Hello. Thanks for joining us. I'm Martin Savidge, in for Frederica Whitfield.

Part of the federal government remains closed and it is an open question as to when the partial shutdown, now dragging into the eighth day, will end. President Trump tweeting today that he is waiting on Democrats to make a deal.