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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Threatens to Close Southern U.S. Border as Partial Government Shutdown Enters Second Week; U.S. Troop Withdrawal in Syria May Attract Trouble; Two-Year-Old Son of Yemeni Mother Granted Visa Dies; Flood Hindering Rescue Operation for Miners in India; Market Turmoil; Eight in 2018 Top Business Stories. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired December 29, 2018 - 03:00   ET

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


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. president threatens to close the country's entire southern border as part of the government shutdown.

Just a week after Mr. Trump blindsided U.S. allies by announcing he's pulling troops out of Syria, there's disturbing new indications that Syrian forces are closing in on a key city.

The U.S. markets end a tumultuous day in the red after a week of dramatic swings on Wall Street. One more trading day left in this year.

What will that bring?

Hello, everyone. We're live from CNN Center here in Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen. Thanks for being with us. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

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ALLEN: The partial shutdown of the U.S. government is entering its second week and now the president threatens to chose the southern U.S. border unless he gets the money he wants for his border wall.

Sealing the entire border would be daunting. There are hundreds of ports of entry from Texas to California. Lots of commerce moves in both directions. But Mr. Trump seems to be willing to shut it down unless he gets $5 billion approved by Congress for a border wall.

What's not clear is if he would he settle for less.

The White House won't say.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you give us any idea what the president will be willing to accept financially for border security for his border wall where you could reach a deal if Democrats would get there? SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We made that clear to the Democrats. I'm not going to negotiating the press but the president has been willing to negotiate on this point.

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ALLEN: Curiously, the president believes that the U.S. government will literally make money by sealing the border with Mexico. CNN's Jessica Dean has more on that from the White House.

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JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As rain poured on Washington Friday, President Trump unleashed a tweet storm, threatening to close the southern border with Mexico, the president writing, "The United States loses so much money on trade with Mexico under NAFTA, over $75 billion a year," that he would consider closing the southern border, quote, "a profit-making operation," repeating, "Either we build, finish the wall or we close the border."

The tweets coming as the partial government shutdown enters its seventh day. The White House has found its strategy: blame Nancy Pelosi.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This all comes down to Ms. Pelosi's speakership. She does not have the votes. And if she cuts a deal with the president of any sort before her election January 3rd, she's at risk of losing her speakership. So we're in this for the long haul.

Nancy Pelosi, in fairness, does not have the votes for the speakership yet. She cannot be seen by her party as being weak on negotiating with Donald Trump.

DEAN: But Pelosi likely does have the votes and is expected to become Speaker when the new House convenes on January 3rd.

Her spokesperson issued a statement on Thursday, saying, in part, quote, "Democrats have offered Republicans three options to reopen the government that include funding for strong, sensible and effective border security but not the president's immoral, ineffective and expensive wall."

Another part of the White House strategy: keep President Trump in Washington.

MULVANEY: We actually talked about it with him late last night. The president has been here, by the way, all weekend, all Christmas. He's staying in Washington, D.C., over New Year's. He's canceled his plans for Christmas, now has canceled his plans for New Year's.

DEAN: The first lady returned to Florida to spend New Year's with their son at Mar-a-Lago, leaving the president alone in the White House, as he tweeted on Christmas Eve -- Jessica Dean, CNN, the White House.

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ALLEN: With no solution in sight to end the partial government shutdown, about 800,000 federal workers fear they may not have income for the foreseeable future. More on that from CNN's Ryan Nobles.

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RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: With President Trump unable to secure funding for his border wall...

TRUMP: I can tell you, it's not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it. If you don't have that, then we're just not opening.

NOBLES: -- the government shutdown will likely continue into the New Year, affecting an estimated 25 percent of the federal workforce; 380,000 employees are furloughed and another 420,000 are still working without pay, including the TSA and the Coast Guard.

The Smithsonian Museum and National Zoo will be closing its doors beginning January 2nd. And even the panda livestream cameras are going dark.

TRUMP: The federal workers want the wall.

NOBLES: The president said on Christmas that federal workers support the shutdown. But the shutdown is causing families we spoke to, many who live paycheck to paycheck, to worry about when they may see --

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-- their next one and they're fed up.

LOREEN TARGOS, AFGE LOCAL 704 UNION MEMBER & STEWARD: I have two mortgages to pay. And so I haven't looked at how my checking account is going to balance out. I don't even have children.

For people who have kids in school, you know, extracurricular activities, putting food on the plate to their kids, those are things that, you know, make it even more disgusting what's happening with the federal government.

NOBLES: Loreen Targos is a local steward in a public sector union and a physical scientist with the EPA, which will shut down at midnight tonight. She, like other EPA employees, received this email, referring employees to the Office of Personnel Management for additional guidance.

The OPM Thursday tweeting suggestions for workers to send to creditors, landlords and banks if they can't make their payment on time, like trading maintenance work, like painting and carpentry, for rent payments.

TARGOS: That's absolutely unrealistic. Federal workers are going to be penalized for not paying bills their on time, when we just want to go back to work and do the jobs we were hired to do. NOBLES: Thursday, the president tweeting, without evidence, that most federal employees are Democrats. But workers say their politics shouldn't even matter.

TARGOS: We are civil servants. We are hired to do our work at the EPA. Workers are hired to protect human health and the environment. If he wants to imagine that we are Democrats instead of human beings and civil servants, that's his problem. I hope Congress steps up and is able to be the adult in the room -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, New York.

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ALLEN: Other news we're following in the coming hours. Russian officials get Turkey's plans for Syria after the U.S. troop withdrawal. The Turkish foreign and defense ministers are due in Moscow to share their plan to eradicate terrorists in Syria. But that could include Kurds.

This comes ahead of a planned summit including the presidents and Russia and Iran and Turkey. They last met to discuss Syria in September. Saturday's meeting comes as Syria says its troops have entered the key city of Manbij. Kurdish fighters made a plea to Syria for help ahead of an expected attack by the Turks. For more, here's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

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BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces are on the move, headed to the northern city of Manbij, where U.S. forces have been on patrol, trying to bring stability and keep Turkey and local forces from erupting into all-out war. Syrian troops are now just outside the city poised to enter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The civilians, they are so scared, they are worried about the future for the city, what will happen.

STARR: This is one of the contested areas that U.S. troops will be pulling out of as part of President Trump's withdrawal order. For now, troops are staying put but one defense official says the situation could change on a moment's notice.

The concern, U.S. troops will be face-to-face with Assad's Russian backed forces and no one can predict what might happen. These images allegedly show the Syrian army already hoisting the country's flag in northern Syria. Syrian generals claiming they are inside the city.

UNIDENTIFIED SYRIAN GENERAL (through translator): The general command of army and armed forces announces the entry of units of the Syrian Arab army to Manbij and raising the Syrian republic flag in it.

STARR: The U.S.-led coalition tweeting that everything is just fine. There's still no indication Syrian forces are in Manbij.

The city once used by ISIS to bring in foreign fighters is now mostly in the hands of locals, allied with U.S. backed Kurdish fighters that booted ISIS out.

The Kurds may now be forced to seek protection from an Assad regime that has gassed its own citizens in order to protect themselves from a Turkish invasion when the U.S. leaves.

It's all putting these American forces at the very center of what could go wrong with President Trump's decision to quickly pull out more than 2,000 U.S. ground troops from Syria.

TRUMP: Our presence in Syria was not open ended and never intended to be permanent.

STARR: For incoming acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, it could mean a tough decision in the coming days.

GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Where the United States has been in place, it's either abandoned and then ISIS takes it over or Assad's forces take it over or the Turks come in and the United States has got to get out of town, or they put themselves at increased risk.

STARR: The Defense Department is adamant, the withdrawal of troops from Syria will be orderly. Adversaries may decide to cause trouble -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

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ALLEN: Britain's home secretary called it a major incident, the rising number of migrants crossing the English Channel to get to the U.K.; 40 arrived Christmas Day, at least 23 Thursday and 12 more were intercepted off Dover on Friday.

Many of the migrants are coming from Iran where they face economic hardship and political persecution. Britain's immigration minister will meet with border force officials in Dover in the coming hours.

Egypt is investigating what it calls an act of terrorism near the pyramids at Giza. A roadside bomb hit a bus carrying Vietnamese tourists on the outskirts of Cairo. Three tourists and their Egyptian guide were killed, 11 people were wounded. No one has claimed responsibility.

Time is running out for 15 trapped miners in India. Now efforts to save them are hindered by heavy rain and flooding. Our New Delhi bureau chief Nikhil Kumar has this for us.

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NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Hopes are fading for 15 miners trapped underground in a mine in Eastern India for more than two weeks now. More than 100 rescuers are trying to find the men, who went missing down the 300-foot shaft on December 13th.

The officials say they were trapped after overflowing water from a nearby river flooded the mine which was dug illegally to extract coal from the resourceless state of Meghalaya.

The way the mine was dug complicates rescue efforts. Usually officials outline a map that show tunnel passages and safety and can seek shelter during an emergency. But in this case, there's no map. Rescuers are effectively working in the dark.

To make matters worse, recent days have seen heavy rains in the area causing the river near the mine to flood once again. It heightens fears about the fate of the miners as the rescue efforts continue into their third week -- Nikhil Kumar, CNN, New Delhi.

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ALLEN: A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck in the Pacific Ocean just off the southern Philippine coast. It happened just south of Mindanao, the island's capital city. Authorities say there's no longer a tsunami threat and no reports of injury. That's good news.

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We have update for you on the sick boy whose Yemeni mother was granted a --

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ALLEN: -- U.S. visa to say goodbye to him. The 2-year-old Abdullah Hassan has died according to the Council of American Islamic Relations. His mom had been barred from the U.S. under the White House travel ban.

Her husband, who is an American citizen, brought Abdullah to California for treatment for a genetic brain condition. The funeral service is set to take place Saturday.

There's only one more trading day left in 2018. Many are saying thank goodness. We'll tell you about a longstanding record that could soon be broken.

Trade wars and meltdowns and scandals. Plenty of choices for the year's top business stories. See what made our cut -- next.

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ALLEN: Wall Street closed the week on course for its worst December since the Great Depression. Despite a record day after Christmas, it has been a bleak month for U.S. stocks and there's only one more trading session to turn it around. Alison Kosik has more from the New York Stock Exchange.

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ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, the Dow's attempt on Friday to close higher for a third day in a row lost steam. It comes after a week of huge swings in both direction that sent investors' heads spinning.

The Dow had the worst ever Christmas Eve on Monday with a drop of 650 points only to post its best ever one-point game of 1,086 when trading resumed after Christmas. Stocks were sharply lower on Thursday before making a comeback at the polls to finish the day in positive territory.

The stock market will likely end the year lower and on track for the worst December since 1931. Stocks often rally in December but this is not a typical December. Wall Street wants certainty and there's still a ton of questions about slowing global growth and trade tensions and rising interest rates and political uncertainty.

Still the fundamentals of the economy are strong. There's one more trading day left in 2018 and as investors get ready to close the books on the year, volatility is expected to continue in the new year as investors stay on edge about economic and political uncertainty. Back to you.

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ALLEN: Well, among social media woes, big box stores shuttering and the wildly fluctuating U.S. stock market, as you saw, 2018 has been a year of huge U.S. and global business news. CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans and business editor at large Richard Quest break down the good, the bad and the bizarre.

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CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iconic American industries transformed.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: The stock market's wild ride.

ROMANS: The U.S. takes on the world.

QUEST: Scandals shake confidence in big tech.

ROMANS: These are the top business stories of 2018.

QUEST: Number eight, retail implodes as Amazon explodes. This year, two decades-old iconic American retailers closed up shop.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The dramatic fall for what used to be one of the United States largest retailers, Sears filing for bankruptcy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a Toys"R"Us kid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last generation of Toys"R"Us kids have spoken across the U.S., all of its stores will now close.

ROMANS: Toys"R"Us and Sears struggled to keep up with retail's digital transformation. Stores like Target, Macy's and Walmart are investing millions in their websites and mobile apps. The goal -- compete with Amazon. The online behemoth dominates the industry with billion-dollar profits and $1 trillion market value, granting its CEO a coveted title.

QUEST: Jeff Bezos is now the richest person of all time.

Two new locations will feel Amazon's power, New York City and northern Virginia. They won a year-long competition for it second headquarters.

ROMANS: Number seven, auto companies reckon with the future. Americans are shunning sedans for SUVs. And that's changing the industry. Ford will drop all but two passenger cars from its lineup by the year 2020. And General Motors is restructuring its work force, an announcement that sent shockwaves through America's heartland and Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: General Motors, the iconic American automaker, is cutting staff and closing plants.

ROMANS: President Trump slammed GM's decision to shutter five north American factory, costing 14,000 jobs. But U.S. automakers say it's evolve or die. They are investing in self driving and electric cars to compete with each other and their new rivals in Silicon Valley.

QUEST: Number six, Trump versus the Federal Reserve. In 2017, President Trump praised his pick for Fed chief.

TRUMP: He's strong. He's committed. He's smart.

QUEST: While that didn't last long. The president breaking precedent by repeatedly criticizing Jerome Powell for raising interest rates.

TRUMP: The Fed is out of control. I'm not happy with what he's doing.

We have much more of a fed problem than we have a problem with anyone else.

QUEST: Historically, presidents always avoid confront can the central bank. It's supposed to operate independently from political influence. So President Trump's attacks may have unintended consequences. If the Fed suddenly slows the pace of rate hikes, that could raise concern, bowing to political pressure. Or the president could do exactly the opposite of what he intended. The Fed may feel it has to raise rates to show its not surrendering.

ROMANS: Number five, Elon Musk's erratic behavior cost Tesla and himself. Many credit Tesla's incredible market value to belief in Musk as an innovator, but this year his actions caused many to question his leadership, like slamming analysts on an investor call.

ELON MUSK, CEO, TESLA: Boring, bonehead questions are not cool. Next.

ROMANS: Smoking marijuana during a live broadcast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's tobacco and marijuana there.

ROMANS: Calling a British cave diver involved in the Thai soccer team rescue a pedophile. And of course the fiasco over potentially taking Tesla private, Musk stunned investors in August when he tweeted he had secured funding to take the company private, a plan he has since abandoned. That triggered a jump in Tesla's stock price as well as scrutiny from Wall Street's top regulator. The SEC concluded Musk misled investigators, forcing him to pay a $20 million fine and step down as Tesla's chairman to settle those charges.

QUEST: It is number four, Wall Street's wild swing. Now 2018 started with a bang. And then trading turned volatile.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, wild ride. Another dizzying day on Wall Street, with stocks nose-diving more than 1,000 points for the second time this week.

ROMANS: In February, the Dow lost 3,200 points in just two weeks when inflation fears ramped up. Stocks recovered, as corporate tax cuts juiced profits. But then came the tech stock meltdown that dragged the whole market lower.

QUEST: Very scary October in the markets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stock market just had its worst month since 2011.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news. The Dow plunging more than 500 points yet again.

QUEST: Trade fears, rising interest rates, Brexit chaos, slowing growth, recession concerns, all of them putting strain on a bull market that is already the longest in history.

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ROMANS: Number three, President Trump took on the world, turning his tough trade talk into action, slapping tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, ripping up NAFTA for the USMCA and trashing America's neighbor in the process.

TRUMP: Canada has treated us very badly. We think their negotiators have taken advantage of our country for a long time.

ROMANS: But what really unsettled investors, a trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president announced new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China shot right back, saying it will retaliate with countermeasures.

ROMANS: China and the U.S. hit each other with tariffs on billions of dollars of goods. President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a temporary trade truce in December. Investors hope that could lead to the real deal. But that could be complicated by the recent arrest of the CFO of a Chinese tech giant in Canada.

Number two, unemployment hit historic lows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 3.7 percent unemployment in the month of September, a 49-year low.

ROMANS: The U.S. labor market is strong, adding jobs for the past 98 months in a row. But as the U.S. nears what is known as full employment, employers will struggle to find workers. Hiring may slow. But for now, job gains are solid and wages finally started to rise, a missing piece of the recovery so far.

QUEST: Number one -- Facebook scandals which sowed distrust in big tech. In March Facebook revealed it had exposed 87 million users to a third party app that angered users, advertisers, lawmakers and investors.

ROMANS: The data crisis was a hit to Facebook's reputation, already tarnished for its role in spreading misinformation and allowing election meddling. It led to an apology tour for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, concluding with a grilling on Capitol Hill.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I started Facebook. I run it. And at the end of the day, I am responsible for what happens here.

QUEST: Facebook promised to spend billions to put privacy first. Users liked that. Investors didn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Facebook just suffered the biggest single day loss for any public company in history.

QUEST: In one day, Facebook lost $119 billion in market value. Tackling its problems will cut into Facebook's profits for years to come. But the company says it's necessary to improve its platform and regain our trust.

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ALLEN: There you have it. Thanks for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. I'll be back with the top stories.