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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Cancels Pay Raise to Government Workers, Blames Dems for Shutdown; Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort over Debts during 2016 Presidential Election; Congo Polls Open in Historic Transfer of Power; Bangladeshi Prime Minister Expected to Win Third Consecutive Term; Brazil's Far Right President-Elect Lays Out Plans; U.S. border Crisis; Top Trending Stories in 2018. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired December 30, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00]

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GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. government shutdown now in its eighth day and the U.S. president blocked a pay raise for federal workers who are still out of jobs.

Plus, delayed democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Polling stations open despite claims of vote rigging.

Also, ahead this hour, an African American hotel guest seeking answers after hotel employees call police on him for taking a phone call in the lobby. That's frustrating.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

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HOWELL: At 5:00 am on the U.S. East Coast, thanks for being with us.

We start with the latest ripple in the partial government shutdown showdown. The raise that many federal employees expected to take effect in January, that raise is no more. The U.S. president has canceled it. This adds insult to injury for more than 800,000 federal employees beginning their second week without paychecks.

For his part, President Trump is sitting at the White House, waiting for Democrats to come over to work on a deal. Though he's been out of sight, he's still on Twitter. Sarah Westwood has more from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is alone in the White House and fuming about Democrats' refusal to provide any funding for his promised border wall. And he's been trying to blame them for everything from the deaths of

two migrant children at the southern border earlier this month to the partial government shutdown that he once said he'd be proud to own.

Now the president is alone here at the White House because he canceled plans to travel down to his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-lago, amid the partial government shutdown that he's continued to blame on the inaction of congressional Democrats.

The president taking to Twitter on Saturday, writing, "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 are spending so much time on presidential harassment that they have little time left for things like stopping crime and our military."

Now acting chief of staff/budget director Mick Mulvaney said those Democratic congressional leaders haven't actually been invited back to the White House for further talks. Mulvaney said that the White House at this point is essentially just waiting for a counteroffer from the Democrats.

Mulvaney has suggested that the president might be willing to back down off that demand for $5 billion in wall funding, although he didn't specify by how much. That's in line with CNN's reporting that vice president Mike Pence went to Capitol Hill last weekend with an offer of support for a bill worth $2.5 billion. That's a deal that the Democrats rejected.

So talks are still at a standstill. There's not a lot of clarity at this point still about what kind of deal the president might support. But it is clear that Trump is growing increasingly frustrated with his inability to get funding for his signature campaign promise.

It's also clear that the partial government shutdown has no end in sight, with Democrats preparing to retake the House and, therefore, shake up the dynamics of negotiating power in a little less than a week -- Sarah Westwood, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: How long the shutdown lasts is really anyone's guess. It has many of the people affected rightfully worried. Some of those concerns being voiced across social media, as we found a few examples to share with you, like this one.

"We are both veterans. My husband has 20 years of service with four combat tours. We will not be able to pay our mortgage if this persists."

Here's another, "I'm a furloughed Fed. I spent the day calling the banks for the mortgage and the car loan, the electric company, the gas company, the credit card company. I have some savings, so I'll be OK for a bit. Won't be buying a new car to replace the 17-year-old Toyota now."

Here's another, "Got some things for Christmas that I'm not unpackaging and receipts are in my purse so I can return if needed for grocery money."

This thing is real and it's hurting a lot of people.

If there is a silver lining to the shutdown, it's the promise of payback for thousands of U.S. government workers now without their usual income. But some of the furloughed workers can't afford to wait for the shutdown to end. One is Lila Johnson. She works as a janitor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and spoke with our Martin Savidge about her situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LILA JOHNSON, FEDERAL CONTRACT EMPLOYEE: For President Trump to be -- throwing temper tantrum --

[05:05:00]

JOHNSON: -- 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.

We are working people. We don't need to stand on the line for them up on the Hill in the White House, wherever, fighting over when is they going to open the government back up.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can I ask you how much longer can you get by with the shutdown?

Or is it already to the point of where --

JOHNSON: It's to the point now. It's not about how much longer. It's to the point now that I need to be working to pay my bills and take care of my family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Let's get perspective now with Natasha Lindstaedt. She teaches government at the University of Essex in England. She's joining us via Skype.

Thank you again for your time.

NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Morning.

HOWELL: We've seen the president blame Democrats for the deaths of two migrant children. He says due to immigration policy and also blaming Nancy Pelosi for the reason for this impasse. But as we keep our eyes on the ball in this blame game, it's important to recall the president's own words right from the start. Let's start with that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: And I am proud -- and I'll tell you what.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We disagree.

TRUMP: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So the shutdown persists and here we are now. These raises for federal workers being affected.

Who carries the blame here more as people feel this deeper burden continue?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, Trump himself said that he's taking the responsibility for it. I know more recently he's been trying to blame the Democrats for the shutdown. But he made it very clear that he was going to make this a hill to die on in order to save his border wall, which was one of the signature pieces of his campaign.

It looked as though the government was going to be able to come up with a short-term bill to keep the government funded up until early February. But after he heard criticism from political pundits on the -- right-wing political pundits, he then changed his mind.

I think that most people have been critical of the fact that Trump has wanted to do whatever it takes in order to save his border wall. You have only 36 percent of the public that wants him to shut down the government in order to fight to build this wall.

HOWELL: You mentioned that phrase, a hill to die on. The question here, the president calling it a wall initially. Now calling it a fence, whatever it takes to get over the hurdle.

How critical is this particular matter for this president whose political base demands that he make progress on that front?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, for Trump, he believes it's everything. This was the biggest part of his campaign. This is what he talked about the entire campaign. When he goes on the road campaigning, he also talks about building this wall and how important it is for the country to build a wall.

I think with his work experience in construction, he thinks this is going to be the signature piece accomplishment that he can talk about.

But he was very clear that Mexico was going to pay for it. That was the big part of the speech, they were going to build this wall, this was going to prevent all this unwanted immigration from coming in and it would be completely paid for by Mexico.

The Mexican government laughed off the idea and has been adamant that was never going to happen. So there's been quite a switch in terms of who is going to pay for it. Now it looks like he's willing to keep the government shut down indefinitely until he finds a resolution to this.

HOWELL: Let's talk about the people affected by this. Certainly, we're talking about 25 percent of government, some 800,000 workers, many of whom will be living without paychecks for an indefinite amount of time. It is starting to hurt. We're starting to hear evidence of that becoming very apparent and very personal. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 broken-hearted over that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: That's just one story. The question here, when does the pain that people are feeling, this --

[05:10:00]

HOWELL: -- real pain, that's real life, when does that play into the stalemate and motivate these sides to find a resolution here?

LINDSTAEDT: Right. Well, Trump made it very clear that he thought most of the government workers were actually Democrats. So he has politicized the civil service and acted as if this was really just affecting Democrats, it's not really affecting his party.

I don't think he thinks it affects his base. There have been a lot of shutdowns in 2018. There have been three, which ties for the record back in the 1970s. This shutdown is going on much longer than many of these people are hoping. They are living paycheck to paycheck. Some aren't able to pay their mortgage.

They've been given some sort of statement to give to creditors and to their landlords. But it's almost insulting that they've been told they may have to offer some sort of work in exchange for delaying when they have to repay things.

But this could go on for a long time. The longest shutdown was over 20 days. Trump seems to be in no hurry to compromise on this issue. Of course, this is going to have a real effect on people who are trying to plan how to pay their bills.

HOWELL: And that claim that you mentioned, the president saying it's mainly Democrats, not based in fact or any sense of evidence or reality that I can understand. But affecting Americans, many Americans who actually protect the country. Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you again for your time.

LINDSTAEDT: Thank you.

HOWELL: "Time" magazine is reporting on an alleged tie between a top Trump campaign figure and a Russian ex-spy. Here are the players: Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman; Victor Boyarkin, the Russian ex-spy, and the powerful Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska.

Boyarkin tells "Time" that, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Manafort was deeply in debt to Deripaska. According to Boyarkin, Manafort began looking for ways to pay that money back. A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment to CNN about "Time's" new reporting.

CNN caught up with Deripaska last year about reports in "The Washington Post" and "The Atlantic" that Manafort offered to brief Deripaska on the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Did Manafort owe you millions of dollars when he was head of the Trump campaign?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Deripaska there with Matthew Chance, who caught up with him.

Here's how Seth Hettena, the author of "Trump/Russia," explained this very complex reporting to CNN's Ryan Nobles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SETH HETTENA, AUTHOR: Oleg Deripaska is one of a few oligarchs who are extremely close to Putin and the Kremlin. He's said on a couple of occasions, he doesn't separate himself from the state and he would basically do anything when asked by Putin to do.

So, you know, what we have is a Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in deep debt to a man like Deripaska.

Victor Boyarkin was the bag man. Victor Boyarkin was the missing link here. We knew there were these emails. We knew that Deripaska was involved. We didn't know how they were connected. And Boyarkin was the go-between. He was hammering Manafort for money while the campaign was going on.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

HETTENA: One of the ways Manafort suggested paying it off -- may have been suggesting paying it off was to offer private briefings on the campaign. So you have a campaign manager in debt to a Russian oligarch, who's connected to Putin, who's being pressured for money in the middle of a campaign he's running on behalf of the Republican nominee for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Seth Hettena speaking with my colleague, Ryan Nobles. A spokesperson for Manafort declined to comment to CNN about the "Time" report.

Now to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where voting is underway right now in an historic election there. For the first time in almost 60 years, voters are casting their ballots in a democratic transfer of power.

But there are challenges to be considered here. The election has already faced two years of delays, plus more than 1 million people will have to wait now until March to cast their ballots. That's because of the Ebola crisis and concerns over terrorism. Then there is rampant violence to speak of. Our Eleni Giokos has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELENI GIOKOS, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Firing tear gas and live rounds into the air, security forces try to disperse protesters. These are the scenes of recent violence ahead of a long overdue presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, supposed to bring the first democratic transfer of power to a country that's been waiting more than two years to choose a new leader.

The outgoing president, Joseph Kabila, was scheduled to step down back in 2016 after holding office since 2001. But the vote was repeatedly postponed, sparking deadly protests.

Earlier this month, a massive fire at an election commission warehouse destroyed thousands of voting machines, which delayed the vote once again.

Then this week, the commission postponed the vote in three opposition strongholds, citing the Ebola outbreak and terror threats. More than 1 million voters won't be able to cast their ballots on Sunday. The opposition says it's all a pretext to take away their votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They need to get us --

[05:15:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): -- another president. And if that doesn't happen, we will create chaos starting from today until a solution is found. If it calls for us to die, then so be it.

GIOKOS (voice-over): Crises on several fronts are fueling resentment. Ongoing ethnic and regional conflicts have displaced millions and a long battle with Ebola continues. The country is confronting the world's second deadliest outbreak in history.

Extreme poverty also plagues the country, where six out of seven live on less than a dollar a day. President Kabila, on the other hand, has been enriched by the Congo's wealth of natural resources, including one that powers most of the world's cellphones and electric cars: cobalt.

And the Congo is at the epicenter of its skyrocketing demand. Its mines make up a large majority of global cobalt production. But these mines have a dirty secret. Uncovered in a CNN investigation in May, the cobalt supply chain uses child labor.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And we've seen the product of that child labor loaded onto a variety of different vehicles.

GIOKOS (voice-over): Despite threats and attempts to block their investigation, CNN's Nima Elbagir traveled to some of the Congo's cobalt facilities, where she and her team witnessed children forced to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): How old is he?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine years.

GIOKOS (voice-over): As the home of a resource used to power the world's devices, Congo's election is one to watch. Although the results are likely to be contested and the election commission has banned international observers, there is still hope by some that it can bring about real change to the Congo -- Eleni Giokos, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Eleni, thank you.

Another general election wrapping up in Bangladesh. What's at stake there and why the vote is so controversial. We'll explain.

Plus Brazil's far right president-elect is just days away from taking office. We'll take a look at the moment that put him there. Stay with us.

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[05:20:00]

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HOWELL: In Bangladesh, voting has wrapped up in the general election taking place there. Many people waiting in long lines and the military was out in force after a campaign marred by violence. It has been a controversial election with a controversial front-runner.

The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, is seeking a record third consecutive term. She's also facing allegations of vote rigging and human rights abuses. Her biggest rival is in prison and her government is accused of targeting journalists and opposition figures.

CNN's Nikhil Kumar is has the story for us in New Delhi.

Given the controversy around this particular leader, does this vote seem as fair?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: That's the main concern, George. In the run-up to the poll today, as you say, the polling is now closed, human rights organizations have raised questions and concerns about what Human Rights Watch, for example, called a repressive political atmosphere and a climate of fear, all connected to these concerns you talked about, human rights violations by the government, about repression and about a clamp-down in dissenting voices.

Earlier in the year, we had the arrests of a well-known photographer who was incarcerated for many months. Only the latest activist said inactions that had raised worries among civil societies in Bangladesh.

But Sheikh Hasina's tenure over these two terms, it's really been two stories. One is the story of rights abuses and concerns. The other story is a story of a growing booming economy. Growth has been robust. The government has succeeded in cutting policy, in making good progress on many development indicators.

Voters today, when they went out to vote, the big question was, what are they going to do?

Are they going to reward that economic growth or vote against this government because of concerns about authoritarianism?

We expect the results later today, tomorrow.

When they come out, the question will be how fair are they?

Human rights organizations have questioned them, the opposition has questioned them. The country remains sort of tense and on edge as we await the results.

HOWELL: Nikhil Kumar in New Delhi, following this for us. Thank you.

Now to Brazil. The nation's new president-elect is an unapologetic far right politician. Jair Bolsonaro will be sworn in to office come January 1st. But he's already active on Twitter, telling the country how he will implement his controversial agenda. Our Shasta Darlington takes a look at the man and the people who support him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNNINTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is known as Brazil's Trump, an anti-establishment politician who promises to drain the swamp and crackdown on crime. And like his U.S. counterpart, he campaigned on change and won.

Sixty-three-year-old Jair Bolsonaro is a seven-term congressman with a reputation for controversial comments, often aimed at homosexuals, minorities and women, once telling a congresswoman she was not pretty enough to rape.

He has a strong conservative base who, like him, are pro-life and against same-sex marriage. A former army captain, Bolsonaro wants to bring back law and order which he said was strongest under Brazil's former military dictatorship. Even though military rule ended in the mid '80s, Bolsonaro still believes in some of the old regime's brutal tactics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOLSONARO (through translator): I support torture. You know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DARLINGTON: It's tough talk that has resonated with voters tired of political corruption and widespread crime. Brazil has one of the highest murder rates in the world and Bolsonaro plans to fight fire with fire. Encouraging police to use lethal force on criminals.

Last month, Bolsonaro himself was stabbed in the stomach at a campaign rally by a man who police believed was mentally ill.

On the economic front --

[05:25:00]

DARLINGTON (voice-over): -- Bolsonaro promised free market reforms and privatizations. But as the head of South America's largest economy, he also said he would safeguard natural resources and warns that China already owns too much of its land.

Whether or not Bolsonaro makes good on his campaign promises to make Brazilians safer and more solvent is yet to be seen. He'll get that chance when he officially takes office in January -- Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Shasta, thank you.

Not long ago, the U.S. president boasted that he would be proud to shut down the government. That has now happened. Coming up, now he says it's not his fault. Now 800,000 federal employees are no longer being paid.

Plus this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERMAINE MASSEY, HOTEL GUEST: Why are they coming?

EARL, SECURITY GUARD: To escort you off the property.

MASSEY: Because why and I am staying here?

EARL: Not anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Where is the head slap emoji when you need it?

An African American hotel guest demanding answers after he had the police called on him for nothing. We'll explain. Stay with us.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) HOWELL: Welcome back. To our viewers here in the United States and

all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for being with us. I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following this hour.

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[05:30:00]

HOWELL: Back to the partial government shutdown showdown now into its eighth day and 800,000 U.S. government workers beginning their second week now without paychecks and no idea when they will be paid next.

It is the result of President Trump's hard line on immigration. He refused a short-term deal to keep the government open because it didn't have funding for a border wall. He then failed to get Congress to approve $5 billion for his border wall.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Trump proudly boasted he would take responsibility, would take the mantle for a shutdown. Now that it's happening, the president says it's the Democrats' fault.

The president also blaming Democrats for the deaths of two migrant children while in U.S. custody. The head of the U.S. Homeland Security spent two days on the southern border with Mexico to see the circumstances there for herself. One place she visited El Paso, Texas. Our Nick Valencia was there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the 16th trip to the southern border for DHS Secretary Nielsen and part of her visit was intended to check on conditions at border patrol stations in El Paso.

On Friday, she was here visiting at least two stations and did the same thing in Yuma, Arizona, on Saturday. Another part of her visit was to check up on health screenings. It was part of series of extraordinary protective measures which she implemented after the death of 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo Gomez, who was the second child migrant to die in U.S. custody in less than three weeks.

After her visit in El Paso on Friday, she released a statement, which read in part, "The system is clearly overwhelmed and we must work together to address this humanitarian crisis and protect vulnerable populations."

She went on to say, "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. 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."

Her visit comes against the renewed scrutiny of health care given to migrants after they're brought into U.S. custody. And it's also happening while migrants continue to be dropped off here at the Greyhound bus station in El Paso, sometimes with no resources at all and, in some cases, nowhere to go.

The charities here that are helping out and volunteering to give shelter and food to these migrants say they're stretched thin and that's what we're hearing as well from a Customs and Border Protection official, who is very familiar with these types of facilities along the border.

He says they are bursting at the seams. They're not intended to hold so many people. Originally, they were built to house single adult males but with the influx of family units, they're really struggling to keep their head above water -- reporting in El Paso, Texas, I'm Nick Valencia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Nick, thank you for the reporting.

One man at the forefront of the border crisis is the mayor of El Paso. Dee Margo talked earlier with my colleague, Martin Savidge, and thinks where blame should be pointed and how President Trump's threat to shut down the border would affect his city and Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEE MARGO (R), EL PASO MAYOR: El Paso is 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.

(CROSSTALK)

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.

(CROSSTALK)

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.

(CROSSTALK)

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

Let me ask you --

(CROSSTALK)

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.

[05:35:00]

MARGO: It would be a killer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: That was my colleague, Martin Savidge, speaking with the mayor of El Paso, Texas.

This next story is whipping up a great deal of frustration around the United States. A popular U.S. hotel chain has issued an apology. Two employees fired, out of a job, after asking a black guest to leave the hotel for no apparent reason. They even called the police on him for nothing.

The guest telling CNN it is a symptom of a much larger problem in the United States. Our Miguel Marquez has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is basically a case of breathing while black, white people calling the police on black people for either a small offense or infraction or no offense at all.

In this case, Jermaine Massey checked into a hotel on December 22nd. It was a Doubletree hotel, part of the Hilton chain of hotels in Portland, Oregon. He had gone to a concert. He was going back to his room. His mother had texted, so he went to make a phone call. He wanted to do it in the lobby because it seemed fairly urgent.

The lobby was busy. He went to a secluded part of the lobby and started making his phone call. That's when he was confronted by this security guard. He hung up with his mom, started putting it on video on his phone. He put it all on Instagram. And we want to show you a little compendium of what he recorded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MASSEY: Hi. He's calling the cops on me because I'm taking a phone call at the Doubletree Hotel.

Say hi, Earl.

EARL: Portland police will be here in a minute.

MASSEY: Thank you. Call them. I'm waiting.

EARL: OK.

MASSEY: They are coming why? Why are they coming?

EARL: To escort you off the property.

MASSEY: Because why? And I'm staying here?

EARL: Not anymore.

MASSEY: How am I loitering in an area that's public?

EARL: You are sitting here.

MASSEY: So this area is off limits after a certain time?

EARL: Only if you are a guest.

MASSEY: I am a guest.

EARL: You didn't tell me that.

MASSEY: I said that I'm a guest.

EARL: No.

MASSEY: I told you that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, Mr. Massey was on the Don Lemon show and Don asked him, why do you think this sort of thing keeps happening across the country?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MASSEY: It's hurtful. It's humiliating and I don't understand why it continues to be an issue. I'm a person at the end of the day just like everyone else. And I deserve respect and fair treatment and I did not receive that on Saturday.

I think that there's a lot of perceptions about black males in particular, that we are threats and we are harmful and we are just fearful individuals and, you know, that bias, it impacts these situations. And it's harmful to us as a people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Insofar as Doubletree and Hilton Hotels, the parent company, Hilton, has issued a statement apologizing for the incident, saying they do not condone discrimination in any way.

And clearly, after a quick investigation, they fired the two individuals.

CNN has reached out to those two individuals. One could not be gotten a hold of. The other did not get back to us. But even the mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, saying in part all of this is part of that systemic nature of discrimination against African Americans in America. That happens way too often.

Mr. Massey and his lawyers, while thankful for what Hilton has said and done in response to this, they'd like more. They would like to see something in writing from the about the policy that led that security guard to confront Mr. Massey in that way in a public space. The hope is that it will never happen again -- back to you.

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HOWELL: Miguel, thank you.

And as Miguel mentioned, Doubletree/Hilton has apologized and Hilton has put out this statement, saying, quote, "We will continue to work with the property's ownership and management, including reinforcing the availability of Hilton's extensive diversity and inclusion training curriculum.

"This is available to all hotels within our network, including franchise properties. Hilton also holds our franchise partners to related standards. We have made diversity and unconscious bias training mandatory for general managers and encourage for other hotel managers across all Hilton branded properties."

But, again, to Massey's point, it is hurtful and it is humiliating.

We'll be back after the break.

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[05:40:00]

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HOWELL: Wrapping up 2018, let's take a look back at what made the Internet tick. CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin explores the top eight trending stories of the year.

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BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The year 2018 was the year of the social media activist. 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 #TimesUp as an anti-harassment action plan, a sequel to last year's #MeToo 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 says Laurel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It literally says -- play it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Hold on. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yanny. Yanny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

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 -- [05:45:00]

BALDWIN: -- 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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. (CHEERING)

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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 #WeBelieveDrFord, #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.

TRUMP: Make America great again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOWELL: Brooke, thanks.

In much of the United States you will need a raincoat or umbrella if you have plans to ring in 2019 outdoors. Here's why, very chilly and wet forecast ahead. Stay with us.

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[05:50:00]

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HOWELL: Welcome back to NEWSROOM.

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HOWELL: Planning in New York, preps are underway for the biggest party in the city. Take a look.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Happy new year!

HOWELL (voice-over): Organizers there for the legendary New Year's celebration in Times Square. They practiced the confetti drop. Luckily, all systems are go. Some 2,000 pounds, more than 900 kilos of the colorful confetti will be hand dropped into Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Organizers expect 1 million people to ring in the new year there and as much work as it is to prepare, it will take just as much work to clean it all up.

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HOWELL: That's this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'll see you next year and I wish you the very best in health and happiness for 2019.

For our viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next and for viewers around the world, "CNN WORLD RUGBY" is ahead. This is the cable news network, CNN, the world's news leader.