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Trump Willing to Negotiate for Border Security; Louis C.K. Receives Backlash for School Shooting Jokes; Recapping the Top Trending Stories of 2018. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 31, 2018 - 15:30   ET



RYAN NOBLES, CNN HOST: And it looks like Democrats plan to put the ball back in the Republican court when they take control of the House in three days.

A Democratic aide says, that the House will vote on a package that includes six Senate spending bills and a stop-gap measure all to the government back open.

Let's get now to CNN's Sarah Westwood. She is at the White House. Sarah, any signal on how the White House might respond to this package that the House will be voting on just a couple of days?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Ryan, it's not yet clear exactly how the White House will respond to this plan. We have asked, but it's key, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that he wouldn't pass a bill on the Senate floor that the president doesn't endorse.

Now President Trump remains dug in behind his demand for funding for his border wall. He's been telling aides that he will not sign a bill that provides just $1.3 billion for border security plus a fence, that's the offer the Democrats had put on the table before the shutdown began.

Now, incoming acting Chief of Staff/Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has already signaled that the president is willing to come down off of that $5 billion number, but there's just not been a lot of specificity about what exactly the president would support.

Now, Mulvaney has also said that Democratic Congressional leaders have not been invited back to the White House for further negotiations, but despite that, the president has been on Twitter railing against Democratic Congressional leaders for leaving town during the shutdown he created. So Ryan, things today still looking about as they did 10 days ago when the shutdown first began, a stalemate.

NOBLES: Yes, and it's -- this could take some time Sarah, it seems like we're talking about weeks now as opposed to days. Sarah Westwood, thank you for that report live from the White House.

And today, of course, the final day on the job for Defense Secretary James Mattis and in his farewell message he's urging employees to keep the faith in our country. Details on how is very public parting of ways may impact the Pentagon.



Today is the last day on the job for defense secretary Jim Mattis. This morning, he sent a farewell letter to the department of defense employees but some may also say could be a message to President Trump.

Secretary Mattis announced his resignation because of the president's decision to withdrawal troops from Syria. But over the weekend, republican senator, Lindsey Graham, said that President Trump is now reevaluating such a rapid draw down.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me now. Barbara, tell us more about this Mattis Farewell message for the DOD.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPODENT, CNN: Hi, Ryan. Well, it does come as now the new incoming acting secretary, Patrick Shanahan his first job maybe to figure out what Mr. Trump really wants to do about withdrawing troops from Syria.

Is it on pause? Is it happening rapidly? Nobody really seems to know as he begins his tenure actually tomorrow. Mattis left the building earlier today. We're not sure if he's going to even come back at this point.

And he left behind a message to the troops, which has just perhaps a little bit of a dig at President Trump's tendency towards isolationism. Let me read part of it to you. The secretary saying, our department's leadership, civilian and military remains in the best possible hands.

Our department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast alongside our allies, allied against our foes.

Alongside our allies, that is secretary James Mattis in his final hours in office, once again endorsing alliances and collisions. He believes very strongly that is essential to U.S. national security. Ryan.

NOBLES: Right. And as Jim Mattis leaves this post today, Barbara, I want to ask you about a tweet that just came out from the United States military. This was from U.S. Strategic Command. It says Time Square tradition rings in the New Year by dropping the big ball. If ever needed, we are ready to drop something much, much bigger.

Barbara, it was accompanies by a video of a B-2 bomber. You know more about this than I do. But this seems unusual. Is it not?

STARR: The world, I think it is very safe to say is hoping for a very peaceful New Years Eve. And this message may have struck a very odd cord. Look at that video. That's a B-2 bomber tweeted by the U.S. military test firing, test dropping some of its newest most advance precision heavy weapons.

The U.S. Strategic Command, Ryan, of course in charge of control of America's nuclear weapons and telling the world that it is ready to drop its weapons if it needs to. So, of course everybody knows that. Everybody knows the U.S. military is ready at all times.

America's adversaries know that, so why would you tweet this, again, when the world is hoping for a very peaceful, calm, celebratory New Years Eve in the coming hours. It's already New Years overseas. It may be striking a very peculiar note. Ryan.

NOBLES: Yes. Peculiar may be the perfect word to described that, Barbara. I can't come up with another one at least at the moment. Barbara, Happy New Year. Thank you for being here. We appreciate it.

STARR: Happy New Year.

NOBLES: First it was me too, now it's never again. Louis C.K. trying to make a comedy comeback.


But he's getting major backlash for joking about the Parkland School shooting; hear how one of the survivors is responding.


NOBLES: This is a pretty big story trending today; survivors of the Parkland School shooting coming out swinging at Louis C.K. after the comedian mocked their activism in his routine. Take a listen to this leaked audio from the set performed in December, and we should warn you, it may be offensive.



LOUIS C.K., COMEDIAN: They testified in front of Congress, these kids. Like what the (expletive)? What are you doing? You're young; you should be crazy. You should be unhinged, not in a suit saying, "I'm here to tell" - (expletive) you; you're not interesting because you went to a high school where kids got shot.

Why does that mean I have to listen to you? How does that make you interesting? You didn't get shot; you pushed some fat kid in the way. Now, I got to listen to you talking?


NOBLES: So there was some pretty strong reaction to this. One survivor of the Parkland shooting tweeting this in response, "Louis C.K., although taking Jell-o shots and eating mushrooms might've been a big deal when you were 18, that is not the luxury that we have after having seen our friends and classmates in caskets because of preventable gun violence." And joining me now to kind of put this all into perspective, and it's not an easy topic to do so, but we've brought Dean Obeidallah in, who has his Sirius XM radio show. He's, of course, a standup comedian so you kind of understand ...


NOBLES: - kind of fine line here. And to be -- to be clear, Dean, you are not endorsing what Louis C.K. had to say in any way, but explain to me the kind of interesting place he finds himself in at this time.

OBEIDALLAH: I want to walk gingerly here, because I want to keep my radio show when I leave the set here.

NOBLES: Right, right.

OBEIDALLAH: The reality is, look, from a comedic point of view, comedians have to have freedom of expression; they even have to have the freedom to offend. That, of course, does not mean the freedom from criticism.

If you don't like a comedian's jokes, speak out. The response on Twitter today and social media against Louis' jokes was palpable; I mean the emotion from the survivors was stunning and it was heartbreaking to see.

So I don't agree with the jokes; Louis can defend his own jokes. A very smart guy, a very funny guy, but when you're a celebrity and you're under the glare of the spotlight, you should know that if you're going to do a joke like this, there's going to be a backlash.

And there should be. People, if you don't like a comedian's joke, change the channel. Don't support them; speak out. But to me, the way that you don't -- if you don't like someone's speeches, be comedy or speeches, is more speech.

NOBLES: Right.

OBEIDALLAH: Some on Twitter literally want to silence the guy.


OBEIDALLAH: To me, that's what that goes beyond the line, that people get offended, on the left and the right, to jokes. Silencing comedians because they're talking about topics of the day, even if it's upsetting, is the wrong response (ph).

NOBLES: Right. Well, let me -- here's what another comedian, Judd Apatow, had to say about it. He said, quote, "This hacky, unfunny, shallow routine is just a symptom of how people are afraid to feel empathy.

It's much easier to laugh at our most vulnerable than to look at their pain directly and show them love and concern. Louis C.K. is all fear and bitterness now; he can't look inward." Is this fair from Judd Apatow? Is he separating or is he combining Louis C.K. the human being with Louis C.K. the character on stage? I mean where -- where do you -- how would you respond to what he had to say?

OBEIDALLAH: He might be. I mean Judd on Twitter has been really outspoken on issues of showing a lot of empathy and compassion for -- on various issues. So I have a great deal of respect for Judd Apatow here.

I think from a comedic point of view we have to worry about self- censorship by comedians that go beyond just a bad joke, goes to the point of actually not doing comedy anymore, not pushing the envelope.

NOBLES: Right. And of course, the big problem here for Louis C.K. is it's not just these jokes, right, it's got more to do with everything that's been in his past and everything along those lines. All right, Dean, thank you for your perspective.

OBEIDALLAH: Thanks, Ryan.

NOBLES: We appreciate you being here. All right, let's get a live look now at the Dow. In the final day of trading of 2018, you know, it's better than in the red; it is in the green, up about 200 points. Still, going to be - end up being the worst year for the markets in a decade. We will be right back.



NOBLES: Social activism hash tags a missile alert mishap and viral videos of everyday racism. CNN's Brooke Baldwin takes a look back at the top trending stories of 2018.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: 2018 was the year of the social media activists; people across the country speaking out against sexual assault, gun violence and racism. Hash tag activism proved it's a force to be reckoned with. Here are our top eight trending stories of the year.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are here standing in solidarity with women everywhere saying time's up; enough is enough on sexual harassment, assault, abusive power.

BALDWIN: The group created the 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, AMERICAN EXECUTIVE: And now that we've all joined as one voice, it feels like empowerment to those women who never had it.

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



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It literally says -- pay it, play it. Hold on. OK. Yanny.


BALDWIN: And it seemed everyone had an opinion from law enforcement...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is Laurel and not Yanny, all right. Come on. How many Laurels 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.

HANNAH VAUGHAN JONES, JOURNALIST: Talking about this amazing case of Spiderman, as he's being dubbed.

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

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 shelter anywhere they could, with some even putting their children in storm drains.

Within 12 minutes, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard tweeted that this was a false alarm. But there was no word from the governor who admitted he'd forgotten his Twitter password.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

Barbeque 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 its 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 publically recounting her alleged sexual assault.

CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD, PROFESSOR: 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'd you get there?" "I don't remember." "Where was the place?" "I don't remember." "How many years ago was it?" "I don't know."

BALDWIN: In a series of tweets, Trump claimed that if the attack Ford alleged, quote, "was as bad as she says, charges would've been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities." The hash tags #WeBelieveDrFord, #BelieveSurvivors, and #DearProfessorFord started trending as hundreds of thousands of women took to social media to express their solidarity.

And using the hash tag #WhyIDidntReport, countless more spoke with 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 Douglass High School turned the worst days of their lives into a political movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can say, "Yes, we're going to do all these things; thoughts and prayers." What we need more than that is action.

BALDWIN: Students created the Never Again movement to prevent gun violence and help 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 Barrack Obama's inspirational tweet about the march become 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 and half-truths. @realDonaldTrump helps 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 re-tweeted more than 3,000 times in 2018, and is the most tweeted about political figure of the year.

TRUMP: Make America Great Again.

NOBLES: Happy New Year. That's it for us; The Lead starts right now.