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CNN NEWSROOM

7 Year Old Jasmine Barnes Killed by White Gunman in Houston; The President Trump has Given the Pentagon About Four Months to Withdraw The Nearly 2000 US Troops From Syria; In his Televised New Year Address, Kim Jong-Un Said he is Ready to Meet With President Trump Again; In December, Dow Fell Nearly 9%, its Worst Since 1931; The Democrats Will Take Control of House of Representatives in Just Two Days From Now. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 1, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] NICK VALENCIA, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Can you imagine being that family and seeing your daughter, your sister gunned down in front of you and you survive it, in what is said to be an unprovoked attack by the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

And this is the details that they're giving out so far that the suspected shooter is a white male in his 40s, that he had a beard, and he was in a red pickup truck. There are very other few details beyond that though, not even the make and model of the pickup truck is being released, no license plate number, anything like that.

But the sheriff at the -- in Harris County is saying that the family did nothing wrong, nothing to provoke this incident. This is possibly -- it could be a potential hate crime. Nothing is being left off the table right now.

There are very limited details. We know that Jasmine Barnes, she's seven years old, she was in a car with her mother, her three siblings. They were in a Houston area Walmart, leaving that Walmart on Sunday, when the suspected gunman opened fire.

And according to witnesses, Pamela, this gunman kept shooting as he was driving away. The Harris County Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's assistance to check any surveillance footage they might have. They're also combing their own surveillance footage and trying to get to the bottom of who is behind this just gruesome attack. Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hopefully someone from the public will step up--

VALENCIA: Yes.

BROWN: --to help authorities find this gunman, if he does not turn himself in. But I tell you, Nick, when that mother said her windows were not tinted, that gunman could look in her car and see it was a mother and her four children, and yet he's still opened fire; it is just heartbreaking.

Nick Valencia, thank you for providing this--

VALENCIA: Thanks so much.

BROWN: --those details. And up next, the North Korean dictator has a direct message for the United States in his New Year's address. Details on where negotiations stand with Kim Jong-un after a tumultuous year.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The President Trump has given the Pentagon about four months to withdraw the nearly 2000 US troops from Syria. According to The New York Times report citing administration officials, the President told the head of US forces fighting ISIS about his timetable, while he was visiting Iraq last week. President Trump defended his Syria plan on Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never said that I'm going to rush out, we're going to get out, we're getting out of Syria, we're bringing our young great troops home after so many years.

You know, we were supposed to be in Syria for three to four months, and that was four or five years ago, and it's time. ISIS was all over the place when I took over, it was a -- it was a total mess in Syria. We've almost eradicated all of them, we think all of them will be gone by the time we get out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And joining me now to talk more about this, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. He's a retired US Navy Two Star Admiral, former Pentagon spokesman, and CNN's military and diplomatic analyst.

Thank you for coming on; happy New Year.

JOHN KIRBY, RETIRED REAR ADMIRAL, UNITED STATES NAVY: You too, Pam, thank you.

BROWN: So first, right off the bat, does four months sound like a reasonable amount of time to you?

KIRBY: It's brisk, but I think it's doable, and I think from what I understand it, the four months was sort of always the minimum timeframe that the Pentagon was planning to. So, I think it's a stretch for Senator Graham or others to say, well he's really considerably slowed this down. I think four months is really about the fastest that the Pentagon wanted to go.

But given that we're talking 2,600 troops, they're mostly special operators, which means they don't have a lot of infrastructure with them, not a big footprint; I think it's reasonable.

BROWN: Hmm all right. So let's talk about what we're hearing from the President. Of course, just a couple weeks ago, he said ISIS had been decimated. Now he's saying all of ISIS will be eradicated by the time he withdraws these troops. Is that feasible in your view? KIRBY: Well, I think if he had not made the decision to withdraw, then I would say yes probably. We were already down to -- they were down to about 1% of their territory in Syria and Brett McGurk, the recently resigned special envoy to the counter-ISIS coalition said back in early December that, within a matter of a few months, they could remove that 1% and eradicate their presence in Syria.

But even Brett back then said that's not the same as an enduring defeat of ISIS, that they would still have the ability to reconstitute themselves, if we didn't stay and work on stabilization. The other thing that's important here Pam is, now that he's made this decision, yes we'll be moving out in four months, but we've already now sent a huge signal to all the players in the region that we have no intention of staying and fighting ISIS in any meaningful way.

So all the players are now looking for new partners, and that will I think make it harder for any effort to actually eradicate them in the short term.

BROWN: Yes, that's interesting because the President had said previously that you don't want to sort of telegram to your adversaries about what you're going to do, and yet that's sort of what's playing out right now.

KIRBY: Exactly.

BROWN: So you have Syria. Another challenge the President will continue to face in 2019 of course is North Korea. In his televised New Year address Kim Jong-un said he is ready to meet with President Trump again. He recommitted himself to abandon any nuclear weapons, but he had a caveat. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM JONG-UN, SUPREME LEADER OF NORTH KOREA (INTERPRETED): If the U.S. does not keep the promise it made in front of the world and misinterprets our people's patience and makes one side of demands and continues down the path of sanctions and pressure on our Republic, then we have no choice but to defend our country's sovereignty and supreme interest, and find a new way to settle peace on our peninsula.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, how should the White House view this warning from Kim Jong- un?

KIRBY: Totally predictable, and I'm sure that the President's team actually was not surprised at all by Kim Jong-un's rhetoric.

Remember he, Kim, wants a stronger economy, that's what he -- his economy is one of the smallest in the world, it's not very integrated, and he has promised economic reforms.

[15:40:00] So, he wants those sanctions lifted and he considers the sanctions the biggest method of pressure that the United States and the international community are putting on him. Plus, he wants to keep his regime in power and he wants leverage at the negotiating table, and his nukes and those missiles give him that leverage. So I think this was totally predictable. I don't think we should read more into it than it is. I mean it is pretty much the same playbook he's been playing off of now for years.

What matters is the diplomacy that we're now seeing happen play out on camera, and I do believe that the Trump administration is working hard to try to find a way through this. At least, if nothing else, just some additional confidence-building measures, small steps on both sides that they can take to try to loosen up the gears and get the talks back on.

BROWN: And as we kick off this New Year, it will be interesting to see if there's going to be a second summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un; we'll have to wait and see. Admiral Kirby, thank you so much.

KIRBY: My pleasure, Pam. Good to be with you.

BROWN: Well, the markets are closed today for New Year, but they ended 2018 with the worst decline since the 2008 financial crisis. We are going to discuss why, and factcheck President Trump's claims that everyday people are benefiting in this economy.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, tomorrow, investors will get their first look and whether the markets will improve in 2019. After closing out the worst year for stocks in a decade, all three indices dropping between 4% and 6%, and December was particularly dismal with the Dow falling nearly 9%, its worst since 1931.

But with the continuing government shutdown and other turmoil in Washington, could a New Year bring the same old problems, that is the big question. And joining me now to discuss more about this is CNN Political Commentator Catherine Rampell. She is an Opinion Columnist for The Washington Post.

Catherine, thanks for coming on. Look, you know, we know political uncertainty was a big factor for investors. They don't like uncertainty; fears of a global trade war, the funding fight over the wall.

Is President Trump responsible for these awful numbers?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, Presidents get too much credit when either stock markets or the economy are good, and too much blame when they are bad, so I don't want to leave yours with the impression that Presidents control the market, they don't.

That said, certainly there are a number of unforced errors here, and Trump is injecting a lot of uncertainty into the market. Basically, markets are guided by animal spirits, right. They go up, they continue going up, as they have for the last basically ten years, until everybody collectively decides they've probably gone up too much and they should reverse themselves. And these kinds of shocks, things like trade wars, things like a government shutdown, White House chaos and turmoil, Trump threatening to fire the Chairman of the Fed, which would be disastrous, those kinds of shocks can cause investors to reconsider whatever assumptions they have made about the market.

So those kinds of forces of uncertainty, continued uncertainty about where policy will land, what Trump might tweet from day to day, none of that is good for volatility.

BROWN: So, just on that note, there have been some months and while Trump has been President where the stock market's done really well even though there's so much uncertainty about what he might do next and about what he may tweet next. So how do you sort of explain that?

RAMPELL: I think there are a few things going on. Again, the market has been growing on net anyway for about the last ten years. So Trump kind of came in with these tailwinds, he inherited them from the economy and the markets that were under Obama, although again I'm not saying that Obama controlled them.

So some of this is just pre-existing trends, some of this is of course the fact that we had a major tax cut. Stock prices are by definition a claim on the after-tax profits of a firm. So if you cut tax rates, by definition that's going to raise market prices or they should raise market prices.

So we did see a boost as a result of the tax cut. Of course a large part of that has now been reversed. So that's some of what's going on. And then in the last few months, a number of the factors that I mentioned earlier have gotten a lot worse.

Things like the trade war, for example, things like Trump exerting more pressure on the Federal Reserve, even more White House turmoil. So you see, some factors potentially weighing more towards on the side of increasing stock prices and a lot of other factors more recently causing investors to get a lot more skittish.

BROWN: All right, quickly let's bring out your crystal ball, what do you think 2019 will hold?

RAMPELL: I think unfortunately more of the same. You know, if I knew what markets were going to do, if I knew what the economy was going to do, I would be a very, very rich woman. I don't know those things. All I can say is that the kinds of factors that we've seen so far, driving volatility, increasing risks to the underlying health of the real economy, those don't look like they're going away.

I'm not terribly optimistic that we are going to end this trade war or rather trade wars, plural, any time soon. I'm not terribly optimistic that the White House is going to suddenly become a calmer place, with a more coherent economic or fiscal or financial policy. So you know I'm not super optimistic.

That said you know, I don't think that we've seen anything in the data as yet that indicates an immediate recession or crisis or something like that is around the corner.

BROWN: Okay, Catherine, thanks for coming on and breaking it down for us, so we can understand this complicated stuff. We do appreciate it.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

BROWN: I want to turn now to this miraculous rescue from the rubble of a collapsed building in Russia. Watch, as an 11 month old infant was found alive after spending 35 hours underneath the wreckage.

[15:50:00] (VIDEO PLAYING)

--the building collapsed from an explosion thought to have been caused by a gas leak. Not only was this baby stuck underneath the rubble for almost a day and a half, but the temperature was in the single digits.

And according to Reuters, the baby was diagnosed with serious freezer burn and a closed head injury. The baby's mother also survived and came to the hospital and recognized her son. Unbelievable.

Well, just two days from now, the House will be back in session, and five of the new Democrats taking charge are going to make life very difficult for President Trump. We're going to break down what they plan to investigate in the New Year. We'll be back.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, it is a new year, and that means a new more intense level of scrutiny for the President from the House of Representatives. The Democrats will take control of the chamber in just two days from now. And it's not just expected Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is about to make President Trump -- it's expected rather, she is about to make Trump's life harder.

I want to bring in CNN Politics reporter, Lauren Fox. She's here with five more Democrats who are likely to battle the President in a big way in 2019. So Lauren, some of these Democrats will be digging into a topic that's even more sensitive, arguably, to the President than Russia, and that of course is his finances.

LAUREN FOX, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, CNN: Absolutely. A new cast of characters in the House of Representatives, starting this Thursday, Pam. And I want to start with Richard Neal. He's the incoming Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and he is the Democrat on Capitol Hill who has the power to ask for President Donald Trump's tax returns.

Now, a source familiar told me last month that Richard Neal will ask for the President's tax returns, he will make a formal request to Treasury any time in this new year. Now, there are still discussions about exactly when he will ask for them. But you can expect a protracted legal battle between the House of Representatives and the President of the United States when it comes to something Trump hasn't wanted to turn over before, Pam.

Now, he's not the only person that's going to be looking into the President's finances. Maxine Waters, the incoming Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, also wants to look into any ties that the Trump organization has with Russia.

Now, she is looking specifically for those kind of financial ties from the President, and she's tangled with President Trump in the past. She is beloved by the Democratic base, and she has said in the past that she thinks President Trump should be impeached. So, she is going to be somebody at the forefront of this fight to do oversight into the Trump administration, and you can expect her to be a fierce critic of President Trump.

Now, Elijah Cummings is the incoming Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. And he arguably has the most jurisdiction of any Chairman coming in to look into the Trump administration, to conduct oversight. His committee can look into everything from immigration to security clearances on Capitol Hill or -- at the White House, excuse me.

And I talked to him last month. He told me that he expects to bring in a wide variety of cabinet secretaries before his committee, including Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary. He has questions about how a question about citizenship ended up on the census.

Now, we should also look to Adam Schiff, this has been somebody who has tangled with the President on the Russia investigation. He thinks Republicans haven't answered enough questions, and he has more questions he looks to open up the Russia investigation. He wants to bring in folks like Michael Flynn before his committee.

But there's one more person you should be paying attention to, and that is the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler. His sole focus is going to be protecting the Mueller investigation, but he'll look into the President's impact on immigration, the rise of white nationalism in the country, and he is the person who is going to be leading any impeachment effort, if Democrats decide to go down that path in 2019, Pam.

BROWN: All right. Lauren Fox, thank you for breaking that down for us. It is much appreciated.

And thank you so much for joining me on your New Year's day. The Sixties is next, and don't forget to turn in at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for the new CNN film, "Love, Gilda." Have a great day, everybody.