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911 Calls Released in Death of Intern by Lion; Netflix Pulls Comedian's Episode at Request of Saudi Arabia; with No Deal Insight, Trump and Democratic Leaders Meet at White House; New York's Cuomo Says Biden Has Best Case Among Democrats for The Presidential Nomination. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 2, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Conservative center in Burlington, North Carolina that they had dealt with big cats for some time. The cats had been locked away in a part of the enclosure while human cleaned the larger enclosure. That's exactly what was going on in this situation. This 22-year-old intern who had just been on the job for ten days was in there with several other people. The cat -- the only thing the center is saying is the cat somehow got out of a locked enclosure and got at her and was able to maul her. Her family is devastated, the center is devastated, an investigation clearly under way. But how it is that it got out is still a bit of a mystery -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: That's just a heart-breaking story there. Miguel Marquez, thank you very much.

MARQUEZ: You bet.

BROWN: I want to discuss this with Zoo Miami's communication director, Ron Magill. Ron, this rhino incident those railings with enough space between them for a child to squeeze through, what should zoos across the country be looking at today in the wake of this?

RON MAGILL, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, ZOO MIAMI: Well, I didn't understand your question very well. My communication was not great. If you're talking about the rhino enclosure, you know, there are standard minimum requirements for separations, it's 11 inches. But in addition to that, I think now what we have here at our zoo is we have cables that go in front of that to prevent anything from getting up to those poles itself. So, those cables running across prevent any small child for going through.

I think it's a wake-up call for all of us. We're reevaluating ourselves, even though we have those cables, to see if there's something else we could add. Because the bottom line is this, a child in a split second can run anywhere they want. Even when you have adult supervision. Even when you're holding that child. That child can do things very quickly. And these animals are wild animals. There's an old saying that says you can take an animal out of the wild, you cannot take the wild out of the animal. Though we have the secondary barriers for our rhinos, we are now evaluating to increase those barriers to make sure we can do whatever we can. BROWN: And it seems like -- and I hope you can hear me --- there is

this growing trend in zoos for this up close, personal experience with the animals, but realistically can zoos allow for that while also making it safe to prevent these kinds of tragedies?

MAGILL: Well it's a very good question. And the bottom line is there's going to be instances where first of all we can't allow small children to get in there. Because animals, wild animals, especially predatory animals, things like lions, big cats, things like that instinctively will gear -- they'll sight themselves on a small child. So, there are going to be instances where we are going to have to make that decision where small child cannot be involved in those types of experiences.

It's sad but it's a reality that's come to fruition here with the fact that we've got the situations where small children get hurt. So, we may have to make that decision or we have to just make it that much more of a barrier where it might take away from the experience initially but at the end of the day, safety has got to be the priority.

BROWN: Yes, absolutely. But the lion mauling in North Carolina -- let's talk about that. This happened at a wildlife preserve. Is there a difference in how these facilities are regulated from state to state? Do they need more federal regulation?

MAGILL: Absolutely. You know, the USDA has what we call minimum requirements. And a lot of these facilities, these private organizations have to meet those minimum requirements. But those minimum requirements really are just that, minimum. As an AZA accredited facility, you have to meet AZA standards which set the bar much higher than those minimum requirements. And that's what I tell people. Listen, if you're going to go to an institution, make sure it is an AZA accredited institution. They have to meet incredible standards for safety, for animal welfare, all those things. It's very dangerous to lump in a roadside attraction within accredited zoo. People need to know how to tell the difference and understand what those facilities are doing. Because the accreditation requires a lot more expense to create the enclosures that are supposed to be created. A lot more expense for the welfare. I'm not saying that these smaller institutions do not care for their animals. They care for them profoundly. But sometimes it's cost prohibitive to them to meet the standards, which is why they can't be accredited by the AZA. But at the end of the day they can make it a safety issue also.

BROWN: Ok, Ron, we do appreciate it. Thank you so much.

MAGILL: Thank you.

BROWN: Right now, congressional leaders are inside the White House trying to find a way out of the partial government shutdown that has been dragging on for nearly two weeks now. We'll bring you any developments as we get them.

Plus, Netflix yanks an episode of a comedy show and finds himself dealing with some real live drama. Was the company trying not to offend Saudi Arabia? We're going to talk about the controversial decision up next.


BROWN: Netflix is under fire today after its decision to pull an episode of a comedy show that was critical Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his alleged role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Now officials from the kingdom complained after the episode of "Patriot Act" hosted by comic Hasan Minhaj. Take a watch.


HASAN MINHAJ, COMIC: I am genuinely rooting for change in Saudi Arabia. I am rooting for the people of Saudi Arabia. There are people in Saudi Arabia fighting for true reform but MBS is not one of them. And to those who continue to work with him, just know with every deal you close, you are simply helping entrench an absolute monarch under the guise of progress because ultimately MBS is not modernizing Saudi Arabia. The only thing he's modernizing is Saudi dictatorship.


[15:40:00] BROWN: Well, now Netflix has blocked that episode from streaming in Saudi Arabia. It's a decision that has prompted widespread outrage and his colleague at the "Washington Post" calls the move outrage out. I want to bring in our CNN business reporter Hadas Gold, she joins me from London. So Hadas, what reason did Saudi Arabia give as to why Netflix had to take this down?

HADAS GOLD, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER, LONDON: This episode originally actually aired in October. It was only in the last few weeks that Netflix said it received a legal request from Saudi Arabia to remove this episode. And Netflix wanted to emphasize it was a legal request, it wasn't just a general request for them to remove it. Netflix says that Saudi Arabian officials cited article 6 of their anti-crime cyber law which prohibits impinging on public order, religious values, public morals and privacy. There's a lot in that episode that Saudi officials I am sure would not

be happy about hearing, including that clip you mentioned where he goes off against MBS.

But another issue in that episode when Hasan Minhaj talks about that likely drew the ire of officials in Saudi Arabia is him talking about how Saudi Arabia is home to some of the holiest sites in Islam. And Hasan Minhaj said we access god through Saudi Arabia, a country I feel that does not represent our values, he's pretty much doubting whether Saudi Arabia be in charge of these really religious sites. That probably contributed to this but we don't have more details necessarily on exactly what in that episode Saudi Arabia officials were not happy with.

Because there is actually another follow-up episode just a few weeks ago that Hasan Minhaj where he goes even harder related to the Khashoggi killings and Netflix confirmed that episode is still up and available in Saudi Arabia. BROWN: So, we should point out also, Hadas, the episode has 1.4

million views already, at least double what his usual episodes get on YouTube. What else is Netflix saying as to the criticism that they are caving to the Saudis on this?

GOLD: Pam, it's a great point that this controversy is likely giving Hasan Minhaj and the specific episode even more publicity. You have to remember that people in Saudi Arabia can get around this ban, use VPNs to make it look like they're coming from somewhere else. And Netflix pointed out that so far, the original episode the one that was taken down is still actually available on YouTube in the country.

But Netflix is saying in a statement that they strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and only removed this episode in Saudi Arabia after we received a valid legal request and to comply with local law. A Netflix spokesperson said to me separately, they don't necessarily really agree with this law but to able to continue in the country they had to remove this because it was a valid legal request sent to them and that's why they took it down.

But this is something a lot of tech companies and media companies are dealing with now is that they want to be global, international companies. Think of Google in China and the controversy over that potentially censored search engine they wanted to release there. They have to contend with these laws in these countries that don't necessarily comport with what these companies stand for when it comes to freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Pam.

BROWN: And of course, the interpretation of the law in Saudi Arabia could be disputed. All right, Hadas Gold, thank you very much for bringing us the latest there. Right now, as we speak congressional leaders are meeting inside the White House. Will they find a way out of this partial government shutdown? We're monitoring that situation. And now that the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination is officially under way, we're going to take a look at some early scorers. Why some of the bigger names aren't doing as well as you might think, up next.


BROWN: Well, as politicians head back to work for 2019, the countdown to 2020 is already under way. Senator Elizabeth Warren has launched an exploratory committee for a Presidential bid and we're now learning new details about a potential run for former Vice President Joe Biden. But one CNN analysis shows that some of the biggest names are actually underperforming when it comes to electability. With me now to discuss, Harry Enten, CNN political writer and analyst breaking this all down for us. What did you find?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: What I essentially did was I looked at the senators who ran for reelection in 2018, the Democratic senators who we think might be running in 2020 and compared to the House Democrats did in the same states. We saw Senators Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown

from Minnesota and Ohio respectively did much better than the House Democrats did in those states while Elizabeth Warren did far worse than Democrats in the House did in the state of Massachusetts. BROWN: All right. So, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says that Joe Biden has the best case for winning because of his previous White House experience. He is leading in the latest CNN polling right now. What do you think?

ENTEN: I mean look there is going to be a case to be made for Joe Biden. The fact is Democrats performed quite poorly with the white working class in 2016. In Biden obviously has those roots in Scranton, Pennsylvania as he likes to say so much. Look, he is beating Trump in the early polls but at this particular point it's very difficult to look at the early polls for the general election and project out whether or not those are going to be accurate. I think Joe Biden has a case to be made. I think the bigger question is whether Joe Biden as a white male can fit into the Democratic party of today which is increasingly non-white and increasingly female.

[15:50:00] BROWN: All right. So, I want to go back to the electability ratings. Why do you think Warren is so low and why do you think she's not doing so well in our home state?

ENTEN: I think it's a great question. It is potentially because she's very progressive, maybe a little too progressive even for Massachusetts. But it should be said that Sherrod Brown in Ohio has a long progressive record and outperformed how House Democrats did. It could also be the case that maybe there's something about her personally that voters don't like. I should point out, this is just one way to look at electability, right? We're going to have a case. Elizabeth Warren and the rest of the Democrats are going to perform in many debates and we'll see how she does in that particular case.

But I will say that when you look at how Massachusetts voters view Elizabeth Warren, whether it be in her re-election margin or where they place her in early primary polls, where she is running third or fourth despite the fact that Massachusetts Democrats know her very, very well, I think if you were to project that out and say, hey, these Massachusetts voters who know her best don't like her in comparison as much as the other Democrats, it's a warning sign to me.

BROWN: All right. Harry Enten, thank you so much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BROWN: And any moment now, we could get news from inside the White House. Congressional leaders are meeting with President Trump as he insists, he will not budge on the $5 billion that he wants for the border wall. Plus, the Supreme Court getting involved for the first time in a case that has come out of the Mueller investigation. We're going to explain what's at stake.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was here on Christmas evening. I was all by myself in the White House. That's a big, big house. Except for all the guys out on the lawn with machine guns. Nicest machine guns I've ever seen. I was waving to them. I never saw so many guys with machine guns in my life. Secret Service and military. These are great people. And they don't play games. They don't like wave. They don't even smile. But I was there all alone with the machine gunners. And I felt very safe, I have to tell you. They're great people. And there are a lot of them. But I was hoping that maybe somebody would come back and negotiate.


BROWN: So that was President Trump just moments ago, pointing out that he was home alone at the White House for the holidays. While that was going on, the First Lady spent Christmas with him in Washington, but returned to Mar-a-Lago to host their annual New Year's Eve party. And posted a rare selfie at her smiling at all the festivities as you see right here. I want to bring in White House reporter, Kate Bennett. She covers the First Lady. So, Kate, is she filling in for Trump while he works? Or staying away? What's going on with the First Lady right now?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, first of all, Pam, I don't want to correct the President, but he wasn't really alone on Christmas evening, because the First Lady was at the White House. If you remember, she came back late on Christmas Eve to do the NORAD calls and to travel with him on the secret trip to Iraq and then returned to Palm Beach. So, you know, they host this annual New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, which is a big deal. $1,000 a ticket this year. Very fancy. And this year, Melania Trump had to handle the hosting duties by herself. Sources tell me she was very affable and chatted with guests and took pictures. She didn't have cameras, there were no press allowed on the red carpet. However, she did post that selfie.

We think that's Baron Trump's eye there in the selfie with her for happy new year. And certainly, you know, she's made a decision, and she's, as we have said before many times, a very independent First Lady. She decided that the shutdown was not going to prevent her from her holiday plans, nor from being with her son, which is what her spokeswoman told CNN for her reason to return to Florida after the Christmas holiday and spend the rest of the time there. She is currently there today. A source tells me she plans to remain for a few more days down in Palm Beach before returning to the President, who is alone in the residence, at least everyone else seems to be back at work for now for the holidays.

BROWN: All right. Kate Bennett, thank you so much.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BROWN: For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court is getting involved with the Russia investigation. CNN has learned that justices could decide today if an unnamed foreign company will have to pay daily fines for avoiding a grand jury subpoena from the special counsel. CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, joins me now. Jessica, tell us about this.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Pamela, this has been winding its way through the two lower courts here in Washington, D.C. and when those courts ruled against this mystery foreign-owned company, that's when the company asked the Supreme Court to step in. So, what is this unknown company fighting? Well, they're fighting the order that compels the company to comply with a grand jury subpoena that is related to the special counsel's probe, and accompanying that, the daily fine that's been imposed for not complying. So, while we wait to see how the full Supreme Court might act on this, the company actually already got one minor victory.

[16:00:00] That was two days before Christmas when the Chief Justice, John Roberts, he issued a temporary stay. And that stay allowed this mystery company to avoid those daily fines that the lower court had imposed. So now the has to decide whether to grant a more permanent stay. And Pamela, it's likely the full court would decide that as opposed to just Chief Justice himself. So, the question will be, will the court side with the special counsel and lift this stay, meaning the company will have to begin paying those hefty daily fines for not cooperating, or on the other hand, will the court side with the company and allow it to keep avoiding the penalty?

But remember, Pamela, this is all shrouded in mystery. We don't know who this company is. We just know that it's foreign-owned and we don't really know what details this company might have that the special counsel might be after. So, could we get more of those details after the Supreme Court steps in more fully here, perhaps today or in the coming days? We shall see. Pamela?

BROWN: We shall see. Reporters are keeping a close eye on this. This has been this mystery case under wraps. And like you pointed out, it's still very much a mystery in terms of what company this is. All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for that. We do appreciate it and happy new year to you. And "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.