Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Source: Trump Tells Schumer He Can't Accept Dems' Offer Because He'd 'Look Foolish'; Two Indian Women Become First To Enter Revered Temple; Report's German Leftwing Movement To Protest, Inspired By Yellow Vest Movement In France; Trump's White House Reality Show Goes Viral. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 3, 2019 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Impasse in Washington: President Trump says the shutdown will continue for as long as it takes. And Democrats are refusing to give in on funding for Trump's wall.

A rare warning from tech giant Apple. Why next quarter's earnings will be off by a few billion dollars.

Plus an American man arrested in Moscow gets a visit from the U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world, I'm Paula Newton and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

NEWTON: OK. We're just hours away from a big shift in the balance in power in Washington. At noon local time Thursday, the 116th U.S. Congress will be sworn in with a lot of new members and Democrats taking over the House of Representatives.

One of their first orders of business: voting on a package of spending bills to reopen the government and end the nearly two-week- long shutdown. But the Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said that President Trump will get, quote, "nothing" for his border wall.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he won't move forward on any plan the president won't support. So the government shutdown drags on and on. Our Kaitlan Collins reports from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Washington in a stalemate tonight with no end to the government shutdown in sight.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States needs a physical barrier.

COLLINS: After President Trump rejected an offer his own vice president and chief of staff floated to Democrats just last week, a deal that would include $2.5 billion for border security, about half of what he is asking for.

TRUMP: No, not 2.5. No, we are asking for 5.6 and, you know, somebody said 2.5. No. Look, this is national security we're talking about.

COLLINS: That's a proposal Democrats later turned down, but the president's comments at his Cabinet meeting setting the tone for his sit-down with Democrat and Republican leaders from both the House and the Senate this afternoon, where no progress was made.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We had a long discussion. The president asked us to come back on Friday.

COLLINS: Democrats emerging from the meeting to announce they will bring bills that would reopen the government to the House floor tomorrow, though it won't make of a difference since Senate Majority Leader McConnell has vowed not to bring a vote in the Senate unless the president has endorsed it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: I said, Mr. President, give me one good reason why you should continue your shutdown of these -- of the eight cabinet departments while we are debating our differences on Homeland Security. He could not give a good answer.

COLLINS: A Hill source familiar with the meeting calling it, quote, "more of a White House stunt than a serious attempt to have a discussion," as Trump spent the morning claiming Mexico is paying for the wall through the recently renegotiated trade deal with Canada and Mexico, an idea that has stumped lawmakers and aides alike, since it hasn't even passed Congress yet.

Trump falsely claiming the wall has been built, when, in fact, none of it has. The president's cabinet meeting turning into a nearly two- hour affair after he spent the holidays virtually alone.

TRUMP: I was all by myself in the White House. It is a big, big house, except for all of the guys out on the lawn with machine guns. Nicest machine guns I have ever seen.

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: Trump starting the new year surrounded by a new staff, as seven of the 21 cabinet positions are now filled by deputies or acting officials, including the chief of staff, attorney general and Defense Secretary.

The president falsely stating today that he fired his former Pentagon chief, James Mattis.

TRUMP: As you know, President Obama fired him and essentially so did I. I want results. COLLINS: Mattis resigned in protest over the president's sudden decision to withdraw troops from Syria, saying as much in a scathing resignation letter that sources said Trump didn't realize was so critical. He blasted the retired general today.

TRUMP: General Mattis was so thrilled, but what has he done for me?

How has he done in Afghanistan?

Not too good.

COLLINS: Trump, who didn't serve in the military, but prides himself on being surrounded by generals, adding:

TRUMP: I think I would have been a good general, but who knows.

COLLINS: Though that's far from the president's only feud in Washington, with incoming senator Mitt Romney telling CNN's Jake Tapper this today:

MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH SENATOR-ELECT: He was endorsing me. I wasn't endorsing him and I haven't decided who I'm going to endorse in 2020.

COLLINS: That interview coming after Romney bashed Trump in a scathing op-ed in "The Washington Post," claiming the Trump presidency, quote, "made a deep descent with the departures of Mattis and John Kelly."

The president uncharacteristically restrained in his response.

TRUMP: I read his op-ed. I just hope he's going to be a team player.

COLLINS: But he seemed to be saving --

[02:05:00]

COLLINS (voice-over): -- the fire for Mitt Romney's own niece, the RNC chair, who Trump urged to stop using her maiden name last year.

She didn't name her uncle, instead writing, "For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack Donald Trump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want."

Now Mitt Romney responded to the criticism from his niece, saying he believes that she was simply expressing her viewpoint that she believes it is best for Trump and the Republican Party. But he did say when asked about the government shutdown, if it came down to it, he would vote for the president's border wall -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: CNN political analyst Brian Karem joins me now from Washington.

Good to see you and a happy new year. And what a new year it is, especially in Congress. We're going to deal with the lack of progress on the shutdown right now.

You know, CNN has sources saying that Donald Trump basically told them in the room today, look, I'm going to look foolish if I try and, you know, even fund part of the government today and try and solve this problem.

Brian, from what you're hearing, is he going to wear this politically?

Because right now the president is making the calculation, that, look, I'm still going to have at least my base on my side about the shutdown.

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you remember, 12 days ago, he was ready to compromise. Then Ann Coulter came out, shot her mouth off, Pharaoh's heart hardened and he couldn't compromise.

Now 12 days into it, this shutdown will effectively hurt some of his base, a lot of his base, as a matter of fact, that voted for him.

So he's going to have to find a way to back down gracefully. I think we are going to end up back where we were at the beginning, with maybe two or three parts of DACA in it as well. And he is saying come back by Friday.

So what's going to happen is Pelosi said, Nancy Pelosi said today at the White House, that the Senate and the House are going to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government for 30 days while they sort out their differences and they are going to present that to Donald Trump.

And the president is going to have to decide whether to sign that piece of legislation or veto it. And then they'll have to be able to figure out if they can override the veto.

But at the end of the day, I think they are going to be back to basically where they've been all along. The president is not going to get $5 billion for a wall. He is not going to get $2.5 billion. He is going to end up getting border security enhancement which everyone, the Republicans and the Democrats, support.

It's just a nasty show that was all there, it's -- this is a political game that the president decided to play so he could play to his base.

(CROSSTALK)

NEWTON: But let me stop you there. We have seen --

KAREM: Sure.

NEWTON: -- for more than two years now that when the president decides to play as you call it the political game, he wins a lot of time.

KAREM: Well, that was before he had Congress that was made up of Democrats. And here's the, you know, I got to tell you, here's the thing. You're taking a look at the president winning. He's had a shutdown of government, while his party controls both the Senate and the House.

So, if he can't win, if he can't assert his will over two sides of the House that he controls, how is he going to do it when Congress is controlled -- or the House is controlled by Democrats?

NEWTON: And to follow up on it, Brian, we do see Nancy Pelosi in that very interesting meeting there in the Oval. She takes the helm again, let's say she's reclaiming that title, it was on CNN, her daughter actually said in terms of her character and what she's been through, that she will literally bite your head off and you won't even know you're bleeding.

(LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: This is from her daughter.

KAREM: Well, remind me not to make her mad.

(LAUGHTER)

NEWTON: So you should never make Nancy Pelosi mad apparently. And yet the president seems to tempt fate.

Do you see this, though, as the Democrats perhaps getting too cocky here?

I know that there are already lots of talk about investigations, releasing tax returns, they've got to find a way to keep those wins in their political column, especially going into that 2020 campaign.

KAREM: Well, it's been said that there's nothing worse than a Republican in D.C. other than a Democrat. And Lewis Black famously said one is a party of bad ideas and one is a party of no ideas. So yes, the Democrats always were skidding ahead of their skis and if they come back and if the president gives two or three parts of DACA and then the Democrats hold off on that and won't compromise on that, then it's going to make them look bad.

So Pelosi is taking over, as we said before, she's kind of like Muhammad Ali stepping back into the ring, the champ is back.

So we'll see what happens when she's there. But the Democrats always run that risk of getting ahead of their skis and they always run the risk of being a little arrogant. And -- but they do have control of the House.

NEWTON: So, Brian, give them some advice.

What do they need to do here so that doesn't happen?

Because I know there are even Democrats at a certain point, hiding at this point, saying, don't do that; don't say that. We've got to play this differently.

[02:10:00] KAREM: New leadership would help both parties. But the real -- what would really help the Democrats out is if they took a breath and realized that there are some real issues that got Donald Trump elected. Draining the swamp plays to a lot of people in the Democratic and the Republican Party. And this action of the shutdown in government -- which Trump owns, by the way -- he did say he would own it.

That's the biggest swamp maneuver he's made yet. And so people really do want to see bipartisan agreement. They want to see Democrats and Republicans working together. This government has never been so divisive.

And if they can find a way to do that, then the Democrats will set a nice platform upon which to build.

If they can't then it's going to be difficult going into 2020.

NEWTON: Brian, thanks so much. Really appreciate your insight.

KAREM: Thank you.

KAREM: Happy, happy, happy New Year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: Now just days into that New Year, Apple is already sending out a very grim warning. The tech giant announced revenue from the holiday quarter fell short of expectations mainly because of a drop in iPhone sales in China.

Now Apple's revised target for the first quarter of 2019 is now $84 billion. That's at least $5 billion below Apple's previous forecasts. I want to listen to how CEO Tim Cook explained the slump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM COOK, CEO, APPLE: As we look at what is going on in China, it is clear hat the economy began to slow there for the second half. And what I believe to be the case is the trade tensions between the United States and China put additional pressure on their economy.

So we saw, as the quarter went on, things like traffic in our regional stores, traffic in our channel partner stores, the reports of the smartphone industry contracting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: None of that sounds very good, does it? Now you see what the markets are doing. It is quite a muted reaction, I have to say. They're down. The Nikkei, Hang Seng and Shanghai Composite and Seoul markets are all down less than 1 percent.

Though what is not clear is how much this will rattle U.S. investors. Stock futures are pointing to a lower open Thursday. It could be quite dramatic. The Dow and the S&P futures are down about 1.5 percent. But look at the Nasdaq futures down better than 2 percent there. And Matt Rivers has been following all of this from Beijing.

Matt, as you point out, this is a very busy morning when something like this comes out. We'll talk about the economic data in China. The indicators there have not been good for a while.

But does this look as well as if it may be some patriotic payback with more Chinese consumers turning away from such an iconic U.S. brand?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a good point. There's no doubt that Chinese consumers are choosing Huawei phones over Apple in growing numbers. Huawei passed Apple earlier this year as the number two smartphone maker in the world. And Huawei's sales are actually up year-over-year in the third quarter in China as opposed to Apple sales, which are falling.

Why is that happening?

One of the things you could point to is this ongoing tension between Huawei and the United States. The CFO of Huawei, detained in Canada at the request from the United States because of evading sanctions, according to the U.S., that the U.S. had put in place against Iran.

Chinese state media has used that as a really good way to whip up nationalistic sentiment here in China and get the Chinese public to buy more Huawei phones. So you've seen companies encourage their employees to buy Huawei phones instead of Apple. You see the local governments do the same.

Granted, that's all anecdotal; we can't quantitatively analyze that. But you see those kinds of stories over and over again. And when you're looking at the reasons why, Huawei seems to be the preferred choice over Apple, at least in the last couple of quarters. That could be part of it.

The other reason is Apple's phones are really expensive and Huawei's phones are a lot less expensive. So there's a number of different reasons there in addition to the slowing economy, which means that Chinese consumer sentiment just isn't where it is or used to be when it comes to shelling out a lot of money for a smartphone.

NEWTON: A lot of factors at play there, but as you point out, when you see social media in China, the patriotism perhaps play be factor going forward. In terms of setting this up, we still have these very dramatic trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

They're going into a whole new phase of negotiations here.

How do you think this will affect those negotiations?

RIVERS: You hear a lot of talk that maybe this actually helps both sides to get to a deal a little bit faster. On the one hand, you have Apple giving the U.S. a little bit less leverage and --

[02:15:00]

RIVERS: -- showing that American companies just can't ride out a trade war without some sort of negative influence.

And you've got stock markets tumbling in the United States. So that gives the U.S. side the incentives to make a deal.

Over here in China, coming out of 2018, it was the worst economic year since the Great Recession in the last 10 years. 2019 doesn't look any better. So you take what's going on in China and what's going on in the U.S., this latest sign from Apple, the stock markets tumbling, you could look at all that and say, both sides have a lot of incentive to get a trade deal done, perhaps more so than before the effects of the trade war were felt really six months ago.

NEWTON: The proof is definitely there, at least as far as Apple is concerned. And they felt the need to come out and make the statement because things were looking quite dire.

Matt, thank you so much. Really appreciate you keeping an eye on this story.

Now we want to bring in the director of the Economist Corporate Network. He is Robert Koepp and joins us now from Hong Kong.

Matt and I were talking about the trade tensions. Right now in fact, Apple iPhones are exempt. The Trump administration exempted them in terms of those phones that are largely made, assembled in China, coming into the us. They're not subject to tariffs.

Having said that, there's been a chilling trend when it comes to trade with tech companies, including Apple perhaps looking at their supply chains.

Do you think we're looking at a blip here or at something more significant, especially when you see Apple already warning that 2019 will be quite rough?

ROBERT KOEPP, ECONOMIST CORPORATE NETWORK: I think in Apple's case it is important to distinguish why is suffering although it was exempt, suffering or potentially suffering in terms of tariffs coming into the U.S. that affects -- those companies that weren't exempted like Apple was.

The other part of your question relating to what is at the heart of the matters with China's supply chains. I think across the board, not only foreign companies, even Chinese companies are rethinking their supply chain strategies because they know there's this threat of tariffs on anything coming out of China.

NEWTON: Obviously a chill in trade relations globally is usually not a good thing for the global economy as a whole. If we see the slowdown in China right now and the economy doesn't look too much better in 2019, do you think there an opportunity here to try and get global trade on a better footing?

Or do you think that the U.S. and China will really be fighting this out at the table for weeks, if not months to come?

And really unsettle what has been a fairly developed and calm trading relationships among many nations.

KOEPP: You could put a very fine point on it actually in terms of there's huge economic rationale supporting trade. Anytime you inhibit trade, that's not a good thing; hence tariffs are not good in that regard.

(CROSSTALK)

NEWTON: You know that the president, Trump says otherwise. He says that they've got to fight China until it's over or the there could be money lost.

KOEPP: And there are merits to that argument as well. That gets really beyond just the day-to-day and looks at things systemically. The real argument coming from Washington is China's economy doesn't function as a market economy. It uses a one-sided embrace of trade where its exports are not like the imports.

Just trying to level the playing field. And you have to have near- term pain to bring the two systems in line. It could be the sort of thing that is going on. Not so much for the Chinese; I think they're too much about Apple. But they see what you talk about there. The overall declining global trade, which is affecting their economy. That's probably the bigger reason for why Apple is suffering. There's a downturn in Chinese sentiment and the Chinese consumer is spending less. This is not good for anyone, including Chinese manufacturers.

NEWTON: I think that's the realization, especially in the last decade, it's a major economy and once China slows, we all slow.

How do you think this will affect the trade negotiations?

There's a lot of stake. Yet this brinksmanship, will it help get a better deal?

Because China is not the first country to take advantage of the trading relationships and it won't be the last.

KOEPP: I think what needs to be done is more of a reckoning between East Asian economic models and Western economic models. And if you're within the WTO, there needs to be revamping for thinking, will we truly have an open trading system?

That means not only China but Japan, South Korea, they're still essentially mercantilistic in their trading strategy. And the WTO hasn't been set up in a way to police that very effectively.

At the same time we should point out the U.S. is not that open. The really open economy is like the one I'm sitting in here in Hong Kong or New Zealand, those have really open, porous borders in terms of trade. Not so much a lot of Western economies. So they need to do better, too, including the U.S..

I think that's what needs to be reckoned with. We have an East Asian trading model and the rest of the world as an ideal under the WTO for open borders with trade and we just don't have that yet. [02:20:00]

NEWTON: I dare say as the debate is going on in North America, WTO reform to liberalize trade will be a tall order, at least in this political environment and a lot of different settings, including perhaps China.

Robert Koepp, thank you so much, really appreciate it.

KOEPP: Thank you.

NEWTON: We're following a major achievement for China's space program. Chinese television reports it has landed a vehicle on the far side of the moon. The rover sent back these new images of the moon a short time ago. Those pictures are pretty exciting. That's a photograph of something that's never been seen.

The mission is to conduct a number of experiments, including attempts to find water and other resources and to see if plants can grow in low gravity.

Next hour I'll talk to Jim Bell, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University about China's major space achievement. And believe me, I've got a lot of questions.

U.S. diplomats are demanding answers but Russia is saying very little about an American man arrested in Moscow for spying. Details about his military service -- next.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

NEWTON: U.S. is asking Russia to explain why it arrested a U.S. citizen on espionage charges. Paul Whelan got a visit from the U.S. ambassador to Russia at a jail in Moscow Wednesday. His family says Whelan is not a spy but was in fact a frequent traveler to Russia who was in town for a wedding.

We have also learned Whelan received a bad conduct discharge from the Marines in 2008 after he was convicted on several charges related to larceny. I want to remind everyone that this is a complicated story. I want to bring in CNN's Moscow bureau chief, Nathan Hodge.

I want to get your take here. It was the ambassador himself that went in to see Mr. Whelan. That's not necessarily protocol, especially for a first visit.

Do you think it's starting to dawn on the Trump administration the seriousness of what they have on their hands here and that this could be a tit-for-tat type of operation?

NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Paula, we had a remarkable development with Ambassador Jon Huntsman visiting with Paul Whelan at Lefortovo Prison in Moscow.

That's a really high level show of support from the State Department. It does show how seriously the U.S. government takes this case. The details of this are really very slim on the Russian side and that's made things doubly difficult.

Right now is a holiday in Russia and much of the country shuts down.

[02:25:00]

HODGE: What little we know about the circumstances of his arrest are what the -- are the details that have been told to us by the FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB.

They came out with a release saying that he was arrested on suspicion of espionage. He faces, if convicted, up to 20 years based on the articles he potentially could be charged under. These details are all emerging and it's provoked an immense amount of speculation in Washington national security circles about whether or not Russia may be seeking some sort of tit-for-tat.

NEWTON: We talk about that; it involves a woman named Maria Butina. She pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy in the United States and could spend several months in jail, just is waiting to be sentenced.

I watched the Russian foreign ministry basically call her a political prisoner.

Do we expect to hear more from Russia about what they believe Whelan is guilty of and if so provide some evidence?

HODGE: You're exactly right. The Russian foreign ministry made a lot of noise about the case of Maria Butina and said she was treated poorly in U.S. custody. They even put her avatar up on their official social media accounts, saying free Maria Butina. They launched a hashtag campaign. So clearly they had the backing of the Russian government and there's a lot of concern.

It's also interesting that Butina is basically pleading guilty to a charge of being an unregistered foreign agent. The charges Whelan faces potentially are much more serious. They're talking about him being a full-blown spy and carrying out espionage on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Again, they've been stingy with the details. But if past practice is any indication, very often in these kinds of cases, the Russian security or intelligence services may leak or give information to Russian state media. We may see more information come out about what the charges are against him, what the circumstances have his arrested, his detention are.

Again, a lot of this is being very closely held on the Russian side. So very hard work looking at a black box here at the moment. But certainly this sparks a lot of speculation on the U.S. side about what exactly the Kremlin's agenda is here. NEWTON: Again, we had Mike Pompeo weigh in today. This has got to be disquieting, not just for the family but obviously the Trump administration.

Nathan, good to see you. Appreciate it.

Still to come, not even vacations are safe from the U.S. government shutdown. Why now is not the time to visit some of America's most popular and I will say most beautiful tourist spots.

Plus mixed signals from the Trump administration over when U.S. troops will leave Syria. It is now up to the new boss at U.S. Pentagon to figure it all out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:30:21] NEWTON: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton and these are the headlines this hour. Apple is warning investors that fourth quarter sales are lower than expected mainly because of a drop in iPhone sales in China. CEO Tim Cook says Apple didn't foresee the magnitude of China's economic slowdown and points in part to the rising trade tensions with United States.

China's space program meantime has reached a major milestone. Chinese television report it has landed a vehicle on the far side of the moon. Now, the rover sent back these new images of the moon just a short time ago. The mission is to conduct numerous experiments including attempts to find water and other resources and to see if plants can grow in low gravity. The U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman has visited the American arrested in Moscow on spying charges.

The Kremlin has yet to reveal why it suspects Paul Whelan of espionage. Whelan's family denies he's a spy. Now, in a matter of hours, the 116th Congress of the United States will be sworn in on Capitol Hill. The Democrats will once again control the House and they'll have to stubborn issue to deal with that President Trump's demands for money for that border wall. Now, that's the reason the U.S. government is still partially shut down.

So far, the House and the Senate haven't found a compromise that will work and negotiations, yes, they appear to be going absolutely nowhere. Congressional leaders meet with President Trump Wednesday and a source tell CNN the president told lawmakers he couldn't accept the Democrats offer which includes zero wall funding because he says he would look foolish. Still, House Democrats plan to vote Thursday on a plan to reopen the government, but it will likely hit a big brick wall in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We would urge them respectfully to reconsider and support these bills which are bipartisan one of which Mitch McConnell proposed, open up the government as we continue to debate what is the best way to secure our border. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, we'll get

an early signal in the next few days. But let me make it perfectly clear one more time as I've said consistently for the last two weeks, the Senate will not waste its time considering a Democratic bill which cannot pass this chamber in which the president will not sign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: OK. You get the picture. The shutdown drags on. Some 420,000 federal employees are working without pay, 380,000 are on leave without pay, and though essential services continue, the shutdown effects of number of very important government agencies. And you can add popular tourist spots to the long list of casualties from the shutdown. All 19 of Smithsonian Museums in Washington are now shuttered.

Very convenient for a holiday along with the national zoo, national parks like Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore are open. But of course severely understaffed with many services unavailable. Now, on Wednesday, California's Joshua Tree National Park was forced to close its camp grounds because toilets are overflowing and there aren't enough workers to clean them. CNN's Nick Watt had a look at just how ugly the impact of this shutdown is getting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And here are some trash bags that we can have. Do you guys need gloves? A small army of volunteers keeping Joshua Tree as clean as they can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're operating now. But I'm working 11 to 13 hours a day running what I do for a living, running rock climbing trips and maintaining the park. And, yes, what we're doing right now is not sustainable.

WATT: The tollbooths are close. No one is collecting 30 box of car. The park service right now limping along with absolutely essential staff only. This park is still open but the deadlock in D.C. doesn't mean that camp grounds are now closing, California. All the camp grounds here at Joshua Tree closing down and the issue those toilet blocks. Now, the volunteers can keep the toilets clean but not to be too gross about it, but those (INAUDIBLE) toilets are reaching capacity.

Other parts of this more than 1200 square mile park also closing because of, "Illegal activity." People apparently off-roading, damaging the environment, bringing in dogs, other remote parts also now officially off limits because of safety, get into trouble out here and there might not be anyone around to save you. Over in Texas, Joshua Snider broke his leg Christmas Eve when he fell at big bend his body and another family had to carry him out.

[02:5:02] JOSHUA SNIDER, INJURED NATIONAL PARK VISITOR: (INAUDIBLE) park, they told us that because of the government shutdown, there are limited rescue services available. And that they're going to send one park ranger, you know, you'd think they'd come with a stretcher or something.

MATT: No, not right now. Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Institution kept its 19 museums and the national zoo open over the holidays. But today, they finally shuttered up, all now close (INAUDIBLE) the nation's third busiest national park, they're also having huge problems with garbage and toilets filled to capacity. The Nesbit family from Texas was planning this vacation to Joshua Tree for months. Now, they're cutting it short.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's impacted hours for fun, but its impacted people's livelihoods and people's jobs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATT: Now, it used to be when the U.S. federal government shutdown that national parks shutdown too. But last year, the National Park Service put up a new contingency plan. They basically furlough about 85 percent of their staff and try to keep the parks open with just a skeleton staff. But they rely heavily on those local volunteers. And they tell us they don't know how much longer they can continue doing their day jobs and cleaning toilets here at the park.

So if this government shutdown last much longer, there is a chance that Joshua Tree and other parks will have to close down completely. Nick Watt, Joshua Tree, California.

NEWTON: Turning down the uncertainty facing Syria since the U.S. announced it would leave the fight there against ISIS. Syria's defense ministry says hundreds of Kurdish fighters backed by the U.S. are now leaving the City of Manbij near the Turkish border. Now, ISIS was driven out of there in 2016. The ministry says the departure is part of an agreement with the Syrian government. Turkish -- Turkey regards some Kurdish fighters as terrorists and the Kurds fear they'll now be attacked by the Turkish military once the U.S. pulls out of the region.

Now, there is some confusion in the United States over when that will be. President Trump now says there's no specific timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria. Two weeks ago, he said they would be coming home within 30 days. James Mattis resigned in protest as U.S. Defense Secretary. Now, his replacement has been handed the task. Here's CNN's Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first cabinet meeting --

(CROSSTALK)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: On Patrick Shanahan's first day as acting Defense Secretary, President Trump focused more on the man he just replaced now former Secretary James Mattis.

TRUMP: But what's he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. President Obama fired him and essentially so did I. STARR: Mattis however resigned after having his advice ignored by the

president. According to sources directly familiar what Mattis' thinking. Now, Shanahan takes on the burden of figuring out Trump's changing rhetoric on pulling 2000 ground troops from Syria which the president described as --

TRUMP: We're talking about sand and death. That's what we're talking about. We're not talking about, you know, vast wealth. We're taking about sand and death.

STARR: Now, the president insisting he has no specific timetable for pulling troops out.

TRUMP: Over a period of time, I never said I'm getting out tomorrow.

STARR: But in a White House produced video just last month, Trump was adamant on an immediate troop withdrawal.

TRUMP: They're coming back and they're coming back now.

STARR: For his part, Shanahan today remained focused on the White House's message about border security.

PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The threat is real. The risks are real. We need to control our borders.

STARR: But commanders say it could take as long as four months to get troops out of Syria safely.

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: He made the decision first and then started looking for things to either back it up or run contrary to what he thought. That's confusing to not only our allies, but also our foes and it's especially confusing for the military people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So did Trump fire Mattis? Well, he did push the secretary out two months earlier than Mattis had planned to go, bit Mattis had already resigned. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

NEWTON: OK. Barbara (INAUDIBLE) you heard a lot of blunt language from the president. Well, the president is now getting blasted for some bizarre comments during that same cabinet meeting about Afghanistan and the Soviet Union.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is it was a tough fight. And literally, they went bankrupt. They went into being called Russia again as opposed to the Soviet Union, you know, a lot of -- a lot of these places you're reading about now are no longer part of Russia because of Afghanistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:40:03] NEWTON: OK. Not quite. To start with, the Soviet Union did not invade Afghanistan to fight terrorists as the president just said. They went in to prop up a communist government that was hugely unpopular with the Afghan people and why the decade long war was costly, it did not bankrupt the Soviet Union. The country was hit hard by falling oil prices and political and economic restructuring. Yes. We could go on and on but thankfully we won't. Next on CNN NEWSROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Heated protests over women (INAUDIBLE) temple in India have now turned deadly. Plus, French President Emmanuel Macron is starting off the New Year with yet another political crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEWTON: A man protesting the entry of women at a revered temple in India has died. Police say he was a supporter of India's ruling political party which wants the temple access banned that remained in place and the man was at a march organized by the party and he was killed. Several other people including a police officer were injured. Our Nikhil Kumar joins us from New Delhi with the latest. And, you know, we know that there's heavy security around this temple now.

But is there a sense that this will be a religious and political flash point for quite some time and obvious as we see quite a dangerous one?

NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN INTERNATIONAL NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Absolutely, Paula. It is -- it's going to be and it really is situation in Kerala from what we understand. According to officials remains tense. There was this news this morning about the protests was injured yesterday and died in hospital. The first fatality after the two women who entered early on Wednesday morning the protest that followed after that.

And the situation remains very (INAUDIBLE) across the state because this is a very emoted, a very contentious issue. People on both sides really digging in. The entry of the two women yesterday was a great victory for everybody that's been saying, look, this is about gender equality and this was really the breaking of a glass ceiling, a very important glass ceiling. But on the other side, you've got these protesters many allied to political parties saying that, no, this is really all about religion and tradition.

The court should stay out of it. And then what happened yesterday was wrong. The priesthood seem to agree yesterday. They closed the temple for an hour for purification rituals. But it's reopened since then. Paula?

[02:45:06] NEWTON: Reopened, and as you said remains quite dangerous. How do you think the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will handle this? Especially considering that these are treacherous issues to deal with, and they have become incredibly political. Especially from his own ruling parties.

KUMAR: That's, that's correct. So, there are two things -- two sides to this really. One is, of course, the whole illegal argument. So, all of this comes about because, in September, the Supreme Court, the top legal authority in the land says that the restriction on women of childbearing age entering this temple that, that was unconstitutional should be lifted.

Ever since then, women have been trying to enter and that's what's led to all these protests in this confrontation. That all goes back to court because a lot of people have filed petitions with the court calling on it to review its judgment. That's on the 22nd of January.

The other side to this is that we're in an election year. Later this year, India will have general elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party has traditionally struggled in the south of India. Many commentators think that they are trying to rally the conservative Hindu base by siding with those who say that, no, that this is a matter of religion, this is a matter of tradition.

I should point out, they're not the only ones politicians in the Congress Party have done so, as well. The local state government, which is run by Communist politicians, they are very much for women being allowed to go in.

So, but it's all become very, very political as the country works its way to election. So, you've got these two sides, the story which really makes it all that more complicated and adds to the tension. Because in addition to people who think that this is a very important gender equality issue for which they should go out, they should protest and they should raise their voice.

You also have political elements who see this as a rallying cry ahead of polls later this year. Paula?

NEWTON: Yes. This quite didn't to see it so politicize. Especially when now we have a debt there at the protest, as well. Appreciate the update. Thanks.

Now, France's yellow vest movement has inspired the leader of a left- wing grassroots group to organize protests against Germany's government in the coming year.

Now, media reports say the German Get Up movement has about a 170,000 followers and was formed by Sahra Wagenknecht. She told the Foreign Press Association in Berlin that growing inequality in Germany and frustration over the government's failure to adequately tackle it has motivated her to take her movement to the streets. And she also says the French protesters showed it is possible to effect change without being a political party.

Meantime, France's yellow vest movement is not the only crisis facing Emmanuel Macron's administration. One of the president's former security aide is accused of illegally using a diplomatic passport after being fired last year. Our Melissa Bell explains how it's sparking a new controversy. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: 2019 began with a bang in Paris. With 300,000 people out on the Champs Elysees to see in the New Year. But amongst the revelers, a high-visibility reminder that the troubles of 2018 may not be over.

Gilets jaunes protesters had called for a festive and non-violent gathering. They're eighth since the protest over a hike in the fuel tax began in November. And a reminder also that they do not intend to stop. On New Year's Eve, the French president addressed them directly.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): To me, this anger means one thing, whatever its excesses, we didn't resign ourselves. Our country wants to build a better future based on our ability to invent new ways of doing things, and if being together, to me, that's 2018's lesson.

BELL: But even as Emmanuel Macron attempts to look ahead, the past is casting a shadow in the shape of this man Alexandre Benalla, the former senior aide and security adviser who hasn't strayed far from the headlines.

Ever since a video emerged of him beating up a protester on May the 1st, the Elysees initially suspended him then, later fired him under pressure from a media storm.

Benalla, says that he was just a citizen trying to help out and that he made a mistake. President Macron has denied any cover-up. A parliamentary commission was set up to investigate Benalla's role at the Elysees. In September, he appeared and told the commission that he had lost any privileges including official passports that he might have had.

ALEXANDRE BENALLA, FORMER AIDE TO PRESIDENT MACRON (through translator): After being returned, they are in the office that I occupied at the Elysees. So, I think that the Elysees must have taken care of it.

BELL: three months later, that was found to be a lie. When it emerged in the French press that Benalla had traveled to Tchad on a diplomatic passport, meeting the Tchadian president only weeks before Emmanuel Macron paid a Christmas visit to French troops there.

Macron's chief of staff told the press that Benalla was neither a formal nor an informal envoy of the government. And that if he claimed to be, that would be false.

Benalla's lawyers could not be reached but he told the investigative journalism web site Mediapark that he had been in touch with the president. And that, that would be difficult for the Elysees to deny, given his regular exchanges that are still on his mobile phone.

The Elysees has now confirmed to CNN that Emmanuel Macron did send two text messages to Benalla since his resignation. Messages that many are now very eager to see. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[02:50:43] NEWTON: OK, Donald Trump goes medieval, apparently, with a cryptic message for a mystery foe. Sanctions are coming, but for whom?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEWTON: OK, President Trump's cabinet meeting looked more like a king and his court on Wednesday. Thanks to a cryptic poster in the middle of the table. It was just lying there and it's not the first time we've seen this Oracle from the White House. Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just your typical cabinet meeting with President Trump in the throne position and a poster mimicking game of Thrones in front of him. Sanctions are coming it, said, playing off the game of thrones mantra.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winter is coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And winter is coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Winter is coming.

MOOS: Is pretty much what reporters said about the poster. We do know that President Trump tweeted out this exact same image back when he was about to reimpose sanctions on Iran after the U.S. pulled out of what the president calls that --

TRUMP: Stupid deal.

MOS: But what's the deal with a poster? Critics reimagined it. Mueller is coming or a back view with Indictments are Coming. Someone safely bet that tantrums are coming. The president made no reference to the poster while cameras were rolling.

TRUMP: And walls were.

MOOS: He talked about walls working in front of a poster echoing a show in which a wall didn't work. In Game of Thrones, a dragon breaches the wall. HBO did some crowing of its own. Referring us to what they said the last time the president used the image. Because the nod to the show's made-up language, HBO tweeted, "How do you say trademark misuse in Dothraki?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know it got (INAUDIBLE).

MOOS: Imagine President Trump delivering his rally speeches from that, next thing you know we'll be trading in Air Force One for Dragon One. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[02:54:26] NEWTON: Dragon One, it has a ring to it. Now, a man in China is counting his blessings and his cash -- I love this story, after staff at a bank branch in Shanghai made sure he didn't lose the money.

The man had withdrawn more than 9,000 Yuan. That's about $13,000. A heck of a lot of money. Yes, he wanted it for a deposit for a car but while he was cooking something -- his home, we can all relate to this. His child shredded the notes. Yes, shredded the notes some into more than a dozen pieces.

So, the man rushed back to the bank and tellers went to work patiently pasting the pieces back together. Yes, it took a day and half. I'm actually surprised it didn't take a longer. Look at that, the manager said the bank was just following the rules when customers return torn currency. I still love that story.

Cathay Pacific is giving some late Christmas presents to thousands of travelers. The Hong Kong-based carrier, says it will honor super cheap tickets sold on its web site Tuesday. The Vietnam to New York flights in first-class and business-class cost about $16,000, but for a few hours, they were going for yes, $675 wish I had known.

The airline recently spent more than $100 million to upgrade security for a huge data breach last year. Unfortunately, it kind of makes you doubt that fix.

And NASA has released the first color images from the New Horizon spacecraft of Ultima Thule, at least, 6 billion kilometers from the Sun. It's the most distant object ever explored up close.

Now, the picture -- pictures showed it shaped like a snowman. You see it there. There is a little bit of color there. And it's red, a little more than 30 kilometers in length and was apparently formed 4- 1/2 billion years ago. That is impressive. NASA expects to release highly detailed images in the coming weeks -- I can't wait. And there's a detailed study of Ultima Thule reveal secrets about how solar systems are formed. Seriously can't wait. I know there's been a lot on that.

About social media, the jokes keep coming. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. I'll be back with another hour of news in just a moment. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)