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Quest Means Business

Trump Asks Supreme Court To Stay Out Of Immunity Dispute For Now; Colorado Supreme Court: Trump's Involvement In Attack On US Capitol Disqualifies Him From Holding Presidency; WH: "Serious Discussions" Underway On Gaza Hostage Deal; Spain Among EU Countries Calling For Gaza Ceasefire; Iceland PM: 70 Apartments Bought For Evacuated Residents; US Lawmakers Look To Block Japanese Purchase Of US Steel; The Rise Of Artificial Christmas Trees; South Africa Moving Past Spate Of Power Cuts; Dash To The Bell. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 20, 2023 - 15:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: It is a pretty flat day on Wall Street. We show you the numbers. It's now -- well, it's 0.5% or so, in the red, 252

points. Those are the markets, and these are the main events for you.

The US Supreme Court will play a deciding role in the 2024 US presidential election. The key cases have one thing in common. Former President Donald

Trump is at the very center.

Negotiations have restarted concerning the release of more hostages in Gaza. And US senators want to stop a Japanese company from taking over US


Live from London. It is Wednesday, December 20th. I'm Isa Soares, in for Richard Quest. And I, too, mean business.

Good evening, everyone. Tonight, the US Supreme Court at the center of two key decisions that could shape the 2024 election. In the last hour or so,

we learned that Donald Trump wants the court to decline a review of his claims of presidential immunity. That claim is part of his defense in the

Justice Department's 2020 election subversion case, if you remember.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump's campaign says it will challenge a ruling in Colorado that would take his name off the state's primary ballot. The

Colorado Supreme Court, if you remember, ruled that Donald Trump is ineligible to run for office because he engaged in an insurrection. It was

a 4:3 decision.

The Trump team says it expects the US Supreme Court to strike down the ruling and put an end to a series of lawsuits it calls "un-American." The

Colorado decision is on hold until January to allow for an appeal. What Trump's Republican rivals are speaking out against the Colorado Supreme

Court decision. Have a listen to what some of them are saying.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not believe Donald Trump should be prevented from being president of the United States by any

court. I think he should be prevented for being president of the United States by the voters of this country.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need election we can trust, that we can believe in. That means, yes, unelected judges are not

going to decide willy-nilly across the state who ends up on a ballot and who doesn't.

NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I will beat him fair and square. We don't need to have judges making these decisions. We need

voters to have -- make these decisions.


SOARES: Well, let's get more on all this. It's a lot for us to wrap our head around. Elie Honig joins me now.

Elie, great to see you. Let's set off of what we've just learned the last hour that Donald Trump is now asking, wants to -- the court to decline

review of his claims of presidential immunity. What, in practice, does this mean now? Is this just a delay tactic here?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Isa, it's all about the calendar for both sides here. So, Donald Trump made the novel argument --

we actually don't know the answer -- that he cannot be prosecuted because his conduct that he's indicted for was within the scope of his job as


Now, the district court, which is the trial level court, rejected that. They said, no, you're not immune, we don't have kings in this country.

And the prosecutor then said, okay, now, we want to speed this up. We want to skip over the middle level Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, which is

our top layer, we want you to take the case directly. That's something that's done not never, but fairly rarely if there's a real need for time


Just now, Donald Trump put in a brief saying, no, I don't want you, Supreme Court, to take the case immediately. We should go through that middle Court

of Appeals, which is what would normally happen, because Trump argues there needs to be full briefing in consideration. There's no need here to rush.

And so now it's up to the Supreme Court. It's really discretionary called by the Supreme Court. Do they see this as important enough and time-

sensitive enough that they need to skip that middleman and take the case directly?

And really important to keep in mind, the current trial date in this case is March 4th of 2024. If the Supreme Court takes the case directly, it may

disrupt that trial date. It may push back a bit. But if they do not, if they say you have to go through the middle Court of Appeals first, then we

might take it, that is certainly going to disrupt the March 4th trial date perhaps by several months.

SOARES: So, okay. So the March 4th is the key number here, the key date here, Elie. So how long could the Supreme Court take here? Talk us through

some of those steps.

HONIG: So, it's up to the Supreme Court. There is no specific day numbers virus that they have to abide by. But as a rough estimate, when a case like

this went in front of the Supreme Court generation or so ago, or two generations ago, in the Richard Nixon case, it took the Supreme Court about

two months from the moment they took the case until the moment they decided. I think that's a decent estimate here.

So if the Supreme Court says, okay, we're going to take the case, I would expect a ruling from them sometime around the beginning of February.


But here is the catch. The district court, the trial court, cannot do any of the things it would normally be doing. They can't do any of the pretrial

motions, discovery arguments. That is all put on hold until the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals decide the case.

So even if the Supreme Court makes its ruling in, let's say, mid-February, you can't start a trial three weeks later, March 4th. There's going to have

to be some time for the parties to go through all those motions.

SOARES: Let's talk about the Colorado case, the Colorado Supreme Court here. To us, on this side of the pond, when I heard it, it seemed to me,

Elie, the court -- Supreme Court -- Colorado Supreme Court had kind of jumped the gun in many ways because he hasn't been criminally convicted.

Just explain that to us.

HONIG: I think it seemed that way to a lot of people on this side of the pond as well. So the 14th Amendment to the Constitution says that anybody

who has engaged in or given aid or comfort to insurrection cannot hold future office. You're disqualified.

The problem, though, Isa, is we've never figured out how the 14th Amendment works. Who gets to decide? Like you said, does there have to be a criminal

conviction? Is this some sort of separate proceeding? Is it the kind of thing that Congress can decide? Does the court get a say? Does the judge?

Is it a jury jerry? What standard of proof, et cetera. We just don't know.

Now, there has been a series of several dozen attacks on Donald Trump launched by plaintiffs, by litigants, in various states around the country

arguing he engaged in insurrection, therefore, he should be kicked off the ballot. All of those so far that have been ruled on, about 18 or so, have

either failed or been withdrawn until yesterday, when the Colorado Supreme Court said, well, we had this little hearing below, and that's good enough,

so we believe he engaged in insurrection. We believe he should be kicked off the ballot.

This one seems almost certainly headed for the Supreme Court. And as you can probably tell from my tone, I think the US Supreme Court is probably

going to reverse that, undo what the Colorado Supreme Court has done, and let Donald Trump be on the ballot in Colorado.

SOARES: Right, okay. But does this set a precedent, then?

HONIG: Well, certainly if the Supreme Court says this is not the way it's done, that would probably put an end to these 14th Amendment challenges.

And as I said, they mostly failed on their own.

If the unexpected happens, and it does, sometimes, and the Supreme Court either does not rule and leaves it in place or supports Colorado and says,

yes, Trump is off the ballot, that will definitely encourage further challenges in other states and, yes, could set a precedent that could keep

Trump off the ballot in certain other states.

SOARES: Busy few weeks, months, even years for you coming up, Elie. Appreciate it. Thank you very much.

HONIG: You got it. Thanks, Isa.

SOARES: Well, the US Senate left for its holiday break today, leaving important unfinished business until next year. When they get back,

lawmakers will have just days to figure out how to fund the government and avoid, of course, a partial shutdown.

Congress is also debating billions in aid, if you remember, for Israel and Ukraine. Republicans say they must first increase funding for border


Manu Raju is with me. So Manu, they're going away with plenty to do.

MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Yes, and it's unclear how they will resolve this when they return on January 8th. Remember, there's a government shutdown

deadline. There's only nine legislative days after that. That means part of the federal government would shut down without a deal to fund the federal

government in the United States by January 19th.

And then, after that, there's another deadline to avoid a government shutdown by February 2nd. And that's just one of the many problems that

they'll be forced to confront when they come back to Washington. But also, this huge issue that you just mentioned, dealing with -- how to deal with

not just aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, but also changes to the policy on the United States border with Mexico to change immigration laws, impose new

restrictions on migrants who are coming across the border.

Republicans have said that that must be dealt with first. But before they all agree to billions in more aid to Ukraine, billions in more aid to

Israel, but there is still division, sharp disagreement over how to deal with the issues at the border. And that is an issue that has confounded

Congress for decades.

Can a group of senators who are talking about this issue get a deal from between now and early January? That is a big question.

Also, a question is, if they are able to get a deal, will that have enough votes to get through the Senate? That is still uncertain, or the House.

There are Republicans who believe that the compromises that are being discussed are just simply not far enough. There are Democrats who say that

it's too far. The president is giving them far too much, so there'll be divisions in both parties over that issue.

So there are just so many fears here, in Capitol Hill, that they're going to come back and face this legislative landmine that they need to deal with

immediately to avoid a shutdown, to deal with critical funding for the wars in Ukraine and Israel, also dealing with the surge of migrants across the

border, and that Congress will be unable to deal with this, given the divisions of a Republican-led House, a narrow majority, a Democratic-led

Senate, a narrow majority, and the inability, so far, of this particular Congress to find any sort of resolution to some major, major issues other

than barely avoiding a dead default earlier this summer, all raising fears that perhaps Congress could stumble into another crisis when it returns in

January -- Isa.


SOARES: You really laid it out there. They shouldn't be taking a break at all from what you've just laid out for us. Manu, appreciate it. Thank you

very much.

RAJU: Thank you.

SOARES: While the White House says serious discussions are underway for truce in Gaza and the release of more hostages, President Biden says US

wants to see it happen. Have a listen.


JOE BIDEN, US PRESIDENT: We're pushing it. We -- I don't -- there's no expectation at this point, but we are pushing.


SOARES: Well, meanwhile, the UN Security Council has delayed a vote on a resolution calling for suspension of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

It's now scheduled for Thursday. It was expected yesterday. That was delayed, and now expected tomorrow.

And the Israeli military claims it's close to defeating Hamas militants in their largest stronghold in northern Gaza. Jeremy Diamond is live for us in

Tel Aviv. Talk to us first, Jeremy, about this deal that's going in the works of a possible pause in exchange for, of course, hostages. Where are

we? How close are we to this deal?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question that in the last week there has been a significant uptick in the Israeli

willingness to engage in these negotiations and to actually begin putting proposals on the table. That's what we've seen over the last several days.

David Barnea, the head of the Mossad traveling to two European capitals to meet with the Qatari prime minister, as well as the head of the CIA Bill

Burns, to talk about a potential deal that would involve a weeklong pause in the fighting, the release of about 40 hostages, women, the elderly, as

well as potentially sick or injured individuals. And all of this is the first time that we have seen really substantive proposals being put on the

table in weeks now since that weeklong truce between Israel and Hamas fell apart about nearly three weeks ago.

Hamas, for its part, as indicated that it is not willing to negotiate until the fighting actually stops. That's, of course, an untenable position for

the Israeli government. But today, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's political leader, traveling to Cairo to engage in some of these talks with the

Egyptians who have been key mediators in this effort. So there is a flurry of activity, clearly, over the last several days, trying to get these

parties back to the negotiating table.

The question now is whether or not they can come up with a deal that would provide much needed relief for Gazans both in terms of aid that would also

get in, but also, of course, a pause in the bombing that they have been sustaining for weeks now.

SOARES: And do we know, Jeremy, what Hamas is asking in return or they want their own people released? What do we know?

DIAMOND: Well, we do know that this time, Hamas would be looking for a higher category of Palestinian prisoners. People who are -- have been

convicted of much more serious offenses than those who are released during that initial weeklong truce and also individuals who have been serving

longer prison sentences.

But again, the question for now is, is Hamas actually going to get to the negotiating table? Will they come off of this position that they have

stated publicly saying that they need a ceasefire first before they'll actually engage in the negotiations? It appears that that may be happening

with Ismail Haniyeh in Cairo, but it's still -- there still is a lot of uncertainty around that.

SOARES: Jeremy Diamond there for us in Tel Aviv. Thanks very much, Jeremy.

Well, nine out of 10 Palestinians are now eating less than one meal a day. That is according to the World Food Programme. The latest on the dire

situation in Gaza, next.



SOARES: Well a, new warning from the World Food Programme. The UN agency reports half of Gaza's population is starving, and residents often going

entire days without eating. Our Jomana Karadsheh has the very latest for you.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For weeks, this is what we've seen of the war on Gaza -- Israel's brutal military might pounding

neighborhoods into dust. In central Gaza, in Sderot, whole blocks reduced to rubble, seemingly deserted, unlivable.

But there's also this, the near surreal scenes this week in Sderot, the hustle and bustle of a street market. It's the story of every war, where

life doesn't stop. It goes on for those trying to survive.

But Gaza is like no other place. It's where more than two million are crammed into this tiny strip of land that now looks like it's been bombed

back into ages past, where those who've lost everything have nowhere left but the streets.

That's where Mutnis (ph) is building a clay oven, hoping people will pay him a shekel or two to use it. He says, maybe then he'll have enough to buy

his children cheese or tomatoes.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE speaking in foreign language.)

KARADSHEH (voice over): "Our lives are a million years behind. We live in sewage," Mutnis (ph) says. "Every time it rains, the sewage overflows. It's

cold. There's no food, no water, no warm clothes."

Most here have escaped the bombs only to be trapped in this misery. Disease and starvation, the UN's warned, may soon kill more than those bombs. Half

the population, it says, are now starving. People going entire days without eating.

Uhm Ahmed (ph) says she collects a bit of flour from here and there to make bread for her children.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

KARADSHEH (voice over): "We're all thrown into the streets," she says. "They said go to the south. We came to the south to die slowly."

Human Rights Watch says Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war. It's a war crime Israel denies and calls it a lie. It accuses Hamas of stealing


In the wake of October 7th, Israel's defense minister announced the siege of Gaza, quote, "No electricity, no fuel, everything closed until all

hostages were returned." Some aid and water delivery resumed, but nowhere near enough. Much of the blockade remains in place -- what rights groups

call collective punishment.

Sometimes, the lucky ones find more than lentils and bread for the hungry mouths they have to feed. This mother uses a pair of jeans for her fire to

boil some chicken wings and bones.

(UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE speaking in foreign language.)

KARADSHEH (voice over): "I'm using clothes and cardboard to make fire and cook," she says. "The situation is disastrous, but I need to find a way for

my children. We're on the street because we have nowhere to shelter." Fleeing the bombs, scrounging for food, now the people of Gaza desperately

wait for the moment they can try once again to live.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


SOARES: Well, with the situation in Gaza getting worse, Spain and other EU countries are stepping up their calls for ceasefire. I spoke to Spanish

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares earlier today.


JOSE MANUEL ALBARES, SPANISH FOREIGN MINISTER: What we want -- and we have been calling for that -- is a humanitarian ceasefire that will be lasting

and sustainable. What we want is humanitarian aid to be able to enter Gaza and to reach the civilian population. And that here what we really want is

to put an end to this violence.

We have to protect the civilians -- the Palestinian civilians. We have to make sure that they are not hidden when some terrorist target ones to be

hit. And at the end, we want to peace conference because we must make sure that these will be the last time we see this kind of violence.


And the hope of the Palestinian people is really related to the guarantees of security for the Israeli people. And that hope of the Palestinian people

is the recognition of a Palestinian state.

And the end, we need the Palestinian National Authority to be able to take care of both the West Bank and Gaza, both of them connected, and with a

capital in east Jerusalem. All that is what Spain wants, and we will be talking and speaking about that and, of course, backing the secretary

general of the United Nations for that.

SOARES: As you well know, Minister Albares, the United States and Israel oppose a ceasefire because they believe would only benefit Hamas. And I

suppose for humanitarian ceasefire to happen, Hamas needs to agree to the terms. How can they be trusted? Will this include also, from your side, a

release of the Israeli hostages that are being held?

ALBARES: Of course. And we have said that since the very same day of October the 7th. Hamas is a terrorist organization. It's only a terrorist

organization. It doesn't represent the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian National Authority represents the Palestinian people. We have to make the difference between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that

carry out a horrible terrorist attack on October the 7th. And Israel has the right to defend itself from terrorism like any nation .


ALBARES: . in the world. Spain only knows that very well, but we have to differentiate Hamas from the Palestinian people and the Palestinian

National Authority. And we have been calling for the release of all hostages immediately, without any condition, and in spite of their

nationality, their religion, of course, of course.


SOARES: Spanish foreign minister speaking to me earlier. Well, as the volcano continues spewing lava and toxic gas in southwest Iceland, the

government is buying apartments for people forced to move out of their village in Iceland, close to the eruption.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports from Grindavik Iceland.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Up close as the earth spews fountains of lava, south Iceland remains in the

state of emergency as the volcanic eruption continues.

PLEITGEN (on camera): This is as close as the Icelandic authorities are going to allow us to the actual fissure, to where the eruption is

happening. I'd say we're a mile, maybe less than a mile away from it.

Now, things have come down a little bit, but the same time, of course, the danger is still there. The authorities fear that could be new events that

might open up, pop-up, and that more lava could be gushing to the surface and then could be coming to the surface in fountains like we've seen over

the past day and a half. So, while things have gotten a little bit more muted, certainly, the danger is not over.

PLEITGEN (voice over): In the early stages of the eruption, a wall of lava spewing hundreds of feet into the air. While it has subsided somewhat, the

underground magma tunnel remains active and dangerous.

BJARKI KALDALONS FRIIS, GEOLOGIST: Still dangerous. Of course, and the magma that is coming up is around 1,200 degrees hot when it comes to the

surface. And it takes a long time for the surface to cool down.

PLEITGEN (voice over): The area around the eruption zone remains cordoned off, critical infrastructure in danger, the world-famous blue lagoon hot

springs, closed.

PLEITGEN (on camera): Here's another reason why the situation is so dangerous. You see over there is the volcanic activity. And if we pan over

in this direction, over there is a geothermal power plant that's extremely important for the electricity here in this area. The authorities are trying

to protect that power plant by building a berm against any lava flows.

PLEITGEN (voice over): For the local residents, no respite.

KATRIN JAKOBSDOTTIR, ICELANDICE PRIME MINISTER: We now have this volcanic eruption very close to Grindavik. I think it is -- it has proven

(inaudible), but the town was evacuated in November. We have been buying flats for the residents. So now, we actually have 70 flats that people can

move into before Christmas. It is the most people who are in most dire need of housing.

PLEITGEN (voice over): Leaving many residents wondering if they will ever see their homes again. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, near Grindavik, Iceland.


SOARES: Well, US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are looking to stand in the way after US Steel accepts a buyout bid from a Japanese competitor.

That story after this.



SOARES: Well, a growing list of US lawmakers say they are opposed to a Japanese firm buying US Steel -- once the world's most valuable company. US

Steel no longer cracks the top 1,000. It has agreed to be bought by Nippon Steel for $14 billion.

That isn't stopping both Republicans and Democrats from vowing to block the deal over concerns over national security and union opposition. Let's get

more on all of this. Matt Egan is keeping a close eye on this story.

So, Matt, just talk us through this. Who is calling here to block the deal? And what are the odds, critically, that they actually can?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Isa, US Steel really was the crown jewel of American industry. But, as you know, it's been in decline for decades. And

now it has this deal in place to go under foreign ownership. And so that's, not surprisingly, not sitting that well with some in Washington.

There has been this growing and bipartisan list of lawmakers standing out against this deal, including Republican Senators JD Vance, Josh Hawley, and

Marco Rubio. So are some Democratic senators, including Jared Brown, John Fetterman, and Joe Manchin.

That's not to mention some union officials are not happy. The United Steelworkers is strongly opposed. So, now what happens?

Well, this deal is likely to get an intense review by the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. It's known as CFIUS. This is an

inter-agency panel, and it's chaired by the treasury secretary. And it's empowered to look at just these kinds of deals, and whether or not there

should be national security concerns.

But a review is quite different from a rejection. And I'm told that it's unlikely that CFIUS would outright reject this deal because they would have

to find clear national security grounds that couldn't be mitigated by certain fixes.


Here's what I heard from Michael Leiter. He's the head of CFIUS national security practice at Skadden, Arps. He said this had never happened before

for a Japanese buyer of a U.S. business.

Even in the height of U.S.-Japan trade tensions in the 1980s and 1990s. And it seems quite unlikely that it would do so here. So he's saying CFIUS is

not going to block the deal when it's Japan, a close ally of the United States as the buyer.

Again, though, there is political pressure here to at least look closely at this deal, Isa.

SOARES: Political pressure and, of course, important to mention that we, you know, entering -- the U.S. is entering an election year.

So how much does the opposition to this deal have to do with that, Matt?

EGAN: Is there an election coming up?

I hadn't heard.


EGAN: Listen, you're right. This is not happening in a vacuum. And it's no coincidence that some of the most outspoken voices here are Rust Belt

senators, Sherrod Brown from Ohio; John Fetterman from Pennsylvania; J.D. Vance, also from Ohio. This is the Rust Belt. Manufacturing jobs, steel

jobs, all of that is so critical.

And these are also potential swing states, most especially Pennsylvania, in the 2020 and 2024 election, as it was in the last election. But I should

note though that CFIUS is not supposed to be taking political calculations in when they look at this kind of a deal.

These are really national security reviews. They're led by, yes, the Treasury Secretary but also the heads of the Department of Justice and

Energy and Homeland Security. And so, they are supposed to be looking at what this means for national security.

We should also note, though, that Sherrod Brown, the Democrat from Ohio, he just put out -- sent a letter to President Biden earlier today, where he's

calling for the president and the administration to review this on not just national security grounds but also, potentially, antitrust concerns.

He raised issues about whether or not this deal would actually hurt the United States' ability to enforce some of its trade protections around

steel. So you know, again, this is not happening in a vacuum and the political calculations are there. But they're not supposed to be taken into

account by CFIUS.

SOARES: And I know you'll stay across the story for us, Matt.

Just before you go, a very important question I have for you.

Are you an artificial tree, Christmas tree person?

Or a real Christmas tree person?

What do you have at home?


SOARES: Very important question.

EGAN: We have a real tree. I love it. The kids love it. It's a little bit messy but I'm a big fan of the real tree over the fake ones.

SOARES: Yes, definitely messier, I can tell you that much. Matt, great to see you, thank you very much.

Nothing says it's the holiday season quite like a Christmas tree. But more and more families are turning away from living trees, like Matt, the kinds

with needles, sap, all that.

Over three-quarters of Americans are setting up an artificial tree this year instead. That is according to an industry promotion group. Our next

guest is a big part of that trend. Mac Harman is the CEO and founder of Balsam Hill, which makes and sells high-end artificial Christmas trees.

Mac, welcome to the show. So 77 percent, it seems, according to this poll, of Americans choosing artificial trees.


What is the upside here?

MAC HARMAN, CEO AND FOUNDER, BALSAM HILL: Well, I think the reason you see more people choosing artificial trees is that it's just more convenient. It

allows people to focus on decorating the tree instead of setting up the tree.

And that's first because they're pre-lit. You don't have to spend all that time wrapping the tree in lights. And then secondly, you don't have to deal

with the needles falling off the tree, drying out.

It also lets you keep the tree in your home longer. So people are starting to set trees up earlier. In the U.S., people are setting up Thanksgiving

weekend and leaving it up past New Year's and that's a little bit too long to keep a farm grown tree in your house, just from a fire safety risk.

SOARES: My concern was always aren't they kind of made of plastic?

I'm not sure if yours are. I was kind of worried about the environment to start off with.

What's your response to that?

HARMAN: So on the environmental side, what studies have shown is that if you use an artificial tree for at least five years, it ends up having a

little bit lower environmental impact than a farm grown tree.

That's taking into account everything, from the oil used on the chainsaws and the pesticides, all the way through the transport, how the trees are

disposed. That being said, at the end of the day, I think consumers should choose whichever tree is better for them, whether it's an artificial tree

or a real tree.

The beautiful thing is having that tree in your home for the holidays.

SOARES: Talk to us about the demand that you have seen.

Is this a new trend that you're seeing that's reflecting, of course, in this poll?

HARMAN: No, actually, we've seen artificial trees have been in about four one of -- excuse me -- in about two-thirds of American homes ever since

about 10 years ago.


And so we've seen those numbers in the 70s, in the 80s range. And what you see is you see more and more people setting up multiple trees. You actually

get consumers who set up both kinds of trees.

They might have a farm grown tree in their family room for part of the year. And then for a longer period of time, they put a more formal tree

perhaps in their living room. So you see both types.

Artificial trees have been growing in popularity, maybe 5 percent a year or something like that. But demand for farm grown trees has remained strong as


SOARES: Two trees, my goodness. That's a lot of work. Look, I'm not going to lie, Matt. I love a real Christmas tree, I love the smell of a fresh

phrase of fir (ph). And it does involve, as our correspondent, Matt, was saying, a lot of hoovering.

But my feeling for a real tree is that it is quite romantic. But I can see behind you, the tree behind you looks very real.

HARMAN: Yes. So Balsam Hill, the company I started, focuses on mimicking nature and bringing farm grown trees into your home as artificial trees

that look exactly like they would if you went out and cut them down on a Christmas tree farm.

So we focus on all the different popular species around the U.S., in Europe. And we mimic those and that gives people the option to have an

artificial tree with the convenience that looks just like a real tree. We don't have the scents; we do have other options to provide the scent but we

make them look as real as possible.

And that lets people keep them up for longer.

SOARES: What are the other options for the scent?

HARMAN: So in terms of scent, there's a lot of things people do. We sell a little machine that's an oil diffuser. So it actually takes the oil from a

real tree and diffuses it. It's not a water based diffuser. You can get those as well. The advantage of an oil based diffuser is that it can go for

longer without needing to be refilled.

SOARES: I like that. I like that indeed. Let's talk price for our viewers who may be watching this. My Christmas tree here cost me about $80 or so.

What's the price range you're looking at?

HARMAN: So for a farm grown tree in the U.S., that's about the national average in New York. You can pay upwards of $300-$400. In Manhattan, that's

like its own little market. Then if you cut a tree down, it might be cheaper, just depends.

You can either go out in the national forest with a $5 permit and cut down a tree. On the artificial side, you see trees starting at $100. Even $50.

Those are pretty lousy trees, to be honest.

We at Balsam Hill sell our trees more in the $400 up over $1,000 range. That's an investment. It works out over time -- we expect consumers to keep

our trees for 10 or more years.

So it works out to be a pretty portable option. You just need to make that upfront investment. And course, our trees also come with the lights on them

as well, often over 1,000 lights, which adds up. So it ends up being a great investment if you're willing to make it.

SOARES: More premium but if you're willing to pay for that, it's only once a year. Appreciate it. Mac, always great to see. Mac Harman there.

HARMAN: You, too.

SOARES: Now with the holidays right at the corner, millions of people are preparing for long haul flights. CNN has been getting some tips from flight

attendant Chris Major to help make your long journey less daunting.

Maintain a bit of movement during the flight to keep your blood flowing, even wiggling your toes is better than nothing. And you'll be more

comfortable if you bring your own eye mask, travel pillow and blanket.

Even though most aircraft have USB charging sockets, bring a portable charger if you want to use your electronic devices.

Very good tips indeed.

One person who knows a thing about long haul flights, South Africa's tourism minister. Richard Quest also knows a thing about long haul flights.

He spoke to Patricia de Lille at World Travel Market. She says South Africa is moving past its problems with electricity blackouts.


PATRICIA DE LILLE, TOURISM MINISTER, SOUTH AFRICA: We're seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. The level of load sharing has been reduced

substantially. We're hoping that by the end of this year, early next year, will be out of load sharing.

But that is why we are helping the tourism establishment with greening their institutions, so that we've got an uninterrupted service for our


RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: I've always thought that South Africa tourism, I mean you are the largest, in a sense. But you don't punch your weight yet.

DE LILLE: I quite agree with you more. You know, our contribution to GDP, which you can knock in 2019 -- but (INAUDIBLE) really about 3.9 percent are

working very hard to at least make tourism contributing 6 percent to our gross domestic product every year.

QUEST: And it continues to be the issue.


QUEST: Even with the best on in the world, South African Airways is not going to make a major contribution to international airlift for some time.

So you're going to rely on the global carriers, in particular the Gulf three.

DE LILLE: Well, they're coming back in leaps and bounds. Just last week, we welcomed another flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil; Cape Town and to



Saudi Arabia's coming back with the flight. We're talking them to have a direct flight between Jeddah and Cape Town. Then China has come back also,

with one flight from Beijing and Shenzhen.

So yes, they're coming back slowly but surely. We're still not at our 2019 level. But we rely -- and we have now put a special air access team that is

just going to the airlines to show them the market in South Africa.

What we need to do in Africa is to improve in the inter-African travel. It's a nightmare. And so, last week, in Rwanda, we had agreed with the

WTTC, that every campus now implement the single air African market.

But --


QUEST: It won't happen in your lifetime or mine.

DE LILLE: There are 17 countries that have now signed.

QUEST: And how many of implemented?

DE LILLE: None. We are moving with (INAUDIBLE) the rest of the (INAUDIBLE) that didn't sign. Because we can't wait for all 54 countries to sign before

we start implementing.


SOARES: Richard Quest there. And that is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. I'll be back at the top of the hour as we make a dash for the closing bell.

Up next, "MARKETPLACE EUROPE." See you.






SOARES: Hello, I'm Isa Soares. It is a dash to the closing bell. We are just two minutes away, in fact.

The Dow slid in late afternoon more than 400 points there, 1.2 percent lower, the first drop in fact we've seen in some 10 days. So not a great

end to the day for the Dow. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, as you can see, they're following suit, down almost 1.5 percent between both of them.

This is after the S&P 500 hit a 52 week high earlier today. So quite the turnaround that we are seeing on both those markets.

Wall Street could use some holiday cheer today. That official Balsam Hill makes fake Christmas trees. CEO Mac Harman tells me it's a growing market.


HARMAN: We've seen those numbers in the 70s and the 80s range. What you see, is you see more and more people setting up multiple trees. You

actually get consumers who set up both kinds of trees.

They might have a farm grown tree in their family room for part of the year. And then for a longer period of time, they put a more formal tree

perhaps in their living room. So you see both types.


Artificial trees have been growing in popularity, maybe 5 percent a year or something like that. But demand for farm grown trees has remained strong as



SOARES: That does it for us. That is your dash to the bell. I'm Isa Soares. The closing bell is about to ring any moment now. There it is. "THE LEAD

WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts now.