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Awaiting New Filings In Key Trump Cases As He Tell Foes "Rot In Hell"; US Strikes Target Iran-Backed Forces In Iraq; Netanyahu Vows Long Fight In Gaza As Israel Ramps Up Operations; Putin Critic Navalny Found At Remote Arctic Penal Colony; Kanye West Apologizes To Jewish Community In Instagram Post. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 26, 2023 - 17:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Happening now, new legal filings are expected within days or possibly hours from now in two high stakes appeals by Donald Trump. And this comes as the former president is doubling down on an angry Christmas message to his opponents, wishing they would "rot in hell." Also tonight, new images from inside Iraq where US airstrikes targeted Iran-backed militants in retaliation for a drone attack on American forces. Iraq is calling the strikes hostile acts and warning they could further ratchet up tensions in the Middle East. And Kanye West is belatedly apologizing to the Jewish community for a series of anti-Semitic outbursts. We're getting reaction to the rapper's Instagram posts written in Hebrew.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today, I'm Pamela Brown, and you're in the Situation Room.

And we begin this hour with the next shoes that are about to drop in Donald Trump's unprecedented legal battles with just days to go before the New Year and just weeks to go before the first 2024 presidential contest. Let's go right to CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, walk us through what's next for Trump and his lawyers

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, Donald Trump's legal team is likely spending these last days of 2023 prepping for the immunity case that they'll argue before the federal appeals court here in DC on January 9. So they've submitted their brief to the court, that was over the weekend, and they're once again arguing that Donald Trump cannot be prosecuted by special counsel Jack Smith for anything related to January 6, because they say Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he worked to overturn the 2020 election results.

They're also arguing that because Trump was acquitted by the Senate in his impeachment trial, he also can't be criminally charged. So we'll actually see response from the special counsel by the end of this week. And then arguments before the appeals court, they're scheduled that second week of January, January 9th.

And you know, Trump already had somewhat of a victory just before Christmas on Friday, when the US Supreme Court refused to hear his case before the appeals court heard it. The special counsel had hoped to speed up the timeline of this immunity appeal since, of course, everything is on pause while that immunity issue is decided. But time and delay will in fact be on Trump's side, at least for the next several weeks, making it very unlikely that his trial will actually start March 4th.

But, of course, he will still have that slew of other legal issues heading into 2024. We've got the civil lawsuit brought against him by E. Jean Carroll for defamation. That trial set to start January 16th. Unless his legal team can figure out a way to delay, which we know they're working on. Then there's the hush money case involving Stormy Daniels. That's the case brought by the Manhattan DA. That is also still slated to go to trial in March but the DA, Alvin Bragg, has said multiple times that that date could be pushed back.

And, of course, all of this happening as the campaign calendar is jam- packed. Trump focused on his 2024 campaign, while his legal team, Pamela, is focused on this litany of legal issues cascading into 2024.

BROWN: Yes. They have certainly been busy this holiday season. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

So let's get more on Trump's court battles and what we can gather about his mindset with our legal and political experts. All right, so Kristen Holmes, let's start with you hear. Trump doubling down on his angry Christmas rants against the special counsel, what's the say and what does all of this reveal about his mindset around his many legal problems he's facing?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, he's clearly very focused on all of this. As we know he has been really wrapped up in these various cases, some of them more than others. And what we saw was a divisive Donald Trump on Christmas. Now no surprise, generally, what we have seen from him, when world leaders take to the stage, take to the pulpit to call for peace in times of war on the holidays. Donald Trump does not do that.

So here's just some of what he had to say. One post he said, Merry Christmas to all including crooked Joe Biden's only hope, deranged Jack Smith, the out of control lunatic who just hired an outside attorneys fresh from the swamp to help him with his poorly executed witch hunt against Trump and MAGA. May they rot in hell. Again, merry Christmas. And then today, doubling down on this message about Jack Smith in particular, Biden flunky, deranged Jack Smith should go to hell.

This is just really a preview of what we're going to see in the next several months next year as Donald Trump runs for president. It's particularly if he is the GOP nominee, which at this point, he is inching towards that according to all of the polls.


He is going to ramp up this rhetoric, and really there's no reason for him not to do so, at least in terms of political pressure when he's heading into these primaries and caucuses. He is actually seeing an uptick in his polls as he faces more legal troubles as he amps up his rhetoric, particularly aggressive anti-immigration rhetoric, these attacks on Biden and Jack Smith. So you're likely to see more of that, at least until he would be the nominee and they might need to court more moderate voters.

BROWN: We'll have to wait and see on that. But certainly, he is ratcheting up the rhetoric for sure and playing that victim cards. So, Gene, Trump has a history of attacking prosecutors, judges, courtroom staff and witnesses, and that's led to two major gag orders against him. He has a right to free speech, of course, but ultimately, is he also undermining himself as a defendant?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER ASSISTANT US ATTORNEY, EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA: Absolutely. And let me just stress this, I've done over 100 trials. What you hear in the public domain, the first amendment rights, the political rhetoric, that's all good, he's going to raise money, it's going to boost his poll numbers. But I can tell you this, having two major trials this year, when you get in a courtroom, Pam, when you present the evidence to a jury, whether you're a defense attorney or the prosecutor, that takes on a life of its own, and that jury, 12 people, is going to be focused like a laser beam on the evidence against Donald Trump.

And from what I've read, and what I know, the evidence in Jack Smith's case is extremely powerful. And the document case in Fort Pierce, Florida, that's even more powerful. The other two cases, the Stormy Daniels case, I had a witness in that investigation, Enrico (ph), that's sort of the side issue. But those two cases, the January 6th and the document case, Donald Trump better start focusing on his legal troubles and what will be in the four corners of that courtroom. That is where the rubber meets the road.

BROWN: Do you think, Shan, it's possible to have a jury that's not going to be tainted by Donald Trump and his rhetoric?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, not tainted in a legal sense. I think it says a lot about us as a country, that we're actually able to understand those rants without a translator at this point. So they're all exposed to that and they're used to hearing that. But in the court when you do the jury selection, there'll be efforts made to ask if whatever people may know about the country politics, if they can set that aside and listen to the evidence.

And most jurors can do that. They're quite truthful about that. And they will be able to do that, I'm pretty confident.

BROWN: I'm wondering, I want to talk about Trump's presidential immunity claim before the federal appeals court. Do you think he has a case there, Gene?

ROSSI: No, I don't and here's why. When you elect the president of United States, they deal with nations, they deal with the House and the Senate, they deal with the agencies. Those are different skill sets than getting defeated legitimately. And then the next six, eight weeks before you leave office on January 20th, you are trying to keep yourself in power and by allegedly committing crimes. There's no immunity under the sun that protects you. And I'd love to see a case that gives them immunity for that.

What has been charged against Donald Trump is ultra vires. It's outside the powers of the presidency. But people are forgetting, he's also raising a double jeopardy clause argument. That one is not going anywhere because the proceeding in the Senate is not a criminal trial, and being tried in a criminal court of law is an entirely different thing. It is not prohibited by the US Constitution.

BROWN: Right. The proceeding, the Senate is political, right? It's not a legal proceeding. So, Kristen, Trump could ask any day now for the US Supreme Court to weigh in on the Colorado decision to disqualify him from a state's ballot. How is his team strategizing around that case in the many legal challenges he's up against in 2024. In Colorado, he has until January 4th, if I recall, before that stay is lifted in that case.

HOLMES: Yes, and they are going to bring this to the Supreme Court, and they do expect that it's going to be overturned, which of course raises the question as to why Donald Trump is continuing to rant against this when he has such close advisers and a legal team telling him that they really do fundamentally believe that he will be on the ballot in Colorado. And part of that, I am told, by senior advisors is the fact that it's not lost on Trump or his team for that matter, that because of this decision made by the Colorado Supreme Court, there is now essentially a legal place that he has been called in officially and insurrectionists, something that didn't exist before. So how that affects him politically and legally in the future really remains an unknown.


But when it comes to his legal problems as a whole, what we see with Donald Trump on paper when he is putting out these rants, that is part of a strategy. And that strategy is to make this as political as possible to play this out in the court of public opinion. When it comes to strategy, terms of the legal aspect, and one of the things that Gene said is, once he gets into that trial, there is so much evidence, it's where the rubber meets the road.

Well, part of Donald Trump's legal strategy is to never let it get there, to push it so far that the election happens. And then he is president that is, again, what his plan would be, and then would not be able to even have a trial to possibly 2028. That is part of the strategy there. So these are just ways that they are trying to circumvent the system. And again, play this out in the court of public opinion, that's the real thing Donald Trump does.

BROWN: All right. Thanks to you all, appreciate your perspective. And coming up, the United States retaliates against Iran-backed militants in Iraq after an attack on American forces. Standby for new images just coming in, and information and a growing fears of a wider Middle East war.



BROWN: Tonight, we're following new threats to American forces in the Middle East and the United States military response. President Biden ordering airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militants in Iraq after an attack that injured three US troops. CNN national security reporter Natasha Bertrand is on this story. Natasha, what are you learning about these strikes?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Pam, President Biden ordered that the strikes take place on three facilities used by these Iran-backed groups, this Iran-backed combat group known as Kataib Hezbollah which operates in Iraq, after they launched in a rocket attack that targeted Erbil Airbase in Iraq and injured three US servicemembers, one critically.

And this really marks an escalation in the Iran-backed militias attacks on US servicemembers in Iraq and Syria previously, most, if not all, of the injuries that have been suffered by US personnel as part of these attacks had been relatively minor. And they had returned to duty in a matter of days, according to the Pentagon. But this attack that was carried out by Kataib, Kataib Hezbollah, just yesterday, it resulted in one servicemember being critically wounded. So the US clearly felt a need to respond very forcefully.

Now, Central Command said in the statement that they do believe that several of the militants were killed in the attack, and they believe at this time that no civilians were injured as part of it. But, look, the Iraqi Government is not happy about this. They released a statement earlier today calling it a violation of their sovereignty. We should note it's the second time in just over a month that the US has launched the strikes in Iraq raising questions, of course. But whether the Iraqi Government is doing enough to protect US and coalition servicemembers that are there in the country to fight ISIS, clearly the Pentagon feeling that it needed to take matters into its own hands in this case, Pam.

BROWN: Meantime, CNN is learning that the US Navy intercepted a series of drones and missiles fired from Yemen towards Israel over the Red Sea today. What do we know about that?

BERTRAND: It was a very busy day in the Southern Red Sea, Pam. The Houthis, they launched a barrage of missiles and drones targeting commercial vessels there in the Southern Red Sea. And according to the Pentagon, the US shot down 12 one way attack drones, three anti-ship ballistic missiles and two land attack cruise missiles. And they were shot down by the USS lagoon which is a destroyer there and fighter jets that are part of the Eisenhower carrier strike group.

Now, this is just part of the ongoing attacks by the Houthis in Yemen, who have said they're going to continue these attacks in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza. The US set up a coalition, a maritime coalition to try to deter these attacks just last week. But clearly, the Houthi is not feeling to turn up by that coalition of ships there in the Red Sea, Pam. BROWN: Yes, clearly not. Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much. Let's bring in CNN military analyst, retired Air Force, Colonel Cedric Leighton.

So, here you have US forces in Iraq and Syria. They have been targeted at least a hundred times since October. What do you think? Do you think President Biden's retaliatory strike will help deter the ongoing threat to US troops? So far there hasn't been much deterrence.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Pam. That's right. Good evening to you.

There are so many aspects to this that really make it harder for the administration to act in a way that's going to totally deter the Iranians or their proxies from attacking us military forces. Basically, what the Iranians are doing and through their proxies, of course, is trying to make sure that the US is tied down in places like Iraq and Syria. And they're doing it basically in response to the US efforts to supply Israel with weapons in the Hamas -- anti-Hamas efforts that they're undertaking Israelis are undertaking in Gaza.

So that's going to be, I think, what we're going to see for the next few months, at least, is these kinds of attacks, as the Iranians try to make life difficult for US forces that are already positioned in region.

BROWN: So, how does the US walk the line then of retaliating against Iran back groups, not letting them get away with it right, without sparking a broader regional conflict?

LEIGHTON: Yes. That's the most difficult problem for the administration right now, Pam, because what the administration is basically faced with is the fact that they have to respond to one way or the other, especially if an American servicemembers either injured or killed. And that's what we're seeing here, because there was at least one critically injured servicemember, the US administration felt that they needed to respond. And they did it in this way, where they attacked three different facilities of Kataib Hezbollah.

And that is, in itself a fairly significant action on the part of the administration. The best thing that they could do after this if things escalate, would be to go after other structures and installations that exists not only within Iraq, by these proxy forces, but perhaps also do something in Iran. But that, of course, risks what you were alluding to, and that risks, further inflaming tensions and broadening the conflict in the region. So it's a very tough line for the administration to follow and is going to be tough for them to carry out these kinds of responses.


BROWN: So for context, how concerned should the US and Israel be by this threat from Yemen and after this Iranian proxy there has been repeatedly attacking commercial ships?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think it's definitely an area of great concern, because about 12% of global commerce passes through the Red Sea, right through the area that's near Yemen, between Yemen and Africa. And because of that, I think it's very important for the US and its allies, coalition partners to respond to the Houthi strikes, or the strikes. And that what we're seeing here is really an effort by the US and its partners to try to limit damage to global commerce.

Right now you have the economy in the US at least on the verge of some type of recovery. I may be a bit uneven in other parts of the world. And that is the kind of thing that, you know, really makes it imperative for the administration to work through this and to try to prevent these attacks.

BROWN: All right, Colonel Cedric Leighton, great to see you as always, thank you so much. And up next, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was battling a quote, long fight against Hamas as the Biden administration is looking for Israel to shift away from its high intensity war in Gaza. And after losing contact with him for two weeks, jailed political dissident Alexei Navalny's team finally knows where he is. You're in the Situation Room.



BROWN: A key adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with senior US officials here in Washington to discuss the next phase of the war on Gaza. Meanwhile, residents are seeking shelter and moving from the conflict as Netanyahu vows a long fight against Hamas. CNN senior international correspondent Will Ripley has the story.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The terrifying sound of ongoing bombardment, Israeli shells hitting targets. Closer and closer to this UN run school in Central Gaza. For thousand sheltering here, it's time to move again. Families forced to flee for their lives, and this is not the first or even second time for many. Once again, they carried the war torn pieces of their lives in pursuit of elusive safety.

Just days earlier, many here vowed they would never move again, never, a vow they're now willing to break only because they know their children's lives are at stake.

OM MOHAMED, GAZA RESIDENT (through translation): There's no safety in the school. We're looking for a safer place. I'm leaving because of the intensity of the airstrikes and the suffering.

RIPLEY: Everywhere else is crowded. There's no guarantee you'll find a spot. But what else can they do? Even if they have nowhere else to go, they can't stay here. They don't want to die here.

The scene, a grim reminder of what their parents and grandparents endured in 1948 when Zionist militias forced them out of their hometowns. In the cold winter, blankets and mattresses are precious commodities. Cars and the fuel that run them are scarce. Those who can't afford it hire donkey carts. For the rest, it's a long trek on foot.

Very tough back there, he says. Bombs are falling on people everywhere. People were injured there. We don't know where we're heading. Everywhere is under threat. We're just moving with the rest of the people.

The destination for many, relatives' homes, a roof over their heads even if they are in neighborhoods already devastated by Israeli airstrikes. Street battles raging across Gaza, turning areas north and south of the strip into ghost towns, the scars of battle raw.

YOAV GALLANT, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (through translation): We are in a multi arena war. We are being attacked from seven different sectors, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Judea and Samaria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. Anyone who acts against us is a potential target. There is no immunity for anyone.

RIPLEY: Iran's allies in the region engaging in low level hostilities in response they say to Israel's war in Gaza. Yemen's Houthi attacking ships, ships they claim or Israeli affiliated turning the Red Sea into a dangerous route for world trade. Iran has vowed to avenge the killing of an Iranian commander in Syria, sparking renewed concerns of expanding the conflict. Especially on the Lebanese-Israeli border, artillery fire with the Iran-backed Hezbollah, keeping both countries on edge since October 8th.

In Gaza, a race for survival between a routine of airstrikes, rushing to hospitals and burials, and the ongoing search for food and water, and a pursuit of shelter for close to 2 million people displaced.


RIPLEY: And tonight, the pressure is only rising for the people of Gaza because they are no longer in the north where Israel says it has essentially contained this situation. So you have all those displaced people packed in the central part of Gaza and in the south, which is exactly where Israel is now targeting its military operation because that is where Hamas is hiding out, Pamela, a dangerous and delicate situation likely to drag on for many weeks and months to come, Israel says.


BROWN: Yes, certainly millions of people there. Will Ripley, thank you so much. Well, for more on this, I am joined by CNN political and global affairs analyst Barak Ravid, live from Tel Aviv. So Barak, what is your reaction to Israel's defense minister declaring they're in a, quote, multi arena war?

BARAK RAVID, CNN FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Good evening. What I think we see it almost every day with Houthi attacks from Yemen, with the attacks from Iraq from Lebanon. Very, very, very tense situation in the West Bank on the brink of explosion and obviously, the war in Gaza, and this assassination yesterday, of this Iranian general in Syria, it really seems that, you know, the whole region is exploding. And then you wonder how this thing is going to deescalate at the moment, it just seems that the escalation is just moving forward without any way to stop it.

BROWN: Yes, it certainly does. And then there's the question of, if and when Israel will transition to a less intense phase of war in Gaza. You just heard Will's report there. You know, you have millions of civilians in central and southern Gaza. That is also where Hamas is hiding and Israel is targeting, when do you expect that next phase to actually happen?

RAVID: So I think that the transition from the high intensity fighting to the low intensity, intensity fighting is directly connected to the regional tension that we see because the Biden administration and some people in the Israeli government think that once Israel transitions to low intensity fighting, a lot of those regional tensions will come down. Especially I think the hope is that Lebanon will come down, and Syria will calm down, and then maybe even the Houthis will come down a bit.

But we saw today an expansion of the Israeli grand operation in Gaza, to what is called the central camps, group of refugee camps between the Gaza city and the city of Khan Yunis. This operation is going to continue for at least another three to four weeks before we will see this transition to low intensity fighting.

BROWN: So you first broke the story that atop Netanyahu confidant and member of Israel's war cabinet, Ron Dermer, is in Washington today to meet with national security adviser Jake Sullivan and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. So take us inside those meetings. Do you know what was said? What happened in them?

RAVID: Yes, they're actually Minister Dermer is meeting as we speak right now, I think in the White House with Jake Sullivan, with Secretary of State Blinken. This is a very interesting visit first, because Dermer is I think maybe Netanyahu is less confident. Today in the Israeli government, maybe the only person Netanyahu trust a person who was once called Bibi's brain. And Dermer is coming to the White House to talk about the day after in Gaza. And the day after is not six months from now. It's not a year from now. It's four weeks from now, when Israel moves to low intensity fighting because then so many questions are going to be on the table.

How is Gaza going to be run when the Israeli military pulls out of the center of the cities and redeploys along the border. Dermer also is also there to speak about an issue that is of great concern to the Israeli government. And this is the amount of munitions the Israeli military still has. And those munitions are getting close to the red line and Israel wants the U.S. to expedite a lot of weapons deliveries to Israel.

BROWN: All right, Barak Ravid, great insight as usual. Thank you so much. Well, other news we're following today two weeks after losing contact with Russian political dissident Alexey Navalny. His team says they found him in a Siberian penal colony. His spokesperson says it was a miracle the team located him. Navalny is serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges. His supporters say it's an attempt to silence his criticism of Vladimir Putin who is running for reelection next year. For more on the story, we are joined by CNN Russian affairs contributor Jill Dougherty. So Jill, walk us through the circumstances around Navalny's transfer and his defiant new message today.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's quite extraordinary really. But remember, he was being held in that prison about 150 miles east of Moscow. He was serving 11.5 years, then all of a sudden he was slapped with another 19 years. And at that point, he in effect disappears. His staff, his supporters cannot find him nor can his lawyers find him. They were very concerned about him. Because remember back in 2020, he was really poisoned almost killed with Novichok nerve agent. And he's been under very harsh conditions. So they were very worried.


So he disappears for, as you said a few weeks. And that coincidentally happens just after Vladimir Putin announces that he's going to run for president again. So Navalny's team find me now, tracks him down, they find him in an extremely remote penal colony, which is inside the Arctic Circle. It's called Polar Wolf. And it's really part of the old Gulag system from the Soviet days. The trip took 20 days by train, it was really circuitous. So he's finally there. And it's called a special regime colony. So it's extremely cruel environment, and very, very difficult because it is so cold, and there's no mail delivery.

But surprisingly, Navalny was able to tweet actually put onto social media tweet, and I'll read it in a second. And amazingly, he sent it in good spirits. And I'd say actually ironic and funny as he often is. So here's some of what he said. I'm your new Santa Claus. The Russians call that "Father Frost." Well, now I have a sheepskin coat, an ushanka, which is a hat, a fur hat with ear covering flaps. And soon I'll get valenkli, and those are the Russian traditional felt winter boots. I've grown a beard for the past 20 days of my transportation. They were pretty exhausting, but I'm still in a good mood. Anyway, don't worry about me, I'm fine. I'm totally relieved that I finally made it. Thanks again to everyone for your support. And happy holidays.

Since I'm Santa Claus, you're probably wondering about the presents. But I am a special-regimes Santa Claus, so only those who have behaved very badly, get presents. So pretty, I think in your face coming from Navalny.

BROWN: Yes, just remarkable that that's his message and that he remains in good spirits seemingly from that, after all that he has been through. What does it signal to you that Navalny was put into isolation to such a remote Siberian penal colony?

DOUGHERTY: You know, it's about as far away from civilization as you can get. And the Russian penal colonies are severe to begin with. This is probably one of the worst. So I think they want to get him off the map, literally and figuratively, and certainly politically, because even though it's not necessarily the Russians will vote for him. But Russians often -- many Russians want a choice in voting. And so, you know, he, Navalny, is a symbol of choice, and he also talks about the corruption, which he says is massive in the Putin administration. So I think they want to kind of disappear him and get less attention, of course, internationally, he's getting a lot of attention because he disappeared, and now he's found again.

BROWN: Yes, and he will continue to get attention. We're not going to just forget about him just because he's there. Jill Dougherty, thank you so much.

We'll just ahead, what might be a quote first step in Kanye West's long journey to amends with the Jewish community after an Instagram post in Hebrew, where he apologized for past actions. Why now, after years of anti-Semitic remarks we're going to discuss next.



BROWN: Kanye West who now goes by Ye has apologized to the Jewish community in a social media posts written in Hebrew. It comes after years of anti-Semitic statements including a post last year that resulted in Adidas dropping Ye from a multimillion dollar partnership. CNN entertainment correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister is with us now. So what did he say and why now after years of these remarks?

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: It is a great question why now. We have to point out that Kanye does have an album that is coming. Now, the release date right now is set for January 12th. Of course in the world of Kanye that can change, but that could help to describe and explain the timing. Now I want to read to you what he did post as you said in Hebrew, Kanye said, quote, I sincerely apologize to the Jewish community for any unintended outbursts caused by my words or actions. It was not my intention to hurt or disrespect and I deeply regret any pain I may have caused. I am committed to starting with myself and learning from this experience to ensure greater sensitivity and understanding in the future. Your forgiveness is important to me and I am committed to making amends and promoting unity.

Now of course, even though he has posted that there are a lot of questions and a lot of confusion today. Of course Kanye West last year, he had great career fallout. He was dropped by Adidas as you said, also Balenciaga, the Hollywood talent agency CAA after he posted on Twitter that he was going to go quote, DEFCON 3 on Jewish people.

BROWN: Yes, how can we forget that? So, Elizabeth, how is his apology been received now?

WAGMEISTER: As I said, a lot of confusion, but I do want to read you a statement that we got from the Anti-Defamation League here at CNN. This is what they have to tell us quote, after causing untold damage by using his vast influence and platform to poison countless minds with vicious anti-Semitism and hate, an apology in Hebrew may be the first stepped on a long journey towards making amends to the Jewish community and all those who he has hurt. Ultimately, actions will speak louder than words. But this initial act of contrition is welcome. [17:45:11]

Now I think that statement is very poignant, because actions do speak louder than words and Kanye West who has a major platform last year after he tweeted what we just spoke about. There was a demonstration on the freeway in Los Angeles with the poster being hung that said Kanye was right about the Jews. The ADL actually reported that they had at least 30 anti-Semitic events after that tweet that specifically referenced Kanye West. So he does have a vast platform and we'll have to see what happens from here.

BROWN: Yes, we absolutely will, actions do speak louder than words. Elizabeth Wagmeister, thank you so much.

Coming up, watch out travelers, snow, wind and freezing rain are already creating dangerous road conditions for parts of the United States. We're going to show you where the storm is heading up next.



BROWN: So did you receive a gift this year you're not particularly thrilled with? You may want to think twice before you return it. A growing number of stores are charging fees for mail and returns as shipping costs rise, and more shoppers return online orders. CNN consumer reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn joins us now. So basically, Nathaniel, if you got, you know, like an ugly sweater for Christmas that you want to return, you may not be able to return it for free, right? Is that the bottom line here?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN CONSUMER REPORTER: That's right, Pam. And I hope you didn't get an ugly sweater.

BROWN: I did not, I swear for my husband. I swear I did not.

MEYERSOHN: But yes, but more stores are charging for returns, about 81 percent of retailers are now charging for returns, particularly online returns. So you'll look at some of the shipping fees for mail and returns that retailers have added J.Crew $7.50, Macy's 9.99, and then Amazon, interestingly, Amazon, they've trained us to return for free, but now they've added a $1 fee for customers who are bringing in items to the UPS store when there's a closer Whole Foods store nearby.

BROWN: Interesting. So obviously, you know, it all comes down to the bottom line, tell us more about why these companies are adding these fees.

MEYERSOHN: Yes, Pam, returns are very expensive for retailers, particularly the mail in returns, they have to pay for the shipping fees, then they have to restock the items. And so that's all going to impact their bottom lines. And we've seen return rates spike over the past few years, especially as more customers order online, you know, you think about something looks good online, then you get it in person. It's not the right size or the right color. So 2019, about 8 percent of all return -- of all merchandise was returned. That's jump to 16.5 percent last year. So retailers they're saying we've had enough and they're cracking down.

BROWN: So what other trends are we seeing with returns?

MEYERSOHN: Yes, who thought that this return industry could be this interesting. But there lots of companies that have gotten involved. So retailers are now tightening their return windows, trying to another move to crack down a little bit. You can bring in a lot of returns now box free, label free. That's kind of a nice convenience. And then some stores like Staples. They're offering you to bring in their -- your Amazon returns and you can shop in stores with for a discount. That's a way to draw customers into stores. And I think this trend is most interesting. They're just telling you to keep your return. They don't want it anymore.

BROWN: All right, I guess I might have to keep that ugly sweater. Nathaniel Meyersohn, thank you so much.

Well, millions of Americans are under winter weather alerts today a mix of snow and freezing rain already creating these travel headaches and dangerous road conditions during this busy holiday week. Chad Myers is in the weather center. Chad where is this bad weather now and where is it heading next?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's still in South Dakota and Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado. That's the worst of it. But what's happening right now, Pamela, is that the sun is setting. And even though the sun on these pictures, you can't see it, it's actually warming the ground a little bit. But when that sun goes away and the roads are a little bit wet, that wet becomes ice. And so that's the black ice we are going to see tonight in this area back out here toward the west. It is slowing down. The storm is now cut off from the moisture source and that we call this and low pressure system that is kind of just swirling around, I like to call it a "ho-ho." But you get the idea.

There's not any additional moisture getting into the storm, so there won't be that much additional snow. But there will be still these ground blizzard conditions. We still had over a foot of snow in some spots. But now it's just blowing around. Now which is going in all different directions. And so even though some spots have picked up a foot of snow, as you saw in the pictures, there was a three-foot drift and then you can see the driveway. That's how it's been going with these winds is blowing things around. That's going to be the case for the next few hours.

We will begin to lose the wind later tonight. But still maybe gain a little visibility, been watching these visibility's all day and we had some delays around, you know, in Denver, but Akron in Colorado 0.753 quarters of a mile. And it's not even snowing that much, it's just blowing.

Across the east, everybody trying to get back home here up and down the I-95, the rain is still there. It moves to the northeast for tomorrow. There are still some flooding going on in the Appalachians. You have to watch that if you're driving, especially after dark. But look at some of these areas all the way from New York back down to D.C. and for that matter all the way down to the Delmarva and the low country of South Carolina. We will see two to four more inches of rainfall.

When has it ever been this warm for Christmas? It was 55 inches Chicago for a high yesterday. Haven't seen that in a really long time but at least it's winding down.


BROWN: Yes. I know a lot of us were dreaming of a white Christmas here where I am and that certainly did not happen far from it around the 50s here. Chad Myers, thank you so much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BROWN: Well, coming up, President Biden ordered retaliatory airstrikes in Iraq on Christmas. We're going to take you to the Pentagon and Israel next as the United States tries to walk a fine line in the Middle East and asks Israel to slow its bombardment in Gaza.


BROWN: Happening now, the tense aftermath of U.S. airstrikes inside Iraq targeting Iran-backed militants after an attack on American forces. Iraq accusing the Biden administration of hostile acts at this dangerous moment in the Middle East.


Also this hour, Donald Trump spewing more anger at Special Counsel Jack Smith saying his criminal prosecutor should quote go to hell.