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CNN NEWSROOM

North Korea Declares Latest Sanctions an Act of War; Bethlehem Struggles as Mideast Tensions Rise; Pope Francis Gives His Christmas Day Message; Top Seven Crime Stories of 2017; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 25, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:08] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea is calling new U.N. sanctions an act of war. And now Russia and China say they are supporting diplomacy and calling for restraint to stop the war from breaking out. Those are the two countries President Trump called rival powers just last week.

Joining me now live, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Good morning to you, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Pamela. Well, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is now calling for the U.S. and North Korea to talk, and for the U.S. to take initiatives to make those talks happen, but no indication from Washington that that will be happening anytime soon.

It look like we're entering 2018 just the way we started 2017, with North Korea being one of the more serious if not the most serious national security challenge for President Trump.

Now the U.N. has just passed a new series of sanctions against North Korea, putting limits and bans on everything from gasoline to fuel to industrial equipment, and also barring North Korea from having about 100,000 of its workers overseas, calling for those workers to be returned, repatriated to North Korea, because the money that they earn overseas in a variety of countries is very important to the North Korean economy.

So all of this an attempt in early 2018 to put more of an economic squeeze on North Korea, to get Kim Jong-un to come to the table, to make a clear statement that he will give up his weapons, his missile program, and his nuclear program. That's what the U.S. wants. Very unlikely that Kim is about to do any of that anytime soon.

So still we go into the new year with this critical question for President Trump, what does he do next? How long does he wait to take any type of military action, if any, against the North Korean regime -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you so much for breaking it down for us.

And joining me now to discuss, David Rohde, CNN global affairs analyst and online news director of "The New Yorker." As we just heard Barbara say, David, we are ending 2017 very much the

same way we started 2017, with North Korea being a top national security threat. This after round after round of sanctions against North Korea. As she pointed out, there is this latest round of sanctions from the U.N. Do you think anything will change as a result of that?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: These are the toughest economic sanctions that have ever been enforced against North Korea. I think the Trump administration deserves credit for that. But I think what we saw in 2017 is that, you know, tough rhetoric from the White House and from President Trump has not changed North Korea, has not changed Kim Jong-un's calculus. So I think this is a great time for the administration to let these tough new sanctions take effect and maybe start some quiet diplomacy with North Korea.

A back channel already dies exist. But clearly trying to publicly humiliate Kim Jong-un is not working, he's not going to sort of publicly just give up his nuclear arsenal due to threats from the Trump administration.

BROWN: Well, and as we've seen this past year, those threats from the president have only emboldened Kim Jong-un, right?

ROHDE: Yes, I would say again that the lesson in terms of North Korea in 2017 is that rhetoric and tough talk alone and some like U.S. military exercises did not work. It simply put more pressure on Kim Jong-un, again, you know, I say this often, all politics is local. Kim Jong-un, for his own hold on power in North Korea, has to show strength. He can't be shown to sort of publicly be backing down to the Trump administration. That's why, again, I credit the administration for the new sanctions, they're the toughest ever, but now is the time for some patience and some quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.

BROWN: And as you look over the past -- this past year, how much closer is North Korea to being a legitimate nuclear threat to the United States as we close this year out?

ROHDE: That's the most concerning thing, Pamela. In November they tested their most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile. It reached, you know, the highest altitude of any North Korean missile. And it did look like it could hit many major cities in the United States, particularly obviously Alaska but also the west coast United States. So things have gotten worse over 2017 in terms of the ability of North Korea to have a missile that can strike the U.S.

It's unclear if they could mount a nuclear warhead on one of those missiles, but again, bad news in 2017 in terms of the continuing advances in terms of missiles by North Korea.

BROWN: And just looking again big picture foreign policy, President Trump over this year has touted that he was looking to negotiate the ultimate deal, peace in the Middle East. He has proposed the embassy move to Israel -- to Jerusalem, move in Israel.

[10:35:08] Do you think that any hope of peace in the Middle East has sort of dwindled because of that move?

ROHDE: I think it has dwindled. I would say that the administration has handled North Korea better than it has handled the Middle East peace process. There was some belief I guess amongst some people in the White House, possibly by President Trump himself, that putting more pressure on the Palestinians by moving -- you know, by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital would work, instead the Palestinians say they don't want the U.S. to play any role in peace talks, they don't want to hear about Jared Kushner's new peace proposal.

So I think, again, that move, maybe moving the -- recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, potentially helped as a domestic political move with President Trump's base. But I see the Israeli-Palestinian peace process moving back, so far, under the Trump administration.

BROWN: All right. David Rohde, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your perspective.

ROHDE: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, Pope Francis is weighing in on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, this after the Trump administration's move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

We are live from Rome, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:40:05] BROWN: Well, President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv has stoked tensions in the Middle East. Just before Christmas, the U.S. issued a travel warning for Bethlehem, the West Bank town celebrated by Christmas as the birthplace of Jesus.

As CNN's Oren Liebermann shows us, Bethlehem faces a Christmas without much holiday cheer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The selfie sticks outnumbered the tourists in Bethlehem's Manger Square. Near the Church of the Nativity, the biblical spot where Jesus was born, the holiday spirit here is fading. What was shaping up to be a busy Christmas a few weeks ago now feels rather empty.

RONY TABASH, SHOP OWNER: Last Christmas, it was -- I'm feeling it's better than this Christmas. There was more pilgrims last year.

LIEBERMANN: Tony Tabash's family has owned this souvenir store near Manger Square for 90 years. Tabash is one of the lucky ones. His store still has customers, at least some.

TABASH: I can feel there's less pilgrims coming to Bethlehem. But I want to tell the world and to tell all the people, we invite them to Bethlehem to come celebrate Christmas mass. LIEBERMANN: A giant nativity scene takes up most of Manger Square.

Shop owners worry that tourists won't be able to fill the rest.

(On camera): Once again the U.S. issued a travel warning for Bethlehem right before the holiday season. That means tourists canceled their hotel stays, the shops here don't see the customers, and the entire city takes a hit.

(Voice-over): The travel warning came after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, setting off demonstrations across the region and here. On this main road in Bethlehem, clashes have become the norm, not the exception. All along the street, broken windows and closed storefronts. There's no point in reopening only to close for every protest. The five-star Jacir Palace was booked for the holidays with a star singer for Christmas.

NADIA TWEMEH, JACIR PALACE: The hotel is fully booked but as you know, because of the situation, it affected us a lot. It affected us personally.

LIEBERMANN: I interviewed Nadia Twemeh in an empty dining room. A few weeks ago this would have been full. As we wrapped up, demonstrations start outside. A crowd of Palestinians marches toward an Israeli army outpost. They walk over an American flag with pictures of President Trump and Vice President Pence. It's an anger that's barely faded, replacing the joy few here feel this holiday season.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Bethlehem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, Pope Francis reacted to the tensions between Israel and Palestinian during his Christmas message.

CNN's John Allen is live in Rome.

So what more is the Pope saying about this issue?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Hi, there, Pamela, Merry Christmas to you. And what I have to say has been just a gorgeous day here in Rome. But it wasn't so much the gorgeous sites of the world, the Pope had in his view today for his Christmas message. It was instead the hotspots and conflict zones around the world.

He began in the Middle East, where in light of the president's controversial embassy decision, there are obviously new tensions and fear of wider conflict. The Pope prayed for peace and reiterated the Vatican's longstanding support for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.

He then touched upon Myanmar and the threats against the Rohingya, though without using that word in an effort to avoid making things worse. He talked about Venezuela, several African nations, Iraq and Syria. Pamela, this was once again a Pope who sees himself as a peace Pope,

trying to move the needle on the quest for peace in his Christmas Day message.

BROWN: And in his Christmas Eve mass, the Pope also spoke about migrants and refugees, which I guess is no surprise. But what did he say?

ALLEN: Well, basically, Pamela, what he said was if you think about the story of the Christ child, I mean, basically his parents, Jesus and Mary, were forced to leave their homes. They became displaced people. They went in search of refuge in a strange town, couldn't find any, which is why the baby Jesus ended up being born in a manger.

Francis' argument was that reflecting on that story, looking at that scene, ought to open the hearts of Christians all around the world to today's migrants and refugees. It ought to commit the church toward policies of compassion, welcome and tolerance.

That of course has been a signature issue for Pope Francis. Clearly he's not going to let up in 2018.

BROWN: All right. John Allen, thank you so much. A Merry Christmas to you as well.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:48:59] BROWN: Well, from shocking verdicts to heartbreaking tragedies, there were plenty of headlines in 2017.

CNN's Jean Casarez takes a look at the most notable crime stories of this past year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 2017 was a tumultuous year, filled with stories of shootings and accusations of sexual misconduct.

Let's take a look at the top seven crime and misconduct stories of 2017.

(Voice-over): In number seven.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Breaking news this morning O.J. Simpson is a free man.

CASAREZ: The former NFL star is notorious for being acquitted in 1995 of murder charges for the grisly murder of his ex-wife and her friend. More than 10 years later, Simpson was accused of another crime. This time, kidnapping and armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel in 2007. He was sentenced to serve 33 years behind bars.

[10:50:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mister Simpson, I do vote to grant parole when eligible. CASAREZ: Simpson was granted parole for good behavior.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: An upbeat O.J. Simpson walked out of a Nevada prison shortly after midnight.

CASAREZ: Number six. The criminal trial of Bill Cosby.

BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: That's absolutely correct.

CASAREZ: Once one of television's most loveable dads, after Bill Cosby goes to trial accused of sexually assaulting a woman more than 10 years ago. Criminal charges were not filed at that time. But when never-before-seen transcripts unsealed in 2015 show Cosby admitting to giving drugs to women he wanted to have sex with, a Pennsylvania district attorney brought forth multiple charges against the star.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The judge in the Cosby trial has declared a mistrial.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The jury failed to reach a verdict after more than 50 hours of deliberations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came here looking for an acquittal. But like that Rolling Stones song says, you don't always get what you want, sometimes you get what you need.

CASAREZ (on camera): The case is set to be retried in April. Cosby maintains his innocence, saying the encounter was consensual.

(Voice-over): Number five.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Congress attacked. Congressman Steve Scalise, the third ranking Republican in the House, is in critical condition tonight after a lone gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They asked me if this team was the Republican or Democrat team practicing. I responded it was a Republican team practicing. And he proceeded to shoot Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our lives were saved by the Capitol police. If they had not been there, I think it would have been a massacre.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.

CASAREZ: Three months later, Congressman Scalise returns to the House floor to a bipartisan standing ovation.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), MAJORITY WHIP: You have no idea how great this feels, to be back here.

CASAREZ: Number four, a mass shooting inside of a small town Texas church. A gunman, Devon Kelly, killed 25 people and an unborn baby when he walked into a Sutherland Springs Church in November. The former airman had a long history of violent behavior. Kelly died not far from the scene after being chased by Good Samaritans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was do -- you know, do everything necessary to make sure that this guy is stopped.

CASAREZ (on camera): Among those killed, several members of the Holcomb family, spanning three generations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we have eight people and a family that left us in one day.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Number three, the murder of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia. 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed in August when a car plowed into a group of protesters. Heyer and others were counter-protesting a "Unite the White" rally of white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

GROUP: Jews will not replace us.

CASAREZ: The man driving the car, 20-year-old James Alex Fields, had attended the right wing rally. He has been charged with first-degree murder in Heyer's death.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what. You just magnified her.

CASAREZ: Story number two. Dozens of women speak out about being sexually harassed or abused by Harvey Weinstein.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: More and more women are coming forward accusing Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of blatant sexual misconduct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just kept grabbing his penis and fondling himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he pushed me back and he forced himself onto me. It was not consensual.

CASAREZ: Weinstein responded through a spokeswoman, saying, "Any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied."

The Weinstein accusers, speaking out helped create a domino effect of other women speaking out about harassment in industries outside of Hollywood.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: And at least half a million women all over the world, in all professions, have jumped on the social media platform to say #metoo.

CASAREZ (on camera): Weinstein is being investigated by the NYPD but no charges have been filed.

(Voice-over): And in our top crime and misconduct story of the year, the mass killing of dozens at a Las Vegas country music festival in October. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news of the worst

variety, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history has just happened.

CASAREZ (on camera): Fifty-eight people were killed when shooter Stephen Paddock started firing shots from his hotel suite --

BURNETT: Thirty-two stories above that crowd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The shots just kept coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter which direction you went in, no matter where you took cover, there was at least two to three bodies. You didn't know where you were safe.

CASAREZ (voice-over): But from that tragedy rose dozens of heroes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a nurse and I just felt that I had to.

[10:55:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ran back towards the shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just sat with him. But I would like to think that if it was me, that somebody wouldn't have let me to just die alone.

CASAREZ: Jean Casarez, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, thank you so much for joining me on this Christmas Day. I'm Pamela Brown. Dana Bash picks up the next hour of the NEWSROOM. Have a great day.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and Merry Christmas. I'm Dana Bash in for Kate Bolduan. President Trump is spending this Christmas holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. He and the first lady attended Christmas eve services at the church where they were married. Prior to that --

(END)