Return to Transcripts main page


President Golfs after Tweeting "It's Back to Work"; ISIS Claims Responsibility for Deadly Blast in Kabul; CNN Accompanies Turkish Police on Anti-ISIS Raid; Israel to Name Train Station after Trump; Top Justice Stories of 2017. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired December 28, 2017 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICLA ANALYST: And it's after Christmas and he is working again, and he is focused on the economy, and that's something he will keep pushing in 2018, something that he feels like he is in charge of and that he is on top of. The fact of the matter is that President Obama can claim a lot of credit for it, because unemployment numbers are something that take quite a bit of time to work through. But I think he wants people to know that he is in charge and on top of things and that he is not out there playing golf when in fact he is.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Maybe one of the most interesting shots of President Trump playing golf, David, is of President Trump not playing golf, because we couldn't get it yesterday. If we can show this, as the president came around to this area where he was visible, a truck actually pulled -- and seemed to be coordinated -- pulled in front of the shot. That became the story. That was a bigger deal than seeing Donald Trump golfing. Clearly, someone is worried about the optics.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, no doubt about it. It begs the question, why is the White House so afraid of showing the president golfing. Are they concerned about the hypocrisy you were discussing from his previous words? It's a reality, we know he is golfing. He owns golf clubs. He goes to them often. And nobody begrudges the president the ability to blow off some steam. It's one of the hardest jobs in the world. He's entitled to go --


KEILAR: Because he has been so critical --

CHALIAN: Exactly.

KEILAR: -- and he does it so much. He has been so critical of someone doing it a fraction of the amount of time.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: It goes back to the businessman idea. And this is about controlling the image, controlling the message. He wants an image of a hardworking president. It's a celebrity who doesn't want a picture of themselves without makeup and hair fully done.

KEILAR: Amie, back to business, I should say. After this trip, we are going to see the president meeting with Republican leaders of Congress at Camp David. What do they need to hammer out? What's on the agenda?

PARNES: So much. Because there is a log jam that's going to happen. They kick the can down the road and it's going to be a pretty tough start to the New Year. There is child health care and there is budget stuff and spending, a government shutdown could loom. There is so much to talk about. And he hasn't been on the friendliest terms with Mitch McConnell, for instance, throughout last year and this year. He wants to make sure everyone is on the same page and they have momentum because they got the tax bill through. They need to keep focused and make sure 2018 is a priority and they also need to sell the tax bill. As poll numbers show, it's not entirely popular and they need to do quite a bit of showmanship there as well.

KEILAR: President Trump has been optimistic about the idea of Democrats helping out on health care and infrastructure. But he has been poking them in the eye last year. What do you think the chances are that there will be some?

PETTYPIECE: I'm not going to make predictions, but it's unlikely.


CHALIAN: If anything is to get done in the Senate, it's going to have to have some Democratic support. It's a 51-49 Senate. Unlike taxes, they need 60 to get legislative done. What is so important about the meeting with the two congressional leaders and the president at Camp David, they are not on the same page about the priorities. Paul Ryan would like entitlement reform. Mitch McConnell said that's off the table. Donald Trump campaigned that it wouldn't be. Mitch McConnell wants to move on to other priorities, not bring up health care again. We know the president does want to see health care repeal and replace -- repeal and replace of Obamacare. The three of them are not synched up as to what the legislative agenda should be for 2018 just yet.

KEILAR: To be a fly on the wall. So interesting.

David Chalian, Shannon Pettypiece and Amie Parnes, thank you so much to all of you.

PARNES: Thank you.

[13:34:15] KEILAR: And a deadly suicide attack by ISIS has left more than 40 people dead and dozens injured in Kabul. Sharp condemnation pouring in from around the world. We will have details, next.


KEILAR: ISIS is claiming responsibility for a deadly bomb attack in Kabul.

And a word of warning, that you may find these pictures difficult to watch. We want you to know that.

Witnesses say that a suicide bomber entered a room at a Shia cultural center as discussion was under way and he detonated his explosive vest in a crowded area and killed 41 people and injured dozens more. This was followed by two more smaller explosions. The blast also hit the Afghan news agency, which has an office on the floor above the meeting room.

In a statement, the Turkish government condemned this attack in Kabul, expressing, quote, "deep sorrow for those who were killed."

Turkey all too familiar with ISIS attacks. 2017 began with a deadly shooting at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day. And throughout the year, police have conducted missions to bust suspected ISIS cells.

Here's CNN's senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, going along on one of the dangerous raids.



ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "If we are ready, we are moving," the officers to radio calls to his men.

It's just past midnight a few days before New Year's Eve. Across Istanbul, the police force is getting ready for a massive raid. The cell they want to bust is larger than most of the previous ISIS targets. And we are briefed. They are deemed to have the capacity to carry out an attack.

Turks are wary and anxious this holiday season following the pain and shock of last year's New Year's Eve terror attack, when a gunman opened fire at the revelers at a random nightclub in Istanbul. The security apparatus cannot afford to take any chances.

(on camera): They are trying to move in as quietly as possible. This is part of a sweeping operation that is involving around three dozen targets and hundreds of police officers.

[13:40:09] (voice-over): Residents peer down, but stay well indoors.

(on camera): This is as far as we are being permitted to go at this stage. There have been instances in the past, over the course of the last year, where the targets have actually exploded suicide vests or attacked the officers with grenades and guns.

(voice-over): No one is authorized to go on camera and the information disclosed to us is scant.

The unit we're with is targeting a couple, believed to be the head of the cell that is also responsible for moving and housing fighters, ideological training and recruitment.

(on camera): The search is still ongoing. The couple has been apprehended and it is believed, at this stage, that they are the ones that are the head of the entire cell.


DAMON (voice-over): There are no casualties on this night or any clashes. Video later released by the police force shows other targets. Their homes search and tossed for any grain of information.

In all, 28 people were detained. And there have been regular crack downs throughout the country. Over the last year, hundreds of ISIS suspects have been taken into custody, but the threat level remains high and casts a looping shadow over what should be a festive time.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.


KEILAR: Meanwhile, just south of Turkey, in Israel, officials are so pleased with President Trump that they are naming a train station after him. The station will be near the western wall, the holiest site at which Jews can pray. You will recall, in May, Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the wall.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem.

Oren, this train station is not the only thing they are naming after Donald Trump. Tell us more about this rather bit of a frenzy we are seeing to honor the U.S. president.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does seem like a frenzy. It's not just in Jerusalem, it's across Israel that they are naming projects after President Donald Trump after earlier this month, just a few weeks ago, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Let's go through the list here. The big one -- and we will come back to this -- is the high-speed rail stop planned for the old city of Jerusalem. That's the most controversial, but not the only one. A Jerusalem city council member wants to rename a street in Jerusalem, one of the major arteries to the old city, he wants to rename that Donald Trump Street. A small city in northern Israel wants to name a park after President Trump. Construction of that park starts next month. And a city of southern Israel wants to name a new street Trump Declaration Street. That's how much they feel this declaration is important to the city of Israel.

But it is the high-speed rail station in the old city that is, by far, the most controversial. The old city is, itself, the most sensitive part of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The station would be 50 to 60 meters underground with an exit that puts passengers close to the Western Wall where Trump, just a few months ago, became the first sitting U.S. president to visit. And that's why this becomes so important to Israelis. Of course, anything to do with the old city brings about an immediate and angry response. A senior Muslim cleric in Jerusalem said naming a train station after Trump, a high-speed rail line, none of that changes the fact, he says, that East Jerusalem is occupied territory.

Brianna, this is still a few years away, another year of planning and a few more years of construction, but you get the idea of how much President Trump means to Israelis and how much he has angered Palestinians.

KEILAR: A very controversial decision.

Oren Liebermann, in Jerusalem, thank you so much.

Alabama officials are standing by, as we speak, to certify Democrat Doug Jones as the winner of the state Senate race. These are live pictures you are looking at. Minutes away, this is expected to happen. Republican Roy Moore isn't letting go, though. He is suing to block the certification. We are live in Montgomery, ahead. Stay with us.


[13:48:13] KEILAR: President Trump's attacks on his own attorney general is just one of the top justice stories of the year.

Laura Jarrett counts us down.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: From tackling violent crime to Russian meddling in a presidential election, to immigration, civil rights and presidential tweets and everything in between, the attorney general had his hands full this year.

Here are the top justice related stories in 2017.

Number seven, tough on crime makes a comeback. Once former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was sworn in as attorney general, he set out to make his mark on the justice system.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A new era of justice begins and begins right now.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: What a difference a year makes. Elections really do have consequences.

JARRETT: In May, Sessions directed federal prosecutors to pursue the stiffest possible charge in all criminal cases.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This could severely change the sentencing procedures in the United States.

JARRETT: Upending an Obama-era push to phase out long prison sentences for non-violent prison sentences.

SESSIONS: We know that drugs and crime go hand in hand. They just do. The facts prove it.

JARRETT: Number six. Immigration crack down. Sessions also zeroed in on immigration laws, taking direct aim at so-called sanctuary cities, going after undocumented immigrants nationwide, and linking hotly debated immigration policies to recent acts of terrorism.

SESSIONS: As yesterday's New York events show in the starkest terms, the failure in immigrations systems are also a national security issue. [13:50:06] JARRETT: Number five, transgender rights. Sessions

directed his Civil Rights Division to focus on prosecuting hate crimes against those who target transgender victims. But at the same time, the attorney general reversed an Obama-era rule that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom according to their gender identity, while also defending in court a new policy that Trump denounced in a series of tweets.

BERMAN: He just took a major stance saying that he will ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.

JARRETT: A policy several federal judges have blocked from taking effect for now. One calling the tweet, "capricious and arbitrary."

Number four, when tweets haunt the president in court, Trump hits back. Federal judges across the country pointed to the president's tweets when sizing up his travel ban restricting people from several Muslim-majority countries.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Coming back to haunt him. The president's tweets costing him in court.

JARRETT: As the Justice Department tried to defend the ban in court on national security grounds, the first version caused fierce protests and was almost immediately blocked.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, A.C. 360: The judge ordering a temporary halt to President Trump's travel ban.

JARRETT: Who Trump then called a so-called judge, and later tweeted, "If something happens, blame him and the court system. People pouring in, bad."

Number three, reshaping the courts. Aside from tweets, President Trump's impact on the federal courts will far outlast his presidency.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The president has been enormously successful in filling vacancies on the federal bench with lifetime appointments, people who are very conservative on the courts of appeals. And these people are going to serve long after Donald Trump is gone from the presidency.

JARRETT: Trump's election win secured the appointment of a relatively young judge named Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This, without question, is going to be the biggest accomplishment, at least, so far, of his first one hundred days in office.

JARRETT: But the president also tackled the lower courts, adding a slew of conservative, young, and primarily white nominees to the courts at a breakneck pace.

TRUMP: The judge story is an untold story. Nobody wants to talk about it. But when you think about it, Mitch and I were saying, that has consequences 40 years out, depending on the age of the judge. JARRETT: Number two, the president's attacks on the Justice

Department and the FBI. The president's frustration with Attorney General Sessions was palpable.

TRUMP: A lot of people are disappointed with the Justice Department, including me.

JARRETT: But he caught some by surprise when he slammed the FBI.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: The president launching an extraordinarily attack on the nation's top law enforcement agency, saying its reputation is in tatters.

JARRETT: Since Watergate, the Justice Department has tried to keep politics out of prosecutions, but Trump often demands, via tweet, that the Justice Department investigate Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: The saddest thing is that because I'm the president of the United States, I'm not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I am very frustrated by it.

JARRETT: Number one, the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the appointment of a special counsel.

In March, Attorney General Sessions stepped aside from all investigations involving Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

SESSIONS: My staff recommended recusal. They said, since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation. I have studied the rules and considered their comments and evaluation. I believe those recommendations are right and just.

JARRETT: Two months later, the president fired FBI Director James Comey with the Russia investigation on his mind.

TRUMP: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.

JARRETT: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was soon appointed special counsel for the Russia probe, an investigation the president says is a waste of time.

TRUMP: The entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between, certainly, myself and my campaign. But I can only speak for myself and the Russians, zero.

JARRETT: Flynn, now the most senior White House official that we know of cooperating with Mueller. And he is the fourth member of Trump's campaign to be charged as part of the Russia probe.

Democrats charge Trump may have obstructed justice. But the ball for now is in Mueller court as the first criminal charges have trickled in with no end in sight.


[13:54:57] KEILAR: Any minute now, Alabama officials will certify that Democrat Doug Jones is the winner of the State Senate race. Looking live coming to us from Montgomery as this is about to get underway.

But meantime, this is new, Republican Roy Moore, who has been suing to block the certification, well, moments ago, we learned an Alabama circuit judge has denied Moore's attempt to halt the certification of the results. And we'll continue to follow that at the top of the hour.

For our viewers in North America, stay with CNN for live coverage.

For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is next.

I'll be back at 5:00 eastern on "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Thank you so much for joining us.


[14:00:09] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and thanks for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin, who is --