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Putin Calls For Pragmatic Cooperation in Message to Trump; Trump Blasts Iran For Arresting Peaceful Protesters; Marijuana Sales Legal In California Starting Jan 1st. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 30, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: So, now after more than a year of controversy focusing on the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Russia is now calling for cooperation in a new year message to the president of the United States.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: President Vladimir Putin wants both nations to engage in long-term constructive dialog, but in that same speech, he was quick to remind the world that Russia continues to back the Syrian dictator, President Bashar al-Assad, who in the past called all Americans in Syria "illegal invader forces."

BLACKWELL: And, you know, this is just one line of a long list of foreign policy challenges for President Trump as we head into 2018. We focus on just a few here on the map. North Korea's new year resolution, ringing loud and clear this morning: vowing it will not back down from building its nuclear arsenal. U.S. officials predict another ballistic missile test, potentially, sometime soon after the new year. And then there's this...




PAUL: President Trump warning Iran that the world is watching after dozens of peaceful anti-government protesters were hauled away for reportedly chanting "harsh slogans". Now, Iran's (INAUDIBLE) with the remark, releasing a statement moments ago, "The President Trump's government is the main source of ill will towards Iran."

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's start now in Washington with CNN Correspondent -- Washington Correspondent, Ryan Nobles, who's in West Palm Beach near the president's resort. Ryan, tell us how the White House is responding to what we're seeing in Iran?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, they're not mincing words. The president of the United States saying that he is standing firmly behind those protesters who have taken to the streets to protest their government, and he used his powerful Twitter feed to send that message around the world last night. This tweet came out last night; the president writing, "Many reports of peaceful protests by the Iranian citizen, fed up with the regime's corruption and its squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad. The Iranian government should respect their people's rights, including the right to express themselves. The world is watching," and then he used the hashtag, "#IranProtests."

And the president's message, which came directly from his Twitter feed, which his administration says should be viewed as an official White House statement, comes just after the State Department earlier in the day echoed that same sentiment. Essentially saying, that the people of Iran have the right to demand basic rights and the rights to fight against corruption in their country. And it's not really that much of a surprise now that this White House, in particular, would back the protesters. There's been a lot of tension between the Trump administration and the Iranian regime that the White House believes that Iran could be involved in the conflicts in both Yemen and Syria.

And, of course, Donald Trump has also been very critical of the nuclear deal that was hatched between the Obama administration and the Iranian government; it was something that he campaigned against in a big way. He's also been critical of it since he's become president; he's called for a review of the program and has even threatened to pull out of that agreement. So, as the tensions continue to increase in Iran, it's clear the U.S. government is taking a side, and that side right now is with the protesters that are voicing their opinion against their government. Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ryan Nobles for us in West Palm Beach Florida. Ryan, thank you.

PAUL: Arwa Damon, CNN Senior International Correspondent is live for us in Istanbul; also, Asawin Suebsaeng, Political Reporter for The Daily Beast; and Kelly Jane Torrance, Deputy Managing Editor for The Weekly Standard. Thank you all for being here. Arwa, I do want to start with you. We just said a little, we revealed a little of what Iran responded to President Trump's tweet with, and I understand you've got more for us from that response.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. This coming out from the country's foreign ministry not only talking about the fact that they viewed the government of President Trump as the greatest bearer ill will towards Iran, but going on to say that, "The people of Iran give no value or credibility to such opportunistic expressions by the government or the person of Mr. Trump. American officials through their conduct have not earned a place from which they can express mass sentiments as sympathies for the aware and engaged people of Iran."

Now, this not just necessarily a rebuke of what the U.S. president tweeted, but, also, perhaps a reflection of just how frustrated -- not just Iran but other countries frankly are with the United States. A lot of nations and their populations, no matter how they feel about their governments, in particular, do perceive the United States as not really having a moral leg to stand on. Now, remember, these demonstrations in Iran began Thursday night, growing on Friday, spreading across the country; starting off with calls for economic reforms, frustrations with the fact that things like food and gasoline prices have been increasing. [07:05:20] But then, also, taking on a marked tone of direct

expression of dissatisfaction with President Rouhani and something that we don't see very often, also dissatisfaction with Ayatollah Khomeini. It's also worth pointing out that people are also growing increasingly frustrated with what they say is Tehran's continued support and focus on foreign policy as opposed to domestic policy; focusing a lot on military, political, and economic support for their proxies in countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, as opposed to try and to focus the well-being of their own population.

PAUL: All right. Asawin, as we listen to what she was reading from the foreign ministry there in Iran, they said, basically, the U.S. haven't earned their place, and that the people of Iran give no value or credibility to the U.S. or to the Trump administration. With that said, where does the president go beyond a tweet at this point when it comes to Iran?

ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, POLITICAL REPORTER FOR THE DAILY BEAST: Well, among his political inner circle and his advisors in the White House, it'll certainly be interesting to see where he goes with this. In the sense that, the tweet that we're all talking about this morning was rather measured in compared to what the president has said regarding foreign regimes that he is not friendly with. So, this was something, obviously, that was drafted with more attention to being, shall we say, soft with the language. So, as we've seen with his public feuds with such dictators as Kim Jong-un, it'll be interesting to see how he goes forward in his early morning and sometimes late-night tweeting against the Iranian in the near future.

PAUL: K.J., of course, we are watching North Korea as we were talking about the fact that they're saying they could -- or there is a belief and expectation that they are going to launch some sort of missile, a ballistic missile after the first of the year around that time. We also know that Kim Jong-un -- he gave a New Year's Day pledge last year, amplifying their nuclear weapons development. He held true to that; 15 missiles were launched this year. Is there any expectation of what he's going to say tomorrow when he gives the 2018 speech, and if he will call out President Trump and the U.S., specifically?

KELLY JANE TORRANCE, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR FOR THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I'm sure he will. Now, forgive me, Christi, I have to go back to Iran just for a second.

PAUL: Go ahead.

TORRANCE: I actually interviewed three young Iranian dissidents earlier this year, who'd all left the country within the last year and a half. They'd all been jailed under the current regime and they described to me torture -- a brother and sister were tortured in front of each other, threatened with death. You know, we're going to kill your sister, we're going to kill your brother if you don't do what we want you to do. And so, the idea that the U.S. doesn't have a moral leg to stand on. Now, obviously, the United States is not a perfect country but it does not treat its citizens in that way, simply for expressing their viewpoint. And I agree with Asawin that, that was quite a measured statement, and

I'm hoping he will get something even stronger out there. I think part of the reason he has had so many statements about Kim Jong-un is that Kim Jong-un has attacked him personally, and with the kind of rhetoric that Trump can stop you, is which the Iranian leadership has not done. And so, I think that's one reason we're seeing slightly different responses there. And I certainly think Kim Jong-un is going to, you know, continue using that in attacking Trump.

And both countries, really, are using the United States and now Donald Trump to sort of as a scapegoat, to get the attention away from what they're doing to their own people and making him like: this is the bad guy, this is why we're doing so poorly. Not -- you know, ignoring the fact that their reason that there are sanctions against these countries is because of what they are doing involved in terrorism around the globe and how they are treating their own people -- human rights in both these countries are just atrocious.

PAUL: Asawin, is there a plan? A lot of people have looked at the back and forth between Kim Jong-un and as we wait to find out what he's going to say tomorrow, is there a plan for dealing with them? U.S. sanctions are not working. Beyond sanctions, what's next?

SUEBSAENG: I mean, in terms of what the plan is, there are certainly people in the administration who have been working on different angles on this for a long time. But in terms of the president of the United States himself, as Kelly Jane Torrance pointed out before, it's unfortunate from an international and diplomatic standpoint that his priorities on this seem to be consumed by personal feuding on this. And correct, it is not --

PAUL: There's not a lot of clarity --


[07:10:12] PAUL: -- and so people don't understand where it's going. And you know, there may be some confusion. I want to shift real quickly to this as well since it's happening this morning. There may be some confusion as well from President Putin's words this morning, in his 2018 new year address. He's stressing the importance of the U.S. and Russia have a dialog, a long-term dialog; he says, he's stressing cooperation. But, Arwa, when we hear of that, we also know that Russia is still backing, and he said it in his speech today, Syria and Basha al-Assad. So, when you hear those two differing viewpoints, is there any way for Russia and the U.S. to move forward?

DAMON: Well, there very well could be, hypothetically speaking, of course, at this stage, because it most certainly would not be the first time that we would have seen two nations that have different positions on one particular issue than figure out a way to cooperate and move forward on another. Russia decided to back President Bashar al-Assad and did so until the very end. In fact, managed to arguably turn the tables in favor of the Assad regime whereas the United States, yes, did support the Syrian Democratic forces on the ground in the battle against ISIS. But a lot of the Syrian opposition groups and the rebels will say that

America has completely and utterly failed them, and is only trying to, at the end of the day, serve its own interest. When we look at the entire regional picture, every single nation is, at the end of the day, looking for its own interests, and it will strike deals with other countries if it deems that to be an action that will be moving in its own favor even though they may fundamentally disagree on other issues as well -- and that's just the reality of global politics. There's very little consideration that's actually put on the humanitarian cost of any of these various different agreements and negotiations.

PAUL: All right. Kelly Jane -- Asawin Seubsaeng, and Arwa Damon, and Kelly Jane Torrance, we appreciate you all so much. Thank you.

TORRANCE: Thank you and good morning.

SUEBSAENG: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: New developments coming up following an alleged online gaming prank that went too far. Now, an innocent man is dead and his family is blaming not only alleged pranksters but police as well. We'll tell you what happened.


[07:15:38] BLACKWELL: 15 minutes after the hour now, and we have new developments about an online gaming dispute between two gamers and how it turned fatal after what's called a swatting prank. Now, swatting, it's gained a lot of traction with online gamers. It's when someone makes a prank call to police with a false report of an ongoing crime hoping to draw SWAT officers to that gaming opponent's address.

PAUL: So, in this case, there was a man in Los Angeles who allegedly called police in Kansas and told dispatchers that's where he was and that he had shot his father and was holding his mother and siblings' hostage. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just pointing the gun at them making sure they stay in the closet. My mom and my little brother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, is there any way you can put the gun up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, are you guys sending someone over here? Because I'm definitely not going to put it away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I'm just going to go ahead and stay on the phone with you, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's fine. Until they get here or --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As long as you need me to, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm thinking about -- because I already poured gasoline all over the house. I might just set it on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Well, we don't need to do that, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a little bit, I might.


PAUL: So, police responded to that call and surrounded the home in where they believed that caller to be. But really, it was 28-year-old Andrew Finch who to the door, and police say he moved suddenly, and that's when an officer opened fire. Finch was unarmed. He had nothing to do with the online gaming dispute. This seems to be a random address that was given to 911. Now, his family is outraged. And reporter Angela Monroe from affiliate KWCH explains more.


ANGELA MONROE, REPORTER, KWCH: Andrew Finch's family is angry. He was shot by a Wichita police officer as they responded to a call on false information.

LISA FINCH, MOTHER OF ANDREW FINCH: They did not warn him. They did not say anything to him. He opened the door and they shot him.

MONROE: Andrew Finch's mother was in the house when her son was shot. We sat with her as she watched conference and disagreed with parts of what they said.

FINCH: I'm not letting go until I have justice.

MONROE: Lisa Finch says her son was never given a chance before police shot him.

FINCH: There is his blood. They were given the story that there were hostages being held here and that people were in here dead.

MONROE: It was a swatting call. A false call meant to bring SWAT to a scene -- all because of a video game dispute that had nothing to do with Finch. The family has a message for whoever made that call too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're a murderer and you're an accomplice, and you killed a wonderful man. This whole family has lost a wonderful person because of your selfish --

MONROE: Finch had two young children. And we're told, he was all about his family.

JEROME FINCH, BROTHER OF ANDREW FINCH: I would like them to remember that he was very loyal, and he was faithful, and he was caring.

MONROE: The Finch family continues to want answers after the unarmed man was shot by a police on a bogus call.


PAUL: It will continue, obviously. We're working on getting some more answers as to what happened there, and where it goes from this point on as they look for that initial caller to 911.

Now, I know it's new year's, so everybody's getting ready to have a little bit of a celebration, ringing into 2018 and cities across the country are increasing their security measure for this celebration. Las Vegas, in fact, is adding snipers to rooftops and they're bringing in the national guard to protect crowds as well.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to New York. Police are already setting barricades and patrolling tourist attractions and hotels leading up to the New Year's Eve, the iconic ball drop happening there obviously in Time Square, and that's where our Athena Jones has to take us.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there! The New Year's Eve celebration here in Times Square is an iconic event, it's also a massive security challenge. This is something the NYPD has been preparing for since the last confetti was being swept up after last year's celebration -- that's according to the police commissioner. And we're going to see a stepped-up police presence here in and around Time Square this year. That means more uniformed police officers, more police officers carrying heavy weapons and more dogs.

Where I'm standing right here including several blocks north, south, east, and west is going to be shut down to vehicular traffic starting relatively early on Sunday morning. There will be 12 access points for spectators who want to come in and enter this area to view the ball drop, ring in 2018. Those are spectators are going to see teams of police officers. They're going to see metal detectors, bomb- sniffing dogs, they're going to see police who are able to detect (INAUDIBLE) material. And they're going to have to go through two checkpoints, two screening of their bags and of their persons in order to enter the pens to celebrate the new year.

[07:20:37] Also, for the first time, the New York Times is reporting that for the first-time police will be attaching reflective material to the outsides of some of the buildings in and around Times Square, and that is so they can help -- those reflective materials can help them locate any gunmen or shooter should there be one. That, of course, is a lesson from the Las Vegas shooting. Among the other stepped up efforts, there will be rooftop observation and counter- sniper teams. 125 parking garages in and around this area will be sealed and police officers are also undergoing a special suicide attack training. Training to try to help prevent any sort of suicide attack.

We're also going to see the familiar sanitation trucks filled with sand and cement blocks to help block off this area to prevent any sort of vehicular attack. Now, authorities, from the mayor to police commissioner on down said there is no direct credible threat to this New Year's Eve celebration here in Times Square. No credible threat to New York City in general, but they want everyone to remain vigilant. And said that there are some two million people they expect to come out on Sunday night, should all remain vigilant and as they say: if you see something, say something. Back to you. BLACKWELL: All right. Athena, thank you very much. A live look at Times Square where some of the barricading has already begun, and it is cold out there. Look at that shot back live again. If you think about to get a good spot for the ball drop, you've got to get into your space in the morning and stand there all day.

PAUL: But hopefully, you'll be surrounded by people because I think the low is close to single digits for Sunday night.

BLACKWELL: And it feels like it's going to be worse than that.

PAUL: Yes. Well, but if you're all close together, snuggle up, people. Snuggle up in Times Square.

BLACKWELL: Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen, live from Times Square for CNN's Countdown to Midnight New Year's Eve starting at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

PAUL: So, the coming year, hundreds of seats in Congress are up for grabs. Next, what the 2018 elections could mean for legislation, for policy, for the country?


[07:26:32] BLACKWELL: We're just two days out now from 2018 and when you hear that number, you have to think midterm elections because they're coming.

PAUL: Yes. Because, you know, there are more than 450 seats up for grabs in Congress. CNN Politics Reporter and Editor Chris Cillizza, have a look for us now at how some of these races could change the political landscape.


CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER AND EDITOR: Here's what we're looking forward to in politics in 2018. Well, it's an even-numbered year, which means midterm elections. And midterm elections are almost always bad for the president's party. They almost always lose seats in the House and in the Senate. That goes double when the president's approval rating is under 50 percent, and Donald Trump's is way under 50 percent now. The House is absolutely in play.

Republicans hold the majority, but there aren't enough Democratic opportunities out there to make a real possibility Democrats retake the House come November 2018. The Senate, a tougher thing for Democrats. There are 26 Democratic seats up and just nine for Republicans, but Democrats have oddly a little bit of a chance here; they've gotten a lot of good breaks. And remember, Donald Trump is not very popular, which makes taking over the Senate a very slight, but still a real possibility.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring in our political panel: Jack Kingston, CNN Political Commentator and former Senior Advisor to the Trump Campaign, also former Georgia Representative -- we don't say that often enough. And Simone Sanders, CNN Political Commentator and Former National Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders. Good morning to both of you.



BLACKWELL: So, Jack, let me start with you. Former Member of Congress, what's your concern, real concern that Democrats could take the House in 2018?

KINGSTON: History. History is as Chris said, against the incumbent party who holds the White House. In this case, you've got about 350 seats that are safe -- Democrats take Republican. Then, you've got about 60 seats that are competitive and you got 21 seats that are absolute toss-ups; and unfortunately, 17 of those toss-up seats are held by Republicans right now. So, Republicans have got to be very tough. They do have a monetary advantage right now. The tax cuts need to get into effect. People need to see the prosperity, feel the change in their pocket, but history is against the Republican Party right now. There's no question about it.

BLACKWELL: So, as we talk about tax cuts, Simone, let me come to you with what we heard from Florida Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, on the tax cut bill. Let's put up on the screen. This is what he told a newspaper in Fort Myers, Florida: "I thought we probably went too far on helping corporations. By and large, you're going to see a lot of these multi-national buy back shares to drive up the price." He goes on to say that, "some of them will be forced because they're sitting on historic levels of cash to pay out dividends to shareholders. That isn't going to help create dramatic economic growth." I'm sure you're thinking, tell me if you are, why didn't we hear this two weeks ago?

SANDERS: Well, you know, actually, we did. Marco Rubio said a similar thing. He didn't like the bill in, but guess what, he voted for it. And now, he still doesn't like the bill, now the law. And he's being critical of it. I think is a classic case of him trying to save his own tail, because knows this bill, now tax law, is just not popular. And the role has been a whole captafol, Victory. You've seen folks in different places in the country rushing to try to pay their property taxes earlier than the IRS came out trying to clarify. We're still confused.

[07:29:59] So, this tax bill was not popular, but now it's the Republicans job to try to sell the American people on it. They didn't buy it just yet, and the selling is not going well. And this is going to contribute to why I agree with the congressman that the House is most definitely in play and that the Democrats absolutely could take it back come 2018.

BLACKWELL: Jack, is Rubio, playing both sides here? I voted for it if it does well and if it does not too well, if it still is unpopular, by 2018, I told you so. KINGSTON: A big try, I think he has agreed with Symone did, and I don't quote James Comey much but I would say in disguise.

BLACKWELL: A James Comey quote from Jack Kingston.

KINGSTON: It is we're having as a New Year, but I would say, lordy, lordy start talking about stepping on your own message. Good grace is he should be doing the victory laugh, he should be talking about how ATT, com cast Melaleuca are giving thousand dollar rebates, bonuses to their employees because of the taxes. How AT&T is going to plow a billion dollars into the American economy and how a Five Thirds Bank, I'm not sure of their name, a Fifth Thirds Bank is raising along with Wells Fargo, the minimum wage for their employees to $15 an hour.

So, a lot of positive things to be talking about, but lordy, lordy, you voted for the bill, live with it and go out and sell it, help for sell it.

BLACKWELL: Positive things still pretty unpopular though, and -- but Republican say as Mitch McConnell said, if they can't sell this they need to get in a new line of business. We'll see if they make this or at least make the case heading into November 2018.

Symone, back to you and a DACA, the protections for about 800,000 young people brought in this country. Undocumented people with -- as children, the protections for DACA recipients. The President tweeted this week, "The Democrats have been told and fully understand that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed wall."

All right, if it comes down to it, should Democrats support funding for the border wall along the southern border with Mexico, in order to secure those protections for DACA recipients?

SANDERS: Absolutely not, it's absolutely crazy. Democrat should be pushing for a Clean DREAM Act. And it's absolutely possible, 83 percent of people in this country, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, they believe that there should be some legislative fix for the DREAMers, DREAMers are popular.

So, you know, the Republican got their own funky tax bill that in many my opinion does not do good things for the American people, and it's not popular but the DREAMers are absolutely popular. And so, I think that Democrats have a chance to hold the line and they should. Now, we have seen in the -- in the vote for the budget and keeping the government open that Democrats did not hold the line And so, this is going to be a test coming up in 2018 and I'm cautiously optimistic that they will, in fact, hold the line and push for a Clean DREAM Act.

BLACKWELL: Jack, Senator Jeff Flake, after -- soon after the -- well, I guess which was before the tax bill passed the Senate, he said that he received assurances from the Senate leadership and the White House that they will work with him to quote, enact fair and a permanent protections for DACA recipients. And the context of the tweet that I just read from President Trump, is that up on the air now?

KINGSTON: No, I think it is fair. I think the way Washington has always worked really since the very beginning of our country is a little bit of a horse trading and those horse trading are just reflective of the American people's wills. What people are saying is that you got to end chain migration. The average immigrant to America brings in six family members over time as part of his or her migration status. Is that --

BLACKWELL: OK, but chain migration aside, should there be -- let me ask you the direct question, should there be protections for the DACA recipients?

KINGSTON: Well, protections they have right now but I don't think that -- I don't think there's a huge urge to legalize them and make them citizens. I think they -- I think they give them status --

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness, my congressman, their protections are running outcome March, so, there is a huge rush to do so.

KINGSTON: I know that President Obama, illegally gave them protections but the courts are against.

SANDERS: That is not true.

KINGSTON: It absolutely is, that's why the courts have said, you going to have to address it and by the way, I do believe Democrats and Republicans are failed in not address in this.

SANDERS: That is -- wait. I just want to be really clear. Hold on, I think we need to educate --

BLACKWELL: All right, all right, hold on.

SANDERS: Hold on, I think we need to educate the American people to be very clear, DACA differed action for childhood arrivals was not ruled upon in the courts. DAPA, the feared action was the reason about --

KINGSTON: Because it was illegal, it was a tackle they ruled on by the court.

SANDERS: What's -- but that -- no, DACA was not. So -- but OK, all right, and I was --

KINGSTON: I mean, this like question about it.

SANDERS: That could be skinny last week, but I'm not. So, I just want to be really clear that DACA has not been ruled illegal. And to be frank, I think what we'll see is there is not a legislative fix that a Congress can't get it together. We might see President Trump circle back and issue a new executive order on the DREAMers.

KINGSTON: Well, you might and I hope it includes ending chain migration and building the wall, which by the way, Hillary Clinton, voted for the wall along with most of the existing Democrats --

[07:35:01] SANDERS: No one voted for the infamous -- her own style --

BLACKWELL: There was involvement of bipartisanship during this panel and then it just fell apart.

KINGSTON: No, Symone knows I love her.

SANDERS: Because I love the congressman too. He's like one of my favorites but Democrats like myself and other folks on the Hill are not here for this wall. We are here for saving the DREAMers, we are here for fixing our immigration system.

BLACKWELL: But what if you -- but Symone, what if you have to be here for this wall? If it comes down to if you want protections for the 800,000 DACA recipients in this country, you have to accept the down payment on the wall, take it or leave it. Do you take it or do you leave it?

SANDERS: You leave it because the DREAMers are popular, Victor. One, two, nobody wants this wall, the wall is going to cost billions of dollars. Are you telling me we have billions of billions of dollars for a game of throne firewall, but we don't have money for children's health insurance, you know had may (INAUDIBLE) by government.

BLACKWELL: Well, I mean popularity doesn't -- you know popularity doesn't necessarily lead to legislation.

SANDERS: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: More than 80 percent of Americans support universal background checks for people who want to purchase guns, but that never got a legislation that was voted on.

SANDERS: Absolutely, but I think that Democrats do not have to be boxed into a corner on this because the wall is not popular because the wall was expensive, but what is popular are the DREAMers.


KINGSTON: Well, let me just side this, Symone.

BLACKWELL: Go to Jack.

KINGSTON: I know there was 16 other Republican candidates who wished they had become anonymous with or synonymous with the wall. The wall was very popular, it was one of the reasons why Donald Trump got elected because the Obama administration did not consistently enforce immigration laws.

BLACKWELL: It was popular with the primary voters during the Republican process. If you look at the polling for the wall across the country, across broader numbers of Americans, it is not popular at all.

KINGSTON: Well, enforcement of illegal immigration law are laws that are actually already on the books. Border enforcement is extremely popular and, you know, I would say if I was against a physical brought some border wall, that a wall could be defined as electronic and just better border security in general. You just that want have to the table coming in there. BLACKWELL: Yes, but that's not how the President defined it.

SANDERS: Exactly, and that is not was I was talking about.

BLACKWELL: The President define it as time free (INAUDIBLE).

KINGSTON: But note, but you're right. But I'm saying -- I would say that you can have more than one type of wall, and I've been down there on the border and I've seen that in many, many areas, it's not needed. Because, you talking about vast areas of land which are almost impossible to cross, but they're not impossible to control and patrol.

BLACKWELL: All right --

SANDERS: So, the congressman just made my point about why Democrats should not be vote for this wall.

BLACKWELL: All right, we've wrapped to (INAUDIBLE) there.

KINGSTON: (INAUDIBLE) get the wall if you only kind to get DACA.

BLACKWELL: We're going wrapped at there. Jack Kingston, Symone Sanders, thank you both.


SANDERS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right.

PAUL: So, after months without power in Puerto Rico, of course, that's because of Hurricane Maria. Guess what, this morning, a little bit of a flicker of hope. Some people are finally getting the lights back on but there are still others, three months later who don't have power. We'll show you what's happening there now.


[07:42:05] PAUL: Can you imagine going three months without electricity? Three months, that is how long it spends since folks in Puerto Rico have been without power, of course since Hurricane Maria hit. There are some cities though, they're slowly getting back up to speed here, starting to get some help with their power back on, but others not so much.

BLACKWELL: And CNN's Leyla Santiago has reported from the all in since the hurricane hit. And she visited one of the cities still trying to start the New Year with just one less challenge.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's more than just a flip of a switch. Finally a hint of what life was like before Hurricane Maria. After more than three months without power, Ida is one of the lucky few who just got power.


SANTIAGO: Hot water. She's -- I want to take a hot shower. That's what she's excited about, a hot shower. Yabucoa, in Southeastern Puerto Rico now has a massive generator to power its substation.

It's enough to power part of the town, not a permanent solution, not enough to turn the lights back on for all 38,000 people.

Yabucoa is always been known for its agriculture. Now, it's over that area, where Hurricane Maria came in with a 155 mile per hour winds, knocking out electricity immediately. The mayor, says he doesn't know when power will be restored.

So, he believes they were the first to deal with Maria and they could be the last. Mayor Rafael Surillo was born and raised in these mountains near the coast. He calls Maria a monster that destroyed them.


SANTIAGO: He's saying the urban area could get power very soon but this area, the mountainous area, he says, it could be summer before they see it, which take note, summer is when the hurricane season begins.

Miles away from town, high up in the mountains where the power lines are harder to fix, Cheryl De Jesus, has little hope her home will be back to normal soon. Maria rushed in through the windows and doors and it ruined more than furniture, it ruined her life. For now, new paint is all she can afford to fix any of it.


SANTIAGO: She has no idea when she'll get power back. I'm asking her if she thinks it will be soon.


SANTIAGO: Without power, Cheryl and her children lost more than the lights.


[07:44:51] SANTIAGO: Without power, they don't have water.

The mayor says the problem, constant bureaucratic delays.

For a month, they had power workers here but not enough materials to actually carry out the work. Mayor Surillo, calls this a start. He says they need more generators, power poles, cables.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers admits a shortage of supplies stemming from other natural disasters is part of the reason why it took so long to get power back to people like Aida. She doesn't have to wash clothes by hands anymore. Back in town, Aida will spend tonight in a home overjoyed. Power is the best Christmas gift they could ask for, but for the families up in the mountains, the sun sets on another night as they wait for their gift to arrive. Leyla Santiago, CNN, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.


BLACKWELL: Our thanks to Leyla Santiago.

California is ready for its green rush for 2018. Marijuana sales are set to be legalized for recreational use. Coming up, you're going to hear from some of the dispensary owners who are ready for this new law to take effects.


PAUL: Have you heard about this? The New Year is going to bring a new legalized cash crop to California. Of course, we're talking about marijuana.

BLACKWELL: Yes, recreational use, now, there's been medical marijuana there for some time now. The industry has long been in high demand with underground sales and now it's coming to the surface. CNN's Miguel Marquez taunts at local dispensaries to get their take.

[07:50:09] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The cannabis gold rush is on. Legal, medical and recreational marijuana comes to the Golden State, Monday.


JERRED KILOH, OWNER, THE HIGHER PATH: We're looking to expand into a 6,000 square foot dispensary because we think that we'll be able to serve close to 1,000 to 1,500 patients a day.

MARQUEZ: Today, Jerred Kiloh's medical dispensary, The Higher Path, in suburb in Los Angeles, serves about 200 people a day. He employs 25 full-time workers making at least $18 an hour. With legalization, he expects to employ 70.

KILOH: Just this year alone, or at least the 2017 harvest season, I tripled the size of my cultivation in an effort to be able to supply may increase as the dispensary.

MARQUEZ: The market in Los Angeles alone projected to be ginormous.

When it happens in Los Angeles, how big will it be?

KILOH: Well, I mean, right now, Los Angeles has market as bigger than Colorado and Washington combined. So, you're looking at one market that's the largest in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a drug dealer.

MARQUEZ: California in pop culture long portrayed as a pot smoker's paradise. Sales of medical marijuana, legal or at least allowed in many towns and cities across the State for more than 20 years. What's different now, the entire State will be regulated, licensed and taxed like any other business, except more.

So, come the 1st of the year, the regulatory regime for marijuana businesses across California will change dramatically. Everything from child-proofed caps to security system for every single business.

For places like The Higher Path that are already playing by the rules, the cost of legalization, enormous. Taxes on retail marijuana, up to 45 percent. And license fees to cultivate, distribute and sell medical and recreational pot for just this one business in just its first year, $280,000.

Has California moves into legal marijuana finally, what is your feeling?

KILOH: I'm still excited for the State. I mean, on an individual level, I can be a little bit disappointed that I won't be a part of the party on January 1st, but it's not going to be long before I am up and running and legal.

MIGUEL: On day one, while pot will be legal it won't be available everywhere. Only a few smaller localities if approved licenses to start recreational sales on January 1st. Cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, won't be ready for a legal sales under the new regulations for days or weeks.

ARIEL CLARK, CANNABIS LAWYER, CLARK NEUBERT, LLP: We're talking about an unregulated industry that's been thriving for at least 22 years. That now you have this set of rules and track and trace system, and taxation, and all of these local agencies and bureaucrats and state regulators and licenses. It's a totally different beast.

MARQUEZ: Bumps in the road ahead for California, but legal pot here is expected to spur massive growth for the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. and around the world. Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.


PAUL: Already and up next, the animals caught in the middle of Syria's Civil War. We're going to show you how a rescue group went into the war zone, rescued the animals, and what they're doing with them now.


[07:57:24] BLACKWELL: The SYRIAN CIVIL WAR enters its seventh year in 2018. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, but they are not the only casualties.

PAUL: Yes, this is something we don't normally think about, but CNN's Hala Gorani, has more on zoo animals that have been in that devastated one specific devastated Syrian city. How they were saved and where they are now.

HALA GORANI, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Originally modeled after Disneyland, the sprawling theme park is now a war zone on the outskirts of Aleppo. Like much of the city, Syria's long conflict has laid waste to the magic world zoo. And to the helpless animals inside, unable to escape when bombs began to fall.


DIANA BERNAS, MANAGER, ANIMAL CARE (via telephone): Apparently, there was over 300 animals in the zoo and only 13 survivors. So that tells you the horrific conditions that they had to exist in.

GORANI: Violence, starvation, and disease claimed the most of the lives inside here. But help came for the few animals who survived.

AMIR KHALIL, VETERINARIAN, FOUR PAWS: I'm very happy that the animal are here but still have very long trip.

GORANI: In July, Dr. Amir Khalil and animal rescue organizations Four Paws, conducted what was essentially a military operation. Across hundreds of kilometers to one of the world's most dangerous war zones, they moved the traumatized animals to safety.

BERNES: It was a mission that was planned for several months in advance because it was so dangerous and people literally risked their lives for these animals. Once all 13 animals were retrieved, then the trucks started rolling through Syria, through different checkpoints until the borders were open for them in Turkey.

GORANI: Arriving safely in Turkey from Aleppo was a nearly miraculous feat. The animals were safe there until they could be airlifted to their new home, a wildlife reserve in Jordan.

BERNES: The physical wounds that they arrived with were really hard to see. They were just totally dehydrated, they were malnourished, they were very, very skinny.

GORANI: Months later, their physical wounds have healed.

BERNES: Syed, hello, hello.

GORANI: But the scars from suffering years of conflict don't fade as quickly.

BERNES: The emotional attributes they bring with them, they don't display that as obvious as the physical wounds. Sometimes, we see if we just raise a broom sometimes around Syed, he will react. One of the Asian black bears that when he hears a military helicopter fly overhead, he'll immediately run into the night room.

GORANI: These four-legged refugees can now recover in peace, owing their lives to the small dedicated group that dared to save them.

BERNES: If we want to call ourselves civilize, we have we have to be able to share this planet with these magnificent being --