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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Trump Warns Iran "World Is Watching" Amid Protests; North Korea: We're Not Backing Down On Nuclear Development; Mattis: Expect Larger Civilian U.S. Presence In Syria; Trump: Shares "Frustration" Over U.S. Foreign Policy; Prank Call Leads To Police Shooting Of Innocent Man; Family Demands Answers After Teen Has Run-In With Police. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 31, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): -- refugees can now recover in peace, owing their lives to the small dedicated group that dared to save them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we want to call ourselves civilized, we have to be able to share this planet with magnificent beings. That's part of my work.

GORANI: Hala Gorani, CNN.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday morning to you. Top of the hour now. After a year of controversy over Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, Russia is now calling for cooperation. This is in a new year message to the president of the U.S.

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

BLACKWELL: Add this issue to a long list of foreign policy challenges for President Trump heading into 2018. North Korea's new year resolution is to continue and not back down from building its nuclear arsenal. U.S. officials predict another ballistic missile test sometime after New Year's Day and then there is this.

(VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: That is Iran and President Trump is warning them, quote, "The world is watching." That's after dozens of peaceful anti-government protesters were hauled away for chanting harsh slogans.

Now Iran responding, releasing a strongly worded statement last hour saying, quote, "Trump is the main source of ill-will toward Iran. We have a team of reporters and analysts standing by covering all angles. I want to begin with CNN Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles, he joins us live from West Palm Beach, near where the president is vacationing. Ryan, good to see you this morning. Talk to us how the White House is responding right now?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Christi, good morning to you. So far, the White House is not responding directly from the president's comments last night, but it's pretty clear that this White House and the State Department are standing with those protesters that have taken to the streets in Iran to protest the government.

In fact, the president himself using his Twitter feed, one of his most powerful forms of communication to get that message out last night. This is what he wrote, quote, "Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime's corruption and its squandering of nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad.

The Iran government should respect their people's rights including right to express themselves. The world is watching" and then he used #iranprotest. Now tweet came late last night but earlier in the day, the State Department also another statement in support of those protesters saying that the Iranian regime should respect their people's demands for basic human rights and also an end to corruption.

So, it doesn't come as that big of a surprise that the White House would be behind these protesters. There's been a very tense relationship between the Trump administration and the Iranian regime.

In fact, the U.S. believes in many respects that Iran is involved in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria adding to the chaos in those countries. And, of course, President Trump was very critical of the Iran nuclear deal that was hatched during the Obama administration.

He campaigned against it and since being elected president he's called for a thorough review of Iran. He's suggested that they have not been in complete compliance with that deal and perhaps it that the U.S. should pull out of that deal.

So, this continues to be something that the administration is very focused on. Obviously, this could lead to further destabilization in that region. Israel could also be impacted by it. So, the White House today staying firmly behind those protesters in the streets of Iran -- Christi.

PAUL: All righty. We want to talk too about this New Year's message to President Trump from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Is there any indication what the White House will say or when it will respond to that?

NOBLES: Well, so far, there's been no response from the White House. It is, of course, early here. They're just getting their day started and we should also point out that this is a working vacation for the president.

And, you know, most of the White House staff is not with him here in West Palm Beach. But it's interesting that Vladimir Putin chose the language that he did to reach out to this administration calling for pragmatic cooperation, and that they should find ways to have constructive dialogue.

You know, that's something that Donald Trump himself has suggested would be a responsible move by this administration. He believes that it's better to have Russia as a friend than as an enemy. That's not necessarily the same view shared by others in the United States government.

[08:05:09] Many members of Congress very leery of trusting Putin and his regime including many Republicans like Marco Rubio and John McCain. So, we'll have to see later in the day if the White House issues an official response to what Putin had to say overnight.

PAUL: Also wondering if they plan to issue a response to North Korea who is threatening another ballistic missile test. And we're waiting to hear from Kim Jong-un tomorrow in his New Year's Day pledge as well.

NOBLES: Yes. That's right. You know, Christi, I think when it comes to the North Korea issue, we may see the White House take a more soft approach with that. Of course, the president has been very critical of North Korea. But we do know that the Pentagon said they're going to handle the situation with North Korea much more discreetly. That could mean they come out not who harshly with the latest round of provocations by the North Korean regime.

PAUL: All righty. Ryan Nobles, appreciate it so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Joining me now Arwa Damon, CNN senior international correspondent, live in Istanbul, Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun Times." Good morning to all of you.

Arwa, let me start with you and specifically on what we're seeing in Iran. Give us an idea of the scope of what we're seeing and the impetus for these protests. We also get this strongly worded response moments ago from Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in response to what the president tweeted.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right. And that response came out as a very blunt reaction to President Trump's warning to Iran that the world would be watching coming out from the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, basically saying that Mr. Trump's government has proven to be the primary line of ill-will against Iran.

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, and that American officials through their conduct have not earned a place from which they can express masked sentiments as sympathies for the aware and engaged people of Iran.

And this just to point it out briefly goes to perhaps a broader sentiment across the region that, frankly, the United States, especially the Trump administration does not really have much of a moral leg to stand on.

Now, that being said, the Iranian people have very real reasons for their grievances. The economy has been some something of a downward spiral. Despite the fact that many people hoped that with the nuclear deal they would be seeing an improvement in the economy instead quite to the contrary.

Things like the price of gasoline and basic food products have gone up. The demonstrations began Thursday night, expanding even further on Friday. People expressing not just their discontent to the country's economic situation, but going so far as to criticize Iran's president, President Rouhani.

And some even -- and what is not a very common occurrence, also going so far as to criticize the highest of the Iranian religious clergy, Ayatollah Khomeini. Now today, though, we did see pro-government protest.

People coming out in support of the government and the government also saying that opposition members should be careful. They do view these demonstrations since they have not been issued an official permit, the anti-government ones that is, as being illegal. But of course, it's a situation that is being very closely watched on a regional and international level as well.

BLACKWELL: Errol, again, the Iranian government calls the tweet from the president opportunistic expressions. Why are we hearing from the president about this, but not about some of the demonstrations in other countries, let's say, Turkey, demonstrations in Philippines, and some of the issues in Saudi Arabia. Why this one, why now?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. Well, this is the sound of the other shoe dropping. When the president announced that the -- that the theory, the philosophy, the foreign rights policy would be one of principled realism, well, there was a lot of reaction from human rights and prodemocracy movements around the world saying, well, what about us?

And just as you say, the president has gone to the Philippines, he was part of an important summit at which human rights was barely discussed at all, even in places like China, in places like Vietnam, in places like Philippines.

Where these are very real issues where people are sitting behind bars on movements on the edge of extinction, hoping for help from the divisional leader of the free world, the president of the United States.

Since suddenly now sort of bring this up while welcome it kind of runs at odds not only with his rhetoric regarding other countries, Victor, but also when it comes to the travel ban. Young people from Iran who want to come here and study in the United States, university students, for example, are having a much harder time than they did before he came president.

[08:10:08] So, we've got a statement that's kind of out of line with where the policy has been in the first year of his presidency.

BLACKWELL: Lynn, let's turn to North Korea and the state news agency there, KCNA saying that the country will not deter from its effort of building up its nuclear arsenal. Now, this comes just days after hearing from the secretary of state in that op-ed, talking about some of the gains, some of the developments on foreign policy fronts in combatting North Korea. Has this first year of strategic pressure, as the administration describes it, been effective?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, no, if you measure the effectiveness by whether or not North Korea remains a nuclear threat. It remains more of a nuclear threat in this past year. We've all seen stories about how a nuclear North Korea has missiles that may reach, you know, the western edges of the U.S. territory.

So, despite the heated rhetoric, what is not clear yet is whether or not President Trump could either, on his own or with some kind of an alliance with Russia and China which so far has not materialized, which you've talked about earlier, it is hard to see how denuclearized North Korea remains less and not more of a threat not only to the U.S., but the rest of the world, as we speak right now.

BLACKWELL: Errol, the president in his interview with "The New York Times" directly linked his view and approach to trade with China, with attempting to thwart the efforts of this intercontinental ballistic missile with the North Koreans.

It's not the first time, months ago when Xi was at Mar-A-Lago, he said, and I'm paraphrasing here, it really doesn't make sense to label China as a currency manipulator when they are trying to help us with what he described as the North Korea problem.

But is that going to change? Are we seeing signs that the U.S. will be far more aggressive than it has been in the first 11 months?

LOUIS: Well, I mean, the president has it sticking in his mind that he can pressure China into altering its stance regarding North Korea, he has been proven long in the last year. And it's hard to imagine out anything he could threaten China with would compare with the danger to China of a failed state right at its border or the prospects of hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming out of North Korea into China.

It's a level of instability that China can simply not abide. And they've kind of made that clear over the last five decades. So, I'm not sure why the president thinks in the name of getting a better trade deal, they're going to take extraordinary risks by trying to challenge the North Korea regime who could missiles, by the way, can hit Beijing just as well as parts of the United States. It's hard to imagine that is going to succeed.

BLACKWELL: Arwa, back to you, I want to turn to Syria right now. We heard from U.S Defense Secretary James Mattis that there will be more U.S. civilians heading into Syria, both diplomats and private contractors now that there's been success in eliminating the caliphate there. Do we know what they'll do, where they'll go, and just the logistics of how this will happen after the year's long civil war we discussed this morning?

DAMON: Yes, at this stage, we don't know exactly how many civilians will be involved. Presumably, they'll be in the northern part of Syria, the part that is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces. That is predominantly Kurdish force that the U.S.-led coalition is backing.

One would assume and at the very least hope that one of their key focus is going to be reconstructing areas, especially key cities like Raqqa that we were just in and was utterly devastated. I mean, there's not barely a single building left standing.

And it's going to be key to try to ensure that people can go back to these areas that they feel safe going back to these areas, and they can begin to, at the very least, physically rebuild their lives. The reason this is important isn't just for the humanitarian sake of it all.

It's important because the people the longer they stay, the longer they are left to languish in these refugee camps. The longer they feel as if no one is really paying them any attentions, the easier it is for entities like ISIS to then exploit these grievances.

This is something that Mattis recognizes. He is a military man. He knows just how important running the civilian track alongside a military track, but again, the president of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad, has come out and said that any U.S. presence in his country is illegal. But frankly, there's not much he can really do about it.

BLACKWELL: Lynn, I want you to listen to what the president said. This was back in August, and this was specifically in reference to Afghanistan.

[08:15:07] But I think it speaks to the president's larger view of a portion of what Arwa was discussing there, nation-building and reconstruction after these conflicts. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in our own image. Instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So, the president also went to talk on -- to say, to speak about there being no more nation-building. But is that possible in Syria, to continue to have any leverage without contributing to the rebuilding of that country?

SWEET: It's a very difficult situation to have, especially if you're dealing with civilian contractors and advisers, not to put some skin in the game, in the term, in the way of funneling resources to help rebuild. One of the things we know about President Trump is that he's very money -- price tag conscious.

Look at what he's done with the Unite Nations and with NATO. One of the first things he's worried about are the other nations putting their money on the table? Why do we have to pay so much? Let's talk about the prices here.

Here's what's to look for in just a few weeks, President Trump is going to deliver his first state of the union. You don't do this by tweets. Usually, a state of the union has a foreign policy component to it. Let's see if he boils down these tweets into some kind of policy that could give guidance to the American people as to what he's thinking.

And also to the State Department, to the Defense Department, and to the other nations, as to how he wants to knit together the coalition that could help rebuild Syria, and how it's going to be paid for.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we'll see if the president, in the weeks leading up to this state of the union, if he fleshes out what his view of potential pragmatic cooperation is with President Putin of Russia. Lynn Sweet, Arwa Damon, Errol Louis, thank you all.

PAUL: Still to come, there's a 17-year-old boy who had a run-in with police. The boy ended up in the hospital and the family says, and these pictures, I know that they're dramatic, but they say that he was so disfigured, they just couldn't even recognize him. What's happening with that situation.

BLACKWELL: Also, have you heard about this, this online gaming prank that ended in tragedy? An innocent man is dead. His family wants to know what happened here. We've got a few answers. We're looking for more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:20:55]

PAUL: So, an online gaming dispute between two gamers ended up being very violent and deadly. After a swatting prank. That's the first time we have heard that term swatting. Our affiliate, KWCH, is reporting that Los Angeles police have made an arrest here.

But swatting is when someone makes a prank call about a bogus incident to get police to go to somebody's house. They call police and say such and such is happening at this address. You need to come here.

BLACKWELL: Yes, in this case, a man in Los Angeles allegedly called police in Kansas and told dispatchers that he shot his father, and was holding his mother and sibling hostage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: I'm just pointing the gun at them making sure they stay in the closet, my mom and my little brother. UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: Is there any way you can put the gun up?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: No. Are you guys sending someone over here because I'm not going to put it away?

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: OK. I'm going to stay on the phone with you, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: That's fine -- until they get here or --

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

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Yes, I'm thinking about, I poured gasoline all over the house, I might set it on fire.

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

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: In a little bit I might.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: OK. So, that's just part of the call that was made. The police responded to that call. They surrounded the home in Kansas and, of course, nobody involved in the gaming showed up. The 28-year- old Andrew Finch did. He came to the door. He was there. Police say he moved suddenly and an officer opened fire. Finch again was unarmed and had nothing to do with the online gaming dispute.

BLACKWELL: The officer involved in the shooting has been placed on leave. This incident is still under investigation. This is something I haven't heard about.

PAUL: We need an explanation what that was.

BLACKWELL: Still looking for answers there and we'll continue to look into that.

PAUL: We will. Meanwhile, police have arrested two people in connection with that horrific quadruple homicide in upstate New York. Four people including two children were found dead in a basement apartment in Troy earlier this week.

BLACKWELL: The two suspects are scheduled to be arraigned this morning. Police are releasing very few details, but this investigation obviously is still ongoing. More details about the suspect's identities and charges are expected later today.

PAUL: And listen to what's happened to this family as they demand answers after their son was allegedly beaten by a police officer. This was in Troy, Alabama, and I do want to give you a heads-up here because I don't want you to be taken off guard, but the pictures are disturbing. They're hard to look at.

BLACKWELL: Police say they used reasonable and necessary force after 17-year-old Ulysses Wilkerson resisted arrest and reached for this waistband. The Wilkerson's parents say that he was so badly disfigured. Look at his face here. They could barely recognize him. Now, they want police to show them the body cam video and the dashcam footage of the arrest.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Troy, Alabama, with more on this. I can only imagine, only imagine, what a parent feels when they see their son's face like that?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Victor, I spent yesterday afternoon with Ulysses Wilkerson's mother. She said that for her she's still having a hard time thinking about the injuries. He is home from the hospital, but he will face additional surgeries on his eye.

He had fractures in his orbital bone there as well as swelling around his jaw and head. Again, those pictures are hard to see. This mother said that he's home trying to recover. He's heavily medicated and spending most of his time sleeping.

He doesn't remember much, they say, about the incident that happened just before midnight the day before Christmas eve. He was downtown in Troy, walking. Police say that they tried to stop him and then he ran. They chased him.

At that point, they tried to arrest him, get him in custody. He began to reach for his waistband and that is when it appears those injuries took place.

[08:25:08] Ulysses said the last thing that he remembers according to his father is a tall white officer running and kicking him in the face. Now, the police chief has asked for the state bureau of investigations to look into the use of force here.

And the mayor says that at least one over has been put on leave during that investigation. But for Ulysses' mother, this is really difficult for her to kind of comprehend what has happened. Here's what she said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA WILLIAMS, MOTHER OF ULYSSES WILKERSON: As a mother, I was shocked, horrified and devastated to see my son this way. A victim of police brutality, but I'm hopeful that the state investigation will uncover the truth. I still call on community to stake a stand. We will not settle until we know the truth behind the brutal beating of my dear son and until these police officers are held accountable for their crimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Now, the community is expected to rally and stand up for Ulysses today. Right outside of this police station actually at around noon Eastern Time. They're expected to come out and demand justice. Victor, you talked about body cam video, the district attorney has said he's not viewed it yet, but it does exist.

BLACKWELL: All right. I'm sure they will continue the call to see that video. Diane Gallagher for us in Troy, Alabama, thanks so much.

PAUL: All righty. Moving to the political arena, a GOP strategist said it's time for the party to draw a line in the sand. Who he says Republicans needs to reject and why now is the time to do it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:30:38] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: So glad to have you with us. 8:30 is the time, I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

PAUL: So 2018 means midterm elections. A Republican strategist writes in the "Daily Beast" that it's time for the party to take a stand, starting with the controversial, far-right activist Paul Nehlen who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin.

Evan Siegfried writes this about Nehlen. Quote, "He's running on a full throated embrace of racism, anti-Semitism and grievance. Republicans need to draw a line. They must again reject Paul Nehlen and force him from the party."

Evan Siegfried joining us now. He's also the author of "GOP GPS." And Brian Robinson, Republican strategist and former assistant chief of staff to governor -- Georgia Governor Nathan Deal with us.

Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.

Evan, I want to start with you, and you rightly point out in this article that Sarah Palin, Steve Bannon have both supported Nehlen last time around. Steve Bannon has since rejected him. Steve Bannon also supported Roy Moore. First of all, what is Steve Bannon's potency moving forward in these elections? And two, do you believe Nehlen will be rejected?

EVAN SIEGFRIED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Steve Bannon helped create Paul Nehlen. He supported him in 2016 and then when he was campaigning for Roy Moore he brought Paul Nehlen with him to rallies, and Paul Nehlen was campaigning and hitting the stump for Roy Moore saying he's a great guy and it's us against them, and the establishment.

So Steve Bannon had said well, we're distancing ourselves from him but Breitbart didn't help create him. Breitbart absolutely created him just like they helped to make Roy Moore relevant, Ken Buck, Sharron Angle. I mean, we're seeing from 2010 on when Steve Bannon gets involved in races and candidates, he really gives Democrats a big win.

This is why you don't allow children at the grown-up's table. I think what we're seeing here is that Steve Bannon is realizing when you go out and fully embrace white nationalism and anti-Semitism, like Paul Nehlen did, and Paul Nehlen is even attacking very far-right conservatives as shilling for shackles and other things, I think we're seeing the real blowback to Steve Bannon and what he's created.

PAUL: Nehlen definitely, though, has quite a social media presence.

Brian, what do you make of that situation? And how strong can the social media with Nehlen -- how might it help him? Social media has done a lot for a lot of candidates, let's put it bluntly.

BRIAN ROBINSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, this candidate had all of those advantages in the last election cycle and lost to Paul Ryan by 70 points. So I think GOP primary voters in Wisconsin have already taken a very public stand on how they feel about this guy's rhetoric and his positions on the issues. And I think that Republican leadership throughout the country has done the same thing.

Speaker Ryan has spoken out time and time again against Republican candidates or Republican office holders who have crossed the line when it comes to racist comments. Mitch McConnell has been very upfront in his taking on of Steve Bannon, as Steve Bannon has taken McConnell on.

But McConnell is right. It takes a real political genius to lose a Republican seat in Alabama. And that's what we're up against this year. Bannon's still going to have lot of juice, he's still going to be able to get funding for primary challengers but if we get more Roy Moores, we're going to put our Senate majority in serious danger.

PAUL: So let me ask you this, when we talk about what's happening historically midterms aren't favorable to sitting presidents but there are more than 450 seats up for grabs in Congress. The economy, President Trump's approval ratings at 35 percent, not particularly something to brag about. The approval ratings for Congress, not something to brag about either. But the economic numbers we're seeing are.

I'm wondering, Evan, is there a belief that those economic numbers will supersede other issues going to the polls in the midterms?

SIEGFRIED: Ask Governor-elect Tim Guadagno, Ed Gillespie and Senator- elect Roy Moore. None of them -- or none of them won their races in 2017 despite the economy. We're going out and we're seeing a huge backlash in the Republican Party among two groups, women and millennials.

Republicans, we've always had a gender gap with women, but we've always been able to rely on married women to sustain us but married women are coming out and voting against us in large numbers, in New Jersey, in Alabama and in Virginia. And that's a canary in the coal mines.

[08:35:09] And the millennials, that's a big problem. Already only 19 percent of millennials, the largest generation in America and the largest sector of the electorate, identify with the Republican Party and Republican values. 71 percent say the Republican Party doesn't care about them. We're a party that's contracting. In fact between December 2015 and March 2017, we lost 23 percent of young Republicans which are Republicans age 18 to 29. More and more -- or younger Republicans are wondering, is there a place for them in the Republican Party? And to Brian's point about denouncing Paul Nehlen and the likes of

him, it's a good thing that we do that because more and more millennials believe we are the party of racists and we need to show them that we aren't. So we should denounce these people like Paul Nehlen loudly and consistently.

PAUL: When you talk about those married women that you just mentioned and some of the younger generation, how do you make that correction, Evan?

SIEGFRIED: Well, we have to talk about issues that matter with them, particularly with millennials. Bernie Sanders got millennials to vote for him because he talked about issues that matter to them. Student debt. His solutions were wrong. But we have conservative solutions to student debt that would be actually very appealing because millennials are the most fiscally conservative generation since the Great Depression.

The average millennial graduated in 2016 from college --

PAUL: So what do you tell -- what do you tell that average millennial?

SIEGFRIED: We tell --

PAUL: What is your argument?

SIEGFRIED: My argument is that the Republican Party will actually help them long term in fiscal situations. I think that we can talk about student debt issues. We can talk about entitlement reform. As a millennial myself, I don't think I'm going to be getting Social Security because it's going to go bankrupt. And whenever somebody in Congress tries to do it, you get the AARP losing it, and saying you can't touch this because you're going to hurt seniors, when in reality, it's not to hurt seniors, it's to protect all Americans and especially Americans like me who are younger.

PAUL: So, Brian, when we talk about who's influential in these races, you've told potential candidates here in Georgia, to get on the Trump train or to get out of the GOP politics? Do you still believe that to be true?

ROBINSON: The numbers are very clear, more than 80 percent and in some states, in Georgia particularly, close to 90 percent of likely Republican primary voters approve of the job that Donald Trump is doing. So to get to a general where you're going to face the headwinds that come with Trump's approval ratings and the poor ratings of Republicans in Congress, you've got to win a primary. And there is no future, there is no pathway to victories in primaries in most parts of this country for Republicans if they are anti-Trump. If they're never-Trumpers.

There's just no way to win. And I'm not saying that's going to be the case always. There could always be a pendulum swing particularly if there is a murderous bloody 2018 midterm election. But for now Trump is the Republican Party. He is the head, he sets the agenda, he sets the tone. And if you don't get on board with what he's saying you need to run as something other than Republican because you're not going to get on the general election ballot as the nominee of the party.

PAUL: All right. Brian Robinson, Evan Siegfried, we appreciate you both being here. Thank you.

SIEGFRIED: Thank you. Happy New Year.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

PAUL: Happy New Year to you, too.

BLACKWELL: Well, 2018 will get off to a really cold start for almost 70 million people in this country. We'll tell you how much you should bundle up and where the lowest temperatures will be.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:42:15] PAUL: Look at this picture. That's a winter wonderland if you ever knew it. Can you figure out where that's from? Mm-hmm. Iced-over Niagara Falls. From New York to Canada. That is gorgeous.

BLACKWELL: So despite the really low temperatures, tourists are still heading there just to get a glimpse of this -- I mean, it's beautiful. Let's just call it what it is. Icicle-filled trees line, the frozen outer banks of the water, the only thing not actually frozen there, the falls.

PAUL: As always.

BLACKWELL: Hey, if you're planning to celebrate the New Year in Times Square, be sure to bring your gloves, your hat, scarf, a couple of sweaters, a coat, a warm bed if you can.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: And Victor -- Victor will be watching from his living room.

BLACKWELL: Yes. A very warm place.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: This New Year's Eve is set to be one of the coldest on record with the windchill pushing temperatures below zero.

PAUL: CNN's meteorologist Allison Chinchar is with us.

All right. Just give it to us straight.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Just grab everything in your closet and put it on. That's the best thing I can tell you. Everything you own, just layer up. And again, it's not just for New York. We keep talking about New York because of the fact that it's going to be the coldest since the '60s. But elsewhere, it's also really cold. Right now it feels like it is minus 38 in Minneapolis. Minus 12 in

Chicago. It feels like it's minus 6 in Boston. Here's the thing, the cold air is still going to be around for the next couple of days. In fact Monday morning, we have the potential to have 25 record lows. That's because another wave of cold air is going to slide back in Sunday into Monday. So that's what you have to keep in mind.

The thing of it is when we're talking about that incredibly cold air, it's going to line up, unfortunately, with New Year's Eve celebrations. This is the forecast for New York City. Take a look, one of the coldest days of the week is going to be that time period when we go from Sunday into Monday.

Here's the thing, the forecast for midnight is going to be a temperature right around, say, hovering around 10 degrees, what it feels like, Victor and Christi, in the negative numbers.

BLACKWELL: All right. So let me ask you about this, President Trump tweeted on Friday that the East could use some of that global warming conflating climate and weather. Please explain the difference.

CHINCHAR: Right, yes. So there is actually a huge difference. And Victor and Christi, the best analogy I can give you is look at what you're wearing right now. The outfit that you are wearing today is weather. The outfit you're wearing today. But climate is your entire wardrobe. It deals with patterns, trends and it likely evolves over time. That's the thing.

Weather is short term, climate is the long term outlook. But also guys, it's all about perspective. Look at this map of North America. The blue region is all the areas that are below normal. But the orange areas are above normal.

[08:45:04] Believe it or not for all the record lows we've had these last few days, guys, we had over a dozen record high temperatures yesterday as well for areas of the southwest. So it's all about perspective of where you are and what the weather is like where you're located.

PAUL: Good point.

BLACKWELL: All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

CHINCHAR: Thanks.

PAUL: So new hypertension guidelines. The loss of power at a nursing home due to Hurricane Irma. And Senator John McCain's battle with brain cancer just some of the top medical stories in 2017.

BLACKWELL: Ahead, Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells us what the top medical story of the entire year was.

PAUL: Live from Times Square, Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen hosts CNN's New Year's Eve special. It starts tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. I hope they have the bleep machine ready.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: It's going to be a good one right here on CNN.

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PAUL: So today's "Inspiring People" spotlights Jim McIngvale, owner of Mattress Mack, and the Harvey storm victims who are still lining up to get his help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We used to have a couch right here. This was one of the last rooms to take on water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We went through Harvey, we lost all of this. At this point, we're just trying to focus on our little boy and put the pieces here back together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeremy.

JIM MCINGVALE, OWNER, MATTRESS MACK: Jeremy. Colleen, Jeremy, great to have you all here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thankfully Mattress Mack makes an offer to us go in and pick $10,000 worth of whatever furniture we wanted. And he was offering $3600 worth of accessories.

MCINGVALE: I'm giving one needy family a week that got affected by this horrible storm a house full of furniture. Wonderful furniture made in California. Made in America. And there's so many needy people out there, it's going to be a while to continue to do this because that's who we are. We are -- the essence of living is giving said John Paul II. That's what we're trying to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's what he does.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he does.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's helped, I mean, not just us, but the entire greater Houston area. During the time of the storm, when he was letting people stay there, like evacuees, to letting the National Guard use his mattresses as a place to sleep. Just nonstop from beginning to end, he's helped so many people all throughout this. It's amazing how much generosity one person can have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[08:51:25] BLACKWELL: Well, from heartbreaking illnesses to a Capitol Hill insurance showdown, they are the medical headlines that defined 2017.

PAUL: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta recaps the top seven health stories of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This year, tens of millions of Americans got a big wake-up call.

In November, the American Heart Association issues new guidelines that say blood pressure of 130 over 80 is now considered stage one hypertension. Now luckily, this can usually be fixed by taking better care of yourself, eating a well-balanced diet, low salt, working out, reducing stress, cutting back on alcohol and quitting smoking. First things first, though, make 2017 the year you got your numbers checked.

Sometimes during the worst of times, we really do see the best in people. Sunday, October 1st, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history was carried out on the Las Vegas Strip. The gunfire lasted for an unimaginable 10 minutes but even before it stopped heroes stepped up to risk their lives to save total strangers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People were helping out. They weren't just running from the area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were some who sustained injuries to their arms and legs, and we would come up and they said, I'm shot in the arm or I'm shot in the leg, you can move on. There are people that need you more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, right now, we need your truck. We just need to get people over to the hospital, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Go ahead. Send them all at the back.

GUPTA: The official death toll of the senseless massacre, 58. But without these selfless heroes it would have no doubt been higher.

The right to die debate was reignited this summer over a baby boy named Charlie Gard. Charlie suffered from mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. That's a rare inherited condition that causes muscle weakness. Doctors in London where Charlie was receiving care wanted to remove him from life support, saying that his condition was irreversible and that he should be allowed to die with dignity. Charlie's parents wanted the course to allow their son to stay on life support so he can undergo an experimental treatment for his disorder but it was just too late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Charlie's devoted and loving parents we have decided that it's no longer in Charlie's best interest to pursue treatment and we will allow our son go and be with the angels.

GUPTA: In mid-July, we learned Senator John McCain had undergone a procedure to remove a blood clot above his left eye following a routine physical. With Senator McCain's permission I spoke to his doctors about what had caused the bleeding.

A pathology report revealed a primary brain tumor known as glioblastoma. It's the most aggressive type of brain cancer. It is the same type of tumor that Beau Biden and Ted Kennedy had. With treatment which usually includes radiation and chemotherapy the median survival is 14 months.

Five months out, Senator McCain recently spent some time in the hospital for side effects of his ongoing cancer therapy. But he's a fighter and a lawmaker. We're going to keep a close eye on him in 2018.

On September 20th, Hurricane Irma made land fall in Puerto Rico as a category four storm. The damage was swift and severe killing at least 58 people and leaving millions of American citizens without electricity and water. When I arrived on the island, I saw destruction and sensed despair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't even believe what's happening here. I mean, she's -- there's no power. There's no water. She's a diabetic. She doesn't have insulin. She has an infection that could threaten her life. No ambulance will take her to the hospital.

[08:55:05] That's what's happening here.

This season's storms wreaked havoc on the U.S. mainland as well. Hurricane Irma knocked out the power to a nursing home in Hollywood Hills, Florida, just north of Miami. Left for days in sweltering temperatures without air conditioning, 12 residents died.

On the campaign trail last year, President Trump repeatedly promised to --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Repeal and replace Obamacare.

GUPTA: Once in office, though, Trump found easier said than done. Both House and Senate versions of health care reform bills failed to make it through the Republican-controlled Congress, the final blow delivered by maverick, John McCain, with a dramatic thumbs down. In December, a win for the Trump administration. The elimination of the individual mandate as part of successful tax reform legislation.

2017 was the year we finally started paying attention to America's opioid epidemic. Last year, 64,000 Americans died of a drug overdose. And many of those deaths involved opioids. On October 26th, President Trump declared the problem a public health emergency.

TRUMP: No part of our society, not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural has been spared this plague, drug addiction.

GUPTA: Less than a week later, the president's commission issued a 100-page report on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis. Among the 56 recommendations, more access to treatment, better electronic prescription tracking and better strategies to keep drugs from entering the country in the first place.

So important because drug overdoses are the number one cause of unintentional deaths in America today. And it's the absolutely within our power to stop these needless deaths from occurring.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PAUL: So grateful to have you with us as always. Thank you for being here.

BLACKWELL: CNN NEWSROOM starts after a quick break.

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