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Trump Releases "Very Nice" Letter Putin Sent Him; Trump's Press Secretary: He Will "Do What It Takes"; Top Ten Business Stories Of 2016; A-List Celebs Decline Performing At Trump's Inauguration; Millions Facing Snow, Wind, And Ice Warnings. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 24, 2016 - 11:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: It is 11:00 a.m. on the East Coast. I'm Erica Hill in today for Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks for joining us. We begin with terror threats and breaking developments in that Christmas market attack in Berlin, this morning three new arrests. One of them, the nephew of the suspected Berlin attacker, officials are now revealing recent conversations between the two, plus the U.S. on alert as many prepare for Christmas, just of course, one day away and Hanukkah beginning tonight, the FBI and Homeland Security issuing a new warning about possible ISIS threats to churches and holiday events. We want to begin with the very latest on those arrests though linked to the suspected Berlin attacker. Journalist Chris Burns is following the story from Berlin. So Chris, what can you tell us?

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Yes, Erica. The three arrests, yes, by Tunisian authorities in Tunisia. The Interior Ministry says that -- among the three is a nephew of Anis Amri. That was the man who drove the truck into this market over my shoulder on Monday, killing 12 people, injuring 48. His nephew, according to the Interior Ministry had told them that Anis Amri, his uncle, had told him to pledge allegiance to ISIS.

So, even Anis Amri was part of this recruitment, according to what we hear from the Tunisians, recruitment process through this Abu Walaa organization. That's that hate preacher here in Germany who has been arrested. For years, they have waged this training, proselytizing and organizing. And that is something that the German authorities are still worried about, even though Anis Amri was killed by Italian police yesterday, the story is not over. And Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "We got to stay on guard. We still have to go after those who are connected to Anis Amri." Erica?

HILL: There's also this Telegram app that we're hearing about. Tunisian authorities say this was the app that was used for Anis Amri to communicate with his nephew. What more do we know about that?

BURNS: Yes, Erica. It's a very interesting app. It was started in 2013 by two Russian brothers here in Germany. It's an app. It started as a phone app and it was expanded to a desk app. It is described as the app of choice for groups like ISIS. It has 100 million members, believe it or not. It has a very, very strong encryption. It has -- you can read a message and it destroys itself immediately. It also has secret chat rooms. And some of these groups have been known to publish kill lists or hit lists on that because it's so secretive. And that is what authorities are up against. Now, this app or the organization Telegram, the company had removed some -- had blocked some things for ISIS. But there still remain others. And that's what the House Committee on Foreign Relations is saying. They should be more active in blocking them. Erica?

HILL: And we'll keep an eye on that as well. Chris Burns have the latest for us from Berlin. Chris, thank you.

On the heels of that Berlin attack, the FBI and Homeland Security are warning of a new ISIS threat here at home, one targeting churches and holiday events. This, of course, as millions of Americans prepare to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah this weekend, CNN's Polo Sandoval is following the developing story for us. So Polo, what more do we know about this new warning?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erica, good morning. We do know that this was issued by the Department of Homeland Security and by the FBI. And as you mentioned there, this has also been issued as millions of -- Americans across the country get ready to attend Hanukkah and Christmas services. And what officials are saying at this point, and what they're stressing on, is that there is no credible active threat regarding a specific target in the United States. This is simply a precautionary bulletin or precautionary warning, if you will, that's been issued there by federal officials to state, local, federal, law enforcement agencies as Americans get ready to celebrate the holidays.

At this moment, we understand that there is a pro-ISIS website that apparently published a long list of churches and places of worship across the country. It also called on supporters to potentially launch attacks on churches. That's significant there because typically what we see from some of these organizations are threats against law enforcement or perhaps military targets. In this case, though, perhaps the softest of targets, that is a place of worship.

So, as a result, federal law enforcement agencies being proactive there, trying to really get ahead of things here by issuing this warning. But they're making it very clear. Americans shouldn't have a reason to be afraid. Simply be aware and be on alert as they get ready to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones. Erica?

HILL: So, at the end of the day, Polo, this is essentially, just out of an abundance of caution. They keep saying there's no specific credible threat, correct?

SANDOVAL: Absolutely. We've seen this before, too. If you look back at this time of year last year, you'll see there were similar bulletins that were also issued to law enforcement. Officials are very aware that this is a time of year when Americans normally, are flying a lot, they're also gathering in groups. We expect that to happen, for example, in Times Square New York where you are. So again, this is just - as you mentioned, trying to get ahead of things, trying to give a word of warning to Americans as they celebrate the holidays. But again, a very precautionary move at this point. HILL: Polo Sandoval for us this morning. Polo, thank you.

SANDOVAL: You bet.

[11:05:16] HILL: For a closer look at the new terror developments both in Berlin and here at home, let's check in with our panel, Michael Weiss, CNN contributor and co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," he's also senior editor for "The Daily Beast" and Mike Baker, former CIA covert operations officer. You know, as we look at this bulletin that I was just talking about with Polo, it's basically, an abundance of caution but it was sent out after this pro-ISIS group published a publicly available list of churches here in the U.S. These types of lists have been published before. So, how seriously, Michael Weiss, should we take this warning?

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SENIOR EDITOR "THE DAILY BEAST" AND CO-AUTHOR "ISIS: INSIDE THE ARMY OF TERROR": I mean, we have to take it seriously. You know, ISIS has in the past, as you mentioned, published lists of retired or active duty military officers. It seems like there's sort of dialing down the sort of nature of targets that they're trying to go after. I mean, hitting up marine recruitment centers or military installations or shooting up a police station, that's a little more difficult than taking a truck and plowing it into a Christmas market.

Shooting up a church is supremely easy. I mean, we saw that -- in racist hate crimes in this country having nothing to do with Islamic terrorism. And I think now, you know, ISIS is essentially extorting the kind of obscurantist and ultra-radical reign that they have perpetrated over the Middle East. Where you know, in Raqqa, they burnt down some of the most historical Christian churches there. But this is a new tactic for them when it comes to targeting the west, showing houses of worship.

HILL: Mike Baker, in terms of it being a new tactic, one could make the case too, that it really plays into what they want to do. And that is to get in, of course, into the psyche of different cultures in areas in this world that they don't necessarily like. So, if you're putting this out, talking about churches, talking about places of worship on Christmas Eve, tonight also happens to be the start of Hanukkah. How much is that the focus, do you think, for some of these groups to simply just get into the minds of people, perhaps not even follow through on an attack?

MIKE BAKER, FORMER CIA COVERT OPERATIONS OFFICER: Well, it's an aspect of terrorism, you know, and sort of at large. Michael is absolutely right. We have to take it seriously. I would say this, this evolves, all right. So, if we just look at ISIS, we just look at the Islamic State and you consider what their early calls were. As they were forming and claiming territory and the call was you know, come out. Join us. Be part of the fight. Come to Syria. Come to Iraq. -- You know, be here. This started to evolve and started to morph as ground conditions changed. And as the leadership started evaluating their effectiveness, it became more stay where you are, you know, remain in whatever country you happen to be, use whatever resources you have and you know, go after the targets. Now, terrorists, much like criminals will, because they step through the same operational process when target selecting, you know they'll look for the soft targets. So, in a sense, we've been moving in this direction for a while when now, they're looking at churches or public events. But again, it's part of the extremist concept. I mean, here comes Christmas. Here comes Hanukkah. Here comes a big important date or an anniversary. And you know it's not unexpected, these sort of warnings that come out from law enforcement.

HILL: Michael Weiss, when we look at what we're learning from Tunisian officials, who announced three arrests, one of them of course, is Anis Amri's nephew. We're told that they were communicating on this app and that he was asking the nephew to pledge his allegiance to ISIS. Is this proving that this recruitment network that Amri was apparently affiliated with in Germany may have had a broader reach -- beyond Germany?

WEISS: Yes, absolutely. And you know, using your family, whether it's the immediate family or extended family, this is the oldest trick in the book for terror organizations. I'll give you a few examples. Salah Abdeslam and his brother were part of the Paris attacker. And we tend to forget that his brother was one of the attackers because he blew himself up at the Bataclan theatre. There's another guy, Usama Atar, who has been named deputy head of ISIS' Foreign Intelligence Service. This was a guy who had been interned in Iraq for several years after crossing the border illegally in 2003. His brother led an active campaign for his release in Belgium. And once it was known that - Usama was released, came back to Belgium and then went to Syria and joined ISIS. The brother was apparently involved in terrorist activities and recruitment in Belgium as well.

So -- this is how ISIS likes to ply its trade. You know, they know that the people that they're trying to recruit and cultivate, their contact list, the people that they would trust the most are those in their own immediate families. So this is not surprising at all that his relatives are being goober up and that they had something to do with this.

HILL: Mike baker, also, we learned a little bit more from Chris Burns about this app, this Telegram app, and the numbers are -- I was a little surprised by them, 100 million users. It's got this very strong encryption where messages can be destroyed right after they're read,

[11:10:16] this is apparently one of the ways that they were communicating, Amri and his nephew. --What's happening online, I know, is one of the areas that are both the most challenging and the most immediate in terms of a concern. Is there a way to effectively crack down on apps like this and so therefore crack down on the communication?

BAKER: Well, I think it's more likely, you know, the effort is put to try to stay one step ahead. Look, terrorists, criminals and probably teenagers -- are the prime users of the new developments in applications, for communicating, for messaging. And, you know, whether you're talking about NSA or any other service within the Intel community here in the U.S. or around the globe. You know, typically, what you're trying to do, because, you know, what happens with laws, what happens with privacy rights, what happens with efforts in government to try to you know, exert influence on development of these things or the use of these things, that's separate. But from an operational perspective, you're really just trying to stay even or you know, perhaps if you get lucky one step ahead and understanding what developments are out there. What messaging systems are being used?

And to Michael's point, you know, oftentimes, you know, the real communications, the serious communications aren't necessarily over the apps. They're very important and they get used to you know, a great deal when you're talking about terrorism. But oftentimes it's the family and what they'll do is they'll dumb it down. Just as they go to their family when they're looking to bring in new recruits, they're also trust family members for communications. And they bring it down to a very simple level that's extremely tough to infiltrate.

HILL: Mike Baker, Michael Weiss, appreciate your insights, thank you both.

BAKER: Thank you.

WEISS: Sure.

HILL: A lot more to discuss today on CNN NEWSROOM. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says the Obama administration, "Failed to protect Israel" against a "gang-up" at the U.N. after its vote on Israeli settlements. Plus, the Rockettes claim they've been told dance or else. What their bosses are now saying about a performance on Inauguration Day. That's all ahead, stay with us.


[11:14:52] HILL: New diplomatic fallout today, after a controversial U.N. resolution passes, despite extreme pressure from Israel and President-elect Trump. That resolution condemns the construction of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The vote was 14 in favor with the U.S. abstaining. After that, though, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power argued, the vote is consistent with years of U.S. policy.


SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: Today, the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity. The United States has been sending the message that the settlements must stop, privately and publicly for nearly five decades.


HILL: Israel has said it will not comply with the resolution. CNN's Oren Liebermann is following this story, joins us live now from Jerusalem. So, we know some very sharp words - parting words for the Obama administration from Israel. What else are we hearing there in the country?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a continuation of what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, which has been some of the sharpest criticism we have ever seen from an Israeli government pointed at an American administration. The focus of that anger, that fury is President Barack Obama for not casting his veto, for allowing this Security Council resolution that's harshly critical of settlements to pass.

Here is part of what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. He said, "The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N., it colluded with it behind the scenes. Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution."

Netanyahu making it very clear there, he's done working with President Obama and is very much looking forward to President-elect Trump when he takes office in just a few weeks. But that wasn't the end of it from Netanyahu. He also took diplomatic steps against the countries that introduced this resolution at the Security Council. That would be New Zealand and Senegal pulling those ambassadors immediately back to Israel for consultations.

Meanwhile, Trump weighed in on this, intervening in a way that's essentially unprecedented for a president-elect before he takes office. He even tweeted after the vote, he said this in a short tweet, "As to the U.N., things will be different after January 20th." So, what will be the practical effects of this resolution when President Trump takes office in just a few weeks? Well, the resolution itself may have practically, no effect. That's because the resolution is a guideline or essentially, a recommendation. It would take follow up action at the U.N. action that Trump promises he will not allow once he takes office. Erica, needless to say, I think it will be incredibly interesting to see what happens between Trump, the U.N. and Israel in just a few short weeks.

HILL: That is for sure, Oren Liebermann, for us. Oren, thank you.

Lindsey Graham has had a lot to say about the diplomatic fallout calling President Obama's foreign policy, "Flat-out reckless." Don't miss the Republican senator when he joins Dana Bash this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. It is a conversation you'll hear only on CNN.

Still to come here, after the break, on the heels of Donald Trump hitting aerospace giants, Boeing and Lockheed Martin against each other, Lockheed's CEO is now responding and we have details, next.


[11:20:45] HILL: The CEO of Lockheed Martin is promising to cut the costs of producing F-35 fighter jets in a pressure from President- elect Donald Trump. Trump tweeting this week, "Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!" This of course, comes just days after Trump met with the CEOs of both companies. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is following this story and joins us live from Palm Beach, Florida this morning. So, Jeremy, the CEO of Lockheed Martin basically saying, she is ready to deliver now. JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. You know, we've seen this F-35 program has been the talk of, you know, folks in the Department of Defense and defense contractors, because of the cost overruns that we have seen with this program. You know, the program is already behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. Already, the Pentagon has estimated to pay about $400 billion for the F-35's over the next two decades.

And so, we're seeing Donald Trump really here, you know, he met with the CEOs of Boeing and Lockheed Martin this week. And he got this personal commitment from the CEO of Lockheed Martin who said, "I've heard his message loud and clear about reducing the cost of the F-35." And she said that she's given him her, "personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively." But this is just one of the many instances in which we've seen Donald Trump increasingly taking an active role as president-elect in negotiating deals and weighing in on substantive policy. You know, he's been talking about Air Force One cost as well with the CEO of Boeing.

And just yesterday, we saw him weighing in on the United Nations Security Council vote on condemning Israeli settlements to which Donald Trump was vehemently opposed. That was a position at odds with the Obama administration which simply abstained from the United Nations resolution instead of vetoing it. So, clearly, we're seeing something which is relatively unprecedented for a president-elect typically -- who would typically refrain from issuing proclamations on active policy or negotiations before actually being inaugurated.

HILL: Jeremy Diamond for us this morning. Jeremy, thank you.

While we talk a lot about, as Jeremy pointed out, sort of what's happening just ahead of the inauguration? A lot of what is happening happens on Twitter, trying to decipher it. We're also learning though, about a holiday letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin. His hopes for the New Year and Donald Trump's response, that's next.


[11:26:21] HILL: Good morning on this Christmas Eve. Thanks for being with us. I'm Erica Hill. President-elect Donald Trump has appeared to be interested in building relationship with Russia. Recent comments however, seem to be striking a slightly different tone, Donald Trump, releasing a letter from Vladimir Putin, calling for a stronger relationship between the two countries. This is both sides weigh in on expanding their nuclear weapons capability and as Trump tells NBC News that if necessary, "Let there be an arms race."

In that letter, Putin wrote, "I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States, we will be able to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation." Trump responding with this, "A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct. I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path."

And it's that last line that got a lot of us thinking. We want to discuss now with Russian consultant Jill Dougherty, who is of course, also CNN's former Moscow bureau chief. We're also joined by CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza and we're bringing back Mike Baker, who is a former CIA covert operation operative. Good to have all of you with us. Jill, first point to you, when you hear that line, looking at this, "We do not have to travel an alternative path." It sounds like a bit of a line in the sand. How is that playing out in Russia and with Putin?

JILL DOUGHERTY, GOOD FELLOW WOODROW WILSON CENTER: You know, I don't think that it's really being perceived as that. I think you know, President Putin, I'm sure already knows that Mr. Trump will be doing a lot of tweeting, will be talking in short sentences. And it's not clear always what he means. So, I don't think the Russian president is engaging on that level. I mean, his reaction was President Putin's -- was really pretty much, look, we want a good relationship. He was in his subtle, kind of passive aggressive way, saying that Russia, too, is strong and anything you do, such as missile defense, we can penetrate. But if we have a good relationship and you are not an aggressor -- the United States then everything is going to be fine. So, I think, there's a bit of you know testing and messaging, et cetera. But I do think President Putin is very happy that Donald Trump is in office and Hillary Clinton is not.

HILL: You bring up an interesting point. We're not always sure what he means with the tweets. And yet, Sean Spicer, of course, the incoming Press Secretary told our own Alisyn Camerota yesterday, that we should take Donald Trump's tweets literally. So, Mike, when you look at this, what is the impact on the relationship moving forward, not just with Russia, but the trickle-down effect that we could potentially see when there is this sort of tit for tat and it's a little bit unknown?

BAKER: Yes. I think we can all drive ourselves crazy over the course of the next four years if we spent too much time trying to parse each tweet. I would much prefer to see sort of message discipline begin now prior to the inauguration. In terms of playing out the communication between us and certainly Russia or even China, Putin, I think is probably enjoying this immensely, frankly right now.

And you know, the important thing I think sometimes to remember about Vladimir Putin and this current administration, the previous, the Bush administration, they've all gotten him wrong in a sense. He's fairly straightforward. And if you take him at his word, -- what he considers the greatest disaster is the fall of the Soviet Union. Then, everything he does is in his own best interest, in Russia's best interest. And by that, it means rebuilding the influence of the former Soviet Union, in some fashion, not just territorial but in other ways. So, I think, he's doing what is in his best interest. I think, sometimes we're looking at it right now through a lens of - well, they're developing this best friend concept. They're going to off on vacation together. What does all this mean?

Putin I don't believe works that way. So I think we need to step back a little bit. Whether Trump is misreading this or not right now, I don't know, it's above my pay grade.

But I don't personally think it's healthy to spend too much time trying to parse the tweets out individually right now because otherwise like I said we'll all just drive ourselves nuts.

ERIKA HILL, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: We just might. Ryan, when you look at this and trying to figure out as Mike laid out there, the Trump administration, the incoming administration trying to figure out how to deal with Vladimir Putin. Are they misreading some of the signs?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's completely ripped up the Republican Party's approach towards Vladimir Putin. He's -- remember, in 2012, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, said Vladimir Putin was the major strategic threat to the United States. A lot of Democrats laughed at that.

And so the Republicans have been extremely hawkish up until Trump became their nominee. Remember, the Republican Party's platform was changed at the convention to downplay any giving of arms to Ukraine to defend itself from Russia.

Trump has consistently praised Vladimir Putin. He actually called for him to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mail and he has sided with Vladimir Putin recently when Vladimir Putin attacked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, calling them sore losers.

So it's been a sort of shocking and major reversal for Republican nominee, for anyone that covers politics in Washington, to see the Republican Party reorient itself as a pro-Putin party.

And so I think what's going to be very interesting after January 20th when Republicans control the House and Senate and the White House is how much of that fight plays out and how much of Trump's pro-Putin views control the Republican Party going forward.

How much pushback he gets from people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, Republicans who have very strong anti-Putin instincts and do not like this reorientation of American foreign policy. So that's the fight to watch and see if Trump shifts on that.

HILL: Jill, for someone who has spent so much time in Russia covering the situation there. How does this change thing? Everything that Ryan laid out for us, the way things are changing within the Republican Party? Does it stay that way?

Is that your sense after January 20th or could there be some reckoning and a moment where all of a sudden the incoming administration and Republicans realize that perhaps, while they think things are playing one way, they're clearly being played another way by Vladimir Putin?

JILL DOUGHERTY, GLOBAL FELLOW, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Yes, it's complicated. I mean, I was there a couple weeks ago. I think there's a lot of hope that things will change. Nobody knows exactly how they will change.

And there is at least among the people, I'd say in the Russian government happiness about Trump, but also, you know, an awareness that he may not be able to deliver on what he says or he may change his mind or something else will happen. So -- especially president Putin, who I think reads Trump pretty well. I think he's taking off a good 25 percent of what Trump -- maybe 30 percent of what Trump says off the top and trying to go with this very, you know, let's get along, let's have good relations and see how it plays out.

It is very complicated domestically as Ryan was just pointing out. Not to mention, that the president's own incoming national security staff and members of his cabinet don't agree with each other either. So there could be a bit of, you know, chaos in trying to figure out what that Russian policy is.

I think the extraordinary thing, though, from the news conference that President Putin gave yesterday, the day before, was his comments about the Democrats and they should, you know, lose with dignity and then having incoming President Trump quote Vladimir Putin and that's raised a fire storm.

HILL: And that had several people scratching their heads. There has been a lot of talk -- I want to make sure we can get this in -- about nuclear arms and Donald Trump telling NBC "let it be an arms race." Sean Spicer trying to classify some of the tweets and the comments. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.


SEAN SPICER, PRESS SECRETARY, PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: Takes to protect the country. If another country or countries want to threaten our safety or sovereignty, he's going to do what it takes.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Sure. But he's not waiting until another country threatens us. He's making these --

SPICER: He's making it very clear. That other countries, other companies you've seen with Carrier and others, he's going to make it clear he'll be an active president that will get things done.

CAMEROTA: Meaning he will use nuclear weapons if need be?

SPICER: He will not take anything off the table. What it means is that he's not going to sit back and let another country act.


HILL: Ryan, one of the things that we have seen from the president- elect is that whether it is business, we just talked about Lockheed Martin and Boeing, whether it is politics, international relations, oftentimes, the president-elect is saying things almost as a little bit of a warning shot or a threat in some cases to see how people respond. Is it the sense that that is exactly what this is? Putting it out there, testing the waters?

LIZZA: I think that's a great way to look at it because he's not using these tweets as policy pronouncements after a traditional staff process of thinking through the available options and then coming, you know, going on to Twitter and presenting it as a new policy. They literally a lot of the times seem off the top of his head with some exceptions, what he did with Taiwan, the transition officials say that was a thought out process when he took the call from the president of Taiwan, which angered the Chinese.

But with some of the recent statements, they do seem very much like you said, they provoked -- intended to provoke, often intended to provoke outrage by his opponents.

I think he wants to see how far he can push the system by saying things that are well outside of the kind of main stream establishment thinking in Washington. Look, that's, you know, that's one way to look at it.

But I have to admit that's a bit of a guess because he is -- there are a lot of questions about whether there's much thought put into this, you know, if he's crazy or crazy like a fox.

HILL: To Mike Baker's point, we could spend all day debating with the tweets. It's interesting to see the way things are thrown out there and almost seeing what sticks to the wall to see -- to read the temperature in the room. We'll leave it there. Ryan Lizza, Mike Baker, Jill Dougherty, appreciate you all being with us, thank you.

Stay with us, CNN NEWSROOM continues on the other side of this break.



HILL: Power ball, Apple, Brexit and of course, Donald Trump, just a few of the business stories that dominated 2016. CNN's Christine Romans and Richard Quest have the rundown of the top ten money stories of the year.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN MONEY EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Bank account faking, smartphones exploding.


QUEST: And a billionaire businessman winning.

ROMANS: Here are the top ten money stories of 2016.

QUEST: Number ten. The biggest jackpot in history, Power Ball mania spread as the prize climbed past the billion dollar mark. Then on January 13th --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Three winning tickets and a record $1.6 billion Power Ball drawn.

QUEST: That's $187 million for each winner. Don't forget after taxes. ROMANS: Number nine, the Donald Trump stock bounce nobody saw coming. The market gyrations began as Trump's victory looked more certain election night.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: U.S. stock futures are down nearly 500 points.

ROMANS: Dow futures kept sinking then Donald Trump gave his acceptance speech. Promising to heal wounds. Futures bounced off the lows and by the end of trading day, the Dow hit a record high the next day and surged more than 1,200 points in the month after the election.

QUEST: Number eight, the crash in oil prices. A global supply glut drove crude to $26 a barrel in February, a 13-year low. By the summertime gas was the cheapest since 2004. Oil prices eventually found their footing, and then surged because of an OPEC deal in late November, the promises to cut production.

ROMANS: Number seven, Apple versus the FBI. The government ordered Apple to help it break into the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple CEO Tim Cook, refused arguing it would compromise security for all iPhone users. A showdown in court loomed until an unnamed third party helped the Justice Department crack that phone, but it won't be the last clash between tech and the law.

QUEST: Number six, the conflict of interest battle. Trump, Inc versus President Trump, with stakes in more than 500 companies, Donald Trump has more potential business conflicts than anyone ever elected president. He has promised to address the issue in January, but ethics experts say, anything short of selling his businesses and putting the proceeds into a true blind trust don't go far enough.

ROMANS: Number five, exploding Samsung phones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is absolutely disastrous for Samsung.

ROMANS: The company forced to recall millions of Galaxy Note 7s after some caught fire while charging. The fiasco could cost the company $10 billion in sales. But Samsung's pain was Apple's gain. It released the iPhone 7 and even without a headphone jack demand was brisk.

QUEST: Number four, Donald Trump breaks with a 40-year tradition by refusing to release his tax returns. The GOP nominee, blamed in August by the IRS for keeping them under wraps. After pages of his 1995 tax return was leaked, Mr. Trump seemed to confirm what many have suspected.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did you use that $916 million loss to avoid paying personal federal income taxes.


QUEST: Presidents, of course are under no legal obligation to release their tax returns. So we might still never see them.

ROMANS: Number three, scandal at Wells Fargo. Two million fake accounts secretly created by employees facing unrealistic sales targets. The bank was fined $185 million, fired 5,300 workers and dropped those sales goals, fuelling all that bad behavior. The CEO John Stump was hauled before Congress in September for a tongue lashing.

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees. It's gutless leadership.

ROMANS: A month later, he was out. Now Wells Fargo is trying to repair its shattered reputation even as it faces a series of class action lawsuits and investigations.

QUEST: Number two, Brexit. Investors around the world are in crisis mode after Britain in June voted to leave the European Union.

[11:45:10]The decision stunned the global markets. The British pound plunged to a 30-year low and the Dow dropped more than 600 points.

TAPPER: And the vote as you might expect is having an immediate impact on markets throughout the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of fear and uncertainty.

QUEST: Stocks stabilized a few days later, but Brexit won't be cheap. Businesses are already reporting they are cutting investment in the U.K. The country is facing a $31 billion budget shortfall. Questions about just how Britain will lead the world's biggest trading block is still largely unanswered.

ROMANS: Number one, the deep economic anxiety threatening to end globalization. It powered Donald Trump's victory energized Bernis Sanders on the left, drove Brexit and is spreading across Europe. But even as the working class revolts against free trade, there's a disconnect.

The big headline I'll tell you here is the unemployment rate. 4.6 percent. Unemployment at a nine year low. Home prices back at all- time highs. Growth picking up. The middle class got a pay raise. The gulf between those doing well and those left behind is widening. The question in 2017, will populist prescriptions rescue the economically displaced or just deepen the divide?


HILL: Still to come, inaugurations have become star studded events. Donald Trump, though, is telling the celebrities to stay home, saying he just wants the people. That's next.



HILL: The presidential inauguration, typically a star studded affair throughout the years, entertainers stepped up to perform and support of the incoming commander-in-chief. This year, though, come January 20th, the stage may look a little different.

[11:50:07]CNN correspondent, Sara Ganim, joins me now with more. So we have less than a month to go now until the inauguration. We had heard certain people will be there, they came out and said no. What's the latest on this?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people are talking about this because Donald Trump is a celebrity himself and people are saying this guy can't bring in A-listers to his inauguration. This is even a joke on "SNL" a couple of weeks ago.

And the latest thing that everyone is talking about are the Radio City Rockettes. They have accepted an invitation to perform, but some of the Rockettes, according to the union were expressing concern that they didn't want to go.

Well, no one is being forced to go. Madison Square Garden, which owns the Rockettes released a statement yesterday saying there is no need to force anyone to go, because they said this, for the coming inauguration, we've had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available.

Look, everyone knows A-Listers are a staple to these presidential inaugurations, but nothing about Donald Trump's run up to the White House because this has been typical and of course, everyone knows that he likes these events to be big deals.

He likes them to be show busy leading up to the Republican convention. He memorably said that he wanted that to be more showbiz like, but it's unclear how much success he's having here.

You know, back in November, his committee said that they were going to have Elton John, then Elton John's spokesman said no, we're not going to be there.

So in response to all of this, Donald Trump did tweet and he said this, he said, "The so-called A-list celebrities all wanting tickets to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary, nothing, I won the people."

So that's his reaction. Here's what we know, Erika. We know the Rockettes will be there. We know the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be there and we know that his committee spokesperson said they will have, quote, "a ton of great performers," but he didn't specify who so we're hoping to get a bigger list in 2017.

HILL: What he said at the end of the campaign, of course, when Hillary Clinton was pulling out all the stops, he just said I want you, the people. That's what we heard before. It will be interesting to see who ends up gracing the stages there.

GANIM: I'm sure either way it will be something that a lot of people will watch.

HILL: Yes, that is for sure. Sara Ganim, nice to see you, thank you. As Donald Trump prepares for his inauguration, millions of people around the world are preparing for a visit from one man, the man of the day. We call him the big man in our house. Santa, he is flying over Asia, on his way to India. He's already visited Russian and China and he has dropped off just under 2 billion presents. We'll stay on it.



HILL: Taking a look at our top stories, first lawsuits have been filed in that deadly building fire earlier this month in Oakland, California. The parents of two of the victims are suing the owners and event organizers for what they say was, quote, "horrific and gross negligence." The fire trapped and killed 36 party goers.

"Star Wars" actor, Carrie Fisher, remains hospitalized after suffering cardiac arrest on a flight to Los Angeles yesterday. The actress' brother telling CNN she is in stable condition, though, she is in intensive care. The 60-year-old actress known as Princess Leia in "Star Wars."

No injuries reported after a plane carrying the Minnesota Vikings skidded off an icy runway. The airport had to use a fire truck ladder to get the team off the plane.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has this ever happened to an NFL team?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Here we go.


HILL: The players seemed to be in pretty good spirits, posting videos to their Facebook pages, and in this video on the team website.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you all can see what is going on here. On a fire ladder. Holla. How you doing down there? All right.


HILL: Taking it all in stride. The incident at the Appleton International Airport in Wisconsin happened as the jet was taxiing to the gate. The Vikings are in Wisconsin today to take on the Packers.

Wintery weather is affecting a lot of folks this weekend. More than 20 million could see snow, freezing rain or ice. We have dual storms sweeping the west and north east today. This is of course millions are trying to get to their destination for the holidays.

CNN meteorologist, Allison Chincar, joins us with more. Allison, give us a sense of what it is looking like out there. ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We have two separate systems, Erika. The first one that was in the eastern half of the country this morning is pretty much for the most part finally starting to move out. That will provide some relief to folks traveling in and around New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C.

But now we're racing for the next system and that's where you can see, we have all of these watches and warnings. We have everything from winter storm warnings to ice storm warnings to even blizzard warnings in place out with that next system.

Now, the first system we still will have some lingering showers in and around Nashville and even Memphis later on today. It's a lot of rain. It does have the potential for some flooding.

The next system is the one that finally brought some much needed relief to the drought stricken areas of Southern California, but now it will continue toward the east bringing a lot of heavy snow, potential for freezing rain and even some sleet to areas of the Midwest.

On the southern side of that storm, we're actually talking the potential for severe weather tomorrow. We could be looking at mainly damaging wind threat storm, but also we cannot rule out the potential for tornados.

Now, overall, most of the rain will be on the south side of this particular system. Still looking at potential up to 4 inches in some of those areas, stretching from Tennessee to Arkansas. Some could pick up a foot of snow in the high elevations. That bodes well for a lot of the folks who want a white Christmas.

Last year, we had 37 percent of the country covered in white snow. Glorious looking snow and a lot of these places, this year we're already above that. As of today, 44 percent of the country is covered in snow.

And really if there is any day you like to see the snow, it would be Christmas day. It's probably the only day out of the year people actually hope for the snow.

Now, on average, this is where we normally see snowfall on Christmas day. The concern, Erika, going forward, will be with all of the rain that we end up getting today in some of these places, it may actually melt some of the snow that is on the ground in the Midwest and also into high plains.

And then tomorrow we are talking all the travel concerns as this storm rolls through not only in the air, but also on a lot of the major interstates as well.

HILL: Allison Chinchar, appreciate the status, thank you. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

Thanks for joining me on this Christmas Eve on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Erika Hill. We're following two big stories today. Brand new warnings from the FBI and Homeland Security over possible threats from ISIS. They say the terror group might target churches and other --