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Winter Storm Moves Across Upper Midwest;Exclusive: Obama Sits Down For Interview With Former Senior Advisor; Russia Rules Out Terrorism In Deadly Plane Crash; The Top 10 Political Stories Of 2016. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 26, 2016 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:30] POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Welcome to winter. A winter storm could make your holiday travel pretty treacherous. Snow, ice, and freezing rain closing down highways in the Dakotas and creating dozens of delays and cancellation at the nation's airports. Our national correspondent Ryan Young is live at Chicago O'Hare Airport where it is easy breezy this morning, my friend.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. You know, it's been very busy this morning. You know, it's 6:30 here and if you look over here, there have been lines that have been pretty long for this early in the morning. In fact, there was a 15-minute delay of some sort -- a security delay. And, in fact, all the traffic here was shut down for quite some time and we have people now coming our direction. You see this is happening live as they're bringing the line back this way.

The reason why this long line is happening is somebody walked up to us and said there was a security breach and they actually shut traffic down here for about 15 minutes, so we're going to walk down this way. They're doing that spinning line now because the lines have gotten so long. They hadn't had these lines all morning long and then something happened when they shut down security. Everyone was asking us what was going on.

We now know that the security lines have been opened back up but, obviously, the day after Christmas with all these travelers -- 25 million people traveling in the air -- you could understand why people here would be upset. A guy just walked by us right now and started saying "terrible, terrible, terrible" so you can understand the frustration already, Don. Hopefully, this will pass and people will be able to make their flights.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: No one but you. A necktie for Christmas, Ryan?

YOUNG: Wait, say that again. Say that again.

LEMON: I said apparently no one bought you a necktie for Christmas? Did you, you know -- should I pitch in to get you one?

YOUNG: No. Why a necktie?

LEMON: Is that your pajamas? Did you just jump out of bed for Christmas? YOUNG: People on the morning shift -- oh, my goodness.

LEMON: We're going there.

YOUNG: Now you want to start trouble already? Is that how that works?

LEMON: I'm just saying.

YOUNG: Is that how it works, Don?

LEMON: You're on national T.V. in the morning. Put on a tie, boy. All right.

YOUNG: You want to start? You really -- you really want to start?


YOUNG: Really? That's how it works?

LEMON: That's how it works.

YOUNG: Oh, man.

LEMON: Throw on a tie. Next time I see you I want to see a necktie.

YOUNG: OK, I see.

LEMON: Thank you, Ryan Young.

YOUNG: I got you.

LEMON: Happy Boxing Day. We know how to fight on Boxing Day.

YOUNG: No doubt.

LEMON: You know, the winter storm is already impacting the upper Midwest and heading east. Our meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast and he is wearing a tie. Appropriately dressed for morning television. Good morning to you.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I have so many ties. I think I have more ties than most people have shirts, to be honest. Anyway, Don, I digress. The big problem is upper Midwest, as you said -- Minnesota, North Dakota. Everything else in pretty good shape. Now there may be -- there may be some light freezing possible Upstate New York, like Oneonta. You get into those areas where the cold air is going to sit there for a while you may get some icy conditions there in Upstate New York today.

But the blizzard is out west. This is where the roads are impassable. The gusts are 35 miles per hour. The wind chill is 16 to 20 degrees below zero. But that's really the -- truly, the only really bad spot. They'll be some rain in Chicago today. That may slow down the airport a little bit but I think those long TSA lines may be slowing things down anyway. You're going to get to your plane pretty much on time no matter where you go. I think today's a pretty good day to fly.

They'll be rain, not ice, across a lot of the country because we are above normal for a lot of the country. Today, New York City will be probably in the 50's. Even Atlanta will get all the way to around 70 degrees. New York City, 47-57. That's above where we should be this time of year. So enjoy the decent travel on the East Coast if you can -- Poppy.

HARLOW: I don't like it. It feels like summer outside and I want the snow, for real. That's how I feel about this. All right. Thank you very much, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: It has been a huge holiday for retailers. Americans spending hundreds of billions of dollars on gifts and now after the big after- Christmas sales, of course, are coming and, of course, those returns -- the things you don't like -- are getting underway. CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik has the details. So you're going to make those returns easy on us?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm going to give you some advice in just a second. So we are tallying up, Poppy, the holiday shopping season and it looks like Americans unloaded hundreds of billions of dollars on gifts. The National Retail Federation forecasts a 3.6 percent jump in sales from last year so the total amount spent -- drum roll, please -- an incredible $655 billion. Americans had actually planned to spend an average of $935 on gifts, second only to last year.

OK, so you got to it, Poppy. There are some things you may want to return so let's go ahead and start with gift cards. If you got a gift card there are a couple of ways you can -- you can kind of turn them in. Personal finance site Nerdwallet has some suggestions.

GiftCardGranny, Cardpool, as well, those are two websites that let you sell your gift cards for around 90 percent of their value. You can also buy cards from other stores on the site. Actually, some Coinstar machines at grocery stores, they let you trade in gift cards as well. And many Target locations, they'll actually make you an offer on your gift card from other retailers.

[07:35:09] As for those presents you just can live without, consider returning them sooner than rather than later. That way you won't have to deal with the expiring return dates. But if you go to the stores today to return everything, this is a suggestion. You're going to be battling those lines.


KOSIK: Poppy --

LEMON: It's Don, but that's OK. You know what? I have gift cards from like 1975. I never use those darn gift cards.

KOSIK: Maybe buy Ryan that tie that you were -- LEMON: I'm going to have to use it buy it. And I'm just joking with Ryan. Everybody relax, my friend. Thank you, Alison. Appreciate that.

KOSIK: You got it.

LEMON: Turning to some serious news now. A deadly plane crash killing some of Russia's top musicians. So what do officials think caused this crash? We're going to get a live report from Moscow coming up.


HARLOW: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Don Lemon with me. Good morning.

LEMON: Hi, Poppy Harlow.

HARLOW: You awake?

LEMON: How you doing? Almost -- I'll be awake around 10:00 and the show will be over then.

HARLOW: There you go. I'll be sleeping. President Barack Obama sitting down for a fascinating interview with his former senior adviser and CNN senior political director and CNN commentator David Axelrod. They talked about, of course, the 2016 election and what the president plans to do after January 20th.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to be quiet for a while. And I don't mean politically, I mean internally. I have to still myself. Now, that doesn't mean that if a year from now or a year and one-half from now or two years from now there is an issue of such moment, such import, that isn't just a debate about a particular tax bill or a particular policy, but goes to some foundational issues about our democracy that I might not weigh in.


HARLOW: For more on this interview let's bring in CNN historian Douglas Brinkley. Good morning to you, merry, merry. I hope you had a good holiday. I'd love your --


HARLOW: I'd love -- good -- I'd love your take on that because he actually said he's going to take Michelle, the first lady, for a long, nice vacation. They all deserve it.


HARLOW: But he's absolutely leaving the door open. This is clearly not going to be like George W. Bush. He is saying, basically, that if there are things that I fundamentally disagree with you're going to hear from me. BRINKLEY: Well, that's right, Poppy, and he gave it about two-year or year and one-half framework when he might intervene. In the meantime, he has to fundraise, build his Obama library in Chicago. That's a huge enterprise. And he's also going to write a memoir. He'll probably get about $20 million for writing a book.

I once spoke to the president about his memoir and we were talking about Ulysses S. Grant, who has done a great book that was about Grant and the Civil War. But he found no president had ever done the kind of memoir that he wanted -- wants to write. A book like Dean Acheson's "Present at the Creation" or George Kennan's memoir, kind of a Pulitzer prize-winning book.

So I think he's going to do that and then spend some time golfing at Rancho Mirage, reconnect with Hawaii and as he said, find himself. It's hard to detox, to come down really after eight years of having to live in a kind of hour-by-hour crisis mode.

LEMON: Yes, and he spoke about, you know, he's going to golf in his retirement, I think in Hawaii. He said that to our troops. Listen, as the first African-American president, of course, tolerance is really important for this president. He's confident of his vision of America, one of tolerance and diversity. Of course, diversity important as well. But he suggested, though, which I thought was interesting, David, that if he ran again that he could win. Listen to this.


B. OBAMA: In the wake of the election and Trump winning, a lot of people have suggested that somehow it really was a fantasy. What I would argue is, is that the culture actually did shift. That the majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse. I am confident in this vision because I'm confident that if I -- if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could've mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.


LEMON: If you -- if you watch that interview -- if you'd been watching politics play out over the last almost two years or so you would say that we are divided. He doesn't think so. He says mostly he believes America speaks with one voice and that is one of tolerance and diversity, and that the culture did shift. Do you agree?

BRINKLEY: To a degree I do but look, basically what he just said is saying Hillary Clinton ran a bad campaign.


BRINKLEY: If I was in there I could've won. And look, he was amazing at the close of the campaign. It was -- we were using that big word unprecedented yet again. That Barack Obama coming in there and giving speeches in North Carolina and Michigan and getting behind Hillary Clinton. So, very likely, he could've beaten Donald Trump in the Midwest he'd won two previous times. So I think he just feels that very strongly and recognizes that a lot of white Americans voted for an African-American two times and they would have voted a third if they could have -- third time if they could have.

HARLOW: You know, one thing that we're certainly seeing now is, you know, questions about where this one president at a time practice has gone. You know, all the way back in 2001, George W. Bush, then president-elect, said this. "We have one president and we'll have one president, and the current president is President Clinton, and our nation must speak with one voice."

Then you had President Obama abiding by that as well in 2008 before he took over when asked about things like the Gaza War. He said basically I defer to the sitting president. That has been turned on its head with President-elect Trump from the call with the Taiwanese president to what he tweeted about Israel and the United Nations' decision at the end of last week and Netanyahu. You know -- not to mention the China drone. What does this mean for sort of this practice moving forward and does it confuse our allies and our adversaries?

BRINKLEY: I think it's very confusing and I think it's very wrong- minded of Donald Trump to be doing this. Look, there are different strategies of transition but one you don't want to do is be a big- mouthing, big-footing a sitting president, basically saying ignore anything America does or says for the next month because I'm coming in -- new management in town -- and just don't listen to President Obama.

[07:45:17] I don't think Donald Trump, four years from now if he didn't get reelected or even eight years, would appreciate somebody coming in and acting that. But we've seen this is Donald Trump's style. He does things differently. I find it troubling but it's nothing -- I'm not going to be able to stop him from doing it.

HARLOW: Yes. Sean Spicer, his incoming White House press secretary, said look, this is a man who does not hold back and he's getting things done. That was his take. Douglas Brinkley, nice to have you on. Thank you.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

HARLOW: It has been quite a year, right?

LEMON: To say the least.

HARLOW: It's been a year like no other. We are taking a look back at all of it all week. Up next, we will bring you the top 10 stories in the political world over 2016.

LEMON: To say the least.


HARLOW: Russian officials now say pilot error or a technical issue could be to blame for a military plane crash that killed 92 people -- all 92 people on board. They have ruled out terrorism as a possible cause. Today, Russia is observing a national day of mourning, remembering those victims. Our Matthew Chance is live in Moscow with that latest. What have we learned so far?

[07:50:15] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Poppy. We've not learned that much yet because we're still really at the start of the investigation.

We understand that in the past few hours Russian divers -- and there are some 139 divers from the Russian military who have been deployed around the clock to try and search for remains and for wreckage -- have located some large pieces of this aircraft -- this Tupolev 154 that crashed on Sunday morning -- on Christmas Day as it was taking off from Sochi -- after it had taken off from Sochi in southern Russia en route to Syria.

On board, it had members of the Russian official army choir which was going to Syriato the Latakia air base there to play a New Year's concert for the Russian troops who are stationed in Syria. Sixty-four of those performers were killed. There were journalists on board as well. Nine journalists, many from Russian media -- or all from Russian media, in fact -- that have been taken along by the Defense Ministry -- embedded if you will -- to cover those proceedings and that musical concert.

Look, in terms of how much we know about the investigation, as you mentioned, Russian officials saying -- they're emphasizing pilot error or mechanical failure at this point. But no one's completely ruling out the possibility of terrorism at this stage. They're saying it's unlikely but, you know, until the black box flight recorders are found, until the investigation is complete we're not putting that completely to one side.

HARLOW: All right, Matthew Chance, live for us in Moscow. Thank you for that.

As everyone knows, 2016 has been a pretty unforgettable year. All week we're going to bring you biggest stories of the year and let's start, of course, with what else, right? The biggest 10 stories in politics. Our chief Washington correspondent and host of "THE LEAD" and "STATE OF THE UNION" Jake Tapper has the stories you will not soon forget.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: This year, everything we thought we knew about politics was turned on its head. Political attacks, email hacks, and several cracks in the glass ceiling made for an unparalleled race between the first female major party nominee and a billionaire political outsider. President-elect Trump will soon take office but, first, let's look back at our top 10 political stories of 2016.

Number ten, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in February.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Everything is on the line.

TAPPER: And in an unprecedented move, Republicans vowed to block any high court appointments until after the presidential election.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Simply, to turn your back before the president even names a nominee is not an option the Constitution leaves open.

TAPPER: Judge Merrick Garland was nominated in March but never even had a hearing.

Number nine --

B. OBAMA: You want to give me a good send-off, go vote.

TAPPER: In their final presidential year, the Obamas hit the campaign trail --


TAPPER -- with more catchphrases --

B. OBAMA: Come on, man.

TAPPER -- and less restraint --

B. OBAMA: Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified to be president.

TAPPER: -- but a different tone after the Democratic defeat.


TAPPER: Number eight.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I beat everybody. I beat the hell of them.

TAPPER: Donald Trump won the Republican nomination but struggled to win over the party. Republican leaders distanced themselves.

Will you support him?

RYAN: I'm just not ready to do that.

TAPPER: But will the party now unify around President Trump?

RYAN: Hopefully, we can hit the ground running.

TAPPER: Number seven, Trump's unvarnished campaign attracted extremist support.

D. TRUMP: I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy.

TAPPER: He was slow to denounce white supremacists.

D. TRUMP: David Duke endorsed me. OK, all right, I disavow, OK?

TAPPER: And his controversial rhetoric on race continued --

D. TRUMP: This judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall.

TAPPER: -- even targeting the judge in his university fraud case.

If you are saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

D. TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all.

TAPPER: Number six, the conventions.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton made history in Philadelphia and Gold Star family made Trump an offer.

KHIZR KAHN, GOLD STAR FATHER:Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.

TAPPER: In Cleveland, Melania Trump's speech was familiar.

M. OBAMA: You work hard for what you want in life.

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: That you worked hard for what you want in life.

TAPPER: And Sen. Ted Cruz refused to endorse the nominee.


TAPPER: Number five, Trump's past went public. There was a former Miss Universe fued.

CLINTON: He called her "Miss Piggy".

TAPPER: He responded with a link to her past.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN "ANDERSON COOPER 360": You sent out a series of tweets, including one that told people to check out a sex tape.

[07:55:02] TAPPER: Then, a crude video of Trump.

D. TRUMP: Grab them by the p****.

TAPPER: He brushed it aside.

D. TRUMP: This was locker room talk.

TAPPER: But nearly a dozen assault accusers said it went further than words.

JESSICA LEEDS, TRUMP ASSAULT ACCUSER: His hand started going towards my knee and up my skirt. TAPPER: Trump denied the allegations and said he would sue.

Number four, Sen. Bernie Sanders built a "yuge" movement.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are actually listening to the American people, not the one percent.

TAPPER: But was the system rigged against outsiders?

SANDERS: Secretary Clinton received about 450 superdelegates before anybody else was in the race.

TAPPER: "Bernie or Bust" protesters crowded the convention --

SARAH SILVERMAN, COMEDIAN: You're being ridiculous.

TAPPER: -- and refused to vote for Clinton.

Number three, Democrats were hacked.


TAPPER: Stolen emails from the DNC revealed bias against Sanders, forcing the party chair to resign.

SANDERS: There's no question to my mind that the DNC was in opposition of our campaign.

TAPPER: U.S. intelligence points to Russian cyberattacks.

B. OBAMA: Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us because we can do stuff to you.

TAPPER: Number two --

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly-classified information.

TAPPER: The FBI recommended no charges for Clinton's use of a private email server. Still, the issue was gold for Republicans.

D. TRUMP: He's guilty as hell.

PROTESTERS: Lock her up.

TAPPER: She tried to quell concerns --

CLINTON: My emails are so boring.

TAPPER: -- but the FBI announced they'd discovered new ones just before Election Day.

CLINTON: It's imperative that the Bureau explain this issue.

TAPPER: The trove contained nothing new but the damage was done. Number one --

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton has called Donald Trump to concede the race.

TAPPER: Donald Trump won the White House.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The campaign unlike anything we've seen in our lifetime.

D. TRUMP: I love this country.

TAPPER: As protesters took to the streets, Sec. Clinton bowed out.

CLINTON: We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought.

TAPPER: Now, a cabinet of billionaires, outsiders, and military men will join Trump for an era of who knows what.

Those were our top 10 political stories of this year. The question is, who and what will top the list next year? Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.


LEMON: Wow, that seemed like more than one year.

HARLOW: It seemed like more than one year.

LEMON: I was looking back and I'm like goodness, if that all happened this year.

HARLOW: I think it was the year of no sleep.


HARLOW: The year of no sleep.

LEMON: Yes, for all of us.

HARLOW: For work, for life, for everything.

LEMON: Yes, and for Americans, too, who are paying --


LEMON: -- really close attention to the politics, right? A very important election.

HARLOW: Yes. I mean, i think whether you like the year in politics or not, it was a year when Americans were really engaged.

LEMON: And we lost so many people this year.

HARLOW: So many, especially -- LEMON: Yes.

HARLOW: -- the latest with George Michael.

LEMON: Yes, and speaking of that we're following a lot of news, including the shocking death of George Michael. Let's get to it.