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Remembering Actress Carrie Fisher; Security Scare at Trump Tower Triggers Twitter War; Kerry to Outline Middle East Peace Plan; North Korea Racing to Develop Nukes. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 28, 2016 - 04:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing?

CARRIE FISHER AS PRINCESS LEIA: Somebody has to save our skins!


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: She brought Princess Leia to life in "Star Wars" and fought her personal demons on a very public stage. This morning, we're remembering Carrie Fisher who passed away at just 60 years old. We have reaction ahead.

[04:30:01] JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Political opponents kicking up dust after a security scare at Trump Tower. Why a fight over funding led an aide to the mayor of New York City to go after two Trump advisers, coming up.

KOSIK: And Secretary of State John Kerry getting ready to deliver the administration's vision of peace in the Mideast today. And ahead of that speech, a major pivot from Israelis on settlements following a direct order from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We've got details coming up ahead, live from Jerusalem.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

JOHNS: And I'm Joe Johns, it's 30 minutes past the hour.

I'll tell you what, the Carrie Fisher thing is such a shock. We knew she had a heart attack on the plane. But coming at a time when "Rogue One" is just out. I've been with my son to see it two times already.

And remember the series all the way back from the very beginning.

KOSIK: It was always her comeback. She really needed one because she really has been out there in the spotlights. But it was kind of her comeback. It's such sad timing, obviously.

JOHNS: A real shock.


JOHNS: We'll get into that a little bit more.

For the second time this week, the entertainment world is mourning the loss of an iconic and beloved figure. Actress Carrie Fisher was 60 years old. Her death coming just days after she suffered that cardiac event on that flight from Los Angeles to London, best known as "Star Wars" Princess Leia.

But her legacy goes well beyond the big screen. Tributes pouring in from her fans. Fellow members of the "Star Wars" universe.

CNN's Paul Vercammen has more on Carrie Fisher's life and her career.


FISHER: I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carrie Fisher best known as Princess Leia in "Star Wars" has died. Fisher had a heart attack Friday during the final 15 minutes of a flight from London to Los Angeles. According to TMZ, Fisher was on a ventilator the entire time she was hospitalized, never regaining consciousness.

She is seen here in audition tape with soon to be co-star Harrison Ford.

FISHER: When R2 has been safely delivered to my forces.

VERCAMMEN: Critics pointed to strong chemistry between Fisher and Ford, and with good reason. Fisher recently revealed that she and Ford were off-scene lovers.

ELLEN DEGENERES, TV HOST: Forty years, is that right?

FISHER: Forty years I thought I'd wait.

DEGENERES: OK. So, you reveal that you were having an affair with Harrison Ford.

FISHER: I was.

DEGENERES: Well, you say it.

FISHER: Yes, I did.

DEGENERES: All right. So, how did that stay a secret for 40 years? How --

FISHER: I was good at that, wasn't I?

VERCAMMEN: Fisher was born in Beverly Hills. Mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, father, singer Eddie Fisher.

FISHER: I was primarily brought up by my mother, but I saw my father.

VERCAMMEN: Fisher pokes fun at the absurdities of showbiz life in all manner of self-medication, including taking pills to control her emotions.

FISHER: Any mood stabilizer is a weight gainer. So, whether you feel better but then you're fat. So, what you gain is a loss. It's not a good situation.

VERCAMMEN: Fisher spoke about being bipolar and often turned pain into humor, also writing "Wishful Drinking" and "Shockaholic."

Fisher was briefly married to singer Paul Simon of the 1980s. Years later, she gave birth to a daughter Billie Catherine from her relationship with agent Brian Lourd.

She debuted in the acclaimed film "Shampoo". In between the "Star Wars" movies, Fisher landed many roles in soap dish.

FISHER: I think we found our waiter.

VERCAMMEN: And as Meg Ryan's wise cracking friend in "When Harry Met Sally."

FISHER: Someone is staring at you in personal growth.

VERCAMMEN: But nothing could, would or perhaps loom large on screen than Fisher in "Star Wars."

FISHER: Transported you. It was extraordinary filmmaking.

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: Do you like the princess?

FISHER: I have her over sometimes. She's a little bitchy, you know.

KING: Yes.

VERCAMMEN: Carrie Fisher was 60.


KOSIK: And our thanks to Paul Vercammen for that.

Carrie Fisher's "Star Wars" family remembering her as a force to be reckoned with.

Harrison Ford, among those paying tribute, saying this, "Carrie was one of a kind, brilliant, original, funny and emotionally fearless. She lived her life bravely. We will all miss her."

Mark Hamill saying this, "It's downright heartbreaking, she was our princess, damn it, and the actress who played her blurred into one gorgeous, fiercely independent and ferociously funny, take charge woman who took our collective breath away. She played a crucial role in my professional and personal life and both would have been far emptier without her."

And this from "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, "She was extremely smart, talented actress, writer and comedienne with a very colorful personality that everybody loved. In Star Wars, she was our great and powerful princess -- feisty, wise and full of hope in a role that was more difficult than most people might think. She will be missed by all."

[04:35:01] JOHNS: Turning now to the Trump transition. 23 days until he takes the oath of office. And a security scare at New York's Trump Tower, triggering the latest Twitter war, but, this might come as a surprise, the president-elect was on the sideline on this one.

A suspicious package which turned out to be a bag of children's toys prompted police to evacuate the lobby. The incident triggering a back and forth between Trump's team over the New York City Mayor's office over the millions of dollars currently being spent to protect Trump Tower.

Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeting, "Back to work here at Trump Tower after a false alarm. Thanks NYPD." So that leads to Eric Philips, a spokesman for New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio responding, "No problem, we'll send you the bill." And then it was downhill from there.

KOSIK: With Trump social media director Dan Scavino weighing in. "Eric Phillips, you are an embarrassment to the New York City Mayor's office and the amazing NYPD." Philips shot back linking an article about House Republicans short-changing the Big Apple on security funding for Trump Tower. He tweeting, "That's not very nice, Dan, but about that bill, work with us on it with us."

It cost the city $500,000 a day to protect Trump and the tower. Mayor de Blasio asked for $35 million for security until the inauguration. House Republicans have offered $7 million.

JOHNS: Have you been out there around Trump Tower?

KOSIK: To be quite honest, I'm purposely been avoiding it. I'm sure you will be wondering close it by at some point.

JOHNS: It's a lot of security. The cab drivers hate it.

KOSIK: You have to go around it. It's already very crowded in Manhattan, it's just clogging everything up.

JOHNS: Yes, Trump missed all of the excitement, of course, on Twitter. He's on Florida for the holidays getting back to the business of building his administration, announcing his choice for homeland security adviser.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more from Palm Beach.



Donald Trump beginning yet another work day here on his vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Aides told me that he's going to be holding meetings throughout the day today, still rounding out his cabinet and his West Wing Advisers.

Now, he did name a very critical position to his team yesterday, Thomas Bossert. He's a former adviser to the George W. Bush administration, is now going to be the chief of homeland security, counterterrorism and cyber threats in a new Trump administration. He's going to have a similar role domestically to what retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn has for foreign threats and international affairs. That's a key position in the West Wing.

Now, there are two cabinet positions also remaining and CNN has learned that those could come as early as this week. They are Veterans Affairs and the Agriculture Department, both cabinet positions, could be named as early as today or before the end of the week, I'm told -- Joe and Alison.


KOSIK: OK. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

Meantime, President-elect Donald Trump continuing his Twitter war against President Obama. This time, he slammed the president's unsuccessful campaigning on behalf of fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump tweeted, "President Obama campaigned hard and personally in the very important swing states and lost. The voters wanted to make America great again."

His words came just hours before President Obama appeared to take his own swipe at Trump while speaking at Pearl Harbor, never mentioning his name. The president urged Americans to fight against hate in the country and come together as one.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.


JOHNS: And President Obama's comments there coming at an historic ceremony alongside Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders confirming the alliance between the two countries. President Obama making it clear that U.S. and Japan will back one another in good times and bad.

And like Mr. Obama when he visited Hiroshima seven months ago, Abe did not apologize for his country's role in the war. But he did offer condolences for the victims.


SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all of the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place. And also to the souls of the countless innocent people who became victims of the war.


JOHNS: The prime minister calling the Pearl Harbor tribute a symbol of reconciliation.

KOSIK: The Obama administration is reportedly considering economic sanctions against Russia for its apparent hack in the U.S. election, that according to "The Washington Post."

[04:40:03] The paper also reporting diplomatic censure is on the table and the announcement on the punishments to come as early as this week.

Meantime, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina expressing outrage. He's calling on President-elect Trump for refusing to listen to lawmakers who believe Russia had its hand in the election.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I would say that 99 of us believe the Russians did this, and we're going to do something about it. And we're going to put sanctions together that hit Putin as an individual and his inner circle for interfering in our election.


KOSIK: Graham is with bipartisan group of senators to Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, and Montenegro to meet with officials about the Russian threat.

JOHNS: Breaking overnight, Turkey and Russia have agreed to draft a cease-fire plan for all of Syria. Turkish state media is reporting it's hope the deal will be implemented by midnight local time, a little more than 12 hours from now. The deal would allow the Assad regime and opposition parties to start negotiations for permanent peace.

One potentially stumbling block, reports from Turkey also say terrorist organizations will be excluded from the cease-fire. Generally, the civil war, that's how the Assad regime has been referred to rebel fighters who've been demanding that he'd step aside. So, it's really unclear if these rebel groups including those recently forced from Aleppo are really on board with this deal.

KOSIK: That's a big caveat on what is supposed to be a cease-fire sounds pretty empty to me.

JOHNS: That's for sure.

The outgoing secretary of state laying out a Mideast peace plan. The Israelis with something of a preemptive strike this morning, trying to calm global concerns over settlements. We're live in Jerusalem, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:45:32] JOHNS: We've got some breaking news from overnight. Jerusalem's city council cancelling a vote of construction of new housing units in East Jerusalem after a request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It comes just hours before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech outlining the Obama administration's vision for peace in the Middle East.

CNN's Oren Liebermann always there for us, following the breaking developments live in Jerusalem -- Oren.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESONDENT: Joe, two very different perspectives here. First, the city of Jerusalem's perspective. We spoke to a city council member who said this decision had nothing to do with politics. It was simply a decision to cancel the vote. They say they don't want to get into the policy around Secretary of State John Kerry's speech in just a few hours here.

So, he'll hold off on the vote, but for them, building in east Jerusalem simply a city's need. The city needs to grow. They say Jerusalem needs to build.

As for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, perhaps here he's trying to build up a bit of goodwill before Secretary of State John Kerry speech. What will be outlined in that -- how to deal with some of the most sensitive issues. And that's what Israel is concerned about how he lays out his vision, with how to deal with those issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, borders and refugees. A spokesman for Kerry gave a bit of a preview here.


MARK TONER, DEPUTY STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: This is a piece he's worked on for many, many years. I think, you know, he feelings it's his duty and his waning weeks and days as secretary of state, to lay out what he believes is a way toward a peaceful two-state solution in the Middle East.


LIEBERMAN: So, what is Kerry's -- what is Israel's concern here, rather? The concern is that what Kerry says which is to say, the parameters, the conditions he sets on the most sensitive issues could then be taken by other countries to the U.N. Security Council and that may lead to another resolution. If it's nonbinding, it will be one more blow to the Israeli government. And that perhaps explains, Joe, why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to ask the city of Jerusalem to hold off on its vote at least for now.

JOHNS: And what we're talking about is construction that was already planned, is that right? That's what they're holding off on?

LIEBERMANN: It was. The construction was on the agenda before the Security Council vote. The city made it clear that they're not concerned about the Security Council vote, and they're going ahead with business as usual. Now it seems that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at least a little concerned or worried, or at least thinking about what it is that Kerry has to say here. So, it seems, decided to ask the city of Jerusalem council to hold off for now.

JOHNS: All right. Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem for us this morning -- thanks.

KOSIK: OK. Time for an early start on your money.

In its quest for domination, Amazon said it just had its greatest holiday season ever with more than 1 billion items, that's with a "B," shipped around the world.

All right. So, here are the most popular items. The Echo and Echo Dot. Those are those voice activated speakers that kind of act as your personal assistant. They were the bestselling products across Amazon and millions of Echo devices were sold worldwide.

The most popular holiday movie request this year, "Home Alone" and "Elf".

Four thousand TVs were also hot this holiday season. Amazon customers bought enough TVs to reach the top of Mt. Everest, more than nine times. What? I thought we had TV in our home.

There's also a lot of sparkle going on this year as well, 10,451 carats of diamonds were purchased on the website. I don't think I would buy -- I don't think I'd feel comfortable buying a diamond on a website.

JOHNS: Absolutely not.

But wait a minute, Echo, Echo Dot. We've been talking about this all morning.


JOHNS: So this is basically something that talks to you in your house and you tell it do things.

KOSIK: It can read you recipes which I would need. There it is. It's this little speaker and you talk to it. It can also be seen as your friend. You can ask the weather. It can read you your books and you can be really lazy and have it read to you.

JOHNS: And you can tell it to put CNN on TV.

KOSIK: That, too.

Unfortunately, it cannot cook you dinner and 'm still waiting for that to happen.

JOHNS: OK, R2D2 comes next.

KOSIK: Kim Jong-un fast tracking the nuclear weapons program in North Korea, why a former official there says the dictators is choosing now to speed it up.

[04:50:04] We're live in Seoul, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: Welcome back.

Authorities in Paris are on high alert for the holiday. Security there was tight even before we learned the man who attacked a Christmas market in Berlin last week managed to travel through the French city, to Milan following that attack. The French have been living understand a state of emergency for over a year now but security is now being stepped up even more ahead of this weekend's New Year's celebrations.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live for us in Paris.

So, Melissa, what are you seeing that's different, because security has already been tight?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPODENT: Security was already tight. It has been further tightened down, Alison, as this holiday season approached. There are 91,000 policemen on the streets of France, 10,000 military personnel to police this holiday season which, of course, is one that could be targeted. That is what French authorities fear.

Now, the state of emergency was extended earlier this month and will now last until July of next year. What French authorities say is that this is a necessary measure. That in the last year alone, 17 terror plots have been foiled here in France. If you think about that figure, it is quite astonishing.

Since the state of emergency was introduced last November, Alison, 4,000 raids have been carried out, more than 500 arrests and 600 weapons seized here on the French within France. That's why security sources they say.

Security sources, though, say the trouble is that the threats tend to change faster than the security services and security apparatus can keep up with this. If you look at the last two major attacks here in Europe, the one in Nice, back in July, when a truck wag rammed into a crowd of people and gathered to watch the fireworks celebrations on Bastille Day, and the one, of course, last week in Berlin when a Christmas market was attacked, we're talking about jihadists getting into a truck and plowing into a crowd of people.

[04:55:08] That is the much different security threat than we saw in November of last year here in France with coordinated attacks across Paris, and it is all the more difficult to prevent, all the more difficult to police. Here in Paris, on the Champs-Elysees, in a few days time, hundreds of thousands of people be gathering to see in the New Year.

And what French officials tell you privately, French interior minister tells you off the record is that what they fear is not so much that they fear whether or not a big attack will happen, but when it will happen and how it will happen, Alison.

KOSIK: And that's the reason that the tighter security is now the new normal in Paris.

All right. Melissa Bell, thanks very much.

JOHNS: North Korea is said to be racing ahead with its nuclear development. According to a former embassy official who defected to South Korea, Kim Jong-un is take advantage of political upheaval elsewhere to develop nuclear weapons at all cost by the end of 2017.

CNN's Saima Mohsin is live in Seoul with the details -- Saima.

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, extraordinary details revealed by the former deputy ambassador in the North Korean embassy in London, which means he would have had access to a lot of inside information that he's now sharing here in Seoul, since he made his escape in the summer.

What he's saying is Kim Jong-un, as long as he's in power, North Korea will never, ever give up its nuclear weapons. I'm quoting now. He also said that you could offer North Korea $1 million or $10 trillion, they will not give them up. Economic incentives won't work.

He also said that North Korea intends to continue with its nuclear tests and military provocations until and when it becomes a nuclear state. When is the plan to do that? By the end of 2017.

This isn't just an impulsive date plucked from the air. Kim Jong-un, according to Thae Yong-ho, this North Korean diplomatic defector, is calculating very carefully that this is when we will President Donald Trump in the White House in Washington, D.C., and after an election here in South Korea, a new president in Seoul.

And he believes that their hands -- the new administrations' hands will be tied. They won't be able to take any action or provocation or afford any military action to stop North Korea's weapons ambitions. And therefore, he's going to forge ahead making 2017 the perfect year to do say.

Thae Yong-ho also revealed that he believes that it's only when North Korea is a nuclear state, he'll come to the table, Kim Jong-un, that is for discussions and dialogue with Washington and Seoul -- Joe.

JOHNS: That's Saima Mohsin in Seoul -- thanks so much for that report.

KOSIK: All right. Let's get an early start on your money.

As we get closer to New Year's stocks are creeping higher. I keep on sounding like a broken record. Has the Dow reached 20,000? No. But you know what? Today could be the day.

We saw the end of trading yesterday. The Dow now sitting -- what, 55 points away from that 20,000 psychological milestone. So, we watched the stock market really enjoy a great run since Donald Trump was elected. But analysts are really wondering if this Trump bump that we're seeing may have actually eaten into Wall Street's potential gains that we could see into New Year. So, we're going to have to see whether or not Donald Trump can deliver on his promises to keep investors happy.

All right. Taking a look at the markets, in the pre-market, we're seeing Dow futures up, European markets mixed and Asian stocks ended lower.

Obamacare is not in a death spiral, that's at least to a new S&P global ratings analysis. In fact, insurers' prospects in the individual markets are looking brighter. Obamacare premiums, yes, they shot up 25 percent for 2017. But this report is saying that 2017 -- or that 2016 was a one-time pricing correction because insurers had to make up for the fact that they charged less in the previous year.

So, they say that they're going to be able to break even next year in 2017. And more reporting profits in the individual market segment as well that's helping.

The analysis, though, not taking into account Trump's vow to repeal Obamacare. So, what happens next is ultimately going to depend on how and when Trump replaces the health reform law.

Are you doing a lot of holiday driving? You may want to make sure you fill up before the New Year. Gas prices will be increasing in seven states as new taxes take effect on the gas prices.

Here's a list of who is impacted. Pennsylvania drivers, they're going to face the biggest increase, nearly 8 cents a gallon. That's on top of already having the nation's state gas tax. And there's Michigan with just over a 7 cent increase, and Nebraska having an increase as well.