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U.S./Cuban Relations; Attacks Strain U.S./Cuba Relations; New Film on Cuba; Egypt Terror Attack; NFL Triple Header; Passing the Tax Plan. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 24, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:31:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's kind of hard to believe, but it's been a year since Cuba Dictator Fidel Castro died. Where do U.S./Cuba relations stand under the Trump administration? And what's going to happen when Castro's brother, Raul, steps down from power supposedly next year?

CNN's Patrick Oppmann, our man in Havana, with more.

Thinking of you here. Thankful for you, my friend. I hope the family is well.


And, you know, it's safe to say that nearly every Cuban remembers where they were exactly a year ago Saturday when the news came out that Fidel Castro had died. Whether Cubans support him or hate him, Castro forever changed the history of this island and the lives of millions of Cubans.

A lot has changed in a year, as well. Cuban/U.S. relations have improved so much under President Barack Obama have suffered as President Trump has increased sanctions on the island. It's now much more difficult for Cubans who want to travel to the U.S. And for Americans hoping to visit Cuba, there are increased restrictions.

There are also those mysterious sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats that caused the U.S. to issue a travel warning and withdraw about half of the staff from the U.S. embassy here. Now the Cuban government is denying that those attacks may have even taken place and said they had nothing to do with them.

So this weekend, there will be public memorials for Fidel Castro. But most Cubans are looking ahead to February of next year. That's when Cuban President Raul Castro says he will step down as president and it's still an open question of whether the revolution for these Castros, the Castro brothers, who had so much to do with, will endure without them.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Patrick Oppmann there live for us.

Patrick, thank you. American film maker Jon Alpert spent 45 years documenting the life of

Cuban people and the rise and fall of Fidel Castro with extraordinary access to the former Cuban leader. His film, "Cuba and the Cameraman" is out on Netflix today. Here's a quick preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the early '70s, there was a revolution going on. So we took our cameras down to Cuba. Our equipment so heavy, we had to put it in a baby carriage. All of a sudden we noticed Fidel began watching us. And because of his curiosity, we wound up with our first interview.

Yes, here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fidel was 53 when we flew to New York together, and he always remembered me and he was always excited to see me.

What would you do if you were mayor of New York City, Fidel?

CASTRO (through translator): The first thing I would do is to resign.


HILL: Jon Alpert joins us now.

First thing I would do is resign.

You developed this extraordinary relationship really thanks to what we saw there, the baby carriage that you had with you on that first trip.

JON ALPERT, DIRECTOR, "CUBA AND THE CAMERAMAN": It was quite unexpected. Fidel, very curious all of the time.

We were chasing him around the island, and the equipment was 90 pounds. And he looked over at this baby carriage and these weird New Yorkers who were like always -- like a little step too late. And he initiated the contact because he wanted to know, what is this?

HILL: Because he -- was he afraid it was something else?

ALPERT: No. Well, you know, actually --

HILL: Just curious.

ALPERT: His security people were always very, very nervous about the way in which we interacted with Fidel because we would ask to see things that the Cubans would never dare. Hey, Fidel, where do you sleep? Where's your bedroom? All of a sudden the door to the bedroom's open and we're going for the tour. The security people were nervous, but Fidel was, for some strange reason, always very comfortable to share these things with me.

CUOMO: We have the clip, Jon. Let's show that moment that you're referring to.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you drink beer?



CASTRO (through translator): I drink lots of beer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's too early. And you shouldn't drink before you speak.



You want to see the bedroom? Come inside. Here's where Castro sleeps.


[08:35:07] CUOMO: Even slept in his uniform. Now, the obvious --

ALPERT: Unbelievable, right? That must have been pretty uncomfortable.

CUOMO: The obvious tension -- well, a lot of this is going to be pretty uncomfortable because there's access, there's intrigue.

ALPERT: Correct.

CUOMO: There is an apparent familiarity. Even an apparent affection. And people, especially of Cuban dissent, especially in the last two generations, hate this man and what he represents and what they believe --

ALPERT: Right.

CUOMO: Is stealing their country and their culture. How do you reconcile that?

ALPERT: So, I reconcile this because although we spent a lot of time getting to know Fidel, we also get to know ordinary Cubans. And we see what their life is like. And especially in the '90s, there was an extraordinary amount of suffering in Cuba. No electricity. Very, very little food. The buses weren't running. Nobody has ever documented this like we have in this show, whether they're Cuban, whether they're American, nobody's ever seen this before.

So this is a pretty objective view of life in Cuba. And Cubans who have been opposed to Fidel have watched this film and they don't agree with everything in the film, but they agree that everybody should see it and they think that we're trying our best to be honest.

HILL: So you say an objective view of life in Cuba. Do you think it's an objective view of Fidel Castro himself?

ALPERT: It's a part of Fidel that nobody's ever seen. We've seen people asked Fidel about this and talk about the economy and things like that. There's plenty of those questions that have been asked of Fidel. This is something that nobody's seen before. That's what I do a better job at.

CUOMO: So with so much contact, with so much experience, you're going to wind up developing feelings over time. They're going to change. They're going to ebb. They're going to flow. Where do you come out now a year after Castro being gone about whether or not that place is better off without the Castros, with a real democracy?

ALPERT: Well, I think we're -- since we've spent 45 years, we look at this under a very, very long time line. So if you look at the Cuba under Batista and the changes the Castros initiated, those are useful changes.

The real tragedy is that the ideals, things that I agree with, I think that you might agree with, universal free education, better health care for everybody, the (INAUDIBLE) of the island, they never really got a chance to put into practice. There were some early years back in the '70s when Fidel bet everything on the sugar crop. The sugar prices were at an all-time high. The money was flowing in. They were building schools, hospitals. They were doing the type of stuff that we want to do here in our country. Then the United States took and we dumped our sugar reserves on the world market, crashed the sugar price, blew the bottom out of the Cuban economy, the Soviet Union collapsed, 85 percent shrinkage of their economy. At that particular point, they were out of gas and they've stayed out of gas for a long time.

CUOMO: That's just economics. You know, the criticism is going to be about human rights.


CUOMO: Money isn't what made him punish democracy and punish free speech. That's where the criticism's going to come.

ALPERT: So, you know, that -- I have characters in our film that went to jail.


ALPERT: We don't hide from that.

CUOMO: Right.

ALPERT: So I mean I don't think we ducked any of this in terms of the program. And I think that the longitudinal look at Cuba, at any country -- nobody's ever done this before.

CUOMO: Right.

ALPERT: And so that's why I think this program is useful.

CUOMO: The perspective has to be beneficial, no matter where you're coming from.


CUOMO: Thank you for being here. Appreciate it. And happy Thanksgiving.

ALPERT: Thank you. Same to you.

HILL: Nice to see you. Thank you.

CUOMO: Voting is now underway for the CNN Hero of the Year. Let's get you a little bit more familiar with one of this year's top ten finalists. Meet Rosie Mashale. Mashale, better known as Mama Rosie, who's opened her heart and home to care for AIDS orphans in South Africa.


ROSIE MASHALE, CNN HERO: There are so many orphans who are left behind. We can build their lives again.

In the year 2000, I found a boy on my doorstep, and I took him in. That was the first day of the orphanage.

I have never turned any child away. Most of them are abandoned by their parents because of HIV and AIDS.

We feed them. We clothe them. We send them to school.

The basics is that we're giving them is the love.

Our center has now become a sentinel (ph) of hope for the children. Everybody has got a dream. And my wish is for their dream to be fulfilled.


HILL: You can vote for Rosie or any of your favorite top ten heroes. Just log on to

CUOMO: Always a tough choice. I say vote for all of them.

HILL: I'm right there with you.

[08:40:00] CUOMO: All right, we have more on the breaking news out of Egypt. This is not a good situation. There was a terror attack at a mosque. We have a live report. The numbers are changing in the worst way.


HILL: Breaking news from the Middle East. We are following developments in this terror attack at a mosque in Egypt happening during morning prayers. Egyptian state media reporting at least 155 people are dead, dozens more hurt. CNN's Ian Lee spent nine years in Egypt and joins us more -- with more

now on these breaking details. And that death toll just continues to rise.

[08:45:02] CUOMO: All right, Thanksgiving means more than just food.

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does, Erica. And when you look at this attack, it is one of the deadliest attacks to happen in Sinai, this attack against civilians. And what we're hearing is that this attack happened right around midday prayers here on Friday when worshippers go to the mosque. We're hearing reports that there was at least two explosions. And when people left the mosque, that's when militants also opened fire, killing them.

We do not know the status of the militants, if they were able to get away or if they've been engaged by security forces. And no one has claimed responsibility.

But this bears the hallmarks of ISIS. ISIS has been operating in this part of Sinai for at least five years now. We're hearing that President Abdel Fattah Sisi is convening an emergency session of his security cabinet to discuss this latest attack. And those people injured, 120 people, have been taken to area hospitals, as well as Cairo.


CUOMO: All right, Ian, thank you very much. And I know that they expect that the worst isn't over there yet. So please stay on it and let us know what we have to tell people.

All right, Thanksgiving, it means more than just food and family. It also means football, right? Coy Wire has more on the turkey day triple header in the "Bleacher Report."

I hope you enjoyed it, my friend.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I did. My suit is stretched out a bit this morning, Chris.

Minnesota traveled to Detroit, touting a six-game win streak in the first of yesterday's games. And quarterback Case Keenum and the Vikings were having a Thanksgiving feast. They won 30-23. He had three touchdowns. And since they couldn't share a meal with their families and loved ones, they celebrated, make believe feasts on the field. Stefon Diggs serving it up.

The Chargers, they carved up the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas. And L.A.'s Desmond King intercepts Dak Prescott's pass and takes it to the house. And look at the afterburners right here. That speed burst. Actually, we put it in fast-forward, because that was a 90-yarder. The Cowboys lost their third straight blowout. Final score, 28-6.

Many feel the Giants' coaching staff is on the hot seat. So two young fans in Washington dressed as head coach Ben McAdoo and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. They're either showing support or perhaps they're showing that they are ready to take over. After the game it was Washington who was able to say they feasted on the Giants this time around. A 20-10 drumming, if you will, of the Giants, who now fall to 2-9.

Erica, I hope you had some good food and good time with loved ones yesterday. I know I did.

HILL: I did too. Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: You're welcome.

HILL: Congress has some heavy lifting when they head back to Washington. A tax vote, a looming government shutdown. Chris Cillizza with "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:51:33] CUOMO: When Congress gets over the tryptophan and goes back to Washington, the senators are going to be facing a big vote next week on the tax plan and the possibility of a government shutdown over the budget.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN politics reporter and editor at large, Chris "The Point" Cillizza.

Good to have you.


CUOMO: I hope family and food was inviting and satisfying.


CUOMO: Would you like to shoot down the premise? Do you believe a shutdown is even a possibility?

CILLIZZA: Well, so I think the issue here, it's December 8th, Chris, is the deadline when the government runs out of money. Remember, this was the short-term funding bill that Trump cut -- the president cut a deal with Democrats on to get aid package through. So we're dealing with something I think a lot of people aren't paying attention to.

The problem for Republicans is that Democrats view this as a pinch point where they can use their leverage to try to get something they want, namely DACA. They want the DACA program reinstated. They want it adjusted. They want something there from President Trump and Republicans. The problem is, Republicans, some more conservative Republicans in the Senate, have said there's -- we're not adding anything about immigration into this bill.

A government shutdown would be bad for Republicans. No matter -- almost no matter how it comes about, everyone knows at this point, regular folks know that Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House. When those situations occur, blame almost always, if past is prologue, tends to sort of accumulate on the side that has control. Democrats know that. I think people like Mitch McConnell know that and they're doing everything they can to avoid it, but the question is, what is the White House willing to give, if anything.

HILL: That is the big question. You don't have that answer for me, Chris?

CILLIZZA: No. That's for Monday. That's the tease for Monday's show.

HILL: Nice tease.


HILL: All right, so we'll be back on Monday.

There's also -- we can't ignore the tax bill, right?


HILL: The Senate tax bill. So, I mean, walk us through that. This is -- this is also not something that's easy to get done in, what do we have, three weeks that they're back before they leave?


CUOMO: You want to put up the players while Chris is talking?

CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean you're dealing with -- right. So that's the situation right now. I would -- remember, they can lose two of those people and still pass it, assuming every Democrat votes against it, and they will.

You know, I think Ron Johnson is opposed, but could be brought along with a few changes here or there. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, I'd keep an eye on Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, both of whom are retiring, both of whom have clashed with the president. But, most importantly, both of whom were elected, at least in part on this idea of -- which used to be first principle for Republicans, which is deficit reduction. Even with the repeal of the individual mandate, this would still add more than $1 trillion to the deficit.

You know, two is a very small margin. Republicans believe that they have to have this bill. They have to have something that they can take to their voters and say, you wanted change, you wanted things done, we got this done.

I would caution, and they may be in a damned if you do damned if you don't situation, but I would caution, the polling in this suggests people think it overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy in corporations and do not want it. So even if it passes, Republicans will celebrate that they got a big thing done. But even if it passes, I don't know if politically it is the sort of -- the blessing politically that Republicans currently believe it to be.

[08:55:13] CUOMO: Well, if you look at direct benefit versus indirect benefit, it's tough to justify it as a middle class targeted cut.


CUOMO: That's not what its main proposition is. That's that bill.

So, let me ask you, how big a deal is all of this sexual politics going on and calls for accountability in terms of helping and hindering other mandates. The AUMF, DACA, dealing with the temporary residency program, and the Haitians that they're going to be looking to toss out soon.

CILLIZZA: Well, even before this stuff hit Capitol Hill, Chris, this was a very difficult legislative plate for a body in the House and the Senate that really hasn't done a lot of big things. It's not a chamber currently composed in a way that you can do a lot of big things. Both caucuses are divided within themselves. It's very hard to get majorities. The Senate has a different tonal and ideological setup than the house.

But then you add this in, and I think you have huge -- and this is -- look, this -- let me take away the fact that this is awful stuff for the women affected. But, politically speaking, it's a massive distraction for both parties who are trying to grapple with what to do.

I thought Kathleen Rice (ph), on your air earlier, hit it right. Anyone who knows Washington knows these ethics committees, the House and Senate Ethics Committees, is where adjudication goes to die. Nothing happens there. And doing that is not enough.

HILL: Feels like Washington all over again, doesn't it, when you put it that way.

Chris, always good to see you. Thank you.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Ana Cabrera is going to pick up right after the break. There's big news out of Egypt. Please, stay with CNN.