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Trump's Message to Alabama; West Bank Clashes and Palestinian Protests; California Wildfires; Brexit Negotiations; Concerns North Korea Could Disrupt Olympics. Aired 12mn-12:30a ET

Aired December 9, 2017 - 00:00   ET





DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it. Do it.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The U.S. President Donald Trump's unequivocal message for Alabama voters, asking them to support a Senate candidate accused of molesting a teenage girl.

Plus this:

The White House weighs in on clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces.

And wildfires in California have now claims at least one life. We'll be telling you about that in the show as well.

Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier, live from the CNN Headquarters here in Atlanta.


VANIER: So U.S. president Donald Trump goes all in for controversial U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. It was a full throated endorsement on Friday night at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, just a few kilometers from Alabama, where Moore is the Republican candidate for a Senate seat there.

Moore has been accused by several women of sexual misconduct or assault when they were minors. Trump says that his endorsement is all about keeping a Republican in that Senate seat.


TRUMP: We cannot afford this country. The future of this country cannot afford to lose a seat in the very, very close United States. We can't afford it, folks. We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our make

America great again agenda and we want jobs, jobs, jobs, so, get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it. Do it.


VANIER: Eliana Johnson joins me now. She's a White House reporter for Politico.

Eliana, help us understand the politics of this and we've known for several days now that Donald Trump decided to throw all his support behind Roy Moore but it wasn't a given.

If you look back to two-three weeks ago Donald Trump had seemed to hesitate and if you look back even further, of course Donald Trump had backed somebody else in that primary.

Roy Moore is not the person he wanted to see run for that Senate seat and yet now it seems like it's become a political marker, like part of his political identity that he is backing Roy Moore.

ELIANA JOHNSON, POLITICAL WRITER: Cyril, there are a couple of factors at work here. The first is that Roy Moore before Trump got involved in this, bounced back in the polls. So there was a period about a couple weeks between when these allegations of sexual impropriety were dropped simply the campaign unfolding.

And Roy Moore began to bounce back in the polls. And I think that Donald Trump's calculation was that he could weigh in on Roy Moore's behalf and appear like he helped him win this race.

And it was an opportunity for him to make up for what he felt like was a real embarrassment for campaigning for Roy Moore's primary opponent Luther Strange, the current senator from Alabama, and really seemed like he made a -- what was a decisive factor in this race.

The second was this entire tax reform debate has played out on Capitol Hill and passed both the House and the Senate by very narrow margins. And I think made the president realize that Republicans really can ill afford to lose a Senate seat when they are trying to pass very critical legislation.

And made him realize that this is a Senate seat that should stay in Republican hands and that Republicans really cannot afford to relinquish to Democrats.

VANIER: And that's interesting. I think especially for our international audience that may be looking at this from a distance and they've heard things about Roy Moore, he has been accused of sexual harassment or worse by minors.

And they may be wondering why is the president taking the political risk of backing him?

You're saying maybe doesn't have a choice. JOHNSON: He certainly has a choice but I think that he is making the calculation that Moore is likely to win away and on Tuesday though, it is a calculated risk. But he thinks that Moore has a good chance of winning.

And so he's likely to if he campaigns on his behalf, appear that he was a decisive factor in that victory.

And I'd also think that when these allegations of sexual impropriety were dropped on Moore, the president saw dozens of establishment Republicans abandon Moore and he really saw a bit of himself in Roy Moore. It was akin to a situation -- the situation that President Trump faced in July-August of 2016 when the "Access Hollywood" tape was dropped on him and establishment Republicans --


JOHNSON: -- were ready to abandon him in droves, called on him to drop out of that race and he was resistant from the outset to abandon Moore. And he really does see himself as sort of a kindred spirit to Roy Moore. He resisted abandoning him from the outset and all we saw from him was silence.

So he has really gone from uncharacteristically silent to full- throated endorsement.

VANIER: Is there a political danger for the party as a whole to be the party that supports this kind of candidate, who was accused of sexual harassment?

JOHNSON: You're exactly right. The Republican Party in the case of Roy Moore kind of has multiple personality disorder. Mitch McConnell was calling for Roy Moore to drop out of the race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the party, is still not funding Roy Moore's candidacy at all.

There are dozens of Republican senators who say he -- who maintain to this day he should have dropped out of the race. And I would say that Republican senators by and large do not want him seated in the Senate.

So this is really President Trump strong-arming the rest of his party and putting Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell between a rock and a hard place.

VANIER: Yes, it really shows to what degree as well. The Republican Party has become Trump's party in --


JOHNSON: Precisely.

VANIER: -- over the last year. Eliana Johnson, thank you so much for joining us here on the show. Thanks.

JOHNSON: Thanks. VANIER: More than 5,000 firefighters are working around-the-clock to combat six wildfires raging in Southern California. The weather was on their side on Friday. That's the good news. Officials say the Creek Fire in Los Angeles is now 70 percent contained.

However, the largest fire. that's the Thomas Wildfire, actually grew when flames ravaged mountainsides. At least one person has died in this blaze now and the flames have already forced nearly 200,000 residents from their homes, not to mention the hundreds of buildings that have been destroyed.

CNN's Sara Sidner has the latest from Ventura, California.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is after the fire has burned through the city of Ventura, this particular neighborhood hit so hard. I counted 20 homes around me that have been burned to the ground. There are 400 homes in this fire, homes and structures that have been destroyed; 85 that have been damaged.

And we have certainly been hearing stories of people running literally for their lives, trying to get out of the path of the fire. Some people heeded the warnings. Others decided to wait a bit. And that waiting, very, very dangerous.

But for many of the folks here, they're just devastated, looking at their neighborhoods, where house after house after house has been burned to the ground. It is a scary sight when you see that flame rolling down the hills as it has been doing going both down some hills and up others, getting very, very close to the city, for example, of Ojai today.

They were able to battle it back but this has been extremely dangerous. And there is so much destruction. It will be a huge costly figure once this is all done.


VANIER: And even the hundreds of elite racehorses were caught up in the flames. Earlier I spoke to Billy Koch. He is the founder and managing partner of Little Red Feather Racing Club and he told us what happened when the flames attacked the stables where he keeps his horses.

BILLY KOCH, FOUNDER & MANAGING PARTNER, LITTLE RED FEATHER RACING CLUB: There were so many heroes there. My trainer, Phil D'Amato, actually called the scene apocalyptic. There were fires everywhere and in order to try to save as many horses --


VANIER: And, Billy, where were the horses?

They were all in stables?

They couldn't --


KOCH: Well, they were all in stables and the people who work at the track, all our team that works there did everything they could to get as many horses -- they just let them loose. And I don't know if you've seen the video or not, Cyril, but it's pretty staggering and mind blowing to see --


VANIER: Yes, we're watching some videos and some -- and some footage right now and it is pretty apocalyptic.

KOCH: Yes, it was wild. What we found out later was a lot of the trouble was from all the palm trees. They would catch embers and they would just light up and catch fire and thankfully to so many people who were there, just volunteers, bringing their trucks, people who didn't know anything just showing up with trailers and getting as many horses out as they possibly could.

And unfortunately we lost -- personally we lost two of our horses. That is just so tragic. But there were so many others that lost more --


VANIER: Understand there were dozens that died, not all could be saved.

KOCH: Yes, I believe -- I don't know the count is, Cyril, to be honest with you. I would guesstimate that somewhere between 25 and 40 horses were lost some are still not accounted for.

And it's just heartbreaking.


VANIER: Billy, I know there are some people who are going to be watching this and who are going to think, well, it wasn't a human life that was lost. This was quote-unquote "just animals." I know this is going through some people's minds. Just tell us what that's like for you and for the horse racing community.

KOCH: Obviously we value human life more than anything and that should go without saying, Cyril. It's -- but these horses, these athletes, they are our family. They are -- personally it's my passion. It's what I do for a living and they are my -- they're my buddies. They're my friends and they're -- I love them. And all our partners, I can say without hesitation that they loves these horses like their family.

And so to lose them is -- look, like I said, you can't really compare them to human lives. So -- and I'm really happy that there's only one injury that I know of, serious injury to a human.

But these horses, like I said, and I can say it 100 times, they are our family and it doesn't make it any easier.

VANIER: Billy, thank you for sharing with us. Thanks for coming on the show.

KOCH: But thank you, Cyril. Thank you for having me.

VANIER: And the CNN Weather Center is putting all its resources on the story.


VANIER: Coming up, the White House response to violent clashes after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. We'll be in the disputed city after the break.

Plus it's been tough to get to Friday's breakthrough in Brexit negotiations and yet it is still just the beginning of these divorce proceedings. Here after this.





VANIER: Friday was another day of rage. The Palestinians were furious at the U.S. president and his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. They clashed with Israeli forces in the West Bank and, in Gaza, officials say at least two people were killed.

One of the deaths reportedly coming from an Israeli airstrike. Now Israel says its aircraft targeted Hamas after projectiles were fired at Israeli territory.

The White House says President Trump wants an end to this violence. Here's the quote.

"The president has called for calm and moderation and we are hoping that the voices of tolerance prevail over purveyors of hate. The White House urges all parties to act in a manner conducive to peace."

And it goes on to say that President Trump, quote, "does remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

CNN was monitoring reactions after Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City. It tends to be where frustrations boil over as well. Watch this report by Arwa Damon.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chants broke out shortly after Friday prayers ended inside the courtyard of the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third holiest site, the crowd vowing victory over the Jews.

"With our blood and our souls we will sacrifice for al-Aqsa," they shouted.

They've just started walking out. Of course, what everyone is concerned about but also at the same time anticipating to a certain degree is that some sort of clashes will erupt, as they have on so many other occasions.

There's anger at the U.S., Israel, the Jews but also other Muslim leaders, especially the Saudis, who despite Saudi denials, many feel betrayed them.

"They gave their stamp of approval," this woman shouts.

As the thousands poured into the picturesque, narrow alleyways of Old Jerusalem, it did not take long for the confrontations to begin, although, the day would end up to be considered to be measured by the standards here.

From Palestinians and Muslim around the world, Trump's declaration that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was as it to proclaim that the Palestinians no longer have a claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they have dreamt of for decades.

And for Muslims, as if Jerusalem has no place for them.

This is a city well accustomed to protests, clashes and tensions. There's almost a rehearsed back-and-forth as if it were some sort of twisted gave of cat-and-mouse, where spectators and shopkeepers dodged both the protesters and the Israeli security forces.

But there's also a sense that things had been altered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

"This time it's different. He wants to wrestle the bulls in Jerusalem (ph)."

Here, 64-year-old Figetz Schwake (ph) says, referring to Trump.

"Why does he need to plant his flag here? We feel that he is coming here to set the whole region on fire."

There is rage, a feeling that a knife has been driven deeper into the wounds of (INAUDIBLE). And a profound sense of --


DAMON (voice-over): -- sorrow brought on by the reality that a two- state solution (INAUDIBLE) is perhaps more elusive than ever before -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VANIER: After months of impasse, a breakthrough in Brexit talks on Friday. Erin McLaughlin explains and looks back at how hard it's been just to get to this point.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After nearly nine months of punishing negotiations, a breakthrough, something to make Theresa May smile. And the all-clear from the European Commission.

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: The commission has just formally decided to recommend to the European Council that sufficient progress has now been made on the strict terms of the divorce.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): It's a deal many feared might never be done, especially after what happened in Brussels earlier in the week.

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Some differences do remain, which require further negotiation.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): May was forced to go home empty-handed after texts aimed at settling what happens to the Northern Ireland border leaked to the press. Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which holds the key to her government majority, nixed the agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will not accept in any form of regulatory divergence.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): It took four more days of intense phone calls between Belfast, Dublin, London and Brussels. Then in the small hours of Friday morning, just enough progress, paving the way for a press conference, unveiling a deal on the breakup, the issues that matter most to the E.U.

The financial settlement, rights for E.U. citizens in the U.K. and vice versa and Northern Ireland. In the 15-page joint report outlining the agreement, the U.K. has made plenty of concessions on those issues, including on money, committing to a formula to pay the E.U. tens of billions of euros and a role for the European Court of Justice to be able to weigh in on what happens to E.U. citizens.

A red line for hard-line Brexiteers who wanted to leave the E.U. to avoid the European courts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole thing's a humiliation.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): But what's seen in Brussels as a diplomatic victory for Theresa May, is also likely to be bittersweet.

DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COUNCIL: We all know that breaking up is hard. But breaking up and (INAUDIBLE) relation is much harder.

MCLAUGHLIN: Friday's deal still needs to be approved here at the European Council in Brussels, something that seems likely. Then the focus shifts to the potential transition, something that the U.K. desperately wants to maintain the status quo for two years after Brexit to give British business more time to adjust. E.U. officials already warning that that, too, will come at a high price -- Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Brussels.


VANIER: When we come back after this break, concerns that North Korea could be planning to disrupt the Winter Olympics. Stay with us.




VANIER: So the Olympic Games are always going to be a high-security event, no matter what. But the upcoming Winter Games are in South Korea, of course just miles away from North Korea where tensions are the highest they've been in decades.

Security experts are concerned that it could be a recipe for the unthinkable. Here's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As tensions with Kim Jong-un's regime intensify, U.S. law enforcement and security agencies are ramping up coordination with their South --


TODD (voice-over): -- Korean counterparts.

Just eight weeks before the Winter Olympics, concerns are mounting that North Korea might engage in a violent provocation to disrupt the games which are being held just 50 miles south of the DMZ.

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: My concern are softer targets. And obviously, things that North Korea might do to provoke the South Korea to attempt, to cause either the games being shut down or events being moved or potentially war.

TODD: Security experts say soft targets like transportation hubs, schools and shopping areas could be targeted by the North Koreans during the Olympics.

Could athletes from America and elsewhere be in danger?

U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley hinted at it on FOX when asked if America would send its team to the games.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel comfortable sending family members if they were athletes on our team?

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I think it depends on what's going on at the time in the country. We have this watch this closely and it's changing by the day.

TODD: But now, the White House and U.S. Olympic Committee say America is planning to send its athletes to the Winter Olympics. Still, there is a unique security threat at these games. The location and razor sharp tensions over Kim's missile tests have the region on edge.

North Korea has used tunnels to try to insert commandos and frog men into South Korea for spying and assassinations. And the regime has a history of violence surrounding sporting events.

A South Korean airliner was blown up by two North Korean agents in 1987 with all 115 people on board killed. One of the agents was captured and said the bombing was ordered by the North's leaders to disrupt the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

And during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea, North Korean patrol boats engaged in a skirmish with the South, leaving several servicemen on both sides dead. Analysts say Kim has strong motives for disrupting these Winter Olympics.

PATRICK CRONIN, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: He is facing the prospect of two years of maximum economic strangulation through sanctions and other law enforcement measures to really cripple his economy. He is going to look for ways to fight back. One way to fight back is to hurt the South Korean economy. The South Korean economy right now is 100 percent focused on a successful international Olympic event.

So imagine cyber sabotage. So you don't kill anybody, but you just disrupt the economic flow, the transportation flow. You create a headache for the South Korean government. You make the South Koreans look bad. They lose face.

TODD: Analysts say if the North Koreans don't engage in a violent provocation during the Winter Olympics, they are at least likely to send spies into South Korea during the games.

They say the Olympics will offer the North Korea an opportunity to gain economic intelligence on South Korea, to place sleeper agents there and to make contact with the North Koreans agents they already have in South Korea -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: And that's it from us. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. Stay with us, though. "WORLD SPORT" is just ahead and just before that, I'll be back with the headlines. See you in a moment.