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Millions In Yemen At Risk Of Starving; Putin Talks Politics, Praises Trump, Derides Probe; Republican Tax Plan Hits Some Snags; FCC Votes To Repeal Net Neutrality Protections; Disney TO Pay $52 BN For Most Of 21st Century Fox; Newest Star Wars Film Opens Around The World. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired December 15, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, we go inside a country where millions are at risk of starvation not because of drought, but because of war. Also, critics worry, it did change the Internet as we know it. The Trump administration strips away rules that controls online speed. And later, the new "Star Wars" film storms into theaters with a plot, the cast claims, does not go the way you think. Hello, and thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A.
Well, the United States said it has proof Iran is supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen. The U.S. Ambassador to United Nations, Nikki Haley, made the claim on Thursday while standing before a debris. She said it was a missile fired from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. She called it concrete evidence, Tehran poses a threat to global security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This evidence is part of what has led the U.S. Intelligence Community to conclude, unequivocally, that these weapons were supplied by the Iranian regime. The evidence is undeniable. The weapons might as well have had "made in Iran" stickers all over it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, the Iran's foreign minister scoffed in a tweet: "I saw this show and what it begat." He was referring to then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's false claim in 2003 that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, which helps set the stage for the Iraq war.
Well, years of civil war have taken an enormous toll on Yemeni civilians -- seven million people, a quarter of the population, many of them young children, are starving. One child dies every ten minutes. Our Clarissa Ward obtained rare access to Yemen and has this exclusive report. But we must warn you that the video you're about to see is disturbing.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is how Ahmed Helmy spends his days. Lying on the concrete floor, trying to swat away the flies with what little energy he has. Looking at his tiny body, ravaged by hunger, you would never guess that Ahmed is 5-years- old. His brother died two months ago.
"We are in a war. There's had no food, no water," his mother Sumaya said. "Only God knows our pain."
It's a pain shared by too many here. In the same small village, we meet Abdul Rahman, an overwhelmed father of five. He's worried about his son, Abdul Rahab. There's no doctor nearby, and no scale, but he can't weigh more than five pounds.
"The problem is that my wife doesn't have a lot of breast milk," he says, "she is sick too."
And it's not hard to see why. This is the kitchen. There's almost no food in it.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
So, they have some bread.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
Hunger has always been a problem in Yemen. But two-and-a-half-years of war has starved the country. Three million people are displaced. Many live in filthy camps where disease and infection are rife, and malnutrition difficult to combat.
There's food in the markets, it's just that few can actually afford it. And that's what's so tough to get your head around about this crisis. It's not caused by a bad harvest or a drought, it's caused by man.
A Saudi Arabia-led blockade has cut the amount of food and medicine getting into Yemen by more than half. What does come through is heavily taxed along the way. Rural clinics struggle to meet the scale of the need. 10-month-old, Ali, has gained seven ounces since his last visit -- a welcome improvement, but he is still suffering from severe malnutrition.
"You have not done anything wrong," the nurse tells his mother. "But he's still weak. So, I really want you to focus on this problem."
For Ahmed, it may be too late. He's been sick for years now. He only speaks when the pain is too much.
"He tells me, my tummy hurts, my head hurts," Somaya says. "He cries." [01:05:01] Hardship and hunger -- this is Yemen's story. "My whole
life, agony and I like lovers," this Yemeni song goes. "Why world, do you only show us the terrible things?" But the world doesn't hear his lament. While the silence of starvation tightens its grip on a forgotten people. Clarissa Ward, CNN, Lahij Province, Yemen.
SESAY: Well, Meritxell Relano, is the Resident Representative for UNICEF in Yemen and joins us now. Thank you so much for being with us, Meritxell. I know that you've been in Yemen for over two years. And in that time, you've obviously seen this conflict steadily worsen. From your perspective, can you describe the current situation in the country?
MERITXELL RELANO, RESIDENT REPRESENTATIVE FOR UNICEF IN YEMEN: Well, the current situation is worsening by the day, actually, because of the recent clashes here in Sanaa, and the exacerbation of the conflict. As you very well mentioned, there are two million children that are malnourished, and out of those, almost 400,000 are severely, acutely malnourished. Those images that you have seen -- that you have shown now in the show is 400,000 children. The situation is terrible. And the -- and we must do something to stop this war.
SESAY: Talk to me about the capacity to meet that need there in the country. I mean, talk to me about the work UNICEF is doing and your colleagues in the space. I mean, first of all, are there enough of you to make a difference?
RELANO: Well, the U.N. agencies and the NGOs are present here on the field. But as much as we can try to help, there are some other factors that are impeding our -- the delivery of aid. If we do not bring in fuel into the country, for example, the public water supplies will not work, there will be an increase of -- I mean, there already a huge increase in the cost of water. The water treatment plants don't work and will not work, and this will have a ripple effect on the health of the children, on the malnutrition situation. So, even if we are here, those external factors need to be resolved in order for us to provide the help that is needed to all these children.
SESAY: Yes. I mean, you are there in Sanaa, and often when I speak to people about the situation in Yemen, they are in Sanaa. But what about beyond the capital? I mean, what's your understanding of the condition of families of children outside of the capital?
RELANO: Well, UNICEF has offices in Hudaydah, in Ibb, in Sa'dah, and everywhere in the country, so we are very much traveling to all those locations. The situation is terrible from the north to the south, actually. There is no one place that is better than another. Malnutrition rate are the highest in Hudaydah, for example, where we fear that there will be new attacks in the near future.
SESAY: And as you talk about the possibility of new attacks, how are people negotiating day-to-day life amid this conflict? I mean, when are they able to go out, how freely can they move around and try and find food and necessary supplies for their loved ones? RELANO: The day-to-day life of the Yemenis is very difficult. They
have to escape from conflict, they have to leave without their belongings, they have to beg for food. Sometimes they have access to humanitarian aid for food, but some other times they are in very difficult conditions. Access to health is a problem. And I mentioned, access to water is the biggest problem at this moment in time because of the lack of fuel in the market.
SESAY: Any signs of this blockade being fully lifted or eased? Any indications of that?
RELANO: We appealed to all the parties, actually, to find the peaceful solution to this conflict. Otherwise, so many more children will die. So, definitely, we need all the ports open so that we can bring in food. We can bring in medicines, we can bring fuel that is necessary for the distribution of water, and we really make an appeal to all the parties in the conflict to find a peaceful solution to this drama.
SESAY: I mean, apart from the hunger, which is in and of itself debilitating for these children. I mean, psychologically, everything they've been through is devastating. I mean, talk to me about the condition of children there. I mean, beyond those who are starving when you look at the awful pictures. Those who are just living in these conditions?
RELANO: They have been living in the most active conflict areas, definitely they're suffering already from the trauma and from -- I mean, the sound of the bombs, of the shelling, is horrible. We have had this experience here two weeks ago here in Sanaa. And I can tell you that I don't know how children can sleep or even function normally, because it's so scary -- all this, all the active fighting around those children. And they don't know if they will be able to eat the next day. They don't know if they will be able to go to the school. They don't have a normal life. They cannot go out and play. It really -- the childhoods are -- it's terrible for them.
[01:10:05] SESAY: Yes. For people watching this conversation, who maybe have not fully grasped just the gravity of what is going on in Yemen. As you look at all of these children that you see as you move around the country in these desperate plights, what is at stake for them if this conflict is not brought to an end soon?
RELANO: We are losing a generation here. Schools are closing. Children cannot develop normally. The impact of malnutrition under cognitive and physical development is enormous. So, we are losing a generation of Yemenis because of this conflict. The conflict needs to stop now.
SESAY: Yes. Meritxell Relano, thank you. Thank you for joining us, for taking time out of all you do to speak to us. We very much appreciate it.
RELANO: Thank you so much. Thank you.
SESAY: We're going to take a quick break here. Next on NEWSROOM L.A., the Russia president in hours' long news conference, and what prompted the U.S. president to call and say thank you. Plus, President Trump and his Christmas wish, will Congress play the role of Scrooge? We'll take a closer look.
SESAY: Russian President Vladimir Putin held his year-end news conference, Thursday, and it lived up to its reputation as a marathon endurance test. He answered reporters' questions for more than three- and-a-half hours on domestic politics. Mr. Putin said, he planned to run for another term as president, that would be his fourth. He said he wants Russia to have a competitive and balanced political system. Mr. Putin called the U.S. probe into the election meddling: delirium and madness. And lauded U.S. President Donald Trump for what he calls some fairly serious achievements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Projectively, of course, we can see a number of very solid achievements over that very short period he's been at work. Look at markets, for example. I think that in terms of health care, for example, and internationally, there have been some improvements in relations with Russia. But, obviously, he's been working under great constraints and limitations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, President Trump and President Putin spoke by phone later Thursday, and Mr. Trump thanked the Russian president for his words of praise. At the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump is still hoping to find a big, beautiful tax cut package under his tree for Christmas. But there are signs, they might find a big lump of nothing instead. Jeff Zeleny has details on that.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: OK. One, two, three.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump grabbed a pair of golden scissors today at a White House photo opportunity on cutting regulations. But beyond the smiles tonight, deep questions remain over the prospects of the signature Republican tax plan.
TRUMP: I think we will get there, it will be in a short period of time. It will be the greatest Christmas present that a lot of people have ever received. It will be something special.
ZELENY: The $1.5 trillion tax plan is in its final stages, but still not over the finish line as the White House and Republican leaders scramble to ease last-minute skepticism. At the capitol, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida made a bombshell announcement, saying he will vote "no" on the GOP's tax plan unless it expands the child tax credit. He's the second Republican Senator to voice his opposition. The president downplayed the concerns. [01:15:31] TRUMP: I think we'll be good. He's really been a great
guy and very supportive. I think Senator Rubio will be there for sure.
ZELENY: But that confidence from the president was not reflected in the raw math of the Senate. Two Republican Senators, John McCain of Arizona, and Thad Cochran of Mississippi are both ill. They've been away from the capitol all week, making other Republican votes even more critical. With a razor-thin margin in the Senate, Vice President Pence said today he would delay a trip to the Middle East until next week, so he'll be on hand to break a tie of need.
Will the president ask the House and Senate to stay here in Washington and finish this bill even if it means of leading into the Christmas holiday?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're pretty confident that we're going to get there before then. But this is something that I think that both the House, the Senate and the president are all committed to seeing happen, and we're very hopeful that it will take place at the first of next week.
ZELENY: The White House is making tentative plans for the president to sign the bill into law before leaving for his holiday break at Mar- a-Lago. He's told aides, he wants to sign what would be his biggest legislative achievement in the east room, which has festooned in Christmas decorations. But the plan still needs another vote in the House and Senate.
The latest version, set to be announced Friday, is expected to lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent; lower the top individual rate to 37 percent, and repeal the individual mandate in Obamacare. A concern still hangs over the bill, particularly whether it has more benefits for the rich or middle-class Americans. A key sticking point: when the tax for individuals would expire? 2025? Or even earlier.
All this amid new questions over Speaker Paul Ryan's future. Some of his close friends tell CNN, he's had soul-searching conversations about how long he may serve as the leader of the House Republicans. At the White House, those reports caused alarm. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president reached out to Ryan -- one of his closest partners on Capitol Hill.
SANDERS: I made sure that the speaker knew very clearly in a no uncertain term that if that news was true, he was unhappy with it.
ZELENY: Now, that phone call from President Trump to Speaker Ryan indicates the fact that they are close partners. They have indeed worked on legislation throughout the year, this tax plan is the key example of that. The president pushing for a vote on that in the coming days. He would like to sign the bill into law, which would be the biggest legislative achievement of his first year in office. He hopes to do that by Wednesday, but before then, many hurdles need to be crossed. Jeff Zeleny, CNN, The White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SESAY: Well, let's bring back in, CNN Political Commentator and Democratic Strategists, Dave Jacobson; and Political Radio Host and Conservative Commentator, Joe Messina. Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with me again. So, we know what the president wants, but that does not mean the president's going to get it.
Marco Rubio, who would have thought, Joe Messina, that he would be a stumbling block in all of this. I want to put up the two tweets he posted earlier, basically summing in his unhappiness and why currently he's a "no". He said, "Tax negotiators didn't have much trouble finding a way to lower the top tax bracket and to start the corporate tax cut a year early." He goes on to say, "Adding at least a few hundred dollars in refundable cuts for working families who seem to always be forgotten isn't hard to do either." They are saying he wants more in terms of child tax credit. Is he going to get his way, Joe? And more importantly, if he doesn't, would he really go ahead and sink this thing?
JOE MESSINA, POLITICAL RADIO HOST AND CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: No, I believe he'll vote "yes" for this ultimately, and I think they'll give him a little bit of what he wants -- just a little bit of posturing. I mean, how politics plays out. He's got to run again, and he's got to look like he's been fighting for his people, fighting for his constituents, that he's not just going along with the party to get along. I don't think it's not a bad move.
SESAY: Dave, but this is, this is the reality, right, when lawmakers know that the administration's back is up against the wall. They need this for multiple reasons. Everyone wants something.
DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, for sure, and this is the reason that Vice President Mike Pence has postponed his trip abroad, because he may have to be a pivotal vote for the Republicans. They've got a couple of wobblers. There is Marco Rubio, there is Mike Lee, there's Susan Collins, John McCain is out on leave, medical leave. So, you know, they don't have the votes as of today. I think that the president's probably going to put the squeeze as is Mitch McConnell on Marco Rubio to try to lock up the vote. But if I'm clear, whether or not there's a pathway forward.
And so, look, we haven't seen the final bill. And so, those negotiations and the sausage-making that is, you know, policy on Capitol Hill is going to continue. But I think largely, like, this is a double-edged sword for Republicans. It's a widely unpopular bill. Quinnipiac put out a poll that had it at 29 percent approval rating. And on the flipside, they're losing the message war. The American public perceived this to be a tax cut for America's wealthiest individuals and corporations and not for middle-class families, and that's a lose/lose scenario for Republicans as we head to the midterms.
[01:20:21] SESAY: Joe, what about that point? The fact that regardless of the truth, which, you know, you can debate, the message out there is that this is a tax cut for the wealthy. Is this something that's going to come back and haunt lawmakers, GOP, come the midterms? MESSINA: No. I think ultimately when it plays out, you're going to
see, it's not just for the wealthy. And you know, I got to say, Republicans are terrible at getting their message out, and the Democrats are much better at it. But I think, we need to see a change in that. We need to see a change in how the message gets out there. This will play out well, I believe so.
SESAY: And this line that we're getting from economists and analysts that say, it's going to add to the debt by something as much as $1.4 trillion. It won't really boost the economy significantly -- some saying something about 5.4 percent. Again, for deficit hawks who have built their careers on that platform, how do they square that come the midterms?
MESSINA: As far as the deficit goes?
MESSINA: Look, you know what I've said before. I'm amazed that the Democrats learned how to spell budget on this. $1.4 trillion, they're screaming about 1.4 trillion. Potentially, it didn't bother anybody at, it seems like. CBO hasn't always been quite on with their numbers. And think the reality is, there's -- look at what's happening in the stock markets, look what's happening with businesses, they are bringing more people on. And you're right, salaries aren't increasing right away, but they will as time goes on. But they're hiring more people, that means more people are working, more people are going to the big box stores and online and buying. So, money is moving through the system again. I think this will help it even more.
JACOBSON: Well, going back to the deficit argument, that's why Bob Corker -- I should've mentioned it earlier. That's why he's dug his heels in. And he's the deficit hawk. He voted "no", and he's going to continue to vote "no"; he's not moving in. So, at this point, the GOP can only lose two votes. And so, Marco Rubio, ultimately, is going to be a pivotal vote, and also those who are out on medical leave -- that's going to have a tremendous impact on this bill. So, we'll see what happens over the next 24-48 hours.
SESAY: Speaking of seeing what happens, very quickly, I do want to mention the reporting out on Thursday about Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, that he may be nearing the end of his time, and looking to sail off into the sunset. After it has been said, he tackles entitlements, which is the expectation come January, that they'll start looking at Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Joe Messina, your thoughts on potentially, Paul Ryan dancing off into the sunset.
MESSINA: Well, he did come out and say he really didn't say that or didn't allude at that.
SESAY: He said that he wasn't going anywhere soon. He didn't say he wasn't going.
MESSINA: Yes, soon is, soon is, you know, (INAUDIBLE). But look, he's away from his family most of the time. I get it. I get where these guys are coming from. You know, when leaving the West Coast, you're gone for, you know, four, five days, it's not like you could drive home and the kids at night or what have you. It's got be wearing on these people. And he's had a rough ride.
SESAY: Dave, with Paul Ryan out of the way, would that be a good move for Democrats?
JACOBSON: I think so, look, I think Paul Ryan sees the writing on the wall. I mean, the generic ballot among the American electorate consistently has had Democrats polling at double digits above Republicans. And look, if I was Paul Ryan as speaker, I wouldn't want to, you know, lose the midterms and serve in Congress as the leader of the minority or potentially get booted out of that position, and just be, you know, an average Congressperson.
I think that, and combination with the fact that, like, he actually has a competitive race in his own district. I mean, he's right -- he's within striking distance. He's within digits. And so, you know, Paul Ryan perhaps might think, look, I've got a couple of objectives that I want to try to get through, but at the end of the day, you know, the midterms are not looking good for Republicans, and so I'm going to retire thereafter.
SESAY: Plus, you know, for Paul Ryan, getting, you know, the tax code rewritten was, you know, was his dream, right? That's what he was all about, and if he can get this done and get entitlements --
JACOBSON: Going out on his own terms.
SESAY: Absolutely. Absolutely. Very quickly, I also want to talk about Russia, cannot have a conversation and not talk about Russia, Joe.
MESSINA: Of course.
SESAY: President Putin in the hours' long press conference, not only, you know, lauding President Trump for his achievements with the economy, also said this about suspicions of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUTIN: This is all dreamed up by people who are in opposition to Trump, so as to make sure that everybody thinks that what he's doing, what he's working at is illegitimate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, Joe Messina, praise from the Russian president there.
MESSINA: Well, as I say, I have no problem with that. I mean, presidents praise each other on a regular basis, they talk about the good things that each other are doing. You've seen it happen with the Japanese president. You've seen it happen with other presidents with Donald Trump. So, I don't know why this is such a big deal, other than it's Russia. And as far as collusion goes, come on, we're at this 18 months, we have no solid connection of collusion between Trump and the Russians.
[01:25:11] SESAY: Dave, do you want to pick up on that?
JACOBSON: Sure. Look, A. Russia is a known adversary of the American -- of the United States, and we ought to be a check on them. They're not an ally. They are far from an ally. And Vladimir Putin is not looking out for America's best interests, I got news for you -- issue number one. Number two, we have an attorney general who had to recuse himself because of his relationship with Russians. We have two folks who are in Trump's orbit who have plead guilty. We've got multiple indictments. We've got a number of deep connections to the Russians. I'm not saying that there's collusion, but it sure looks like it, you know. So, the fact is, Mueller's going to continue to investigate this, and ultimately get to the bottom and unveil these facts. But there's a number of issues, number of connections that raise significant questions about what ties Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin and the Russians.
SESAY: And speaking of connection, Joe Messina, this administration has still not passed the sanctions that Congress approved back in August, and it seems unclear why they haven't moved to pass the sanctions against Russia after all these months. As Dave makes the point about questions, that, too, is an outstanding question as to why?
MESSINA: I couldn't tell you why. My crystal ball is broken. But what I can tell you is that, as they try to go forward and fix these relationships and try to make things work, to your point earlier, I realize that they're not an ally, but is Iran an ally? I mean, seriously, we try to create relationships with people every place we can or anywhere we can. We don't need that many enemies.
SESAY: I have not heard him praise the Ayatollah, I mean, I'm just saying.
MESSINA: You are right, but there are some places we've gone in to, some countries we've gone into, and we've given them carte blanche. And then you talk about checking, are we checking what Iran's doing? Are we checking what they're doing with North Koreans or what have you? There's all kinds of issues, conspiracies, conversations out there about who's doing what with who?
JACOBSON: Vladimir Putin is a known dictator. He's an autocrat. And at a time when Donald Trump is creating distance with our European allies, and the U.K., or all over the globe, traditional American allies who share American values, American Democratic values, we shouldn't be pushing those folks away. We should be collaborating with them. We should be friends with them, and we should be moving forward our shared agenda globally. We shouldn't be, you know, joining forces with a known dictator. That's my point.
SESAY: All right. And that is a point we shall end things on. Joe Messina, I know where you're going.
SESAY: Dave Jacobson, Joe Messina, a pleasure. Thank you so much. Thank you.
MESSINA: Thank you, Isha.
[01:27:44] SESAY: We know this conversation will run and run. We'll have you back. Let's take a quick break here, shall we? The way Americans use the Internet could radically change after a major vote by U.S. regulators, we'll have all the details for you ahead.
[01:30:00] SESAY: Hello everywhere, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay, the headlines this hour. The U.S. has presented what they say is proof that Iran is supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen. Nicki Haley is the American Ambassador to the U.N. made her case on Thursday while standing before missile debris she said was made by Iran. Iran denies the claim. U.S. has wanted weapons was (INAUDIBLE) by the Yemeni rebels last month and hit an airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
In his annual year-end news conference, Russia President Vladimir Putin said he plans to run for another term as President, his fourth. He called the U.S. probe into Russia's election medaling delirium and madness and he praised U.S. President Donald Trump for what he calls some fairly serious achievements.
News regulated the vote to undo net neutrality protections giving service providers great control over the way consumer get internet content. The decision comes amid widespread protest. Demonstrators say that the protections keep the internet fair and open. But whatever your opinion on the matter, it looks as if the internet will be changing in some potentially major ways, Laurie Segall explains.
LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: What is net neutrality? It has nothing to do with volleyball or a tennis court. The net is the internet. It's something that's become as necessary as water and power for most of us. The neutrality part is about keeping the net the way it is today. It's a set of rules that went into effect in 2015 to prevent speed traps in the information superhighway. In other words, speeding up access to some sites and slowing down access to others or blocking certain sites entirely. So, are these rules a bad thing? It depends on who you ask.
The companies that deliver your internet like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have spent millions in lobbying money to get rid of net neutrality arguing that having the government micromanage their business is not good for them or their consumers. On the other side are internet giants like Facebook and Google, streaming services like Netflix and former President Obama. They all argue the internet is a public good and should be regulated like one. They also say that companies that own the pipelines could play favorites. For example, a constant provider like Netflix is in direct competition with Comcast which owns NBC Universal and controls access to the internet for over 20 million customers. You can imagine a scenario where NBC would want to speed up streams of its shows and slow down streams of its rival Netflix. Now, Netflix can afford to pay for the fast lane, it's worth more than $70 billion but the next Netflix some often startup, can't.
SESAY: We're joined now by Jessica Gonzalez. Jessica is the Deputy Director and Senior Council of Free Press, a nonpartisan organization fighting for free and open internet. She joins me now from Washington. Good to see you, Jessica.
JESSICA GONZALEZ, DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND SENIOR COUNCIL, FREE PRESS: Thanks for having me.
SESAY: So, people like yourself, and the organization you lead along with countless others fought hard against the effort to repealing net neutrality rules, but at the end of the day, the commission voted along party lines to do away with the regulation. In your view, how will the online experience Americans change?
Well, we're going to fight this. We're going to take the FCC to court. We're going to fight this in the Congress. We're going to ask Congress to undo what the FCC has done. So I'm hoping that we can fight so that people's internet experiences don't change at all. But, if the FCC gets its way, what will happen is, our -- we will not be -- we the people will not number control of our internet experiences anymore. Our internet service providers will be able to determine what we see and don't see, they will be able to block us from certain sites. They'll be able to slow us down and they will be able to make special deals so that folks who can pay more can get access to audience and folks that can't, will be in the slow lane.
SESAY: You know, want to share with our viewers, because I know you're seeing this. The PSA made by the FCC, featuring their Chairman, Ajit Pai painting an altogether different picture of what it this all means. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AJIT PAI, CHAIRMAN, FCC: Hi, I'm Ajit Pai. I'm the Chairman of the FCC. Recent leaders has been quite a bit of conversation about my plan to restore internet freedom. Here are just a few of the things you'll still be able to do on the internet after these Obama era regulations are repealed. You can still grab your food. You can still post photos of cute animals like puppies. You can still shop for all your Christmas presents online. You can still binge to watch your favorite shows. You can still drive memes, ride them on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[01:35:05] SESAY: The FCC Chairman, there being, I don't know, what that was. What is your worst fear with this move to repeal net neutrality? GONZALEZ: My worst fear is that the people who have not been heard in our mainstream media, who have used the internet to organize for justice, to participate in our digital economy, to tell our own stories and our own voices and really, I am talking about people of color and LGBTQ people here. We have not seen ourselves in media in the same way that white folks have. We have -- we are not the gatekeepers in mainstream media and we have really used the internet to connect with our community to tell our own stories to control our own narratives and to televise the resistance. And so, my fear is that the power to shut down that speech will remain with our internet service providers and that we don't have a lot of options, because most of us have one maybe two options for where we get our internet service. They have a monopoly on the market and we cannot vote with our feet.
SESAY: So when you laid out, like that, in such stark terms about the impact this would have on marginalized communities. When you know, I speak to the Governor of Washington State, Jay Inslee who says that this is a freedom of speech issue. I mean, this is like this part of fundamentals of American society, American democracy that is at stake. So when you have that and then you see that PSA, that the FCC made and you see and hear what, Ajit Pai, you know, put out on that video. What goes through your mind?
GONZALEZ: I think it's offensive. He's making a joke out of this. This isn't a joke. This is about a group of people who have in the American story, we have never had our place, you know. And this is about our freedom being taken away, our freedom of speech, our freedom to really engage in the democracy in a new way. And so, when I see the video, I think about the people who could be silenced by that and I don't think it's funny. This isn't a joke.
SESAY: One of the commissioners, one of the FCC commissioners who voted against this move, Jessica Rosenworcel, she tweeted after the deed was done so to speak, and this is what she tweeted. She said this, "Today the FCC eliminated its net neutrality rules, that's bad. But here's what's good, this misguided decision woke a sleeping giant, the American people and we are going to keep fighting in court, in Congress and we won't stop until internet openness is a law of the land." When I spoke to you just before this conversation got underway, you said that you felt energized even though this was, you're still a blow. Talk to me about your feelings about what the fight looks like. You've said already you're going to challenge them but how big a fight do you have on your hands and can you actually repeal this move? Can you overturn it?
GONZALEZ: Oh, I believe with 100 percent of my heart that this will not stand. I think that the -- this order will fail in the courts. And I think no mat what happens in the courts, when the American people come out like this, they will be heard. In the long run, we will win this fight. Because when people show up, and hold their members of Congress accountable and are paying attention, we can't lose. And you know, you look at the polling. That's what you need to look at. You have about 90 percent of Americans, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, people from all political -- the entire political spectrum, want net neutrality. The only people who do not want it are moneyed lobbyists in here who -- inside Washington who represent the internet service providers and some Congress Members and FCC Commissioners who they have bought off.
SESAY: All right, well, Jessica Gonzalez, we will be watching very closely to see what happens next. Thank you so much for joining us and just giving us some insight into what this all means and what's at stake. Thank you.
GONZALEZ: Thank you.
SESAY: Well now to make a deal that combines to the biggest players in Hollywood. Disney is moving to buy huge chunk of 21st Century Fox for more than $52 billion. The deal brings some of the most famous franchises under one roof and possibly one digital platform. Disney was already planning to launch its own streaming services in 2019. Now it has an even more extensive bulk of content to compete against the likes of Netflix and Amazon. Robert Murdoch -- Rupert Murdoch rather, the executive Co-Chair of Fox said the deal began with a casual chat with Disney's CEO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[01:40:02] RUPERT MURDOCH, CO-CHAIRMAN, 21ST CENTURY FOX: This started with, a good friend of mine sitting at my winery one evening, having a couple of glasses and just talking about our businesses and the industry generally, the forces of disruption that were happening. And that was all and then he rang me back a couple of weeks later. He said, look, let's have this conversation a bit more. And let's have -- that's only two months ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: Well, the deal still has to face a regulation review by the U.S. government. Next, on NEWSROOM L.A., no spoilers for the latest "Star Wars" movie, secrets of "The Last Jedi" held so tightly, it surprised the star-studded cast.
SESAY: In a new galaxy far, far away, "Star Wars" fans are wondering what happened to Luke Skywalker and they could find out as "The Last Jedi" opens. Filming industry estimates the could earn more than $400 million in worldwide ticket sales this weekend alone. We do not have any spoilers for you, and neither does the cast who didn't know what to expect with this film. Here's CNN's David Daniel.
DAVID DANIEL, CNN JOURNALIST: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" may be the most anticipated movie of the year. Its cast however tempered their expectations even before filming began.
DAISY RIDLEY, ACTRESS: The first one came out and really, like two weeks later, we were (INAUDIBLE). So I think there was no time sort of figure out where our thought have had gone, regardless there must have been some expectation, because I still found it unexpected the story.
John Boyega, Actor: But some definitely, they were explored, but not in the way that I expected it to be explored. You know, I kind of visualized them take by take.
Adam Driver, Actor: I had no expectation of where it should go or where it would go, or where it eventually would end up going. It was more fun for me to be surprised and have go in with no expectation of what it should and should not be.
DANIEL: Some cast members weren't sure they'd be in Jedi.
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE, ACTRESS: Well, I didn't know if my character would be back for "The Last Jedi" tour, so it was an amazing surprise. You know, it's incredible to be in one famous film in any capacity, that's absolutely incredible. But to be invited back for another one was very exciting.
DANIELS: Well, questions remain about several characters.
ANDY SERKIS, ACTOR: The mystery is good because it's part of his mythology and how he keeps his power. He's incredibly dark, venomous but there's a vulnerability in there which is quite interesting and manipulative.
DANIELS: Of course, the cast is wary of spoilers.
LAURA DERN, ACTRESS: I am thrilled to be part of this movie and I will let Oscar take away for the fact that I'm too terrified to say anything that would not be appropriate.
OSCAR ISAAC, ACTOR: I got this one. Let me tell you everything. Yes, (INAUDIBLE) finds himself in a difficult situation because the one thing that he knows how to do which is jump into a cockpit and blow things up and give it to the enemy and engage the enemy and not stop until the target has been eliminated, that he is -- that's taken away from him.
[01:45:12] DANIELS: With "The Last Jedi" arriving in theaters, all will be revealed, but beware --
ISSAC: As Luke says in the trailer, it doesn't go the way you think it will.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fulfill your destiny.
DANIEL: In Hollywood, I'm David Daniel.
SESAY: Well, let's discuss this with entertainment journalists, Sandro Monetti, Segun Oduolowu, he also hosts Rotten Tomatoes See it, Skip it. If you hit me with that thing --
SEGUN ODUOLOWU, HOST, ROTTEN TOMATOES: No. Hit you? No, no, no. We are gifting this to you from Rotten Tomatoes and the Fandango gift shop. This is your very own lightsaber.
SESAY: Is this mine?
ODUOLOWU: You can turn it on. It is all yours.
SESAY: This is so awesome.
ODUOLOWU: We are happy to do that.
SANDRO MONETTI, CNN INTERNATIONAL COMMENTATOR: Isha, I am your father!
SESAY: Can we get on with this? So, the film is coming -- the film is coming out, it's on its way, people are absolutely excited. They don't know what to make of it all. I want to read two reviews first before I get your thoughts because you've both seen it. Let's put up the review by L.A. Times, see what they are saying. And they say this, "The Last Jedi" is easy, the most exciting iteration in decades. The best flat-out terrific "Star Wars" movie since the 1980s "The Empire Strikes Back." OK. The national review, very quickly, let's see that. And this is from (INAUDIBLE) "The latest film in the long- running saga is an unoriginal tone deaf mess, so many elements in Episode 8 are recycled that it could have been called 'Rerun of the Jedi.'"
Gentlemen, where do you stand in all of this? Let me start with you, Segun?
ODUOLOWU: I lean towards the second reviewer. And for me, it did not balance the scales. There were too many misses. And look, Ryan Johnson wrote the script, directed it.
SESAY: And he is a fanboy.
ODUOLOWU: And he's a fanboy and he had help from Carrie Fisher. There's too much slapstick comedy. You will agree, we talked about it in the green room, Sandro, that's there's a lot of Monty Python humor that, for me, took me out of my love of "Star Wars". And look, I grew up watching "Star Wars." I've said it before, I broke my parents' Betamax and VCR watching "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi." And to me, the high point, number two, "Empire Strikes Back" is the best of all of them. This movie is not that, to me.
SESAY: Wow. Sandro?
MONETTI: Every franchise needs refreshing and reenergizing. You just a want to see the same movie you saw when you were seven.
ODUOLOWU: No, that was the first one. That was -- that was "The Force Awakens."
MONETTI: This comedy is welcomed in "Star Wars". We've never seen it before. This movie was a cross between Spaceballs and Lord of the Rings. You know, it starts off highly comic and then ends mythical and that's a compliment. I thought it was probably as good as "Empire Strikes Back."
MONETTI: And, you know, it was, utterly fantastic.
ODUOLOWU: I gave my saber away too soon. I would have struck you down, Darth Vader. "Empire Strikes Back" is --
MONETTI: I would come back stronger if you struck me down.
SESAY: My saber. Can we talk about Carrie Fisher because obviously, she passed away before this film was completed? How did they handle this and how did the -- you're both fans, how did you feel about a final time in the film.
MONETTI: Spoilers there will not be but it one of the most interesting things going into the movie, isn't it?
ODUOLOWU: And it's bittersweet because you know as you're watching it, you know it's going to be, well, perhaps her last one. Let's not give any away spoilers. But you know that she's not going to, I guess, I guess, enjoy this universe or this world that she helped create. It was -- it was -- for me, it was bittersweet, and every time she came on screen, it was -- it was a little bit emotional for me.
MONETTI: Lots of cheers in the screening I went to. The biggest one at the end when there's the dedication to Carrie Fisher. And a wonderful part of all of our lives, and I think this movie makes a loving tribute to her because she shows off what a true screen star that she is.
ODUOLOWU: Yes, absolutely. Ryan Johnson taking the helm of this after J.J. Abrams did the one before and "The Force Awakens." How does he do? I mean, does he bring anything original? How -- what's his stamp on this film when you put it in the pantheon if you will of others?
MONETTI: He makes it unpredictable. Just when you think this film is going to turn left, it turns right. And I think after "Force Awakens," most of us fans could script what was going to happen and in the next one. That isn't necessarily true. There was nothing in his previous film work which suggested he could do such a mainstream crowd-pleaser as this. He delivers on every level and he immediately vaults into the legend status amongst filmmakers, in my opinion.
ODUOLOWU: See, I -- again, I have to disagree. I mean, look, high risk, high reward, he swung for the fences, but I don't think he --
SESAY: Did he miss.
ODUOLOWU: I think he missed. I don't think he hit a home run. Look, the three of us could have directed "Star Wars," and it would make a lot of money. There are fans and they are legion and you are fan, I'm a fan, Sandro's a fan.
MONETTI: I'm available.
[01:49:51] ODUOLOWU: You know, listen, because it seems like anybody with an original idea, they're going to give a three-picture deal, too. And again, I don't go to my "Star Wars" for this type of slapstick comedy. And I couldn't put my finger on what I thought was missing. And I think it was Harrison Ford and Han Solo. Han Solo's interaction -- and I said this on our -- on the "See It, Skip It Show" that he used to interact with Leia and Luke and the droid and Chewie, and that's where the comedy came from.
SESAY: He's the glue that held it together.
ODUOLOWU: That held it together. Now, they spread that comedy around so liberally, slapstick comedy in "Star Wars" is not what I want to see.
MONETTI: Comedy is hard. It takes a really great actor to pull it off. Domhnall Gleeson who plays one of the big bads in the -- in the Empire holds most of the comedies. And in the Great British acting tradition, he camps it up like a champion. And I loved it.
ODUOLOWU: Right. But do you go -- do you go to "Star Wars" for camp?
SESAY: Could you miss Jar Jar Binks? Take a look.
ODUOLOWU: No, not Jar Jar.
MONETTI: No, don't show it. No.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAR JAR BINKS: Oh, moi moi. I love you!
QUI-GON JINN: You almost got us killed! Are you brainless?
JAR JAR BINKS: I spake!
QUI-GON JINN: The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. Now, get out of here.
JAR JAR BINKS: No, no! Mister, stay. Mister called Ja Ja Binks. Mister your humbled servant.
QUI-GON JINN: That won't be necessary.
JAR JAR BINKS: Oh, but it is. It's demanded by the gods, it is. Oh, no!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SESAY: No, that's what you miss. That was missing.
ODUOLOWU: No, no. You know what Jar Jar Binks -- you know who the Jar Jar Binks was of this movie, Benicio del Toro. What -- and you know that what Benicio del Toro did in this movie, he's done before. That's why I said it wasn't original. I've seen him do this as another character in another Disney movie.
MONETTI: But it's Benicio del Toro in space. You don't see happen. That's great.
ODUOLOWU: No, but -- yes, I know I saw him in space when he was the Collector. And he's doing the same stick. And that's so tiresome.
MONETTI: It's the mark of a movie star as you know to play the same character again and again and again.
SESAY: Hugh Grant --
ODUOLOWU: No, Hugh Grant in Notting Hill.
MONETTI: Is Hugh Grant in the next one? I would love that. Is he head of the Empire?
SESAY: Can we just let up -- can we put up a list of all the "Star Wars" films because I mean, this is quite a franchise. As you said, it's a pantheon now. Let's see, how many there have been recent -- I mean, there have been a lot in recent years. I mean, look at that, 2015 --
ODUOLOWU: And these are the ones that are supposed to be coming out.
SESAY: Yes. "The Force Awakens", "Rogue One", "The Last Jedi", all these spinoffs, Solo, Episode IX and the untitled spinoff. Is there a danger here of franchise fatigue?
ODUOLOWU: Oh, for sure. For sure. It's not just the movies that are coming, it's the cartoons, it's Clone Wars, it's the toys, the action figures, they are flooding you with "Star Wars." Give me better is all I ask. You -- listen, you have enough time and enough money -- you have more money than the gross national product of some countries. You've got enough money to make a better movie. That's all I'm asking for as a fan.
SESAY: Closing thoughts from Sandro.
MONETTI: Rian Johnson did such a good job with this movie. He's been entrusted with the future of the franchise. He has been asked to craft a whole new trilogy. So, my opinion, there's not enough "Star Wars," and if they are as good as this, let's have one every three months.
ODUOLOWU: What you cannot see is the check that Sandro got from Disney to say that.
SESAY: I'm just going to leave you guys.
MONETTI: And the mask.
SESAY: Enough. It is over. We're going to wrap it here. Next on NEWSROOM L.A. -- on that camera, actually. Reality T.V. star Omarosa is out of the White House, and by all accounts, that's going to be a really big loss, not. But what exactly does she do there? Does anybody know?
ODUOLOWU: I don't.
SESAY: We'll figure it out after the break.
SESAY: Bye Felicia. Not exactly how you expect people to respond when a White House aide loses her job. But when that aid is former reality T.V. star Omarosa, well, you kind of know there's going to be some controversy. Here's CNN Jeanne Moos.
[01:55:06] JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good thing Omarosa already sent out her Christmas tweet because she won't be dreaming of a White House Christmas next year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye, girl. Bye!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Angela. Oh, Angela.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Goodbye, good riddance, goodbye.
MOOS: Her departure was displayed on a mock executive order. The Daily Show asked who will be the next to go on the celebrity of President? But as she leaves her $180,000 a year White House job, many are left wondering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the (BLEEP) is Omarosa doing in the White House? I typed in, what is Omarosa doing in the White House? The first result is the article that says, no one knows what Omarosa is doing in the White House, even Omarosa.
MOOS: Reports said she caused a scene, leaving, reports Omarosa denied. Left anchors a gag.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get her out of here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? That's awesome.
MOOS: Omarosa implied she'd spill the beans in a book.
OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS FOR THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC LIAISON: And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear. MOOS: ABC's Robin Roberts couldn't resist.
ROBIN ROBERTS, ANCHOR, ABC: She said she has a story to tell and I'm sure she'll be selling that story. Thank God, she won't. Bye Felicia.
MOOS: Bye Felicia is based on the dismiss of (INAUDIBLE) delivered by the rapper Ice Cube in the movie, "Friday."
ICE CUBE, ACTOR: Bye, Felicia.
MOOS: Omarosa fired back at Roberts in a text message to Inside Edition.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was petty. It's a black woman civil war.
MOOS: Let's take a moment as Omarosa bows out to recall her comments about bowing down.
NEWMAN: Every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.
MOOS: Omarosa had to bow down.
TRUMP: You're fired.
MOOS: The three previous times she got the boot on "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice."
TRUMP: You know, I've always been a big Omarosa fan but Omarosa, you're fired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
MOOS: Some pretended to be morose about Omarosa but when Omarosa is gone, who will do all the nothing? Jeanne Moos, CNN.
TRUMP: Jobs, jobs, jobs.
MOOS: New York.
SESAY: Omarosa out. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay. Be sure to join us on Twitter @cnnnewsroomla for highlights and clips from all our shows. We'll be back with more news after this.
[02:00:10] SESAY: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, a big Russian bear hug, Vladimir Putin --