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U.N. Votes to Condemn Trump's Jerusalem Decision; Disgraced Cardinal Receives Vatican Funeral; Spain's Rajoy Under Pressure After Catalonia Vote. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:27] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

The United Nations stares down threats from Donald Trump voting overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. President's Jerusalem decision.

Plus Catalonia's exiled former leader called it a slap in the face to Spain -- we'll have more on the separatists' big election win.

And Pope Francis under fire after giving a final blessing for a man critics say should burn in hell.

Hello everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

The U.N. General Assembly has roundly condemned the decision by the Trump Administration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel -- 128 nations voted to denounce the move, only nine countries including the U.S. and Israel voted against the non-binding resolution.

Before the vote U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley warned members voting against the U.S. will come with consequences.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The decision does not prejudge any final status issues including Jerusalem's boundary. The decision does not preclude a two-state solution if the parties agree to that. The decision does nothing to harm peace efforts.

Rather, the President's decision reflects the will of the American people and our right as a nation to choose the location of our embassy. There is no need to describe it further.

Instead, there is a larger point to make. The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit. America will put our embassy in Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do. And it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that.

But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N. and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N. And this vote will be remembered.


VAUSE: Well, political analyst Diana Buttu is on the line now from Haifa in Israel. Diana is a human rights attorney and also a former legal advisor to the PLO.

Diana -- good to speak with you. It's been a while.

After the vote the U.S. mission to the U.N. issued a statement essentially saying this was kind of a win for the Trump administration because it could have been a whole lot worse. They pointed out that 35 countries abstained, 21 delegates just simply didn't show up.

And you put that with the nine no votes and so up to 65 countries out of 193 member nations, you know, in a way did not support the draft resolution. So how do you square that logic?

DIANA BUTTU, POLITICAL ANALYST: That's absolutely a way of twisting reality. All that we saw is that nine countries voted against this resolution including two countries that are directly at issue -- the United States and Israel. And then the remaining client states that get a lot of money from the United States.

The remaining votes were either definitively in favor of this resolution, in favor of international law or other countries have simply abstained. To read into an abstention as somehow being a vote of support is to twist reality.

And I think the message that was sent was loud and clear which is that this action is illegal. The world recognizes it as illegal and will continue to stand by international law despite threats of bullying by the Trump administration.

VAUSE: It was interesting though because if you compare this to what happened in 2012 when the General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member state that was supported by 138 countries compared with the 128 which backed this Jerusalem resolution on Thursday. Do you see that there is still some kind of erosion in support here for Palestinians? Is that a concern?

[00:04:53] BUTTU: No, not at all. I very firmly believe that the international committee stands on the side with international law, stands in support of Palestinians and their right for freedom, their right for dignity, their right to equality.

And these numbers at the end of the day, we're looking at the end of a calendar year. So I don't really read much into the fact that there is a slight difference in the number of votes. My bigger concern, John, is that we've seen -- Palestinians have seen hundreds of U.N. resolutions, scores of U.N. Security Council resolutions. My fear is that although we've seen all of these U.N. resolutions passed we haven't actually seen any action on the ground.

And so I'm hoping that we will continue or we will begin to see some action on the ground taken by these member states to not only condemn Israel's action, not only condemn the U.S. but to begin to take concrete measures to hold Israel accountable for continuing to violate international law.

VAUSE: You know, before the vote, the Israeli Prime Minister described the U.N. as a house of lies. After the vote, he was banking (ph) the United States. Here's what he said.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israel completely rejects this preposterous resolution. Jerusalem is our capital, always was, always will be. But I do appreciate the fact that a growing number of countries refuse to participate in this theater of the absurd.

So I appreciate that and especially I want to again express our thanks to President Trump and Ambassador Haley for their stalwart defense of Israel and their stalwart defense of the truth.


VAUSE: You know, right now, it seems this is the most pro-Israel administration Washington has ever seen. It seems beyond that though, there's nothing that really matters to Israel.

BUTTU: Well, and it's not only the most pro Israel U.S. administration, this is the most fascist and pro right wing, pro- settler movement government that we've seen in Israel.

So what the United States is supporting is a very fascist regime -- a regime in which we've had ministers who called for the chopping off of heads of Palestinian citizens of Israel. It's a regime in which we've got ministers who prided themselves on how many Palestinians they've killed or beaten. And it's a regime that doesn't believe in equality not even for Israeli citizens.

So if that's the version of Israel that the United States chooses to support it's saying a lot about U.S. policy and where the United States is headed as well. And that's my fear.

This is why I think it is very important that the U.N. now push to hold Israel accountable through sanctions rather than continue to cajole Israel as they've done in years past to try to get it to a false peace process.

VAUSE: Ok. Diana -- we'll leave it there. Diana Buttu on the line, human rights attorney, former legal advisor to the PLO. Thanks -- Diana. Well let's discuss more on this with our panel. We have Democratic strategist Robin Swanson here, Republican strategist, Charles Moran and David Siders, senior reporter at Politico.

Ok. So when the dust settled, the biggest recipients of American aid mostly Muslim and Arab countries did not give in to the threat from the White House. They all supported this resolution.

Here's the top seven aid recipients of American foreign aid: Israel which is second only to Afghanistan, obviously voted no but everybody else supported this. So David -- we'll start with you. What does this say about the President's influence? And what does this mean moving forward?

DAVID SIDERS, SENIOR REPORT, POLITICO: I think that there must be some doubt in the international community about how serious these threats are. These are countries where the U.S. has -- they give aid not just because they're giving aid but because we have some interest -- the U.S. does.

And so I think that the idea that that money pulls out is not bought widely. And then also, if the U.S. was to do that, it's not as if there aren't other funders waiting in the wings, specifically the Chinese more than happy to get involved in the international --

VAUSE: So Charles -- this is, you know, essentially a hollow threat. A bluff and the President was called on it?

CHARLES MORAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, this is President Trump actually fulfilling a promise that every U.S. president has made since William Jefferson Clinton. He just actually got it done. And we're seeing a lot of that.

VAUSE: You know, that's the embassy to Jerusalem. And that's sort of a separate issue to what we're talking about though. We're talking about this tactic in the U.N. of using foreign aid, U.S. foreign aid kind of as -- you know, politely put it -- as an instrument of influence or kind of weaponizing it -- think what you want.

MORAN: Money, foreign assistance is a method of projecting our influence. We give money to other countries based on our best interest, it's U.S. tax dollars. If you take all of the money that the countries who voted for the resolution from the United States it totals about $20 billion.

So it's a significant sum of money here. And again, if the use of foreign aid is to protect our interests abroad then it would make sense that we would use that as a tool because it is a tool.

VAUSE: Robin.

[00:09:57] ROBIN SWANSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. I think this is classic Trumpian diplomacy with a sledgehammer. This isn't how, you know, you deal with other countries. This isn't an effective strategy for making friends and allies around the world. And I think at the end of the day, it hurts America's credibility in

the world. You know, there's a saying that the toes that you step on today are often connected to the tushes that you have to kiss tomorrow. And I think that --

VAUSE: Where is Mike Pence when you need him?


Speaker after speaker at the U.N. criticized the United States for using this tactic. Here's the foreign minister of Turkey -- one of the countries behind the resolution.


TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Before this meeting our U.N. members they threatened all the other members. We were all asked to vote no or face the consequences. Such an attitude is unacceptable. This is bullying and this chamber will not bow to do that.

We will not be intimidated. You can be strong but this doesn't make you right.


VAUSE: Charles, should the U.S. be concerned about losing support from countries like Turkey, a NATO ally or Saudi Arabia -- all these countries which are so crucial to so many other issues in the Middle East that Washington really needs at this point?

MORAN: I'll bifurcate that answer. Firstly, I think it's rich that the Turkish --


MORAN: -- foreign minister -- the Turkish foreign minister who is committing gross human rights and personal freedom violations in their country, one of, you know, the so-called most secular nation in Muslim Middle East is up there, you know. It's a very rich argument.

Secondarily to your point of the other conflicts, there are a lot of other conflicts going on in the Middle East. We've got two civil wars. We've got the encroaching influence of the Iranians.

And if we really want to talk about travesties across the world when we're debating something like this, Venezuela is basically committing acts of genocide amongst their own people, killing them and starving them. Where is the outrage on people dying across the planet when we're sitting here debating the movement of the capital?

VAUSE: This is about in terms of real politics, you know, and actually getting stuff done, you know, moving Jerusalem to -- the embassy to Jerusalem and having this resolution now and threatening countries that supported with foreign aid -- does that alienate these allies that you need? MORAN: Well, in the United Nations our continued support is dependent

on a number of benchmarks. And actually one of the things that has not been followed through on that the Obama administration started was talking about accountability measure for that money for reforms within the United Nations.

These are things that are not being done. So this conversation, this vote that happened is part of a much larger strategy about bringing the United Nations delegates and this body back to reality because it's clearly not in that place now.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, the U.S. used its veto power to kill a similar resolution which went before the U.N. Security Council on Monday. It does not have veto power in the General Assembly. So Nikki Haley made it pretty clear that Washington will just simply ignore it.


HALEY: America will put our embassy in the Jerusalem. That is what the American people want us to do. And it is the right thing to do. No vote in the United Nations will make any difference on that.


VAUSE: David -- the U.S. has been at odds with the U.N. before. Remember George W. Bush, you know, Ronald Reagan at the time. Has it ever been this divisive? Has it ever been sort of loggerheads to this extent?

SIDERS: I think in the broader context of Trump's presidency, no. But I think that if you're President Trump that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Nikki Haley wasn't shying away from a fight here. Wasn't there some reporting that she was inviting the countries that were supportive to a party?

They want this news because Trump performs well in a fight. And you're looking at an issue where like a lot -- you know, first of all, Charles is right, he gets to rack up a victory here on something that, you know, a fulfilled campaign promise.

But on the other hand, it's not like Americans are clamoring to have this done. This is unpopular in America.

SWANSON: And Trump has been looking for this fight since day one, since his candidacy and he's looking to pick a fight with the United Nations. And he bullies his way right through it.

And it doesn't matter who he offends. It doesn't matter the nuances of the policy. It doesn't matter the facts of the situation. He is going to come in and be a bull in a china shop and dominate.

VAUSE: David said, this is to you Charles -- David said, you know, that Americans don't want this, they don't like this. But Trump's base loves this. I mean this is -- SWANSON: All 37 percent of them?

MORAN: But Barack Obama, Democratic President Barack Obama, Democratic President William Jefferson Clinton they all --

SWANSON: Never talked to the United Nations like that.

MORAN: They all promised to move -- they all promised to move the embassy, which President Trump has now done.

And secondarily, if we're talking about the robustness of personality in the United Nations -- I don't know if you've had Ambassador John Bolton on your show before but the force of his personality compared to that of Nikki Haley is night and day.

VAUSE: That's so true.

[00:14:55] Ok. Well, former CIA director tweeted this out. This is John Bolton (SIC).

"Trump administration threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in the U.N. to oppose U.S. position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous. Shows Donald Trump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone -- qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats."

This segues nicely to testimony to the House Intelligence Committee by the FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. He says that his former boss, James Comey -- that they discussed Comey's conversations with Donald Trump at the time that those conversations were taking place.

This does seem to incorporate Comey's claims possibly that Donald Trump had asked him for this loyalty pledge. It's all kind of complicated.

So David -- why is this potentially so important?

SIDERS: If you're a Democrat it's potentially important because this and another, you know, revelations like it add up, you hope to something of, you know, to claim against the President. That he was colluding, you know, operating against the investigation or operating with Russians.

If you're a Republican, though, you continue to mull this into the whole Clinton, Hillary Clinton controversy, and I'm not sure it moves the ball that much.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, there is a new CNN poll which has found that most Americans believe the President is not telling the truth when it comes to the Russia investigation. We have the numbers up there -- it's actually overwhelming there -- 35 percent believe he is telling the truth and 56 percent say he is not.

Charles -- you know, Donald Trump one, he has always denied that he asked for that loyalty pledge from Comey. If this now gets into a situation of credibility and he said-he said, is the President in a bit of bother?

MORAN: Well, there's a lot of questions on both sides to this. We know that, you know, there's investigations going on now looking into the Department of Justice, looking into the FBI whether or not they had agents who had a political agenda, who are working towards this, who are using sources that were provided politically, that weren't vetted.

And there's -- I think that this whole investigation, the questions continue to crop up about the validity of the people doing the investigations.

SWANSON: That's crazy.


MORAN: It may be crazy but it's the reality. I mean that's the reality.

SWANSON: I know but it really isn't the reality. The reality is nobody thinks the Federal Bureau of Investigation is run by a bunch of liberals. Nobody thinks that. And the fact that they are now closing in on something, the other side is trying to spin that there's this big conspiracy out there when in fact the facts are starting to lead.

And honestly that is so Donald Trump to demand loyalty.


SWANSON: It rings true. And there's a reason it rings true and the American people the reason that they believe the things that they believe is because they've seen it time and again over a year.

VAUSE: Right.

Almost out of time. I want to finish very quickly with Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist and architect of the unloseable (ph) election in Alabama. He made headlines in an interview in "Vanity Fair.

He went after the Bush family pretty hard and described George W. Bush's presidency as the most destructive in history. This is what he said. "Think about if 9/11 had happened on Trump's watch, we would have gotten 100 percent of the blame by the Bush guys. And they said, well, we just got here. What do you mean you just got here? That's what gets me about them coming after Trump. I really detest them. I mean the old man is a pervert. He's a pervert grabbing these girls and grabbing their asses."

Just, Robin -- I'll finish up with you. Steve Bannon seems to have a lot of anger.

SWANSON: Right. Also a man living in a glass house. Look at all the candidates he's nominated. And you know, I welcome that little circular firing squad he started in the GOP and I just hope he continues.

VAUSE: OK. Good point to leave.

Robin, Charles and David -- thanks so much. Appreciate it.

MORAN: Thanks.

VAUSE: Ok. Catalonians have gone to the polls again. But the outcome of this vote probably has Spain's prime minister wishing he never called this election in the first place.

Details in a moment.


VAUSE: Well, Pope Francis has been criticized for delivering the final blessing at the funeral of disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law. The former Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts was a central figure in the Church's sex abuse scandal.

He is accused of protecting pedophile priests. Many say Law did not deserve the honor of a full Vatican funeral.

CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher has more.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: It was a low-key and sparsely attended funeral. No direct mention was made of the sex abuse crisis. Aside from some Vatican cardinals and bishops, the new U.S. ambassador-designate to the Vatican, Callista Gingrich and her husband Newt were in attendance.

Pope Francis arrived at the end to say a final blessing over the casket and said a prayer in Latin commending the soul of the diseased to God and asking for God's merciful judgment upon him.

The Vatican says it is a matter of protocol, when a cardinal dies in Rome the Pope offers the final blessing at a funeral. But Francis is Pope who has been known to break with protocol when he sees fit and some are questioning the wisdom of allowing a funeral in St. Peter's Basilica with a blessing by the Pope for a cardinal whose name has been so closely associated with years of pain and crimes committed against sex abuse victims.

Delia Gallagher, CNN -- Rome.


VAUSE: CNN's religion commentator, Father Edward Beck is with us now from New York. Father -- thanks for joining us.


VAUSE: You know, out of all the criticism it seems the decision to hold mass at St. Peter's Basilica has drawn a lot of attention. James Martin, A Jesuit priest tweeted this, "Every Catholic deserves a funeral mass but not every Catholic warrants a funeral mass at St. Peter's Basilica. I will pray for him but the church is not obliged to afford such honors to a man who for much of his time as the Archbishop of Boston cause untold pain."

So even if this was in fact protocol, It seems Pope Francis is not this sort of person who would be bound by protocol if he so chose?

BECK: That is true -- John. He could have chosen to have it at a private chapel or perhaps at a church where Cardinal Law was the arch- priest and that was St. Mary Major. So some say maybe he should have had it there.

And to put it at St. Peter's gave it a kind of newsworthy quality that perhaps should have been avoided. But that's in fact where it did happen. That's where a lot of cardinals who are in Rome, of course, that's where the funeral is that he decided that it would be in fact there.

VAUSE: Does that imply that maybe there is sort of a legitimacy here to the criticism that maybe on this issue Pope Francis is maybe a little bit tone deaf?

BECK: Well, certainly I could make an argument for that as well. You can make an argument the other way that he had a right to a funeral there in the sense that he kind of was retired.

He had made reparations in a sense when he resigned as cardinal in Boston. He apologized. He admitted that he had, you know, has some egregious errors. So in a sense, I think Pope Francis being the Pope of mercy would say, there's mercy and forgiveness for everyone if they acknowledge their fault and they are repentant.

And so it is the right of a cardinal to have a Catholic funeral, it's the right of anyone, a sinner as well to have a Catholic funeral. And I imagine in Pope Francis's mind, he said he was going to have it there.

Now, it was toned down from what the usual Cardinal's funeral would have been. And it was not live-streamed. You didn't have testimonies of cardinals all over the media about how wonderful Cardinal Law was. L'Osservatore Romano did not do any great editorial.

So it was certainly more low-key and we heard not very well attended either. So it was different in that sense but putting it at St. Peter's still put it right in the mainstream of people's attention.

[00:25:02] VAUSE: Ok. You talk about Pope Francis and his ability to forgive. There's still not a lot of forgiveness for many of the sexual abuse survivors in Boston. They found it very difficult to watch this funeral service for Cardinal Law.

I want you to hear from two of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT COSTELLO, ABUSE SURVIVOR: My first thought was where's the party? Where are we going to celebrate? And then I realized that it would be no celebration whatsoever. It would be a meeting of people who tell their stories and bring it all back up again. But what you've got to understand is that it comes up everyday.

ALEXA MACPHERSON, ABUSE SURVIVOR: You made us disappear. And you -- he wrote a letter to the archbishop in Thailand where my priest originated from, my abuser and he said you need to recall him so that we can avoid grave scandal for the church.

Where was I in that letter? Nowhere -- nowhere.


VAUSE: Would this have been a good moment for Pope Francis to speak out on behalf of the victims to acknowledge them, what they've gone through and to put to rest some of the criticism that maybe this issue of sexual abuse by clergy is not being treated as urgently by Pope Francis compared with his predecessor, Pope Benedict?

BECK: I think it certainly would have been opportunity to speak out again and reiterate. You know, he has a commission right now that has been in operation about the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church -- a Vatican commission. That membership has just lapsed as of December 17th. So we're -- waiting to see will he appoint new membership for that commission?

So he certainly has made some steps toward continuing the resolution or at least the acknowledgement of this problem and making sure that good parameters are set in place now.

But yes, I think it would have been an opportunity to say more about it. He really didn't say much at all. He did the final commendation. He did not say the mass. Cardinal Sodano, the head of the College of Cardinals presided at the mass.

So he did the final commendation and that final commendation, John, interestingly is a plea to God for mercy and forgiveness for the deceased. And so in a sense, acknowledging the sinfulness of the person and yet asking for mercy and forgiveness if it be God's will and God is the ultimate judge.

VAUSE: Who are we to judge? As Pope Francis once said.

Father Beck -- thanks so much. And all the best. Merry Christmas.

BECK: Merry Christmas.

VAUSE: Well, Spain's prime minister was hoping to squash Catalonia's push for independence when he called for new regional elections but as Mick Jagger famously said, you can't always get what you want and that's certainly is the case. The latest on what this all means for Catalonia and Spain in just a moment.

[00:28:08] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [00:30:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)

VAUSE (voice-over): Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause with the headlines this hour.


VAUSE: It seemed like a good idea at the time, the decision by Spain's prime minister to force early elections on the Catalonia region. The working theory was voters there would be so enraged by separatist leaders after their failed push for independence in October they would all be voted out of office, end of problem.

But that did not happen. Supporters of the secessionist movement celebrated after Thursday's results were announced. The former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says the vote sends a strong message to Madrid.

He watched all of this from Brussels, where he's been in exile since Spanish authorities announced they would arrest him (INAUDIBLE) referendum which sparked the secessionist push to move away from Spain.


CARLES PUIGDEMONT, CATALONIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The Spanish state has been defeated. Rajoy and his allies have lost and have received a slap in the face from the Catalan people. They have lost the plebiscite through which they wanted to legalize their coup d'etat of the 155 and Catalonia has not helped them to make that possible. Rajoy has sunk in Catalonia.


VAUSE: Let's bring in European affairs commentator Dominic Thomas.

Dominic, good to see you. Looks like we're all back to square one. The separatists are in power, led by Puigdemont, admittedly with a slightly thinner margin than before. The election did nothing to resolve the conflict. The only difference now is that the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has been left significantly weakened.

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Right. It's absolutely a remarkable situation. The vote went ahead because Rajoy imposed on this region the snap election and (INAUDIBLE) we often forget was a new regional election for the parliament and not a referendum although it pitted the constitutionalists and the unionists against the separatists.

The separatist parties were able, if indeed they're able to form a coalition to have 70 out of the 135 seats available. So in other words, they have a majority. But the unionists are claiming exactly as they had in 2015 with the spread that they won the popular vote at 51-49, as opposed to the parliamentary vote at about 52-48, absolutely nothing has changed then. The thing that's absolutely remarkable about it, though, is the

turnout: 82 percent of people participated in this election, this is the highest turnout and this is the 12th time this has taken place since the 1980s and I think really sent a strong message to Rajoy and to Madrid that the folks in Catalonia can handle the question of democratic transition and so on without intervention from Madrid.

And so that was something interesting about this.

VAUSE: This is almost like the worst of all worlds because there was no overwhelming result one way or the other. And again, I think we've (INAUDIBLE) a few weeks ago, rather, that another European leader has taken a gamble on the outcome of an election and has been burnt badly.

THOMAS: Right. And it's extraordinary what this -- how this is going to will leave Rajoy. Of course, he will argue that the popular vote made a powerful statement. But of course, if the unionists and constitutionalists have come out ahead in the parliamentary vote, had the greatest number of seats, he would have claimed a victory.

And I think on that principle alone it is a glaring defeat for him, a gross miscalculation that further reinforces the perception that he mishandled this from the word go. He is certainly not going to back down on his claim back on the constitutional text that he's sticking to, that Spain's governed an indissoluble unity.

And so it's very difficult to see where we go from here and of course the future of the candidates, whose parties scored the second and largest figures in terms of the parliamentary vote, both Puigdemont --


THOMAS: -- and Junqueras, one of them is in prison and, as you mentioned earlier, one of them is still in self-exile in Belgium.

VAUSE: We did hear from the leader of the pro-unity party in Catalonia, like many losing politicians, he's claiming the system was rigged. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If we knew yesterday the independence process had no future, it is even clearer today that it does not represent a future for all Catalans.

And we will continue to fight even with that unfair electoral law that gives more seats to those who have less votes. We will continue to fight for all of you and for all Catalans.


VAUSE: In the sense of this being kind of the fix was in with the allocation of seats, does she make a -- does she have a good argument?

Does she make a point? THOMAS: Well, let's just look at for example the U.S. election and the whole question of the electoral college. This is something, the fact is, it's the system that's in place. If they don't like it, then they need to talk about changing it. But currently it's this parliamentary regional electoral system and the parties that gets the most seats through whatever mechanism is in place have an opportunity to try and create a coalition.

And right now, the three political parties that are in the independents' separatist camp have an opportunity to do that and the seats are not there in any other real configuration as things stand (INAUDIBLE).

Of course, if they want to argue for the popular vote, that argument will take them a certain distance. Now of course this was not a referendum and I think this is where Rajoy gets himself in this complicated argument, is that he's trying to adhere to the constitution and to this, as we've said, this indissolubility of Spain.

So he can't call a referendum. And of course this wasn't a referendum but the outcome of a referendum of course would be hard to predict because of this question of the popular vote.

VAUSE: OK, very quickly because we're almost out of time, how long can Puigdemont remain leader of the pro-independence movement?

There's a little bit of bitterness going on with his own party. You mentioned this. He fled off to Brussels, beer and chocolate, while others stayed behind and were locked up and spending time in Spanish jails.

THOMAS: Well, they did and so there is a split between him and Junqueras, his former vice president, but of course this didn't really pan out in terms of the votes. Many people thought that his vice president, Junqueras, and the ERC would either come in second or first. They didn't. They came in third.

And they certainly have got a lot of ground to make up in order to discern in whether or not they are going to be able to form a coalition that will push for independence. And so that remains to be seen.

Of course many people are drawing analogies going all the way back to the Franco dictatorship and to the way in which the republic was governed from France initially and then Mexico. These situations are slightly different.

But of course this is the big dilemma that Rajoy faces right now, is that he called a snap election; people voted democratically and it will be very difficult for him to argue that both Puigdemont and Junqueras must either remain elsewhere subject to arrest or in prison in Spain.

VAUSE: OK, Dominic, we will leave it there. But always good to see you. We appreciate it, thank you. THOMAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: Short break, when we come back, the biggest cheerleader of them all for Donald Trump is his vice president. Nobody does it better than Mike Pence. Some, though, say that lovefest is, well, it's creepy.





VAUSE: Well, U.S. Vice president, Mike Pence, made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Thursday. This trip comes four months after the U.S. announced a big increase in troop levels for Afghanistan. Pence met with the Afghan president. He also spoke to U.S. forces. And of course there was always time to praise the boss.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me assure you, President Donald Trump is the best friend the armed forces of the United States will ever have.


VAUSE: We've been hearing a lot of that from Mr. Pence lately, the vice president praising the boss. Donald Trump is usually his own biggest fan but Mike Pence has taken on this new role of cheerleader in chief. Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.


PENCE: He's a man known for a large personality, a colorful style and lots of charisma and so I guess he was just looking for some balance on the ticket.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was vice president Mike Pence during the campaign, boosting up his boss while playing the role of self-deprecating sidekick. All these months later, Pence is still what some have called a permanent pat on the back.

PENCE: I will look back and say it was President Donald Trump who led a tremendous renewal of the American spirit.

KAYE (voice-over): There are a lot of "good job"s and "way to go"s. But there's also a lot of -- shoulder talk?

PENCE: President Trump has got broad shoulders and a big heart.

Donald Trump showed you can have broad shoulders.

Broad shoulders and a big heart. The broad-shouldered leadership of Donald Trump.

KAYE (voice-over): CNN's Dana Bash asked Pence to explain.


PENCE: I just -- I think Donald Trump really embodies the American spirit. He's strong, he's freedom loving, he's independent minded. He's willing to fight for what he believes in.


BUSH: -- masculinity there?

PENCE: Oh, not a bit.

KAYE (voice-over): Even when he was grilled during a trip to Asia about policy, it always came back to the boss.

PENCE: As the president says, it's time for them to behave.

The policy that President Trump has articulated...

The president's vision for this, he's very straightforward.

KAYE: And yesterday, it was more of the same and then some. Asked to say a few words at a cabinet meeting, the Praise-o-meter turned up to 11.

PENCE: Congratulations and thank you. Thank you for seeing through the course of this year an agenda that truly is restoring this country. You've restored American credibility on the world stage. I'm deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.

KAYE (voice-over): It didn't go over well on Twitter.

"This Mike Pence prayer of thanks to Trump is excruciatingly, stomach- churningly uncomfortable to watch."

Another tweet read, "Mike Pence praised Donald Trump 14 times in three minutes during Wednesday's cabinet meeting, that's once every 12.5 seconds."

And this, "Did the licking of his shoes and kissing the ring on his finger happen before or after the speech? Camera seems to have missed that."

Showered with compliments, Donald Trump is feeling the love. And that seems to suit the both of them just fine -- Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: You're watching news from L.A. I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" is next.