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Spain's Rajoy Under Pressure After Catalonia Vote; U.N. Votes To Condemn Trump's Jerusalem Decision; Pope's Role In Disgraced Cardinal's Funeral Draws Outrage; Formula One: A Year In Review; Black South African Set To Make Olympic History. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired December 22, 2017 - 02:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus Catalonia's exiled former leader calls it a slap in the face to Spain. We'll have more on a big win there by the separatists.

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

Hello, everybody, thank you for being with us for the third hour of NEWSROOM L.A. I'm John Vause.


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

Just didn't work out. Supporters of the secessionist movement celebrated after Thursday's results were announce. Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says the vote sends a strong message to Madrid. He watched all of this from Brussels, where he has been in exile since Spanish authorities announced they would arrest him

for leading this year's referendum to secede 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: Isa Soares standing by live for us this hour in London. So this result was a big sort of back fire on that gamble by the

Spanish prime minister, who now has been left in a significantly weakened position.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Absolutely, good morning to you, John. If you look at how the pro-independence party did together as a whole to form a coalition, they will have the majority but it will be interesting to see how Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sells this because the (INAUDIBLE) party, which is a pro-unity party, that actually won the popular vote with 36 seats.

But that doesn't give them enough for a majority even with the other two pro-unity parties within parliament. So they will be much weaker there. So it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

But what we can do, just looking at the map, in very simple terms you have three pro-independence parties one of which is Carles Puigdemont (INAUDIBLE), he is a self-declared exile in Belgium.

Yesterday when he was speaking I was listening to his speech. He didn't address the question many were asking, which is, what will happen to you?

Are you going to come back to Spain?

Are you going to lead the party?

If he does, the question is he might be arrested when he gets into Catalonia. And then the second party that did also very well is of his former deputy, Junqueras, who is also in jail on charges of sedition, rebellion, misuse of public funds and what relates to the October 1st referendum.

So you have two leaders who did really well. Questions obviously about what's going to happen to them. But speaking yesterday, Puigdemont said that he wants two things done by the prime minister in the next few days.

One, he wants Article 155 of the Spanish constitution dropped and that means that Madrid no longer has control of Catalonia. That's the first thing.

The second thing he wants is those political prisoners to be released. Those are the two requests he is asking. We are expected to hear from Rajoy today to see what he says and whether he's prepared to come to negotiating table and concede, make any concessions what relates to Catalonia -- John.

VAUSE: Article 155 of the Spanish constitution never used before until October or November. Isa, lovely to see you. Thank you.

The U.N. General Assembly has roundly condemned a 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 that voting against the U.S. would come with consequences.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: The decision does not prejudge any final status issues, including Jerusalem's boundaries. 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 --


HALEY: -- people, and our right as a nation to choose the location of our embassy.

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: Live now to CNN's Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem.

So, Oren, we are hearing there from the United States and Israel, both trying to spin what was a pretty big loss into a win. This is what prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had to say, listen it to this.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: 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: Is there any concern in Israel that any support, such as it is, could have been won as a result of a threat coming from the U.S. president?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's not too much concern, because of the nature of the resolution. It was a nonbinding resolution and the General Assembly often passes and has passed earlier this year resolutions critical of Israel and Israel's policies in the occupied West Bank.

So whether that comes from a threat or whether that comes from Israel's lobbying -- and there was significant lobbying in the last 48-72 hours to try to get countries to abstain, essentially Israel will take it, knowing that passage of the resolution, even if it is a very sharp rebuke of U.S. foreign policy and highlights the fact that the U.S. and Israel stand mostly alone with their position on Jerusalem, doesn't matter because it's a non-binding resolution. Essentially Israel got what it wanted in the bigger picture, the fact that President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

And for that, they'll chalk this up as a victory, even with a stinging loss in the General Assembly.

VAUSE: Recognize that Jerusalem is the capital and went to bat big- time to back it up at the U.N.

We're also hearing some reporting from Israel's YNET (ph) that the U.S. Middle Eastern envoy, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, they met with Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, telling him to hold back on major construction projects in Jerusalem.

This is from the report, "The message was given after the Americans caught wind of reports that Israel was planning a wide-scale construction plan in Jerusalem that's being formulated by the ministry of construction."

The U.S. is apparently concerned that any widespread construction would discourage Palestinians from returning to negotiations. That doesn't even seem realistic at this point, any negotiations on the peace deal.

But what more do you know about this possible construction?

LIEBERMANN: Well, I don't have any specific information about the latest construction plans. But even with what Ambassador Nikki Haley said right at the beginning of that long sound bite we just heard, Trump still believes he has a chance at some sort of peace plan and his administration believes that all the Palestinians need and the Arab states need is a cooling-off period.

Of course, it doesn't seem like that right now, especially since today is a day of rage but they don't want to do anything that would jeopardize that. And you heard there Haley also trying to emphasize what Trump has tried to emphasize, that this statement and his recognition of Jerusalem doesn't decide borders or boundaries of Jerusalem and doesn't preempt or preclude in any way a two-state solution.

There's also the flip side to that coin, in that now that Trump just gave Netanyahu the biggest political and diplomatic victory he could have asked for, Trump essentially has leverage here, can say, no, don't do this. Here's how you will approach right here.

It's the question of what is the cost for Benjamin Netanyahu of Trump's recognition? And that could be what we're seeing here, Trump just gives Netanyahu this big price here in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Now Trump can say don't construct in neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and that was one of the concerns, perhaps the only concern from Trump's recognition there -- John.

VAUSE: We shall see, Middle Eastern does my head in. Oren, thanks. Good to see you.


VAUSE: Well, let's discuss more on this with this our panel. We have Democratic strategist Robin Swanson (ph) here, Republican strategist Charles Moran and David Siders (ph), senior reporter at Politico.


VAUSE: OK. So when the dust settled, the biggest recipients of American aid, mostly Muslim and Arab countries, did not give into 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 everyone 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, 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 there, 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.


VAUSE: So, Charles, was this 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.

(CROSSTALK) VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE) 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 U.S. foreign aid kind of as a, politely put it, as an instrument of influence of kind of weaponizing it, if you like to get 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's voted for the resolution get from the United States, it totals about $20 billion.

So it's a significant sum of money here. 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?

ROBIN: Yes, I think this is classic Trumping diplomacy with a sledgehammer. This isn't how 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. So 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 --



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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before this meeting a U.N. member state 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 (INAUDIBLE) 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 or all these countries that's are 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 --

(CROSSTALK) MORAN: -- the Turkish foreign minister, who is committing gross human rights and personal freedom violations in their country, one of the so-called most secular nations in the Muslim Middle East, 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 have got two civil wars. We have 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 --


VAUSE: -- realpolitik and actually getting stuff done in moving Jerusalem to -- the embassy to Jerusalem and having this resolution now and threatening countries that support it (INAUDIBLE) foreign aid, it (INAUDIBLE)?


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 measures 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 --


VAUSE: -- made it pretty clear that Washington will just simply ignore it. Listen to this.


HALEY: 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.


VAUSE: David, the U.S. has been at odds with the U.N. before (INAUDIBLE) George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan at the time.

Has it ever been this divisive? Has it ever been at 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?


SIDERS: They want this news because Trump performs well in a fight. And you're looking at an issue where like a lot -- first of all, Charles is right. He gets to rack up a victory here on something that he fulfilled a 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's been looking for this fight since day one, since his candidacy. 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, doesn't matter the nuances of the policy, doesn't matter the facts of the situation. He's going to come in and be a bull in a china shop and dominate.

VAUSE: (INAUDIBLE), is Americans don't want this, (INAUDIBLE) like this but Trump's base loves this.

SWANSON: All 37 percent of them?

MORAN: Yes, but Barack Obama, Democratic president Barack Obama, Democratic president William Jefferson Clinton --


MORAN: -- they all promised to move the -- 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: OK. The former CIA director tweeted this out -- this (INAUDIBLE).

"Trump administration threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in the U.N. to approach U.S. position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous, shows Donald Trump expected blind loyalty and subservience from everyone (INAUDIBLE) narcissistic, vengeful autocrats."

This segues nicely to testimony to the House Intelligence Committee by the FBI deputy director Andrew McCain (ph). 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 corroborate Comey's claim 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, its potentially important because this and another -- revelations like it add up, you hope, to something of -- the claim against the president, that he was colluding, operating against the investigation or operating with Russians.

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

VAUSE: 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. The number's up there, it's actually overwhelming there, 35 percent believe he is telling the truth; 56 percent say he's not.

Charles, Donald Trump (INAUDIBLE) is always denied that he asked for that loyalty pledge to Comey. (INAUDIBLE) into a situation of credibility and he said/he said, is the president in bit of bother?

MORAN: Well, there's a lot of questions on both sides to this, we know that the -- 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 were working toward this who were using sources that were provided politically, that were not vetted.

And I think 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.

SWANSON: No, 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. 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: Almost out of time, want to finish very quickly with Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist and architect of the (INAUDIBLE) election in Alabama, he made headlines with an interview in "Vanity Fair." He went after the Bush family pretty hard (INAUDIBLE) George W. Bush presidency as "the most destructive in history." This is what he said.

"Think about if 9/11 had happened on Trump's watch.


VAUSE: "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."

(INAUDIBLE). Steve Bannon seems to have a lot of anger.

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

VAUSE: OK, good place to leave it.

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

After the break, the usually much admired Pope Francis facing some harsh criticism for a funeral blessing for a disgraced cardinal.




VAUSE: Pope Francis has delivered the final blessing at the funeral of disgraced cardinal Bernard Law and that it is sparking outrage among those who were victims of sexual abuse by the clergy. The former archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts, was accused of protecting pedophile priests for years and many believe he didn't deserve the honor of a Vatican funeral.


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

Father Beck, thank you for joining us.


VAUSE: Out of all of the criticism, it seems the decision to hold mass at St. Peter's Basilica has drawn a lot of attention. James Martin (ph), the 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, caused untold pain."

So even if this was in fact protocol, it seems Pope Francis is not the sort of person who would 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 the church where cardinal Law was arch priest and that was St. Mary Major. So some say maybe he should had it there.

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. So he decided that it would be in fact there.

VAUSE: Does that imply that maybe there is 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 could 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 reparation in sense --


BECK: -- when he resigned as cardinal in Boston, he apologized and admitted he had, you know, had some egregious errors. So in a sense I think Pope Francis, being a pope of mercy would say, because 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' mind he said he was going to have it there. Now it was toned down from what the usually cardinal's funeral would have been. And it was not livestreamed, your didn't have testimonies of cardinals all over the media about how wonderful cardinal Law was. (INAUDIBLE) did not do any great editorial.

So it was certainly more low-key and we heard not 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.

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


ROBERT CASARLO, 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 would tell their stories and bring it all back up again. But what you got to understand is, that it comes up every day.

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 thru 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. He has a commission right now that's 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 if he appoints new membership for that commission. So he certainly has made some steps toward continuing the resolution or at least the acknowledgment 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 (ph), 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. 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: Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., the U.S. plans to allocate more than $25 billion in foreign aid next year.


[02:31:31] VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. The headlines this hour, Spain's Prime Minister has been down a political setback after voters in Catalonia nearly backed Separatist parties in new election. The Spanish leader called those (INAUDIBLE) independence movement but Catalan's former president says the vote sends a strong message that Madrid has lost.

32nd biggest city, Melbourne has slowly returned to normal a day after a horrific vehicle attack. 18 people were injured on Thursday when a car plowed into a crowd of Christmas shoppers. Police say the driver has a history of drug use and mental health issues. U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was announced Thursday in a left-sided vote at the United Nations. 128 countries condemned the move and then nine including U.S. and Israel voted against the non-binding resolution. 35 nations abstain. The American Ambassador of the U.N. Nikki Haley outright threatened other countries in the lead up to the vote and once the vote was counted she was promising pay back.


NIKKI HALEY, AMERICAN AMBASSADOR OF THE UNITED STATES: This vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the U.N. And on how we look at countries who disrespect this in the U.N. And this vote will be remembered.


VAUSE: More on foreign aid, the United States on what comes next where joined by Lisa Daftari, she's an Investigative Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of The Foreign Desk. Good to see you.


VAUSE: OK. I guess the question is what does the retaliation in terms of foreign aid, what does that look like? How does the president follow through on this threat and, you know, if he doesn't, what does that mean?

DAFTARI: It's not a threat, it's more a warning and this is something that Donald Trump has been Candidate Trump. It was very, very, very strong about saying that if we are going to doll out the money that there has to be leverage that's attached to that money. We can't just keep wedding checks to actors such as Pakistan or to -- now you see because you have voted now against what were our interest in the area. Basically, it's not charity. This is meant to echo the foreign policy of the United States and this is one instance where that warning was served.

VAUSE: It's not charity but maybe we'll see this as charity especially the -- especially people who support Donald Trump. Republicans especially. And so this is sort of domestically a winner politically for Donald Trump. The problem is that, you know, foreign aid actually is not a one-way straight. You know, the only countries get something back, you know, many examples that countries are being stabilized like Indonesia received a lot of foreign aid. It was politically stabilized and it basically ended or reducing nearly the threat from terrorism. There was one state which founded basically $1.00 in prevention saves the world, $10.00 in post-conflict recovery cost and preventing a war is 60 times cheaper than fighting one. But selling prevention is really hot. It's like what we've start happened. DAFTARI: Yes. But at the same time, you have countries such as Turkey, such as Yemen, such as Iran or Saudi Arabia who were given a floor at an institution like the U.N. where we're putting all this money in these countries have gross human rights violations. They're abusing women, they're giving -- they're abusing children and they have a, you know, a long list of violations but they use that podium to call out the United States on something that's what calling Jerusalem, the capital of Israel which is something that's been established already. So I think what Donald Trump's beginning to do, and this is a nonpartisan move for any Americans.

[02:35:04] This is not Donald Trump's piggy bank money, this is not Democratic or Republican money, this is U.S. taxpayer money. And there should be leverage and there should be an outcome. I think you're absolutely right to say that there are many instances where that aid is meant in the long run to benefit the world community and the United States security as well. But I think that when we're seeing these actors come out and do things that are against U.S. interest and that's where you have to pull the plug or at least deliver a stern warning that you will pull the plug.

VAUSE: I think, you know, there has been criticism of countries receiving U.S. foreign aid in the past, how it's been allotted, who got what. And that criticism is fair and I guess that's for another conversation but what has been talked about in the last 24 hours is using foreign aid as an instrument to threaten countries, to bully countries if you like to support U.S. decision which is against their own position because, you know, back in what February when Donald Trump is the administration -- Trump administration was proposing your big cuts to the foreign aid budget. You know, every wet and rain and sort of paying this one sound bite for the Defense Secretary James Mattis. This is when in 2013, his last year in the Marine Corps, here's what he said.


JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES DEFENSE SECRETARY: If you don't fund the state department fully then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately. I think it's a cost/benefit ratio. The more that we put into the state department's diplomacy hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget if we deal with the outcome of an apparent American withdrawal from the international scene.


VAUSE: Yes. And also this year we heard from about a hundred retired generals and admirals. They wrote to Congress denouncing cuts to foreign aid budget. This is the part of what they wrote, ''We know from our service in uniform that many of the crisis our nation faces do not have military solutions alone.'' So again, you know, in so complication if you are throwing another level on to who gets what foreign aid and that comes down to. Do you support the United States in the U.N. And not just on this issue, well those (INAUDIBLE) on every issue you're going to spoke to the United States or you won't get the money. DAFTARI: Well, yes. I think we're both saying the same thing in the

sense that we're controlling the outcome to whatever extent we can. And I think that the positive thing here is that whether it's Nikki Haley or Donald Trump, we're pulling the reigns and then saying, we're giving out the allowance.

VAUSE: Right.

DAFTARI: You need to do your chores, you need to pay back whether it's the NATO countries, whether it's the U.N. nations, whether it's -- whatever we're putting our money in, we have to see that the interests are at least echoed.

VAUSE: Well, Russia and China have made no secret of the facts. Actually, they have those secrets made but it is no secret that Russia and China use their foreign aid and influence to get what they want.

DAFTARI: Absolutely.

VAUSE: It's just that they do keep it a secret. This is just so over and so shocking, I think that's what -- that's why a lot of people find it quite stunning.

DAFTARI: You know, it's stunning because it's Donald Trump and let's just get -- I think there's two elephants in the room here, one is to say there is a known bias at the U.N. against Israel. That's one thing to put it aside.


DAFTARI: There's also this allergic and sensitive over reactive reaction to whatever Donald Trump puts out there.

VAUSE: Right.

DAFTARI: Now let's talk about how Egypt's aid was cut under President Obama, why? Because of human rights abuses, so that aid hasn't been fully reinstated yet. So we're talking about further cuts to countries that are undermining, we cannot have countries at the U.N. deciding our foreign policy based on a bogus vote. It's irrelevant.

VAUSE: OK. We're out of time. It was the cuts to Egypt's, a -- because of human rights abuses because the aid was tied to improving the human rights abuses.


DAFTARI: Exactly. But that same thing -- controlling the outcome, I think we're both agreeing or saying --

VAUSE: Wait, wait, we're talking about each other. It's good to see you. Thank you.

DAFTARI: Absolutely.

VAUSE: I appreciate it. Well, next on CNN NEWSROOM. Donald Trump seems too much flattery, it's never enough. And the vice president better hope for.


[02:41:04] VAUSE: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Thursday. His trip comes four months after the U.S. announced a big increase in troop levels there. Pence met with the Afghan president. He also talked to U.S. forces' victory was closer than ever before and some time to praise President Trump.


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 had a lot of that lately, abusive gushing and praise for the U.S. President. No one does it better than his vice president. Some are now asking, will it be a little creepy? Here's CNN, Jeanne Moos.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He may be the vice president but he's the applauder in chief.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the history of our country --

MOOS: Leading the cheering section practically mouthing along with the president.

TRUMP: Are making America great again. You haven't heard that have you?

MOOS: At the last cabinet meeting, Vice President Pence outdid himself.

PENCE: Congratulations and thank you. I want to thank you, Mr. President.

MOOS: The Washington Post even timed the flattering. Pence praises Trump once every 12 seconds for three minutes straight then he went outside and did it all over again.

PENCE: Thank you for your leadership and thanks to the leadership of this Commander-In-Chief.

MOOS: Already said that once.

PENCE: Thank you for leadership.

MOOS: Already said that twice. Twitter sneaker, the ritual submission, and exultation is nearly pornographic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very impressed.

MOOS: Along with laughing at his bosses' jokes, Mike Pence has perfected the art of the gaze.

TRUMP: He likes action.

MOOS: The adoring gaze often accompanied by the nod. Nodding almost to the beat of the maestro's gestures.

TRUMP: New American jobs.

MOOS: The V.P.'s gaze is so loyal, so consistent but it's being compared with love-struck children's characters.

MOOS: There's one name that keeps popping up to describe how Vice President Pence fixes his eyes upon the president. It's Nancy Reagan eyes aimed lovingly at her husband. But a worshipful stare seems wasted when the President forgets you're there.

TRUMP: I want to thank Mike Pence. He is --

MOOS: A Republican media consultant tweeted wistfully, I want someone to look at me just once in my life the way Mike Pence looks at Trump.' The President picked Pence at his political dance partner. Now Pence has to do it his way. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

VAUSE: Ah, OK. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" after the break. I'll see you next year.


[02:45:44] KATE RILEY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome along to WORLD SPORT, I'm Kate Riley at CNN Center. The Christmas period is a really busy time if you're a football fan in Europe. One of the most anticipated matches, El Clasico is due take place in Spain on Saturday.

This time around, Real Madrid will be hosting that bitter rivals Barcelona. For the Madrid tie team, this is a must-win match even though last week, they won the FIFA Club World Cup. In their league, however, they have had it all their own way. They find themselves 11 points behind their greatest rivals.

And Barcelona look unstoppable right now. They haven't lost a game in La Liga. And to make things worse, Cristiano Ronaldo is the doubt for Real. CR7 is reported to train alone and without the ball on Thursday. It's told the striker is having pain on his calf after the Club World Cup win last weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Well, it would be easy for Barcelona fans to think the win is already in the bag that side us way out in front on terms of points in the league, and Ronaldo might not even play against them but this is football and therefore anything is possible.


ERNESTO VALVERDE, MANAGER, FUTBOL CLUB BARCELONA (through translator): It's always important to play well against rivals who are competing for the title. And this case it means we're on a good position and it also means Real Madrid haven't played this week in La Liga because of their other commitment. And while nothing is definite, I know that a lot of people like to point out the fact that Atletico Madrid are six points behind us. But there is still so much to play for that I'm not going crazy right now. We're playing well, but that's all I want to say about that.

RILEY: No, Ernie, it's just a huge game in Spain but millions of fans will tune in here around the world. The Spanish League is incredibly popular in Asia and that's result the kicked of time has been made to reflect that popularity. This time around match will start at 1:00 in the afternoon in Spain, so that global viewership increases. It's usually an evening kick-off in Europe, so if you're a fan in Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia, you'll be able to watch your match at primetime.

Well, the Formula One season may be over but it round time reflect on, what a year it was. We saw Lewis Hamilton winning the World Title for the fourth time and not only that but with new owners, there were also some new technical changes as well. Here's the F1 journalist Morris Hamilton, summing up the 2017 season for us.

MORRIS HAMILTON, SCIENCE EDITOR, VICE MAGAZINE: Big news, technical changes for 2017 get all the teams a blank sheet of paper and this allowed Ferrari to design their first competitive car for a couple of years.

Sebastian Vettel took the fight to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in Australia and from then on it took to gone races it was ping-pong battle and you never knew who was going to win this championship. The fight carried on all the way through the first half of the season to the point were again we still didn't know who was going to win. Ferrari were looking very good but then almost inevitably, it unravels.

When Ferrari look back on the 2017 season, the one race where it all really went wrong for them was Singapore, they should have won that. Sebastian Vettel started collided with his teammate and took another car out as well and that was the end of that.

When your luck is done in Formula One, it really is done. And Ferrari after Singapore went from bad to worse. Two races and two crucial mechanical failures Rob Vettel of possible victories there as well. As for the best, the rest is simply has to be Red Bull. They had a lot of reliability problems that really hit Max Verstappen quite hard. But, when the car was going well, both he and Daniel Ricardo was there to win races.

Esteban Ocon was the standard newcomer of the year. Some brilliant performances before send the scoring points consistently and taking to the fight to his team-mate Sergio Perez. Really giving Perez something to think about an outstanding star of the future.

Away from the track itself, the paddock and the circuit all around is being -- if I could say, a happier place to be, thanks to the approach of the new owners, Liberty Media. They have been taking Formula One to the fan. We got fan zone, we got the razzmatazz of -- American style introduction for drivers in the USA, all of that. And that overs wealth the future because Formula One, finally is coming away from the old traditions.

[02:50:22] HAMILTON: Looking ahead to 2018, Luis Hamilton is oversee going to go for a 5th World Championship. To max the number set by the great arch (INAUDIBLE) hero, (INAUDIBLE). And aside from that, with no changes to the regulations, it gives Red Bull a chance to really get going. Ferrari are going to learn from their mistakes in 2017. And let's not forget, although they won the championship, Mercedes they did necessarily have the best car.

RILEY: Thanks to Morris there, coming up on the show, we meet the African skier trying to make history. The story of previous Olympic rejection to now sheer determination.


RILEY: With the Winter Olympic around the corner for some athletes, it's a mad dash to qualify. One such pro is Sive Speelman, he's determined to become South African's first black alpine skier ever at a Winter Olympics. Speelman was invited to compete in Sochi in what was called a borderline case, having (INAUDIBLE) missed out from the qualify outright.

However, the South African Olympic Committee declined to send him. The decision was devastating to athlete and his received to heavy criticism. However, it didn't stop the skier from trying to put things right four years later, though. The 22-year-old was now qualified again for Pyeongchang. And hopeful he's country will back his bid. Speelman hails from small, rural and impoverished town of the southern tip of South Africa's Drakensberg mountains, it's an area which gets snow. And he's hoping his story can grow in his (INAUDIBLE) after it told. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIVE SPEELMAN, ALPINE SKIER: I think I'm a good role model today on a kids because being at the youth Olympics and qualifying for Sochi in 2014, I saw like a difference within the community where we lived, there's more children wanting to take part in the sport and through the development program, kids are really inspired.


RILEY: Yes, best of luck to him all the time but South Korea's hosting the Winter Olympics is particularly poignant for one of our fellow CNN sports anchors here. Hines Ward, the two time World Champ was born there before moving to America. His success has made him a hero and an inspiration to young inspiring athlete, battling prejudiced. Hines has been back to Korea for new documentary.


[02:54:55] HINES WARD, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: Today, we're here to visit the King's Palace. I visited here the first time I came to Korea, but things are little chaotic. It feels good. I mean, it's been 10 years since I've returned to Korea. I brought my wife, I think it was just something that she was always intrigued about my Korean culture. Coming back now gives me a better appreciation for everything. You really don't see any other race downtown, I mean, so, you know, kind of being the minority, you know, I see it but at the same time, I'm no different from them. My life has changed because of the sacrifice my mom has made. But, in the back of my mind I wonder what my life would have been like had I was raised here in Seoul, South Korea.


RILEY: That's a clip from WORLD SPORT presents "MORE THAN A GAME". It debuts on Saturday and is repeated throughout the Christmas and New Year period from must watch T.V. there.

All right, that's it from us. Before we leave you, the fourth test of Cricket's Ashes series gets underway on Boxing Day, that's the day after Christmas in Melbourne. And that's not the only major sports event which is happening down on the either. Here's our "Rolex Minute".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On December the 26th, hundreds of thousands of Australians will gather around Sydney Harbour for the start of a sporting institution. The 73rd edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race offers all inspiring scenery throughout the tactically challenging 628 nautical mile course.

Headlining the International Fleet of 107 yacht is last year's (INAUDIBLE) winner and new race record holder, perpetual loyal, which will be raising this year as info track onto the guidance of new owner, Christian Beck and new crew. While (INAUDIBLE) will be seeking to reestablish her benchmark status by adding to her eight line on a successive and taking back a record. Finishing first, though, is not the only price, everyone aspires to have their name etched onto the (INAUDIBLE) Cup awarded to the overall winner and decided on corrected time. The legendary race promises drama, excitement and for the winner, a place in sailing history.