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Trump Celebrates Christmas Eve in Florida, Trump criticizes Andrew McCabe. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 24, 2017 - 15:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: Hello again, and thanks so much for being with me this Christmas Eve, I'm Fedricka Whitfield. Christmas celebrations are taking place around the world right now; in fact, I'll look at the Vatican right now where the Pope will lead the Christmas Eve Mass just moments from now. We'll take you there live in a moment.

And meanwhile, President Trump celebrating the holidays at his private Florida resort with his family and he's kicking off his Christmas Eve with Twitter attacks. One of his targets, FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe who we have learned, plans to retire in the coming months. Another target, CNN, the President retweeted this photoshopped image. Take a closer look. You saw his tweet from earlier inside, if you look a little closer to that image, there is an apparent splatter on the bottom of his shoe and it also shows the - the logo CNN. As for this afternoon, it would appear, the President has moved from Twitter, now to the golf course.

Our team spotted him golfing a short time ago and shot this video. You see him there with the red cap. All right, let's take you live Mar-a-Lago, the President's vacation spot. CNN White House Correspondent, Sara Murray is live at West Palm Beach, near the private resort.

So Sara, some significant changes unfolding at the FBI this weekend, we've learned that Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe plans to retire also. One of the agency's top lawyers, Jim Baker is being re-assigned all of this while the President continues to attack the institution of the FBI and the Free Press. What does White House have to say today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well that's right, Fredricka. Look, this is a president who has certainly not hold, but held back since taking office of his criticism of the Department of Justice, as well as, the FBI. Now he's taking in, a top Law Enforcement Official but the White House insist now the President have a little bit more confidence in the FBI now that he has hand picked his own person to lead it. Here's what the White House Director of Legislative Affairs had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's very pleased to have Chris Wray,now running the FBI. He's very pleased with changes that are taking place. But, at the same time, we have put all of our faith and confidence in the Department of Justice and the FBI, knowing that there should be no bias there. He's making, he's making the point that we need to make sure that there is no bias.

And, I think that there are serious concerns about whether or not there was or was not during the Hillary Clinton...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --So, was he telling the - the FBI Director, Chris Wray, is his appointee, is he telling to clean house there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that they have full confidence in Chris Wray, Chris (ph).


MURRAY: See (ph), the White House, they're offering confidence in the FBI but with a caveat threat. (ph)

WHITFIELD: In the meantime, this is the President's 108th day and one of his properties of the White House calling this a working vacation. It always seems to be right (ph) for a president who is really never allowed to completely to take time off so what do we know to be on the President's schedule while he is there?

MURRAY: Well, that is certainly true that the White House is calling this a working vacation and we may get more details of what the President will up to next week in terms of official presidential duties but they haven't told us a whole lot about that.

Right now, this trip seems to be pretty firmly in the vacation territory though, it is Christmas Eve, obviously, the President went golfing earlier today. We expect he'll have some family time later today. And, he and the First Lady are going to participate in a little bit of Santa tracking so they seem much more in the Christmas spirit than having a full work day here today. We'll, obviously, get more details on the President's schedule as we get closer to next week and we'll bring those to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, look forward to that. Thank you so much, Sara Murray. Appreciate it.

All right, let's get some opinions now from very strong political minds to help us figure all this stuff out. John Thomas is a Republican Consultant and Ellis Henican (ph) is the Political Analyst and Columnist from Metro Paper. It's good to see you both.


WHITFIELD: All right. So John, you first, you know, the President is going, you know, full bore against the FBI and, of course, the media, he's already made this a sort of a tradition but he seems to be stepping it up on this Christmas Eve. Why does the President fell like that this is advantageous for him? We're talking about the institutions that are in existence to help hold the President and the U.S. Government accountable. JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, as we wrap up the year and we look forward to the following year, I mean, I think it's the President's job to make sure we clean house and protect those institutions that we hold so dearly.

For instance, the great.

WHITFIELD: --Iaudible.

THOMAS: --Well, yeah but 99 percent of FBI agents do incredible work but we've heard some disturbing stories lately, Fredricka. Andrew McCabe, his wife taking $700,000 while she campaigning the Senate. (ph)

WHITFIELD: --That's figure is being disputed and even the President used that figure but that's being disputed so there's no denying that perhaps his wife who is campaigning did accept money from Hillary Clinton, but in Washington too, it's not unusual for people to be working in government or, you know, campaigning for office and they can still be somewhat apolitical. Particularly when your job is not of a political position, like in the FBI right?

THOMAS: Well, we also - we also learned Fredricka, on Friday on Fox News that a congressman said that there was - there were e-mails that said Hillary Clinton - from Andrew McCabe, that Hillary was going to receive a HQ special as it related to the e-mail investigation. You can surmise what you want from that, but that sounds like a conflict and I think president Trump is just saying we need to get rid of all of these conflicts because the FBI has to be beyond reproach when it comes to ethics.

WHITFIELD: Well isn't there a process though John? Is it - should it be the position of the president to send out tweets or, you know, try to intimidate people or threatening language in which to correct, if that's his ambition. Or isn't it up to various agencies who have the responsibility to clean house or redirect or make sure that people are doing their jobs in an unbiased manner.

THOMAS: I think congress is doing its job on this matter, but one thing we've learned about president Trump is that he weighs in and he speaks his mind. I mean voters understood that when they put him in office and it's been nothing different along this process.

WHITFIELD: Alright so Ellis(ph) is this effective, is the president, you know, on the right track?

HENICAN: It's awful. I mean the president has decided to celebrate the birth of the Christ child by issuing a series of ugly personal smears against lifelong, highly credibily, essentially beyond reproached civil service who're working very, very hard for us. Fred(ph) I've met hundreds of FBI agents in my life, I know you've met a bunch. Every one of them has a political view of some sort or another and they all have relatives and those people have political views.

WHITFIELD: Well, and there is an expectation that they get to vote right? So, I mean you may some preference on particular candidates based on political party etcetera, but then they also know, or can be disciplined enough to not allow that to influence them when they are executing their jobs.

HENICAN: These are thinking humans beings, as we want them to be, and we judge them by how professionally they execute their jobs. If anybody has any evidence that Andrew McCabe has done anything, anything unprofessional, illegal, untoward, boy no one has shown it yet. All they're doing is issuing these personal smears that coincidentally occur just at the moment that he is confirming some of the testimony that the - that director Comey gave to the committee.

THOMAS: But Ellis(ph) there are e-mails that say he's going to give Hillary Clinton an HQ special. What do you think that means?

HENICAN: Nobody has suggested that there has been anything that's untoward(ph). All his stuff is, is oh my god his wife...

THOMAS: That's a suggestion.

HENICAN: No, seriously. There is no evidence that it means anything improper. Of course these guys talk with each other. You want them to, they're inside an investigation. They're trading ideas back and forth, that's not the same thing as ruining their personal reputation.

THOMAS: And let's not - let's not forget Ellis and Fredricka that this isn't happening in a vacuum. You know, several weeks ago...

HENICAN: Of course not.

THOMAS ... Peter Strzock and his text messages talking about an insurance policy.

WHITFIELD: And they were removed and that action was taken.

THOMAS: And as Andrew McCabe should be as well. So I think that's what we have to look at. Is that this isn't just an isolated incident. These are several people involved in a Hillary Clinton investigation that all seemed to have conflicts.

WHITFIELD: So listen to the concerns coming from these two sitting senators, particularly as it pertains to Bob Mueller and special counsel and what may or may not be next.

THOMAS: Well listen...

WHITFIELD: Listen. Quickly.

BERNIE SANDERS, VERMONT STATE SENATOR: I'm very concerned. Look, what Mueller was asked to do, and by the way, before this investigation as you recall, Mueller had widespread all across the political spectrum for the very fine work he did as FBI Director. What he was asked to do was to deal with a very serious issue. Did the Trump Administration collude with the Russians in the campaign? Very important issue. That is what he is trying to do and to attack his integrity in order to protect the president is unacceptable.

THOMAS: And what if the President fires the Special Counsel?

HENICAN: Then that will be a big problem, a big problem and I don't think that that will go over well at all, here in the Senate. I don't think he'll go there, it shouldn't go there.

WHITFIELD: So Ellis the president himself said he's not considering removing Bob Mueller. The White House reiterating that really up until Friday, that it's not going to happen. So why are there Senators such as Flake and Sanders who continue to express their concerns that potentially the president will go there.

HENICAN: I have those concerns as well, I think it's a two-track strategy essentially. It may result in the removal of the Special Counsel, but even short of that, if you can smear the guy enough, make him seem so unfair, act as if you're being picked on like any perp would respond, by the way, in case like this, then your hope is that when he actually does deliver his report, if there are indictments, whatever happens next, that it undermines the creditably of those things.

So, there's a removal strategy and just a plain smear strategy running on separate tracks at this point.

WHITFIELD: Are they one -- do they become one and the same John? The removal strategy and smear strategy?

THOMAS: Well no. I mean I find it amazing that we're even having this conversation Fredricka, because like you said, the President has never said he was going to remove Mueller.

In fact, it was a Democratic Congresswoman that talked about a rumor that she couldn't even substantiate and now the President is somehow trying to defend an accusation about a statement that he never made.

I just think this think is blown out of proportion and if he does it, which I don't think he will because I think he learned his lesson from the Comey removal, then we can talk about it. But until then, it's just projection.

WHITFIELD: OK, we're going to leave it there. Hope spring is eternal right, for 2018?

THOMAS: Merry Christmas.

HENICAN: Good seeing you. Merry Christmas.

WHITFIELD: All right John Thomas, Ellis Henican, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, because that's when I'll see you next.

All right, the White House slamming a new report saying the President in the middle of the Oval Office claims that all Haitian immigrants have Aids and Nigerian immigrants won't go back to their huts after seeing the U.S. The comments now are begging the question, is racism fueling Trump's immigration policy.

And the President is enjoying this Christmas holiday with a game of golf or two, but is it indeed a working vacation. He sends this Christmas message to our troops.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm thrilled to bring season's greetings on behalf of the First Lady and our entire family and most importantly, on behalf of the American people.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Live pictures right now the Vatican where Christmas celebrations are about to begin at any moment. The pope will lead the Christmas Eve mass as Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus. And in Florida, President Trump holding a holiday video conference call with military members this morning delivering this message.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just wanted to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas. We say Christmas again very proudly. Very, very Merry Christmas. We're going to have a great year. It'll be an incredible year. I'm trilled to bring season greetings on behalf of the First Lady and our entire family and most importantly on behalf of the American people.

Today and everyday we're incredibly thankful for your and for your families. Your families have been tremendous. Always under appreciated, the military families, the greatest people on Earth. We have five deployed units joining us today. One from each branch of our Armed Forces.

I want to welcome Colonel Chuck Lombardo and all of the soldiers of Iron Brigade deployed in Kuwait to support the Operation Spartan Shield an inherent resolve the Iron Brigade is currently serving as an active partner in the Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Saudi and Georgian Army are doing incredible job.


WHITFIELD: Meanwhile, on this Christmas Eve in Puerto Rico many are struggling to make the most of the holiday season as thousands across the island are still without power and continue to rebuild as best they can after Hurricane Maria hit in September. CNN's Leyla Santiago is at the capital of San Juan. So, Leyla what are the conditions there like right now?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Fredricka, that all depends on sort of what part of the island you're in. Right now we are in old San Juan, there is a cruise ship docked. There are tourists that are spending their holiday's right here. Although not as many as we typically would see.

But when you go into the interior part of the island it's a bit of a different story and I'll put this in numbers. The mayor of San Juan last night told me that about 70 percent of the people of San Juan have power. Go into Dualo (ph), that's the interior again, the mayor there tells me that 70 percent of the people do not have power.

A much different story. When you talk to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working hard to get that power grid back to pre-Maria conditions they'll tell you that for some of those remote areas it could be until May until they get power back here on the island.

So, a very different Christmas this year whether you're in San Juan or in the interior, in some of those remote areas everyone can agree this is not the typical Christmas for Puerto Rico after Maria.

WHITFIELD: And then, what have people been telling you, those that you've been reunited with, checking in with because you've been there a very long time since September doting the island of Puerto Rico and you've gotten all kinds of accounts? How do today's stories differ from what you've been experiencing over a period of months?

SANTIAGO: Right. There's one story that really stood with me. I think a lot of families are getting creative in finding ways to celebrate Christmas but I spoke to one woman, her name is Marisela Arce Reyes she's in Dualo (ph) the area that I was just talking about. She told me Maria destroyed her home. So, she actually had to move her family of four into the home with her father.

They don't have power, they don't have water, they don't have a generator. Typically this time of year they'd be making (inaudible) roasting a pig as is very traditional here in Puerto Rico but she says this year they don't even have a Christmas tree. Here's our conversation.


MARISELA ARCE REYES, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: There's a lot of people that still don't have water in their house and I really think OK if I'm this way how are they going to (pass) Christmas, New Year's?

SANTIAGO: So what would the one thing be that you want for Christmas?

REYES: I want to be at my house.


SANTIAGO: She just wants to be in her home Fredricka; it doesn't seem like a lot to ask for. One quick note, I spent some time with Santa Claus last night and even as he was talking to children here in Puerto Rico Fredricka, Hurricane Maria came up; children were telling Santa they want power; they want water; they just want Santa not to forget them this year.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Yes I know a lot of them have to feel very traumatized still. All right, Leyla Santiago, thank you so much for bringing those stories to us from San Juan. All right next, authorities say a gunman target police in a Pennsylvania shooting spree, why the Department of Homeland Security is now calling it terrorism. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Live pictures right now, the Vatican Saint Peter's of the Basilica, there and mass is about to get underway. The pope will be delivering his message of peace around the world. Celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Back in this country the Department of Homeland Security called a string of shootings targeting Pennsylvania law enforcement, a terror attack. Authorities say the gun man, a naturalized U S citizen, who was admitted to the country from Egypt, on a family based immigrant visa. Fired at police in three places on Friday. He first opened fire on a state capital officer and then shot an injured a state trooper.

And later fired at several other officers who returned fire filling the gun man. The acting DHS press secretary says the attacks highlight the Trump administrations concerns with extended family chain migration.

CNN's Dan Liverman joins me now New York with more on these reported shootings, Dan.

DAN LIVERMAN: Hey Fred(ph). Yes this all happened Friday afternoon in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where authorities say 51 year old Acmind Amin Amin Amotee(ph) opened fire at law enforcement officers through out the city. The Harrisburg district attorney spoke out about the attack on Friday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This individual showed that he was not afraid to fire at different law enforcement officers. Both downtown and up here.

LIVERMAN: The Department of Homeland Security is now calling this a terrorist attack, saying that Amotee(ph) was a naturalized U S citizen who came to this country on a family based immigrant visa. DHS released this statement yesterday saying both chain migration and the diversity program, lottery program have been exploited by terrorist to attack our country. And that the programs make it more difficult to keep dangerous people out of the United States and protect the safety of every American.

However Fred, local authorities have not yet confirmed whether they consider this to be a terror attack. Pennsylvania republic and representative Lou Barletta said that they will keep monitoring the incident for potential links to terrorism, Fred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, Dan Liverman, thank you so much, in New York.

LIVERMAN: You got it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And as we leave you to this break, more live pictures now at the Vatican, the pope getting ready to deliver mass service on this Christmas Eve.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, plenty of White House pushback over an explosive New York Times report that claims President Trump had some derogatory things to say about immigrants during a tense Oval Office meeting back in June.

According to the New York Times, the president said, "Afghan immigrants come from a terrorist haven, Haitians coming to the U.S. all have AIDS," and he railed that "Once Nigerians had seen the U.S. they would never," quote, "go back to their huts in Africa." The White House strongly denying the accuracy of that reporting.

Joining me right now to discuss this is Frank Sharry (ph), who is the founder and executive director of 'America's Voice,' a pro-immigration organization.

Also with me is Antonia Okafor, who is a political commentator and a Trump supporter, who, by the way, I understand your family is from Nigeria, Antonia? So ok, so I got a nod on that. So both your parents are from Nigeria, the most populated nation in Africa, with the world's 20th largest economy and Africa's largest economy.

You've been a supporter of the president. So the president reportedly saying things like this, what's your reaction to his characterization, particularly of Nigerians?

ANTONIA OKAFOR, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I would say first of all that I didn't come on here to entertain any speculation, and that's what this is. It's speculation.

You know, Sarah Sanders also vehemently denied that this took place, and that even CNN reported that there were other people at the meeting which is the said (ph) comments took place, saying that they didn't recall this happening, so I think it's important that the American people know the truth, that this is all speculative and that until the actual transcript comes out that this happened that this is hearsay right now.

WHITFIELD: So who do you need to provide that transcript, because the New York Times has stood behind its reporting. They have a number of sources, anonymous sources, and then they have triple and quadruple checked (ph).

I talked to one of the reporters yesterday, they're standing by their account. I mean, their credibility, their entire product would be on the line if they wouldn't stand behind their story.

But you're saying that you don't believe it, period, flat-out, not until you see a transcript coming from...?

OKAFOR: It's not really even, you know, that I-whether I would believe it or not. Even CNN reported that, at the bottom of their article, saying that there are also are (ph) other people saying that they did not hear that. So it's going to be about--

WHITFIELD: Well, that's balanced reporting. OKAFOR: ...whether we have a transcript saying that, who is going to

or not (ph), right? I mean, if all our sources are based on the credibility of just two people, which these unnamed sources are, then we should also be then, in retrospect, also looking at these other people who have said, "No, we didn't hear anything of the sort."

And I think this really goes out to this narrative of perpetuating that Donald Trump is racist, and I think people are-and the (ph) American people are sick of this perpetuation when they haven't seen anything that have really shown anything of the sort. When it comes to national security, this is-(ph)

WHITFIELD: Well, wait a minute, if it comes to perpetuation (ph), is it perpetuation (ph) when there has already been an established pattern going back to housing discrimination, which, you know-- and there were settlements involved in that, to the president's remarks about these young men in New York, they later were exonerated, to leading the birtherism movement of the first president of the United States who was African-American?

I mean, there is that pattern, so there is that reference point when people look at these quotes now, that seem in step with some precedence.

OKAFOR: I think that's an important thing that you just said, it's seen in step, and really is to perpetuate this narrative that he is, and with the birther movement-I mean, that's something focusing not because he was the first African-American president, which, you know, his father is from Africa, my parents are as well.

I think it's coming down to the facts, and what people (ph) wanting to know is the facts, with this whole security system when it comes to this ban. It's not a Muslim ban, it's a travel ban and it's really trying to protect America, because it's really about Americans first.

And my mother, she's Nigerian and she came here because she wanted to be in a country that put their country-American citizens first, and even now, even though she voted for Hillary Clinton, and she's probably going to even go (ph) more to the left next time, she tells me that it's important that she has a president that's going to put our-her-their citizens first, instead of focusing on other countries when it comes to this political culture (ph) narrative and mentality.

What about us? What about making sure that all American citizens are protected, regardless and irrespective of skin color, and that's why it's (ph) important today to talk about, not continue this perpetuation of this (ph) speculation and a speculative report.

WHITFIELD: So, Frank, is that what this is all about? That, you know, it's A) about believability, it is about perpetuating a false narrative of the president of the United States, and that these anonymous sources don't offer enough credence to the possibility that the president could have said any of these things?

FRANK SHARRY, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICA'S VOICE: Well, all you have to do is look at his public acts to know that he has a very bigoted view towards the immigrants. He started his candidacy by saying Mexicans were rapists and criminals. He then proposed to ban 1.5 billion people from coming into the country because of the god they prayed to.

He's now, under his administration, been deporting Latinos and Haitians and others who are deeply rooted in American society, who are heading up families, paying taxes, working hard and have (ph) been convicted of nothing. He wants to slash legal immigration by 50 percent.

And on top of that, he's told Dreamers (ph), young people who grew up in America, who have gone to school here and are American in all but paperwork, that they should be deported unless Congress can step in and stop it.

So his public acts say, basically, let's make America white again, because these immigrants are a threat.


OKAFOR: Come on, let's be intellectually honest here. First of all, what the Mexican comments-that, we all know, was not that he said "all Mexicans," he said that those who are coming here who have a criminal background, and a lot of people would agree with that.

I mean, again, here we are, right? So, we're talking about something, we're not talking about the whole truth here, and it comes to the matter is (ph) that an African-American woman can be a supporter of Trump because of the policies that he has, because that's what it really comes down to; that's what affects me, as an American citizen.

These quotes, that were not even really quotes, that are on the whole extent of it, really he's (ph) picking and choosing words that are not really conducive of what his actual policies are, are just detrimental to America, and our society and what's going to be the future of it.

Perpetuating this racism that doesn't exist. And this conflict (ph)-

WHITFIELD: Well, can you then, Antonia, be in support of his policies but at the same time be able to express being offended by any language, or do you believe that those two things, I mean (ph) have to be in step with one another? Is there anything that he has said that has offended you, regardless of the fact that you support his policies?

OKAFOR: No, nothing has offended me because what is really important right now is that I, as a 27 year-old female, I'm still trying to make sure that I have important things that most American's are really focused on. We're here, we have Christmas and we're talking about jobs and we're talking about the economy and we're talking about my future as a millennial. That's what's important to me. Not hearsay of whether our President said this or not.

I think that's what Americans are upset about is that we're talking about offensive comments and then we're not really talking about the meat, the substantial issues that really affect everyday citizens, everyday people, regardless if they come from Africa or a different country. My parents came here because they want a better life for myself and for those and for their kids. Not for talking about...

SHARRY: Hold on, hold on. I'm prepared to talk about policies...

WHITFIELD: And when the President himself says that he has grabbed a woman's private parts and he said it himself, that's not hearsay, as you put it, these quotes you're saying are hearsay, that's not offensive to you either?

OKAFOR: I didn't say -- I didn't -- I'm not talking about that. I did not talk about those comments, I'm talking about...

WHITFIELD: What I asked, is there anything that President has said...

OKAFOR: ...immigration policies.

WHITFIELD: ...what I asked you, is there anything that President has said that is offensive even though you continue to support his policy?

OKAFOR: Of course -- there are many people who have said things that are offensive, but does that really directly impact me as an individual, as a person? I think we're in this mentality, unfortunately these days, of -- we're talking about free speech on college campuses or regardless -- rather, but not free speech on college campuses because people are so offended about everything.

And I'm here to show you, as a woman, as a black woman, who, my parents are from Nigeria, they came here for the American dream. Their American dream was to make sure that I had a better life for myself than they had.

That's what important to them, that's what's important to a lot of citizens and people in this country and people, even in Nigeria, are looking to us to make sure that they have some type of role model and that's why people voted for Trump, is because they're someone -- they can see him, they can see a leader who's going to impact their free world and make sure that every country in the world is going to be better as a consequence of that.

WHITFIELD: So Frank, you agree there could be a separation? You can be of support of his policy even if there are some things or his style or word choice reportedly can be offensive?

SHARRY: Look, there's no question that a man who started his political career with birtherism is a racist who said there were good people in Charlottesville. So let's -- but let's talk -- I'm happy to talk about the policy which is the most radical departure from our -- from recent history. I mean he's taken a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty.

He's saying that immigrants are a threat to a country. This is a nation of immigrants, it's fundamental to who we are. Our motto is E plubibus unum, out of many, one, and he's saying that that's wrong. We have to protect white people...


SHARRY: ...and everybody else is a threat. That is not who we are, so this is not about he's standing up for America and we're standing up for other things. We're standing up for America and he's threatening it.

OKAFOR: No, he has not said that immigration is a -- that immigrants are a threat. I'm an immigrant, many people who make this country are immigrants. We're just talking about making sure those legal immigrants who are here, who did the process the right way, that they're not pushed back to the end of the line, that they have their fair due and their fair say.

And that's what's important and I think that's what Donald Trump is about. Is about making sure that legal immigrants here are protected and empowered and I think most people would agree with that.

WHITFIELD: All right. We're going to leave it right there. Antonia Okafor, Frank Sharry, thank you so much. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

SHARRY: Merry Christmas.

OKAFOR: Merry Christmas.

WHITFIELD: All right, appreciate it. All right, Christmas Eve services are happening around the world, including at the Vatican right now. We'll take you there again, coming up.



WHITFIELD: Christmas Eve celebrations and mass underway right now at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican there. And, also, taking place at Bethlehem right now. First is CNN's Oren Liebermann joining us live from Bethlehem. Tell us about the celebrations that you are seeing there.

OREN LEIBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I suspect you can tell by the rain hitting my face that it's a rather cold and raining and now windy Christmas Eve here in Bethlehem. And, yes, with the festivities here, with the decorations here it remains a festive, joyous holiday for those who have come out. We've been down in a Manger Square here behind us a couple of times this evening.

Manger Square here behind us a couple of times this evening, Manger Square right in front of the Church of the Nativity, the biblical spot where Jesus was born and those who have come out, the faithful pilgrims who are here for the Christmas Eve have very much enjoyed this evening even if because of the weather and because of other reasons, it has been a bit more of an empty Manger Square on this Christmas Eve.

The highlight of the evening now just over an hour away, Midnight Mass, led by the Latin patriarch of the Holy Land here at the Church of the Nativity behind me. As I mentioned it is a bit more or an empty Manger Square and that because of how religions and politics so often mixed here in the Middle East. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel just a few weeks ago very much affecting Christmas Eve here. First there are political signs here, signs that read Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine; you'll see those here. That's a shot directly at Trump but also because of the expected demonstrations after that announcement.

There was a State Department travel warning and that kept away many of the tourists, many of the pilgrims that would be filling the hotels here, visiting the shops here and that has led to a bit of a much emptier Manger Square here than it would be on other Christmases. That being said, as I pointed out for those who have come out, it has still been a festive holiday, a joyous holiday, this Christmas Eve. So allow me to say Fredricka, a Merry Christmas to you, to all of our viewers and to my wife's family, the Collins Kramers (ph) in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; the other Bethlehem, Merry Christmas to them as well.

WHITFIELD: Oh fantastic, well Merry Christmas to everyone. Hey Oren I want to bring into the conversation Vatican Analyst John Allen, he's joining us from Rome and John this is the fifth Christmas for Pope Francis there as the leader of the Catholic Church there. What is the expectation for what his message might be this year?

JOHN ALLEN: Well first of all happy Christmas to you, Fredricka and since the precedent has now been set, let me send a shot out to my wife, Shannon (ph) back home in Denver, Merry Christmas to you sweetheart. Listen I think the story of Christmas, from the Pope's point of view, is the story of a poor child born to a refugee family in Bethlehem and I think the expectation is that Pope Francis who was so much a champion of refugees and immigrants and displaced people will connect the story of the Christ Child to all the contemporary displaced and refugee families of the world.

Pope Francis typically on Christmas Eve is not the ebullient sort of up with people pope we often see. He typically is a more somber figure, reflecting more on the injustices and the tragedies of the world, that's probably the tone he will set this evening. As he celebrates what is traditionally known as Midnight Mass here in the Vatican, even though it starts at 9:30 in the evening, and very shortly we will hear the pope launch into his homily that's his reflection for this pivotal point in the church's liturgical calendar Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yes and is the expectation that he might be equally reflective as he would be hopeful for the new year upcoming?

ALLEN: Well I mean I think the tone of hope you're going to hear from the pope you will get tomorrow when he knows -- when he does what is known as his ervy at orvy (ph) address that is his blessing to the city and the world. Christmas Eve usually, I mean I've covered this man now for five years, you usually catch him in a somewhat more -- I mean I guess I would say somber and in a way kind of plaintive tone where what tends to dominate his thinking on Christmas Eve really are the tragedies, the heartaches, the pain of the contemporary world. That's what I would expect him to reflect upon tonight and as I say, because the story of Christmas Eve so much is a story of a poor child born into a family that had been driven from its home, that is in search of refuge. I think all those people who are in similar situations today; those will be the one who are in Francis' mind and heart tonight Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And then John, I want to bring Oren Lieberman back in, he's in Bethlehem there and Oren usually, as you had mentioned, so many tourists from around the world would flock to Bethlehem, this year might be a bit different, a little bit more somber, less celebratory particularly in light of the political backdrops that have been presented. So have there been demonstrations or outward signs, particularly those who have showed some disagreement or dissent with President Trumps most recent moves about Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely there have been demonstrations there have protest and those will continue. There were fewer today especially here in Bethlehem just given the fact that it was a holiday. But there have been demonstrations in Gaza, those have been the biggest, that's where the anger remains the strongest. And there have been as well in Jerusalem and those will continue. Even if not as big today on a slow burn and that gives a sense of the anger that remains here at President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem's the capital of Israel.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Orin Liverman, John Alan, thanks to both of you, Merry Christmas to you, to your families, thanks so much for being with us. And we'll close out as we take you back to Vatican City and Saint Peter Basilica and midnight mass, underway.

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