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NEW DAY SUNDAY

Sixty Million People Under Winter Weather Alert; Thousands Still Without Power In Puerto Rico; North Korea Calls U.N. Sanctions "Act of War"; U.S. Ambassador Denies Controversial Muslim Remarks; Trump's Jerusalem Decision Overshadows Celebrations; How To Help Our 2017 Top 10 CNN Heroes With Their Work; Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker"; Ravens Spread Holiday Cheer; Adam Vinatieri Plans On Playing One More Year; Vikings Freeze Out Packers 16-0; Bradley Pinion Nominator For 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Aired 6-7a

Aired December 24, 2017 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:00:12]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is attacking FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe he is trying to delegitimatize the investigation into him, into his family, in his administration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the president is doing is basically saying if you don't agree with me, if you don't support me, you are lying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supposed to be touting a tax reform victory on the defense following this bombshell "The New York Times" report.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saying that Haitians, they all have AIDS, and that Nigerians would never go back to their huts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House response denies these outrageous claims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a terrible thing. It prejudices what motivated this president's approach to immigration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Rene Marsh in for Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good Sunday to you. This morning, the president of the United States versus the FBI. President Trump went on a tweet attack on the agency's deputy director.

MARSH: Trump reupped accusations that Andrew McCabe is biased because of political donations his wife received in the past. McCabe, one of the agency's most senior officials, oversaw the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

BLACKWELL: Now the White House is also fighting claims that President Trump made derogatory remarks about immigrants. "The New York Times" reports during a meeting with top administration officials, President Trump claimed all Haitians have AIDS and Nigerians would never go back to their huts once they saw the United States.

MARSH: We'll have more on that in a minute, but we start with CNN's Shimon Prokupecz and the president's FBI attacks.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Victor and Rene, good morning. Trump's tweets taking aim at several FBI officials, including Deputy Director Andrew McCabe came with word that McCabe told senior FBI officials months ago that he was planning on retiring.

The two sources familiar with this plan told CNN. Now a couple of months ago, he told senior agents he was eligible to retire in March and that he had planned to do so, but there is a chance that under FBI rules, that he has accumulated enough time where he will be able to retire sooner.

The criticism here of McCabe, you know, for the past several months has been growing as a number of Republicans are questioning the credibility of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigations.

And several Republicans including the Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley have called for McCabe's removal, but Democrats argue that the Republican criticism of McCabe and the FBI, in general, are an effort to undermine Mueller as his investigation ramps up and to give Trump cover should he try to remove Mueller, a step as you know the White House insists is not on the table.

As to McCabe, he is a critical person and runs the day-to-day operations of the FBI and he was also a key person overseeing the Hillary Clinton investigation. Her use of a private email server.

And just this past week, he spent over 16 hours on the Hill before Congress testifying before three Congressional committees about the Clinton and Russia investigations. We have done some reporting on that.

And we've learned that he backed up some of what the former FBI director said about his conversations with the president. He was also questioned extensively about his role in the Hillary Clinton investigation. Shimon Prokupecz in Washington.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk to CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, and CNN political analyst, Nathan Gonzales, join us this morning. Gentlemen, good morning to you.

So, let me read the tweet that is the getting the most attention from the president on Saturday, "How can FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, the man in charge along with leaking James Comey of the phony Hillary Clinton investigation including her 33,000 illegally deleted e-mails, be given $700,000 for wife's campaign by Clinton's puppets during investigation?" Nathan, let me start with you. Just factually let's correct some of the errors here in the president's tweet about timing, money, who received it, and the sources.

NATHAN GONZALES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, part of this we are talking about McCabe's wife's campaign for the state legislature in Virginia that happened last year. Those donations were reported I think about nine months ago now. So, that part is not new.

I think, in general, that this is -- I think the president is pretty black and white. If you're against him, he tries to discredit you. If you're for him, then you're an ally of his.

This could be an effort to, knowing that McCabe is on his way out, the timing is a little bit unclear, but knowing he on his way out take credit for pushing him out, even though the facts suggest otherwise.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And this investigation, of course, we know started sometime in the summer of 2015.

[06:05:06] But Deputy McCabe did not become -- did not take that position until, what, February 1st of 2016. The timing is important here. Errol, to you. Is this about the Clinton email investigation or about the Russia investigation from the president's perspective, the reason he is now going after Andrew McCabe in these tweets?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's entirely about the Russia investigation and let's be clear. It's not just that the president's statement is erroneous. It's false and it's intending to do distract us and confuse people who don't remember the time line. The reality is that when Dr. McCabe was running for office, it was months before her husband had anything to do with the investigation.

So, the president is putting out false information and the reason is really kind of obvious, which is that this is somebody who just testified for hours in front of a committee and confirmed some very damming information that has already been put into the public discussion about the president and his efforts to squelch the Russia investigation.

Two former aides whose have now been arrested and pleaded guilty, the president is in sort of a tricky position. He has been attacking nonstop the Justice Department in general, the FBI in particular, because they are bringing information that is very damaging to him.

BLACKWELL: The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, tweeted this out after the president's tweet, "FBI would set a dangerous precedent if it forced out dedicated career public servants in capitulation to Trump and White House pressure.

The president has already removed one top FBI leader, Comey, over Russia. McCabe would be another. Now there is no way to know if the president can or intends to make a move before this retirement that is coming for Andrew McCabe. But this would, Nathan, fulfill his promise to rebuild the FBI from his perspective at least that he says is in tatters? GONZALES: Yes. I mean, I think that the president wants to know -- he wants to have people surrounding him even if it's in departments that he doesn't have control over, he still wants people -- he still wants control and he is having a tough time giving it up. I think the battle lines are drawn that what you saw from Congressman Schiff.

I think it is a good example of what Democrats believe, Republicans are going to see those tweets or at least the president supporters are going to see the president's tweets and say, absolutely, we need to rid the FBI of these people and it's all part of a conspiracy in their mind.

BLACKWELL: Let's take a look some of the people the president has gone after by name at the leadership of the Department of Justice over the last several months. You have right at the top there, the attorney general himself Jeff Sessions. Also, the deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the former now fired FBI Director James Comey.

We saw yesterday and earlier in the year Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI and Sally Yates who was once the acting director of the FBI who resigned as well. Errol, back to you and this from CIA Director John Brennan weighing in.

"Andy McCabe and Jim Baker epitomized integrity, confidence, and respect for rule of law. I'm not surprised if Donald Trump fears them along with the rest of the FBI." He made a donation to the FBI Agents Association. Comey tweeted out a link and a way to do that as well.

At what point does this erode morale with the rank and file? Are we seeing that? The White House says this is about the political leadership, but to what degree does this erode that confidence in the leadership there at DOJ because they aren't stepping up and defending the men and women who work there and really erode just the morale of the team?

LOUIS: Well, I know some of but not a lot of people that work in the Justice Department and the reality is they put up with a lot worse than political attacks. Right? These are people who put their lives on the line and they face down drug dealers and mobsters and terrorists.

They are not rattled by a couple of tweets even coming from the top of the political chain of command. The reality is that Mr. McCabe is a civil servant and can't easily be touched by the president. As long as we have the rule of law and people play by the rules, everything should work out fine.

The FBI is a very proud and very storied institution. Presidents come and go, but the Justice Department stays. I think a core sense of that and we will have to see where this all ends up. Individuals, though, in the meantime, are going to be put through quite a lot of pressure as Mr. McCabe is right now.

BLACKWELL: The FBI Agents Association felt compelled several times the last couple times the last couple of weeks to release statements defending the integrity of the special agents and the rank and file career members of the department. We will talk more about that this morning. Errol, Nathan, stick around, we have a lot talk about.

[06:10:04] MARSH: Well, the White House is denying a "New York Times" report that says President Trump allegedly said all Haitians have AIDS. CNN's Dan Merica is following that story live -- Dan.

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. Forceful denials from the White House on Trump's first full day of vacation in Florida. We will have more on that after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARSH: President Trump had some very angry words about immigrants at an oval office meeting in June. According to "The New York Times," he said, "Afghan immigrants came from a terrorist haven. Haitians all have AIDS, and he railed that once Nigerians had seen the United States, they would never, quote, "go back to their huts" in Africa.

BLACKWELL: The White House said the president did not say these things. CNN politics reporter, Dan Merica, is in West Palm Beach, Florida for us this morning, close to where President Trump is spending Christmas and the New Year. What else are we hearing from the White House about these comments?

MERICA: Victor, the White House is forcefully denying these comments that were reportedly made in a June meeting. According to "The New York Times," President Trump said Afghanistan was a terror haven, that immigrants from Nigeria wouldn't go back home after they -- wouldn't go back to their, quote, "huts," after they came to the United States and all immigrants from Haiti had AIDS.

And these are, of course, demeaning dismissive comments, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement yesterday saying that they are not true. Here is what she said.

According to Sarah Sanders, "General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen, and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims and it's both sad and telling the "New York Times" would print the lies of their anonymous sources anyway."

CNN has not been able to verify that these comments were made. This is, obviously, a president who made immigration a focal point of his campaign, of his first year in office. He proposed a travel ban on certainly countries. He has talked about building a border wall.

In the weeds of this, he has proposed significant changes to the immigration system including the chain migration and lottery system. President Trump is waking up here in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he's on his winter vacation.

He has two things on his agenda today. He will do a video teleconference with troops and wishing them a Merry Christmas on this Christmas eve. He will also track Santa through NORAD, that great website that tracks Santa across the world. He will also do that this afternoon -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Dan Merica for us there in West Palm Beach. Dan, thank you very much.

MARSH: All right. I want to bring back in our panel, Errol Louis and Nathan Gonzales. Good morning to you both. You know, the White House, Errol, is really pushing back hard on this, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders saying, "The New York Times" is printing lies about the president.

I want to listen to the reporter who broke this story and then we will discuss on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL D. SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": We stand by our sourcing. We are confident that that story is true. The White House did push back very aggressively late last night and early Sunday morning and sending us a note saying several of cabinets secretaries were in the meeting at that time say that it didn't happen. Not the meeting didn't happen, but the inflammatory comments were not said, but we stand by our reporting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: So, Errol, your reaction to all of this.

LOUIS: Well, I mean, just so folks know what the standards that we follow in journalism are, and I've been doing this for well over 30 years now. "The New York Times" sort of showed their work.

They said they talked to several dozen people, something upwards of 30 people that one of the comments came from somebody who was in the meeting and another from somebody who sort of confirmed it shortly after.

And a lot of the comments from the people in the room is that they don't remember hearing that. You know? Not that it never happened but this they don't remember it. So, I think I would match that record of work and of documentation against most of what we have heard from Sarah Sanders from the podium over the last few months.

I understand why the White House would want to deny this kind of thing and so they have. People will be free, I guess to make up their mind. It sounds very plausible to me and it doesn't make the president look very good.

Of course, the underlying issue is being decided in the courts anyhow, as far as what immigration policy will be and whether or not they can implement this Muslim ban in light of what the constitution requires. The courts are making rulings on that week-by-week and month-by-month.

But the disparaging remarks, I don't think anybody who has seen the career of Donald Trump would say it's a completely crazy idea that he would hold these views or expressive them.

MARSH: To your point, interesting language. They say they don't remember. They did not say that it didn't happen, but I want to move on, because even his own Republicans are speaking out against the president.

Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, I want to read her tweet. She says, "No POTUS, Haitians don't all have AIDS. Go visit and see for yourself. Our Miami community is blessed to have thousands of wonderful Haitian-Americans come and talk to them."

Nathan, you know, when the president feuds, let's say, with NFL players for taking a knee for protesting police brutality against African-Americans, when he says that there were very fine people at the white nationalist march in Charlottesville, some might argue he was engaging in identity politics, but this, this "The New York Times" reporting, if it is actually true, this is different. It seems like this takes it to another level.

GONZALES: Well, the Congresswoman and her comments are interesting because not only does she represent part of South Florida, but she is also retiring and not running for re-election next year.

[06:20:07] I think they might feel emboldened than some of her House colleagues to stand up and say something and be more outspoken when the president says this. When the president makes comments like this and take "The New York Times" reporting at face value because it sounds like they did dozens of interviews.

When he does this, I think the Republican Party is divided. I think a few Republicans believe what the president says in this regard, but others just kind of -- they have -- they breathe heavily and dismiss it and say that is just the president being the president.

And try to focus on some of the policy changes or Supreme Court justice that he confirmed and just try to move on beyond it. But I don't know that when he does this, the entire Republican Party isn't behind him, but he keeps doing it any way.

MARSH: Right. I think when people hear these sort of remarks, I don't think many people will say that is the president being the president. Errol, I want to move on to you. When we hear these reports from "The New York Times" about this sort of language about specific groups in America or just specific groups overall, immigrants overall, should we be looking at the president's immigration policies, for example, through a different lens?

LOUIS: Well, I would say so. I mean, look, there is a lot of just misinformation even within the bigoted statement that is attributed to the president. So, to say that all Haitians have AIDS. Well, there was a controversy.

You have to go back 30 years, a lot of your viewers will probably not old enough to remember this, but the Centers for Disease Control erroneously reported in the 1980s when the panic was going on, when we first discovered how deadly AIDS was and wasn't clear where it was coming from, they say it's a risk group and risk factor for AIDS.

If you happen to be Haitian or Haitian-American, and it was terrible, and the CDC later retracted it and so forth. It's outdated stereotype. Instead of getting their backup, it would be great if the White House could just explain to people why that ugly slur is scientifically unfounded and why, you know, nobody should ever think that for any reason rather than focus on sort of the political combat.

MARSH: Right. Errol Louis and Nathan Gonzales, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

BLACKWELL: All right. It's Christmas eve. A lot of people are watching us from the airport or an airport lounge. Maybe you're on a plane watching. Good morning.

There are a lot of people who are still trying to get to that airport or trying to get to their family's house. Look at all of the planes in the air right now. Let me tell you something. This is going to change. Weather is going to have a huge impact on the number of planes in the air, we will tell you when and how in the forecast coming up.

MARSH: Plus, three months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, much of the island is still without electricity. We are live in San Juan this morning with a look at how people are trying to overcome the harsh conditions in order to celebrate the holidays.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, everyone. I'm from Rhode Island. April company and 126 Aviation. I wanted to say hi mom, and hi, everybody. Wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, everyone. This is Captain Billy Ivanna (ph) here deployed in Africa. I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from San Antonio all the way up to Dallas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. I'm Hanna from (inaudible). I'm from Iowa. I want to say Merry Christmas and I hope you have a good New Year!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Specialist Lopez, HHCA Company 244th from Covington, Louisiana. Merry Christmas to everybody back home and I hope everybody is doing well and having a good holidays and good tidings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:28:22]

MARSH: Welcome back. I'm Rene Marsh in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. Happy Christmas eve. President Trump is starting his vacation at Mar-A-Lago by attacking two leaders of the FBI.

MARSH: The most notable Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. Trump accuses McCabe of bias for political donations his wife received in the past, but she received those donations before he became deputy director. Sources say McCabe had already planned to leave the agency in a few months once he was eligible to retire.

BLACKWELL: The Department of Homeland Security is calling a string of shootings targeting Pennsylvania law enforcement a terror attack. Authorities say 51-year-old Ahmad Al-Lofti (ph) attacked police in three places on Friday.

First, he opened fire on an officer in a police car and then shot, and injured a state trooper, later in a shoot-out with police and he was killed. He was a naturalized U.S. citizen who returned to the U.S. from Egypt.

Almost 60 million people under a winter weather alert today, including Maine, which you can see is already having some troubles so far with several inches of snow and ice. This car stranded on the side of the road, not the only one.

MARSH: Take a look at flight we're. Look at the planes in the air right now. I'm going to be on one of those in a few hours, but it may be a different story a few hours from now.

We have Meteorologist Allison Chinchar joining us live this morning. Allison, what do we need to know?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's not just air travel but travel on the roadways and once you make it to your destination, there is already power outages in the northeast and those numbers are likely going to go up as windy conditions are there, and also we make way for the next system.

We have winter weather alert stretching from Portland, Oregon, all the way to Portland, Maine. Now, the main focus is going to be the system in the eastern half of the country, because this is where we are going to see incredibly heavy snow, sometimes coming down at a couple of inches an hour. That is going to make driving incredibly difficult in some of these places and again a lot of folks they travel on the interstates to get to their destination and even if you fly you then have to get on the roads to get to your final destination.

So that is going to cause some issues here and especially for cities like Chicago, Cleveland stretching over near Boston as well. Here is a look at the time line for this, OK? Right now, it's over the central U.S. that is going to begin to shift and make it towards Chicago around 9:00, 10:00 this morning.

By noon, now you have three big cities impacted. Cleveland, Detroit, as well as Chicago. Then the system continues to push off to the east. Now we are starting to add Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and eventually into New York once we get to this evening. So if you have travel plans in the east, say, around New York, Boston, those kind of areas, do it this morning.

If you can do it in the first half of the day, that will give you a little bit more flexibility before the system moves in tonight. Now in terms of overall accumulation, most areas will be about two to four inches but there are going to be some pockets that are going to be slightly heavier, say six, even 12 inches. Airport delays the biggest spots we're going to see trouble today are likely Detroit, Chicago, but also Cincinnati, Buffalo, New York, even Boston.

As well as out to the west because that next system is coming in. So even a place like Seattle and Portland, guys, you're going to see some potential delays there as well.

MARSH: All right. Well, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much for that update.

BLACKWELL: All right. A little more than three months ago, there was hurricane Maria. You'll remember devastated the island of Puerto Rico and still a lot of the island is struggling to rebuild. You'll remember those estimates soon after the storm that it would take until Christmas for power to be restored to the entire islands.

Well, tens of thousands of people still have no electricity, no running water.

CNN correspondent Leyla Santiago is in Puerto Rico. And despite the conditions it's almost difficult to start the question with despite the conditions because they are so dire.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BLACKWELL: How are Puerto Ricans trying to celebrate Christmas?

SANTIAGO: Listen. Victor, Rene, there are definitely decorations up. People are trying to be creative in finding ways to celebrate this holiday, but everyone can agree this is not a normal Christmas.

Here in San Juan, the mayor told me last night that about 70 percent of the people have power, but when we went into the interior of the island, we found one mayor who told us about 70 percent of his people do not have power. That was in Utuado where Maria wiped out many bridges that are still out to this day.

And it is also where we met a woman named Marisela. Maria destroyed her home. She was forced to move in with her father, her family of four now kind of cooped up in one house that doesn't have power, that doesn't have water, that doesn't have a generator.

And when you ask her to compare last year to this year, she said, look, last year we were gathered. We were roasting a pig -- a very big tradition here during the holidays but this year, no gatherings. In fact she doesn't even have a Christmas tree up and the family isn't gathering because of the hardships and the challenges of day-to-day life.

She says Christmas for her would just be another day on the island. Here is a bit of my conversation with her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARISELA ARCE, PUERTO RICO RESIDENT: There is 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?

ARCE: I want to be at my house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: It seems like such a simple request. I just want to be at my house, but that's what many Puerto Ricans are asking for a roof, power, water.

Last night we spent some time with a Santa Claus here on the island and children were talking to him about their situation, about lack of power, about lack of water and the thing is, Victor and Rene, there is still no word on official estimate on when any of that will be back on the island.

BLACKWELL: Let's all remember that when we are opening presents tomorrow, that there are people who just want to be in their home and hopefully that will give us a healthy dose of humility and gratitude.

[06:35:00]

Leyla Santiago for us in San Juan, thank you so much.

MARSH: Well, the mood in Bethlehem a different this Christmas Eve. How President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli's capital is impacting celebrations in Bethlehem.

You're looking at live pictures there this morning. We will take you there live later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARSH: This morning, strong rejection of new sanctions and a warning from North Korea on state TV, North Korea said if the U.S. wishes to live safely, it must abandon its hostile policy towards the country.

BLACKWELL: Now this response is a day after the United Nations Security Council adopted a new set of sanctions that further straps the country's economy.

[06:40:03]

North Korea called the sanctions rigged by the U.S. They say they are an act of war, violating peace along the Korean Peninsula. They also said that countries that supported the resolution will pay a heavy price.

MARSH: The U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands is apologizing after lying and accusing a reporter of spreading fake news.

In 2015, he told a panel -- he told a panel the Netherlands was in chaos because of what he called an Islamist movement and a stealth jihad. Well, when a reporter asked him about it and those comments specifically, he denied them and called it fake news, but he did say when the cameras were rolling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER HOEKSTRA, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in Netherlands --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: Well, Hoekstra asked for forgiveness and says he regrets the exchange with the reporter.

BLACKWELL: Christmas is happening in Jerusalem now but the holiday is in some parts being overshadowed by a political policy.

MARSH: Well, protests continue over the decision by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli's capital.

CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us live from Bethlehem this morning. Oren, do you notice any sort of difference this morning with the celebrations?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not uncommon for religion and politics to very much mix here especially in Bethlehem and Jerusalem because of the sensitivities of these holy places and that's certainly the case here on Christmas Eve in Manger Square.

First a look at the Square here behind us. It is not nearly as full as it would otherwise be on the morning of Christmas Eve, especially as the parade has begun and the celebrations leading up to the entrance of the Latin patriarch of the holy land. That of course leads into the big event of the evening, midnight mass.

But President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has affected these festivities in two very distinct ways. First as I mentioned the mixture of religion and politics. Around Manger Square here are signs that Jerusalem will always be the eternal capital of Palestine. That's directly a shot back at Trump's announcement that his recognition of Jerusalem is the capital of Israeli.

There's another very concrete way it has affected these celebrations. Because right after that there was an expectation from the State Department that there will be demonstrations around here so they issued a travel warning for Bethlehem. That means hotel reservations were cancelled and the stores here lost tourists and the Square itself as I mentioned is empty. So two very serious ways that it has affected Christmas Eve here. You feel it even though there is still very much a festive mood here in Manger Square as we count down the hours until midnight mass.

MARSH: Oren Liebermann, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Moscow Ballet is trying to promote good relations between the U.S. and Russia performing the Nutcracker in the U.S. but not the original version. We'll tell you the difference here.

MARSH: And first, we want to show you how you can help our 2017 top 10 CNN heroes continue their important work and have your donations matched dollar-for-dollar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper.

Each of this year's top 10 CNN heroes proves that one person really can make a difference. And again this year we are making it easy for you to support their great work.

Just go to CNNheroes.com and click "donate" beneath any 2017 top 10 CNN hero to make a direct contribution to that hero's fundraiser on CrowdRise. You'll receive an e-mail confirming your donation, which is tax deductible in the United States.

No matter the amount, you can make a big difference in helping out heroes continue their life-changing work.

And right now through January seventh your donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $50,000 for each of this year's honorees.

CNN is proud to offer you this simple way to support each cause and celebrate all these everyday people changing the world.

You can donate from your laptop, your tablet, or your phone. Just go to CNNheroes.com. Your donation in any amount will help them help others. Thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARSH: Well, nominations for 2018 are open and we are waiting to hear from you. Go to CNNheroes.com to make your nomination.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:49:02]

BLACKWELL: All right. In this current political climate of tensions between the U.S. and Russia, the Moscow Ballet is trying to bring the two countries together at least culturally on the stage.

MARSH: They are performing the Nutcracker in the U.S. but in their version of the ballet, they have a dove of peace.

Our Christi Paul has the details.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Allegations of Russian collusion may be taking center stage in the political arena but there is one stage where Russia and the U.S. can come together and potentially do some good.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL (voice-over): The Moscow Ballet is performing the "Great Russian Nutcracker" on stages across the United States. This is a 25th anniversary "Nutcracker" tour stemming from Glasnost. The policy calling for increased artistic openness between the U.S. and Russia after the end of the Cold War.

And their version of "The Nutcracker" is quite different from what you may have seen before. There is no Sugar Plum Fairy here but there is a Dove of Peace. A gift given to the principal character, Marsha, during the Christmas party scene.

[06:50:03]

AKIVA TALMI, PRODUCER, MOSCOW BALLET: And she takes the Dove of Peace on the wings of the Dove of Peace around the world seeking peace and harmony.

She goes to France, Italy, Africa, all around the world and she finds peace and harmony through love.

PAUL: To show their commitment to the theme of love and peace with the U.S., Moscow Ballet created "Dance with Us". It's a program where local ballet students in each city audition, rehearse, and perform with these famous Russian ballet dancers.

Besides fostering a greater cultural exchange between the two countries, it gives the American children a once in a lifetime experience and a glimpse behind the Russian ballet curtain.

REMIE GOINS, BALLET STUDENT: Russia, there is definitely, like, a -- they have to work really hard to get where they want to be and, like, there's no other way to do it. In the Russian one, I had teachers that were, like, they were very strict and you had to work really hard.

PAUL (on camera): So you want to go to Russia, is that right? Would you like to live there?

GOINS: It's kind of scary moving to Russia because, you know, you never know what is going to happen or alone or something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a new experience and it was very fun.

PAUL (voice-over): Moscow Ballet dancer Batalov is an "Honored Artist of Russia". That's one of the highest honors given in that country.

Producer Akiva Talmi told us the Russian ballet is like America's Hollywood so Batalov's honor is like winning an Oscar. And they both say dancing in the U.S. has left an impression on them.

ANDREY BATALOV, PRINCIPAL DANCER, MOSCOW BALLET (through translator): Well, the fact that Russian ballet brings special culture and I hope that the American audience will remember what we are delivering with our performance of the classical heritage.

TALMI: The Russian artists have learned about American children. The openness and happiness of the American children is very, very contagious. They are surprised by that.

There's a tremendous amount of misunderstanding through many, many years through poor politics and, truthfully, culture has always been used as a vehicle for improving relations. My life, in working with Russia, has been about peace and the Dove of Peace is our most successful character.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Moscow Ballet hope American audiences see the "Great Russian Nutcracker" does what sometimes politics can't even seem to do -- bring people together.

BLACKWELL: Christi, thank you so much.

A big important Sunday for the NFL. A lot of games, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes that's right, Victor. Twelve games on the slate today. We already had two in the books last night.

The Ravens players are clearly happy to be home for the holidays but did Santa bring them a win this Christmas? We'll have highlights from their game up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:57:16]

BLACKWELL: All right. Christmas Eve full of football. Twelve NFL games today.

MARSH: Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.

SCHOLES: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, usually Christmas is all about the NBA but this year since it falls on a Monday, there are lots of NFL today.

Big games coming your way this afternoon. This bleacher report is brought by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

Now, two week 16 games already in the books and the Ravens were certainly in the Christmas spirit. Check out safety Eric Weddle. He dyed his beard white last night so he would look like Santa Claus and then a bunch of teammates arriving to the stadium dressed up like Santa and his elves.

All around good night for the Ravens. They won this game, 23-16. They're now in great shape to make the playoffs.

Not a great night for Colts' kicker Adam Vinatieri. He had his first field goal the (ph) game (ph) blocked (ph). That miss guaranteed he wouldn't make 90 percent of his kicks this year which cost him a half million dollar bonus.

The 44 years old Vinatieri is the older player in the NFL but he said he plans on playing one more year but next time around with no incentives in his contract.

All right. The other game last night fans braving a wind chill of zero degrees to watch the Packers host the Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Unfortunately Green Bay offense did nothing to make their fans feel warm and cozy. They did not score in this game. The Vikings shut them out 16-0 to improve to 12-3 on the year.

All right for just the second time in more than a century, Army finishing their season with 10 wins. They beat San Diego State in a thriller yesterday opting to go for two and the win which is 18 seconds left and the armed forces bowl.

And here is your crazy stat of the day. Army won 10 games while completing only 20 passes for the entire season. Now that is a commitment to running the football.

All right. Finally, 49ers punter Bradley Pinion was nominated for the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his work in the community this season. And for being nominated Pinion receive two tickets to the Super Bowl. Well, he decided to do something very special with those tickets giving them to his long time friend Jason.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY PINION, PUNTER, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: I wanted to invite you and your dad to the super bowl this year.

And I couldn't think of a better person that symbolizes what the man of the year should be than you. I love you guys. And merry Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Merry Christmas, and we love you too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Love it, guys. I'd tell you what. I couldn't think of a better Christmas present than two tickets to the Super Bowl.

BLACKWELL: Super Bowl. Yes.

SCHOLES: That is going to be hard to top.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Man of the year, well-deserved.

All right. Andy, thanks.

SCHOLES: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is attacking FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

[07:00:01]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that he is trying to delegitimatize the investigation into him, into his family, into his administration.