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Trump Spends First Christmas as President at Mar-A-Lago; Trump Tweets Take Aim at Deputy FBI Director McCabe; Trump Again Takes Aim at FBI, Blasts Russia Dossier; North Korea Calls New Sanctions "Act of War". Aired 1-2p ET

Aired December 25, 2017 - 13:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to this special Christmas edition of CNN Newsroom. I'm Brianna Keilar. And wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you so much for joining us.

President Trump is spending the first Christmas of his administration at this Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. And it is a special occasion for the first couple. He and First Lady Melania Trump attended Christmas Eve services at the church where they were married. The couple wished the nation a Merry Christmas.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Melania and I are delighted to wish America and the entire world a very Merry Christmas.

MELANIA TRUMP, U.S. FIRST LADY: At this time of year, we see the best of America and the soul of the American people.


KEILAR: Well that was very Christmasy, but something that was not the president spending his holiday feuding with the FBI. He sent a litany of tweets attacking the deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray is near Mar-a-Lago to talk about that.

So how was the White House responding on this holiday to the backlash from these tweets Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna if the White House says it's all concerned about it, they're certainly not letting on, and of course this is not a president who is a stranger to tweeting things that set-up controversy.

But did see the White House director of legislative affairs over the weekend going out there and talking about the FBI, saying look, the President does confidence and Chris Wray, the person he has named to leave the FBI now, but he still concerned about any instances of bias, he still looking to root that out within the agency. That kind of aim is the concern, even to some of -- members of Trump's own party, but it's pretty clear the White House isn't backing down from this line of criticism.

KEILAR: What we saw, the First Lady as we get back to the holiday spirit, she tweeted out a Christmas selfie, where she is wearing a Santa hat, very festive here. So just tell us a little bit about what the first couple has been doing for Christmas, what they have plan for the rest of the day.

MURRAY: Very festive. We still not seen the first couple yet on this Christmas day. There are no public events on the President schedule. We don't anticipate we will see them. But, you know, it's Trump, so that could always change. They did engage in funny of the traditional Christmas festivities last night, though on Christmas Eve. We saw both the President and First Lady taking calls from children updating them on where Santa was in his travels delivering gifts.

They also went to mass yesterday evening at the church that they were married and had a Christmas Eve dinner together. So plenty of festivities and of course they're doing this at Mar-a-Lago, which is one of the Presidents favorite places to visit. His aide, say he tends to be more at ease here.

And, you know, Brianna some previous presidents have compared the White House to a prison. Trump's aides say this gives him to chance to get out of Washington, to hang out with some of his friends, blow- off a little bit of scene before he has to go back to work.

KEILAR: All right. Sara Murray a very Merry Christmas to you. Thank you so much for the report from Mar-a-Lago.

And I want to bring in now colleague Dana Bash, she is CNN's chief political correspondent. OK, so we've seen this -- the huge legislative achievement on tax reform, and what a difference a month makes right.


KEILAR: But what really is the endgame for President Trump and for Congress looking forward?

BASH: Look, the 2018 is the ball game, if they didn't get the tax reform bill done then they would have been in really, really deep trouble. I'm sure you have heard this from your Republican sources as I have, I mean they were saying in no uncertain terms that they didn't get a tax bill done just in order to show legislative victory or that they could actually accomplish something having all of the levers of government and their control then than they would be, you know, would basically be lights out for -- for the majority.

Having said that it's very early and it's unclear how the actual details of the plan are going to play with voters, particularly those who put Donald Trump in office, who are not among the many of them among the wealthiest Americans, but looking forward there is so much that needs to be done just in the first month. I mean you have to keep the government running, they have to ideal, at least in the first few months with Dreamers and other things that really do divide the Republican Party. KEILAR: I want to bring in our political analyst along with us Dana, we have Brian Karem who is the executive editor for Sentinel Newspapers, thanks for being with us.


KEILAR: A Merry Christmas. Thank you so much.

KARAM: I have the shimmery (ph) Christmas to Tammy Zachary, Brennan Wyatt, Shelby and Jennings.

KEILAR: Very --

KARA: -- I've got my bases.

KEILAR: Very good and you are definitely entitled to do that. I also want to bring in Josh Rogan, he is a columnist for the "Washington Post" and he is joining there from nearby Mar-a-Largo.

OK, so Brian, when you look at what we are just discussing which has been something that the president wants to celebrate at the end of the year. And yet then you have him tweeting about the deputy FBI director. Is he in a way taking away from, you know, is he stealing his own thunder here?

[13:04:59] KARAM: I call whenever he does his Twitter litter. If you want to look at it this way, the President is that jet fighter and there's an IR missile on his tail, Mueller. And so he drops chaffin and flares all his Twitter litter and anything else to keep you from the real issue. All of it is always to deflect, defend, and otherwise keep you away from the real issues at hand and he's done it very well as -- you know, we're seeing or talking about it now. But I mean the destruction of the EPA what is done with education. Everything else kind of falls by the wayside when he tweets.

And in and the shame of it is, there are two issues that he has actually done. I think well, he isn't funded them, but the ideas are well behind him, it dealing with the opioid problem that three-part plan if they would fund it would be absolutely a great idea to fund I do not know if Kellyanne Conway is white person as you know to have it, but it is a great idea. And then when we talks about reintroducing exploration in the space with mass and putting bases on the moon and moving the Mars, I mean all of that stuff is really heady stuff, but he doesn't fund any of that. So the real issues that are important to Americans are kind of lost as he tweets and deflects because he under a lot of pressure. And it's not gonna get any easier for him.

KEILAR: It seems Josh that this is part of what we've seen as a systematic attempt to delegitimize this investigation, but from purely just a point of view of Donald Trump and what would work best for him as he does deal with the cc's of the special counsel reading down his neck. Is he better served, you know, taking on Andrew McCabe on Christmas Eve. Or is he better served by emphasizing the positive what he considers the positives obviously it's a very unpopular tax package, but this is something that Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans want people to see is a big success for them, which would he be better served doing?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the latter Brianna, I mean, you're absolutely right. This is not just Twitter literal as illustrative as that analogy is, it's really a coordinated campaign coming from the White House with media partners friendly members on Capitol Hill to muddy up the investigation to basically smear the reputations of hard-working, lifelong career of public service dedicated their last 40 years of law enforcement. And by sort of making associations that aren't really fair.

Now, you know, let's be clear, there's no evidence that Andrew McCabe did anything wrong. There is no evidence that James Baker did anything wrong. These are just sort of stories that the president watches on Fox News and then tweets about it, and then he goes backs with Fox News. And you create a situation where nobody can really have true confidence in the investigation, so that whenever it comes up with these results nobody knows what's what.

OK, now it should the president focus on a more positive message? Would that be better for him politically? Of course it would. But that's not the decision that is made at several stages, as president is not the decision that is made this week. And this is a reflection of sort of the just the sheer amount of attention that the president himself gives to this Russia investigation, he feels mistreated. He feels that it's unfair. He wants to think every opportunity to point out every accusation of bias, regardless of its validity and make it into a huge story, and that's exactly what he's doing.

KEILAR: And Brian, and to be fair as we've seen some of the things that Trump is treated, they're not correct --


KEILAR: When he's talking about donations, where they've come from for McCabe's wife who was running --

KARAM: I have an old record.

KEILAR: The timing where the money's from -- and he's just not being accurate about it. But do you want to weigh in.

KARAM: Well, what Josh was saying there is an important element to it in all of this again every time he does this is because there is something real to deal with that he does not want to deal with, but he is not appealing to those of rational and cogent thought, or those who are well educated in the issue. What he is appealing to are those who are not necessarily well educated on the issues, who were willing to -- to ignore some of the facts and that plays more to his base.

So everything that he is talking about when he tweets is to appeal to those who already believe in Donald Trump.

BASH: Yes -- no that's exactly right. And there is as Josh was talking about this echo chamber that is -- KARAM: Exactly.

BASH: -- so incredibly loud and real like -- like we've never seen between the president and -- and his colleagues on the Hill and Fox News. They're banking on the fact that we're going into a midterm election year and they're keeping the base engaged, and that that matters in off year election. And if the base is -- is depressed and the base doesn't go out, then, you know, the president is not technically on the ballot, but he is unofficially on the ballot, but the people who were gonna lose their seats are those in the and House and Senate.

KEILAR: I want to ask you Dana. With your expertise covering Congress as well, let's move on to talk about Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. He has been warning look this is going to be a tough year for Republicans. I do want to talk about his presidential ambitions, perhaps in a moment, but is he right -- is this perhaps going to be a slaughter in 2018?

[13:10:10] BASH: Unclear, unclear. I think the more immediate -- what he said is that that he is concerned about the fact that he looks at it Republicans and he sees the last gas like a dying party basically, because it is all old white guys at the effective what he said.

KARAM: It's exactly what he said.

BASH: That is exactly what he said.

KEILAR: But the spasms of the dying party.

BASH: Here you go.

KEILAR: As he put it.

BASH: Thank you. But the question is how does that manifests itself? In the short term unclear because people like Jeff Flake are never gonna win -- are they find a very difficult to win a conservative for a Republican primary against the conservative opponent, that's when the reasons he admits that he decided to retire and not seek reelection. So you have to deal with the intro Republican warfare before you get to the general election to see if there is going to be the slaughter that he warned about. It's really unclear.

KEILAR: Well, I want to get Joshua and real quick from -- from Florida. Yes go on.

ROGIN: Yes, I was going to say that, you know, if you look at the map, it's going to be really hard for the Democrats to turn either of these chambers a lot of gerrymandering in the House district, Democrats are defending a lot more seasoned Republicans in the Senate, especially in red and purple states. So as much as the polls may be accurate or inaccurate, if were predicting huge swings or even a turnover one of these chambers, I just mean uphill drive no matter what the popularity the president is come November. KARAM: I don't see -- yes I just don't see the turnover. This why I see don't a new leadership in the Democratic Party to go after it. But more to the point when you were saying about Jeff Flake. I just did a large profile on him and you look his voting record, he uses conservative as they come. But, you know, what is different about Jeff Flake, is he doesn't mind speaking his mind. He does have a backbone and he does believe in country --

BASH: And he's not angry about it.

KARAM: And he's not angry about it. Your absolutely right and he believes in country over party which is a very untenable position in the Republican Party these days because as you saw with taxes, it was all about the win, they had to have the win because they lost on healthcare. So in -- you know, in essence selling your soul to get that win is what the Republican Party has become about.

KEILAR: Do you think -- so he says he was asked this weekend about whether he would consider running which was the big speculation when he said look, I'm not -- I'm not going to run again in -- for the Senate and during the midterm. I don't rule anything out but it's not in my plans, OK. What you think?

KARAM: Well I -- when I asked him that question., he says a guy with the last name like Flake can only rise so far at national politics.

BASH: I mean and that's a very clever way of saying he can't win a Republican primary in Arizona, how he's going to win a Republican primary on the presidential level. I mean, that's the honest, unless he decides that he wants to run as an independent, but that's a big heavy lift.

KEILAR: All right Dana, Brian, Josh, thank you so much to all of you. Happy holidays joining me on this Merry Christmas. I do appreciate it.

And coming up this hour on Newsroom, Pope Francis delivers his Christmas message and speaks out against one of Presidents Trumps -- one of President Trumps' most significant decisions in office. Also tolerating the holidays while a loved one serves their country overseas. We're going to live to Kuwait to check in with service members.


[13:17:22] KEILAR: Check that out, a large swath of the U.S. celebrating a very white Christmas today. There's a lot of snow and ice that is blanketing the Northeast. Also, the Midwest places like New York and Boston could see at least four inches of snow. And there are similar scenes in the Pacific Northwest. The winter storm is creating hazardous travel conditions worries as well about downed power lines and we certainly don't like to hear about on a holiday day like today and CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking the winter weather alerts telling us what to expect.

So what you see there Allison? ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Some places already have a foot of snow on the ground, of those in the areas closest to the Great Lakes were there getting that lake affect enhancement. But the thing to consider is there still more snow on the way, and not just for those regions. But else really talk about the system now in the Pacific Northwest for more rain and snow is expected throughout the day today. But the big area, this is the Midwest into the Northeast. So we had two separate systems and that's allowing some of those snow showers to really put down some good amounts

We start out of the west, we've got the winter weather advisories, and some winter storm warnings off to the east. We had the same thing as well as some lake effect snow warnings and even a blizzard warning for areas of Maine, because you have those really strong gusty winds mixed with a really heavy snow that's coming down. And you can see that we've got very intense heavy bands here. And the gusty winds in Maine are not just for Maine. We've also had very strong winds from Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, a lot of interior New England dealing with wings around 30 to 50 miles per hour, with some of those wing gust.

But notice this, you see this training bands right here off of the Great Lakes, that what we're going to see some of our highest amount of snowfall totals. Some of those areas have already picked up over a foot of snow, and we could be looking at least an additional eight to 15 inches, possibly on top of what they've already had.

Most of the other areas, however, are likely only to get about an additional two to four inches. We talk about temperatures too, now wind is working not so much in folks favor when you talk about the temperature. These are the feels like temperatures outside. So you step outside right now in Albany, New York, it feels like its 18. It feels like it's 25 in New York. It feels like it's only seven degrees, in Cleveland, but if you think that feels called, go a little bit further north. Take a look at this Duluth, Minnesota, it feels like it is minus 33 right now, minus 24 in Rochester, minus 25 in Bismarck.

So again you have those really cold temperatures combined with the fact that you have the strong gusty winds to go with it. Those frigid temperatures are expected to stay so we have windchill watches and warnings. And in fact, to add some advisories from much of that same area.

[13:20:06] Because again the windchill is quote, but its partly due to the fact that the temperature itself is also really called. Minneapolis' high temperature today is expected to be the zero, that's it, that's all the warmer they're going to get. Chicago not much better a high of only 19 degrees, in New York about 36 today.

So let's a take a closer look at some specific cities that we have going on, New York, for example, being one of them now one of the things that we have to talk about is kind of the extended forecast for then. When we take a look at this, look 36 today in New York but it's going to get colder, we're talking a high only 24, by the time we get to Wednesday. So again as cold as it maybe, it's just going to keep getting colder as we go through the rest of the week, and it's not just New York. We look at Chicago, look at this. The next three days will barely be making it into double digits for those temperatures and again you're going to have to factor in the wind. It won't be nearly as strong in Chicago. Some other areas, but even a 10 mile per hour wind is enough to drop that feels like temperature back pretty good.

But here's the real winner in terms of who is going to be the coldest Minneapolis, look at the high temperature today is only forecast to be minus three, the high temperature on Sunday Brianna, only expected to be minus five and then Monday again, look at those temperatures. Again, just bitter cold out there. So that something you have to keep in mind that you're going to need to bundle up. If your going to plan on going out and enjoying your white Christmas.

KEILAR: Yes, bundle up or just stay inside and enjoy the white Christmas.

CHINCHAR: That was good. Yes.

KEILAR: Through the window. All right Allison Chinchar. Thanks so much. We'll be checking back in with you as you can tell us what's in your magics snow globe here in the coming hours. Thank you so much.


KEILAR: Pope Francis used his Christmas speech from the Vatican to deliver a message of global peace and unity. He prayed for a resolution to the Middle East conflict. He spoke up for the protection of immigrants and he called for an end to the violence in places like Syria and Ukraine.


POPE FRANCIS, VATICAN CITY (through translation): We see Jesus and children who together with their families suffer from the violence of the conflict in Ukraine. And its great humanitarian lead percussions. We pray that the Lord may soon grant peace for this dear country.


KEILAR: And CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen has more on the Popes very pointed comments about the political atmosphere around the world.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Hi there Brianna, Merry Christmas to you and yours on what has been a really gorgeous Monday here in Rome. You know from the very beginning, Pope Francis has understood himself as a peace pope. Someone who was trying to bring healing to the world's most troubled situations of heartache and conflict. And even on one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar, Christmas Day he didn't get himself the day off. Instead we hear him give a kind of hard-hitting review of the global situation, beginning with Jerusalem were President Trump's recent controversial decision to relocate the American Embassy has stoked anxiety, created fears of a wider conflict. He prayed for peace in Jerusalem and reiterated the Vatican's long-standing support for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Then he talked about Myanmar the Asian country that he visited in late November. He called for greater respect for the dignity of minorities there, though pointedly without using the word Rohingya, he also avoided that word when he was on the ground in Mynamar, in response to a plea from his own Cardinal there, who warned that it might inflame sentiment among hard-line Buddhist nationalists and end up making the situation worse.

Then the Pope mentioned Venezuela, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, a series of African nations. The Korean Peninsula and the fear is of a nuclear exchange there, basically any place the conflict is already underway, or might break out. So if you wanted a preview of the Popes to do list in terms of diplomacy and political engagement in 2018. That's pretty much what we got this Christmas day in Rome.

KEILAR: John Allen, thank you so much for that.

And before we go to break, let's take a quick look at how the British Royal family celebrated Christmas. Prince Harry's American fiancee Meghan Markel made an appearance at the family's church service, Prince William and the Duchess Kate Middleton were also there. Markel even got it brief shout out in the Queens televised Christmas message as she talked about her own seven decade marriage.


QUEEN ELIZABETH, BRITISH ROYALTY: Even Prince Philip has decided it's time to slow down a little. Having as the economic he put it done his bit. But I know he's support and unique sense of humor will remain as strong as ever as we enjoy spending time this Christmas with our family and look forward to welcoming new members into it next year.



[13:29:18] KEILAR: Russia's foreign minister says the U.S. should be the one to start talks with North Korea to stop a war from breaking out on the Korean Peninsula. And this is happening as North Korea's calling new UN sanctions act of war. The UN Security Council has just voted unanimously to put more restrictions on energy exports to North Korea and require North Koreans working abroad as they give hundreds of millions of dollars back to the regime to come home within two years.

We're back now is in political analyst Brian Karam and Josh Rogin out with us from Florida.

So Josh, as you look at this North Korea calling the sanctions an act of war. This is to be clear resolution and you can expound on this. It cuts exports of gasoline, diesel, other oil products by a total of 89%. This banned the export of industrial equipment, machinery, transportation vehicles, and then it tells countries who host the migrant workers from North Korea who pump 500 what million dollars back into the North Korean economy that they have to repatriate them within two years.

[13:30:23] That sounds pretty robust. But what kind of effect is it really going to have Josh?

ROGIN: Well first of all we should know that the North Koreans say everything is an act of war, but so this isn't unique, but this is a profoundly dangerous situation that's getting riskier and riskier every day. Now the sanctions themselves are only as good as their implementation and we've seen uneven implementation, especially by Russia and China, but also by other countries for many, many years. But overall sanctions are not it in and there a means doing it right, with the point of the sanctions is to raise the pressure on North Korea, so that Kim Jong-un changes his calculates and sits down at the negotiating table on terms that we can accept that hasn't happened.

So while we should praise the administration for being able to corral international sport around the sanctions, it doesn't seem that there's any level of sanctions that's going to make North Korea give up its nuclear weapons, so --

KEILAR: And Brian --


KEILAR: Yes, I was going to say Josh, Brian, it's totally -- go on Josh.

ROGIN: I've been saying, so, you know, at some point the president of the United States is going to have to come up with a scheme by which he considered America people were sitting down with North Korea and they're not to give up their nukes right away. He is there yet. So what we've got is a stalemate, and the sanctions are fine and well and good. But that stalemate in and of itself is extremely dangerous. And -- and until we've come up with a ways --

KARAM: And that's a 65 year, hope to stay away.


KEILAR: Yes, it's a decades long.


KARAM: Since the end of, you know, the Korean War, it's been a stalemate. And, you know, at some point time what do you do, instead of sanctions, maybe closer off Bill the Trump Tower and someone from McDonald's and maybe would be better off investing him. You don't know, I mean nothing that any president has done and his talk about flipping the switch and changing the game plan, but so far he's been ineffective and its and he's been following pretty much the same script as every other president.

So looking forward was he's going to do differently to bring to the table and Josh is right, he hasn't been able to do it and I don't think he is going to be able to was sanctions, although that we do see recently with a ratcheting down of some the sanctions and the rhetoric that's going on, people have been defecting -- I mean risking life and limb to get out of North Korea in -- in numbers that we haven't seen in a while. So it -- this is a bit wait-and-see. It is a dangerous situation.

KEILAR: It just seems Josh like -- I mean why would you -- it seems if you're the Kim regime, you are the incentive there is to keep plowing ahead in the direction that they're going, because they have had such considerable success launching ICBMs.

ROGIN: Well that's right, their consensus view amongst experts is that the Kim regime will only come to the table after they have establish the ability to hit the United States with a nuclear weapon on top of ICBM. It seems like there either or they're were almost there. So that raises the natural question, OK are we willing to sit down with them. If you listen to Secretary State Rex Tillerson, he says yes, he says all they have to do is stop testing for a couple of months and we'll sit down with him. We'll talk about the weather. It doesn't matter.

If you listen to the President of United States, he says the exact opposite thing. Now some people think they play good cop bad cop, that is Trump is the is -- yes some sort of madman theory, but like that only really works if you're doing it deliberately, OK. And f you're just have cast of the top of the administration, you're just sending mixed signals to your allies and adversaries alike. And I think that's what we have got. So in that environment where we can have talks and we definitely don't want war were headed towards inevitable escalation deterrence, containment, and arms race in Asia. That's not a great outcome either. But if your not going to be willing to talk and you can't go to war, that's where we are.

KARAM: Yes, that's pretty much it. And the -- the bottom line is, you do have Rex Tillerson saying one thing, the president another and as Josh pointed out.

KEILAR: Do you aware that they were at this point Brian?

KARAM: He almost surrender (ph), do they ever get together on anything. But the real -- I mean what you hear on the press room was Sarah Huckabee Sanders as we ask these questions is quite different from what we are out of the field from Tillerson. And the point being is -- is it a coordinated strategy -- strategy -- strategy or is it actually just fumbling about and it appears more and more every day as if it is it is incoherent, fumbling about and no concrete strategy to deal with the problem.

KEILAR: Indeed it is such a hard problem. We should also --

KARAM: 65 years.

KEILAR: Yes, you can't but to the point that were North Korea is at this point in time with their technology. This is this is a very difficult problem --

KARAM: Yes, absolutely. KEILAR: -- that they can be solved. All right Brian and Josh, thank you so much to both of you. A very Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

And up next, we're going live, we are going to visit with service members who are fighting to defeat ISIS.

[13:35:01] We'll be back in a moment.



TRUMP: Today and every day, we are incredibly thankful for you and for your families, your families have been tremendous always under appreciated. The military families. The greatest people on earth.


KEILAR: Well, that was President Trump wishing our troops overseas a Merry Christmas and thanking them for their service as they spend the holidays apart from their loved ones. And my next guest knows all too well what that is like Colonel Thomas Veale, he is the director of Public Affairs for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolved and he's joining me now from Kuwait.

So Colonel, first of all I want to thank you very much. This is a big sacrifice to be away from your family on -- on Christmas and for really for months on end. You're used to this as so many men and women in our in the armed services are. How much time do you think over the course of the last couple decades that you have been -- that how much time do you think you spent deployed?

COL. THOMAS VEALE, PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: I spend -- I would know how to quantify in terms of months but only put it this way, this is my second Christmas and New Year's out of three years that's I've been away, so.

KEILAR: Second two or the last three?

[13:40:06] VEALE: Yes, yes. This is a great way to say Merry Christmas to my loved ones though, so thank you for having me.

KEILAR: OK, and so this in the family for you right? You have two sons who are in the Army. I know that Luke is in Germany, he's with the first cavalry division that yes based out of Fort Hood that you served with. And also you have another son who is in flight school and I want to highlight because, he just had his -- he and his wife just had a baby and you have yet to meet the grandbaby right?

VEALE: That's right. My son Christian has wife Heide, they had young baby Carsinal Alexander Veale (ph) right around Thanksgiving. So, I got see pictures, that's about it. I got to hold Luke's new daughter Aurora right before I left, so that was a -- are the good thing.

KEILAR: That is good. But, you know, it just speaks to some of the moments of course that I -- I know you'll be home here in a few months, but it some of the moments that are so important that you're missing, what is -- what is that like for you? What is that like for your family?

VEALE: It's really hard, you know, in the beginning, I've been in uniform for about 24 and half years. So, it's getting a little bit easier, because the technology, you know, think like Skype and FaceTime make it a lot easier to connect. But at some ways in makes the harder, you know, seeing someone's face more regularly. But -- and as I was telling you during the break, you know, it doesn't get easier, but we're thankful for every opportunity to have to make it connect. 2 KEILAR: And I know that it makes the time that your at home with your love ones certainly that much sweeter when your with them. What have you been able to do for Christmas with the other men and women who are there with you in Kuwait?

VEALE: Well, we had office decorating contest, I think I send you some pictures of that, so --

KEILAR: We have it, yes.

VEALE: -- that was a little bit. Yes, a little bit for volatility while we're preparing for the holiday and, you know, the (INAUDIBLE) facilities lays out some really meals, and the mural director at -- you know, they throw a concert for us here today. And our troops up in Iraq, there's two locations in Iraq that had the U.S. so tour come through. And there's movies and things like that.

So, you know, we are our own family away from home. So we do our best to -- to celebrate the holiday together.

KEILAR: How is -- you know, how do your sons? How does your family handle -- I'm sure there you with 24 years in the military, they're used to it, but it also is still difficult. How did they -- how did they handle having you away?

VEALE: Well, you know, they're used to it. You know, is -- it was a fairly frequent for me to be gone while they're growing up and it's funny to know they both swore that they never join in the army, and here they are, they're in the army now. So, we do our best to keep in touch, you know, through computer means mostly and we spend as much time as possible when we're -- where in back state side.

So Luke and I were stationed to Fort Hood together which is great. Person is about a 12-hour drive away. So, that was also -- that's about as closeness you can get.

KEILAR: Yes. You heard -- I don't know if you were able to hear but President Trump did speak to the troops and he said that military families are "always under appreciated". I mean do you think that military families are under appreciated? Do you think it's -- that a lot of Americans don't necessarily understand because really so few Americans serve in this all volunteer military. You know, what are your thoughts on his description of that and how military families feel?

VEALE: Well, I think it's not the matter of under appreciated, but I don't think the average American fully understands what a military spouse goes through. You know, go to any post, you'll see a bumper sticker, it says no army wife or army spouse, hardest job in the army. It's absolutely true, until you've lived it, you know, try to coral (ph) three kids and groceries and dogs without the help of the spouse who's been deployed. You'll never fully understand what they go through.

You know, we pack up and we go we're on a mission. We have our little (ph) buddies with us. It's a lot -- it's a lot harder I think at times for the families back home. We truly appreciate their support.

KEILAR: Yes. And -- just seems very difficult all around. I'll tell you, this my first Christmas as a military spouse with my husband deployed. And I never did appreciate until now just how much families do go through. But I want to give you a chance just to say whatever you would like say before we let you go Colonel.

VEALE: Well, you know, first of all I'd like to thank the American people for their support, you know, for sending their sons and daughters out here to help us out this important mission. You know, at this point, we have frees 7.5 -- actually some .7 million Iraqis and Syrians, for three years, we're under ISIS control. We help them take back 98% of the land. And things are turning around, there's a lot of work to be done. ISIS is demonstrated, it's still a global threat and we're going to focus on security operations like policing and border control.

[13:45:04] But, you know, the outpouring of support from the American people has been phenomenal. I told your producer, I've never seen so many Christmas cookies in my life. So we truly appreciate that.

We also appreciate our coalition partners, we've got 70 in nations and four international organizations. Plus the Iraqis Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces and they're doing a lot of the heavy lifting for us and we truly appreciate what they're doing. And I like to point out and I think everyone knows this, you know, Mosul is celebrating its first Christmas in three years today, and we're proud to say we have little bit to do with that and setting other people free. So I just like to say Merry Christmas to everyone and hello and I missed all my loved ones and they're with me in my heart.

KEILAR: Well, Col. Thomas Veale, we do thank you and we certainly appreciate that you are spending your Christmas away and I know that your family misses you very much. Thank you so much for being with us.

VEALE: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Coming up, soaring markets a Bitcoin boom in a massive data breach that expose the personal information of 143 million Americans. We're going to look at the top money stories of 2017, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [13:50:31] KEILAR: 2017 is almost a wrap and one of the most remarkable stories of the year has been the soaring stock market and strong economy. CNN's Christine Romans and Richard Quest explained in their look back.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: Bit coin explodes.


QUEST: CEO's revolt.

ROMANS: And investors cheer.

QUEST: Here are the top seven money stories in 2017.

ROMANS: Number seven, Brick and Mortars retail apocalypse. A record 67 hundred plus locations shuttered in 2017. A stunning list of bankruptcies, more than 70,000 retail jobs lost, but online sales are soaring. Walmart's pivot to e-commerce pays off. Online sales sky rocketed. And Amazon the king of digital shopping saw its stock price cross a $1,000 dollars a share. Making CEO Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world.

Amazon has so much cash it actually bought a Brick and Mortar chain bringing us to our next story.

QUEST: Number six, mega mergers. Amazons $13 billion dollar purchase of Whole Foods. It was one of the splashiest deals of the year and in true Amazon style. The retails juggernaut immediately dropped prices. Verizon, yes, closed it's purchased of Yahoo and as the year came to an end CBS plans to buy Aetna it's an eye popping $69 billion. If approved it will rank as the largest health care merger in history.

It all relies on the regulators; will they sign up on these deals? Just before Thanksgiving the Justice Department sued to block AT&T's purchase of Time Warner and in company of CNN. And that's causing uncertainty for future deals and could put a chill on MNA next year.

ROMANS: Number five. The Bitcoin crave, the virtual currency started the year below a $1,000 dollars then a speculative frenzy took Bitcoin from $6,000 to $16,000 in less than a month. Driving it all an inspection at this speculative investment will some day be mainstream. And the rally sparking a get rich quick fever in retail investors. So is Bitcoin a bubble in made up internet money? Or a profound shift to a viable digital currency? Nobody knows for sure so buyer beware.

QUEST: And so to number four. Your data that's under attack. In September credit reporting agency Equifax disclosed a colossal bridge on a monumental scale. The data of 143 million Americans, nearly half the country have been exposed. Chief executive Richard Smith resigned although he still got a tongue lashing from law makers in the U. S.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Equifax did a terrible job of protecting our data. QUEST: The lesson for corporate American, hacks are a threat to your brand (ph). Prioritize cyber security or be prepared to pay the price.

ROMANS: Number three, chief executives bail on the Trump administration. The CEO president made a big show of bringing business leaders to the White House, but his hand picked job to manufacturing councils started to unravel and then eventually imploded. In January several high profile CEO's criticized Trumps travel ban. In June Teslas Elon Musk and Disney's Bob Iger both quit the group after the administration withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord. Then came Charlottesville, one CEO after the next resigned from the councils until president had no choice but to disband them all together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just in, two of the presidents CEO groups for jobs now totally gone, disbanding.

ROMANS: It was stunning reversal considering the euphoria among many business leaders following Trumps election.

QUEST: Number two, the most sweeping tax reform in decades. It will touch nearly every American citizen, and it's billed as a middle class tax cut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing -- believe me. Believe this is not good for me.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: The bigger relief goes to those who need it most.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The middle class are the biggest winners in the Senate tax plan.

[13:55:07] QUEST: The government's own analysis tells a different story. It finds the rich and corporations benefit the most of the cost of trillion dollars added to the deficit. Republicans insist tax cuts will ignite explosive economic growth benefiting everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The (ph) report is adopted without objection of motion to reconsider, it's laying upon the table.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump administration and the Republican Congress on the break of their first major legislative victory of 2017.

TRUMP: It's the largest tax cut in the history of our country, and reform but tax cut.

ROMANS: And number one, the Trump bump takes off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 20,000 it's an historic moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've gone right through 20, 21, 22,000 just another day at work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, we do have breaking news. Look at that number right there, 24,000.

ROMANS: It seems nothing could stop this rally. Not a growing nuclear threat from North Korea, not the Russia investigation, not the nomination of a new Federal Reserve chair. President Trump delights in praising the market's rise.

TRUMP: We have a stock market that has hit record high as 81 times since our election victory.

ROMANS: And he often helps the strong economy.

TRUMP: Total unemployment is now at a 17 year low; think about it, not bad.

QUEST: Every president takes credit for booming economy, but cheering on the stock market, that's risky. Just think about it, after all what goes up sometimes, not usually in the fall of some time might go down. And the second strongest bold market in history could be overdue for a serious pullback. So, the question now, will it happen in 2018? Or will the balls continue to run?


KEILAR: And coming up in the next hour of Newsroom, the devastation of hurricane Maria haunts the children of Puerto Rico this Christmas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kid yesterday asked me to bring back hi house the way it was before Maria.