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Truck Attempts to Block CNN View of Trump Golfing; Trump Scored Significant Foreign Policy Wins in 2017; Teens in Court After Killing Man with Sandbag Thrown in Underpass; Nippon Airlines Flight Returns to LAX Due to Unexpected Passenger. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 27, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: But I understand something different happened today. What was it?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: You know, our job down here is to cover the president to tell our viewers what is he doing on daily basis. Over the last few days we've gotten video of the president golfing at nearby golf club here in West Palm Beach. Break in the hedges. President doesn't really, and his staff doesn't tell us when he is golfing. We have taken to going outside the golf course and filming him has he golfs through break in hedges near the club. Today a big white box truck parked in front trying to obscure our shot of President Trump golfing. It is important to give video as the president does these things. And goes to something larger, tried to object score the fact that President Trump golfs, according to our count 8 seven times as president. This was a man who ran for president and criticized Barack Obama regularly golfing during his presidency. But that hasn't continued in the Trump presidency. Regularly visited the golf courses he's owned. And White House aides has been hesitant to say he's golfing. And the box truck is another example of the White House trying to obscure the fact he's golfing. We reached out to the White House, Secret Service and to the sheriff's officers down here to confirm was this their truck we haven't gotten many responses back so far -- Don?

LEMON: I believe the word is hypocrisy, Dan, because he criticized the former president so much. For those who may be criticizing CNN we have video of every president playing golf, President Bush, President Obama, as he said that's what we do, we are there to report and show what the president does every day. Look at that, there is President Obama playing golf. There is no difference. Imagine that. We got video of President Obama playing golf.


LEMON: And it's not just President Trump. It's not a conspiracy, Dan. I thought it was.

MERICA: It is worth noting that many presidents have golfed in the past. It is a favored sport of presidents.


LEMON: No one cares, Dan. (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Everyone, listen, we expect them to take vacations and blow off steam. But this former, this president, when he was a citizen, criticized the former president so much and now he is playing way more golf than the former president, and now trying to hide the fact from the American people. As I said, it's called hypocrisy.

Thank you, Dan. We appreciate it. Good luck. Next time, we may have to get taller cameras to get behind the box trucks.

MERICA: Thank you.

LEMON: Or are there cameras that can go through box trucks?

Next up, from bombing Syria earlier this year to the recent gains against ISIS in Iraq, my next guest says President Trump and his national security team have scored some foreign policy wins this year. We'll discuss that next.


[14:36:48] LEMON: The president has received a lot of criticism this year for his bluster and missteps on the global stage. But much of that criticism is centered on diplomacy and not necessarily strategy. According to a new CNN op-ed, he's scored some significant wins on foreign policy.

The author of that op-ed joins me now, none other than Peter Bergen. And also with us is national CNN analyst -- he is a CNN national security analyst. Also joining me, Elizabeth -- Elise Labott --


LEMON: I know.

LABOTT: Too much holiday eggnog.

LEMON: Girl, no it's not. I had the flu and still getting over it.

Elise Labott, CNN global correspondent.

I'm on medication and I'm a little loopy.

Thank you both. I hope you had a great Christmas.

Peter, let's start with you.

So take us through the list of Trump successes that he is maybe not given enough credit for.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think the first one, Don, you remember President Trump announced a new Afghanistan strategy before Congress, several more troops went, but most important part of that was saying the United States has a long-term commitment to Afghanistan. And not imposing any withdrawal dates as President Obama had done in the past. That send an important signal to the Afghan people and Afghanistan neighbors. The second, president has sort of said, look, I was responsible for the defeat of ISIS. That, of course, is over blown. But the fact is, if this took place on his watch, and two big reasons for that, one he changed were not under President Obama. One, the Trump administration allowed the Kurds to be armed, captured the capitol of ISIS and Syria. And two, they changed the way in which ground commanders could do operations without going high up the chain of command. Of course, I was in Iraq earlier this month, Don, and people I talked to in Baghdad the defeat of ISIS has made Iraq more secure. But the fact is, in Afghanistan, Iraq, against ISIS he scored some victories during his administration.


So, Elise, how much of it what Peter outlined red lines in Syria, fight against ISIS. Can the president claim wins as opposed to changes already set in motion by the Obama administration?

LABOTT: Well, red line in Syria, this is something President Trump did launch those strikes against Syrian air base after he laid out the red line that he criticized President Obama for letting Assad go over in terms of using chemical weapons against the Syrian people. And indeed, after he launched the strikes, doesn't mean the whole Syria policy is laid out, but they have not used chemical weapons since that strike. And I think that red line was important. I think, like Peter said, this change intact particulars, look, a lot of these strategies were under President Obama, but the change intact particulars, change in messages, is what helped President Trump, in terms of arming the Kurds and allowing commanders to have more authority on the ground. These strategies, the long-term goals weren't that different than President Obama, but the change interactions they were able to capitalize from President Obama. I want to point out from someone who wrote an interesting op-ed on why President Trump isn't getting some of the credit he deserves. And he talks about the funnel cloud and divisive rhetoric that drowns out any debate discussion of Trump's foreign policy and what might be a success. So this bluster might be self-defeating to getting the kind of credit he thinks he deserves, and sometimes does.

[14:40:54] LEMON: I have another question for Peter.

But, quickly, Elise, for you, even if the decision was made by national security team, it still happened under his watch, so he takes credit for it.

LABOTT: Yes, that's true. I mean, look, the president is the commander-in-chief. A lot of other times, you know, a lot of aides are given a little more credit. But a lot of these decisions are made by the commander-in-chief. So President Trump and all his like to have glory is it able to claim those successes by himself. But certainly, it's a whole cabinet, a whole national security team that helps him make these decisions.

I think it's a very fair point about droning out. Because a lot of times he steps on his own message.


LEMON: Instead tweeting about other things.

Peter, a recent CNN poll found more than six in 10 Americans think the U.S. military action against ISIS is going well. That is the most positive assessment since U.S. began airstrikes in 2014. But just 42 percent approve of Trump's handling of terror over all. So people are happy with ISIS fight. But not terrorism over all. Why is that?

BERGEN: Well, part of it is we have had successful terrorist attacks in the United States since Donald Trump assumed office. Not only from jihad terrorists, one struck in Manhattan with a vehicle killing eight people but also in Charlottesville, Virginia. So the fact is domestic terrorism continues to it be a problem. Donald Trump's response to that is travel ban, which I don't think really will have much effect, because the lethal terror attacks in the United States, whether coming from jihadist or other people with other motivations, people in the United States already, almost invariably American citizens or American legal residents. So that might help explain the disconnect. Is almost gone completely. But ISIS has migrated to virtual realm and continues to inspire people. And we have other forms of terrorist in the United States, including from left-wing terrorisms. Not far from the studio we are sitting, Representative Scalise was almost killed by an anti-Trump zealot attending a Republican baseball game. So political violence continues despite defeat of ISIS in the Middle East.

LEMON: Elise, how does the president's America First approach to foreign policy into the agenda going forward? What's good for America is good for the world?

LABOTT: Look, I think in terms of America first, it's what good for Americans in terms of the grade deals, I think the question is whether it's self-defeating for America itself. Look, President Trump pulling out of the TPP, that Asian trade agreement, was also to counter China's influence in the region. So I think in terms of that, it's not good for the United States. And it's not good for the world. I think some of these other aspects of what's good for America, I don't necessarily think, you know, that everybody would say that pulling out of the climate change agreement. Pulling out of these other trade agreements are good for America or the world. So I think sometimes when President Trump says America first, that's good for America. He might mean that it's good for a certain section, even his base. But some of these policies I think a lot of people feel are self- defeating, not only for the world but for America, which is what he says they are supposed to benefit.

[14:44:26] LEMON: Elise, Peter, thank you for your time. I appreciate that.

Up next, it was a stunning crime. A sandbag thrown in an interstate bridge, smashing a windshield, and killing a man below. Now four teenagers are facing murder charges. What happened during their court appearance today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Four Ohio teenagers are in serious trouble today. Now charged with murder after a sandbag thrown from an interstate overpass crashed through a windshield and struck a 22-year-old man in the head, who later died in from his injuries. The teens are only 13 and 14 years old.

CNN's Scott McLean joins me now.

All four suspects were in court today. What happened?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, they were in court today and they all denying the charges against them. This happened a little over a week ago. These charges, three of them are 14 years old, one 13, were felonies for badly injuring 22-year-old Marquise Byrd, but Byrd died from injuries on Thursday. So now the charges are for murder.

Byrd was in passenger seat of the car heading south on I-75 when a sandbag, apparently tossed from above came crashing through the windshield, according to the medical examiner's office, the cause of his death was blunt force trauma to his head and neck. Now the "Toledo Blade," a local paper, spoke to a cousin and said he was father of one-year old boy and he was engaged. And she has no sympathy for the boys. She would like to see them charged as adults, but the prosecutor won't do that because she says they don't have a criminal history or very little. Two have misdemeanors, two have no record at all. And under Ohio state law, Don, the 13-year-old could not be charged as adult regardless of the circumstances.

[14:50:24] LEMON: I understand they are back in court next month. What could happen at this hearing?

MCLEAN: Yes, so the next court date is January 4th and this is the star of the trial. So these teenagers are going to remain in juvenile jail until then. Because, in Ohio, no provision for bail for young offenders. So the maximum time they could serve in jail is up until they are 21 years old. But keep in mind, because this case is in juvenile court, the point of juvenile court or the justice system is not to throw the book at these kids. It is to rehabilitate them. So even if they were to be convicted, it is very possible that they will not serve out their entire sentence.

LEMON: All right. We'll be reporting it.

Scott McLean, thank you appreciate that.

MCLEAN: Thank you.

LEMON: Still ahead on CNN, the eight-hour flight to nowhere. Unauthorized passenger boards the jet bound for Tokyo and the crew finds out four hours into this flight and they have to make a U-turn back to Los Angeles.


[14:55:45] LEMON: It must be the worst U-turn ever. Four hours into what should have been a 11-hour flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo, the pilot of al Nippon Airways, flight 175, was forced to turn around when the crew discovered an unauthorized passenger on board.

Model Chrissy Teigen and her husband, musician, John Legend, were on board live-tweeting the whole time.


CHRISSY TEIGEN, MODEL: Thank you so much for taking me on this awesome vacation.

JOHN LEGEND, MUSICIAN: You're welcome.

TEIGEN: That dinner was so good.


LEMON: While Teigen writing, in part, "A flying first for me. Four hours in an 11-hour flight, we have to turn around because we have a passenger that isn't supposed to be on the plane."

It runs out, the mix up occurred because that unauthorized passenger ended up on his brother's flight who was also traveling to Tokyo. Both of the men have similar names. The al Nippon Airline is apologizing to more than 200 passengers on board. But stand by the pilot decision to turn back. Telling CNN, "We failed to deliver the customer service we strive for and the passengers expect from us. At the time during the flight, the pilot was delivered information about the discrepancy. Based on the available information in flight, he made the correct decision to return to LAX."

So let's see if he did or not.

Joining me now is Brian Kelly, founder of the Points Guy, a Web site that helps you get the most out of your air travel.

Brian, hello to you.

How does a person get, first of all, get on the wrong flight in the first place?

BRIAN KELLY, FOUNDER, POINTS GUY: You know, this is a security failure at so many different levels. This is a huge embarrassment for ANA but not that uncommon, because they actually code share with united and have flights leaving around the same time from L.A. to Tokyo so this person who thought he was on his brother's flight somehow scanned ticket for united and probably rejected it, but the gate agent just let them board. And usually they'll catch it by counting the number of people on a plane, but somehow they got that wrong too. Maybe someone was in the bathroom. So it was multiple failures. But it's not crazy to think that it's happened.

LEMON: Why did the plane have to turn around? Why not just let the passenger off once they landed in Tokyo?

KELLY: So it is Tokyo based airline, and I think they erred on the side of being too cautious. If they bring someone to japan and don't have a visa it could cause big problems for the airlines. There was no security risk from what I'm told even though the police did meet the aircraft. I think it was the pilot saying wow we messed up here and in the over abundance of caution let's go back to lax.

LEMON: So of course, investigators are checking this out. What happens now? I don't see anyone broke any laws?

KELLY: No, there were no laws broken. This is like, you know, I personally think he should have went to Tokyo. The guy was supposed to be on a partner airline, they could have waived to each other in the sky. But, yes, I mean what happens now is ANA probably $200,000 cost to them to huge around a huge jet. So, you know, I guess they were being overly cautious. But I don't think there was any actual security risk here.

LEMON: I hate long flights to begin with. I would be very upset. But sounds like the passengers handled the ordeal pretty well.


LEMON: We saw some Yoda jokes on Twitter.

KELLY: Yes. Her commentary were amazing. This happened to me last year flying from New York. It's usually due to mechanical error. It's kind of crazy this was due to just a security error with the airlines. So I'm sure al Nippon will be extra careful when checking boarding passes going forward.

LEMON: As I'm sure they are. And other airlines are learning from them as well.

Brian Kelly, the Points Guy, always a pleasure. Thank you. And happy holidays to you.

KELLY: Safe travels.

LEMON: Hour two here. I'm Don Lemon, in today for Brooke Baldwin.