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Trump On Mueller And The Media; Human Suffering Looms Larger Than Ever In 2018; Winners & Losers Of 2017's Public Relations Crises. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired December 29, 2017 - 01:00   ET


[01:00:00] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, an impromptu interview from the U.S. President -- what he thinks ahead for the Russia investigation and why he believes the state news media will soon be singing his praises.

Plus, 100 days after the Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, some lucky people are celebrating the return of electricity, while others wonder if they'll ever back in the light.

And blockbuster spinoffs and super sequels; a look at which movies you won't want to miss next year, and which ones you just might want to skip. Hello, thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay. This is NEWSROOM L.A.

Well, we begin with what many would consider surprising comments from U.S. President Donald Trump. He tells The New York Times, he believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller will treat him fairly in the Russia investigation. That puts him at odds with other Republicans who have criticized Mueller lately. Mr. Trump also told the paper: "The probe makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position. So, the sooner it's worked out, the better it is for the country."

The President also took a swipe at Jeff Sessions, saying the attorney general should not have recused himself from overseeing the probe. He implied he was unhappy that Sessions was not protecting him, and he repeated 16 times in the interview that the probe had uncovered no collusion with Russia.

So, plenty to talk about, Peter Matthews is a Political Analyst and he joins us now. Peter, welcome. 16 times he said, there was no collusion in this piece with The New York Times, which was an impromptu 30-minute sit-down, down in Florida. And it is quite remarkable for the sudden change in tenor and tone regarding the Russia investigation. And specifically, Bob Mueller who's the special counsel, which particularly notable when -- bear in mind GOP lawmakers have been calling for his ouster. The President said this, let us that for the viewers.

He said that "As far as Mueller, I think that he's going to be fair. There's been no collusion, but I think he's going to be fair." So, Peter, is it -- would it be wise to say Mueller can stop looking over his shoulder now, that his job is safe? PETER MATHEWS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You never know with

President Trump, because what he says and what he really means can be two different things a lot of time. And when say something, I would be as very, very careful, even more careful. And I think he's protesting too hard, I think. 16 times, that tells you something, doesn't it, to an extent? So, I think this is very, the beginning stages still. I mean, this investigation is going to go much further than what he thinks. He thought it'll be over by, what, December? January? He said that. Wishful thinking on his part. No, there seems to be a lot of leads coming up here, and a lot more to look at. And I think he should be -- President Trump should be concerned about things. And I say, he should leave the investigation alone and just do his job as President.

SESAY: One thing he did say in the interview was that you know, he didn't have a problem that the investigation was underway. And, you know, in the end, it would be a good thing, because his base is so much stronger for it. Is that true? Do we see that in the data that his base is stronger? Because some would argue that if you look at some parts of the data, it's softening.

MATHEWS: Yes. If you look at his base of those who voted for him, which would be 46 percent, he's down to 32 percent approval rating, Isha, 32 percent. So, he's actually lost part of that base. The most firm part of the base, of course, it's fighting and saying, digging in, and saying this is our President. And we don't believe anything about the fake news and all that. So, he's right about that base, but the base is shrugged to it, it doesn't even really give him a real foundation for the next election, or anything else.

SESAY: And it would appear from his actions and words, that his focus is not on expanding that number.

MATHEWS: Not at all. Unlike what most Presidents do, when they come in. If they come in with 43 percent like Bill Clinton first did. He expanded it to 49 percent by reaching out to other groups -- Republican women in the suburbs. President Trump has been doing that all along, but that's not his modus operandi. He just doubles down, and he says, I think he's also very defensive about having lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

SESAY: That's right. Because that comes up again this --

MATHEWS: Absolutely.

SESAY: I mean, litigate, if you will, the electoral --

MATHEWS: Constantly. And then he says it's because the electoral college, he played it really smart, he knows how to handle it, and that's all counts. And also, he was very concerned about the fact that the electoral vole, you know, is the only that counts, but he didn't get the popular vote because -- what that means is that he did not get a mandate. And he's already worried and also angry about the media question his legitimacy if there was Russian interference -- which that's the other part we're going to talk about.

SESAY: Which is the other part.


SESAY: And he seems to lay the blame squarely for this Russia investigation at the doorstep of the attorney general.

MATHEWS: Yes, Jeff Sessions.

SESAY: Poor Jeff Sessions, because he still seems to be in the doghouse.


SESAY: And the President, you know, goes as far as to compare the relationship that President Obama had with his attorney general. Let's read what he said on that front. He said, "Holder protected President Obama, totally protected him. When you look at the IRS scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all the tremendous, ah, real problems they had, not made up problems like Russian collision, these were real problems. Holder protected the President and I have great respect for that." Your take?

[01:05:22] MATHEWS: Very telling. You can see Hawaii just haste the fact that Jeff Sessions had some integrity and recused himself. He thinks that loyalty is above everything else. Loyalty, to him, is above the constitution, is above the rule of law. And this is very important, Isha, for democracy, the rule of law says that everyone -- no one -- I'm sorry, no one is above the law, including the President. He thinks that he is sometimes, he' thinks he's above the law. When he said, for example, I'm in charge of this Justice Department -- I'm paraphrasing him.


MATHEWS: And therefore, I can decide to do what I want to do about it, but I'm just being nice and kind, I want to be fair. So, that's why I'm holding back on it. But, I can do what I want to --

SESAY: Which is not --

MATHEWS: Which is not the way democracy should work and does work at all.


MATHEWS: So, this is very dangerous.

SESAY: And speaking of which, he's already banking on another four years and accountable on the media being in his corner. Let's put this quote out from the piece. He says, "Another reason that I'm going to win another four years is because, newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I'm not there. Because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, the New York Times will, will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So, they basically have to let me win, and eventually, probably, six months before the election, they'll be loving me, because they're saying please, please don't lose Donald Trump." To me, it is fascinating. In other words, it tells about the President's view of the presidency still being something that came to a T.V. show with ratings, and him being the start that, you know, no one wants to lose.

MATHEWS: He surely seems to be looking at it that way, the way he's behaving and he's been behaving. But I think it's not only bombastic but absurd, what he just said. I mean, how could he say that The New York Times wouldn't be around? Who's been around for hundreds of years before him and will continue to be around. It's a major newspaper. It's got a lot of credibility. He thinks that he's the only one keeping it afloat? That's absolutely amazing.

SESAY: There is a point where we can -- we'd acknowledge that he has been boon for the media.

MATHEWS: Of course, for all the media.

SESAY: But it's interesting that point, "they'll just let me win because they need me."

MATHEWS: That's -- he doesn't even understand. Look, that's very, very amazingly put, because you're looking at the Democratic process and not even counting at all. It's all about me. You know, let me win because they need to me to be out there, so I can get them to sell more newspapers. That's not what democracy is about. It's about a competition of ideas, of different sets of ideas. He should be debating ideas, and not just going after people on ad hominem basis, tweeting against people, vilifying them. He's really going to get back to being President in my view.

SESAY: He also went after China in this interview. China, of course, was on his mind earlier in the day when he put out that tweet about, what he said was China helping Pyongyang, North Korea, contravene U.N. sanctions by transferring oil. And this is what he said on China in The New York Times piece: "China is hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft of China because the only thing more important to me than trade, is war," referencing the tensions with North Korea. I guess my question to you is do you feel we are at the point where the relationship between the U.S. and China is about to turn? And it's about to get rockier?

MATHEWS: It very well could, because looks like Trump is reaching the end of his rope. He kept saying that China will fix this problem for us, I'll work with them, I like President Xi and all this personal relationship. Now, he's seeing that China has its own national interest, he doesn't want a whole flood of refugees coming from North Korea if it actually ended up creating policies that would actually make North Korea fall. So, China wants to go in a measured way.

I think President Trump should be a lot more measured, and should actually look to negotiate with North Korea. Let Rex Tillerson take the lead. He's been doing a good job about trying to open diplomatic channels and keeping them open. Trump says, no need for diplomacy, we know how to fix this problem. And I think he's misreading the situation quite a bit, I'm not sure he knows the history of North Korea. Does he know the United States have never signed a peace treaty with North Korea? That's part of the whole problem. He should take positive steps in that regard.

SESAY: Well, some would say that Rex Tillerson is in that doghouse with Jeff Sessions. So, I'm not sure. It's not fun, that is what they would say. Peter Matthews, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

MATHEWS: Thank you. My pleasure.

SESAY: Well, that early morning tweet on China raised eyebrows early on Thursday. Mr. Trump wrote this: "Caught red-handed. Very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen." Well, our Alexandra Field is in Beijing and join us now. So, Alexandra, some are viewing the President's tweet as a warning to China. What's been the response from Beijing to the President's claim, which had already appeared in South Korean media before Mr. Trump wrote that tweet?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, officials here in Beijing have denied the claims. This is something that you have seen play out over the course of the year. Nonstop provocations from Pyongyang. The international community has responded by leveling an unprecedented number of sanctions, really, against North Korea. Aimed at targeting revenue that fuels that rogue regime aimed at cutting off the oil supply, which is so badly needed for economy in North Korea and also for the military.

[01:10:12] So, you're seeing President Trump now with this tweet really go after China. This follows on a trend that he has continued to play out on Twitter through the course of the year, in which he has said that China hasn't done enough. At the same time, we know that China is key for the Trump administration when it comes to reining in North Korea. And the President is relying heavily on his personal relationship with President Xi Jinping here in China in order to get the job done when it comes to North Korea.

But the allegations made in this tweet that China has been caught red- handed were, of course, based on these South Korean media reports which claimed to have satellite images that showed the transfer of oil from Chinese ships to North Korea vessels. Again, this is something that officials in Beijing have continued to deny. But State Department officials say they're aware that vessels are skirting U.N. sanctions by making illegal transfers, and they say that they evidence that some of the vessels involved in those transfers come from a number of different countries, including China. Isha.

SESAY: Alexandra Field joining us there from Beijing. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, more to Puerto Rico, spent Christmas in the dark. It's been 100 days since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, and many still don't have electricity. Our CNN's Leila Santiago reports that's unlikely to change anytime soon.


a flip of a switch. Finally, a hint of what life was like before Hurricane Maria. After more than three months without power, Ida is one of the lucky few who just got power.

Hot water. She's able to take a hot shower. That's what she's excited about, a hot shower.

Yabucoa in Southeastern Puerto Rico now has a massive generator to power its substations. It's enough to power part of the town -- not a permanent solution, not enough to turn the lights back on for all 38,000 people. Yabucoa has always been known for its agriculture. Now, it's known area. Where Hurricane Maria came in with 155-mile- per-hour wind, knocking out electricity immediately. The mayor says he doesn't know when power will be restored. So, he believes, they were the first to deal with Maria and could be the last. Mayor Rafael Surillo was born and raised in these mountains near the coast. He calls Maria a monster that destroyed them.


SANTIAGO: He is saying, the urban area, could get power very soon. But this area, the mountainous area, he says it could be, summer before they see it. Which, take note, summer is when the hurricane season begins. Miles away from town, high up in the mountains where the power lines are harder to fix, Cheryl de Jesus has little hope her home will be back to normal soon. Maria rushed in through the windows and doors, and it ruined more than furniture; it ruined her life. For now, new paint is all she can afford to fix any of it.


SANTIAGO: She has no idea when she'll get power back.


SANTIAGO: I'm asking her if she thinks soon.

Without power, Cheryl and her children lost more than the lights.


SANTIAGO: Without power, they don't have water.

The mayor says, the problem constant bureaucratic delays.

For a month they had power workers here, but not enough materials to actually carry out the work.

Mayor Surillo calls this a start. He says they need more generators, power tools, cables. The U.S. Army corps of engineers submit a shortage of supplies sending from other natural disasters is part of the reason it took so long to get power back to people like Ida.


SANTIAGO: She doesn't have to wash clothes by hand anymore.

Back in town, Ida will spend tonight in a home overjoyed. Power is the best Christmas gift they could ask for. But for the families up in the mounts, the sun sets on another night as they awake for their gift to arrive. Leila Santiago, CNN, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.


[01:14:39] SESAY: 100 days. Well, 2017 is shaping up as one of the most in recent memory for human suffering. And next year does not bode well for millions of people in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The heartbreaking details when we return.


SESAY: Well, as the world prepares to celebrate the new year, millions of people around the globe have nothing to cheer about. War, corruption, atrocities, famine and natural disasters made 2017 an extremely difficult time, and the new year promise no better. International aid agencies expect 2018 will be one of the most challenging ever. The United Nations estimates almost 136 million people, mostly in Africa and the Middle East are in dire need of assistance. Aid agencies believe they can reach and help about 2/3 of them, that's about 90 million people -- that's if enough money can be raised. About $22 billion is required. Sadly, only half that amount was raised last year. Two of the most critical places are the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

For more, I'm joined by Sasha Lezhnev in Washington, and Brian Adeba in Ontario, Canada. Both men are with the Enough Project, the human rights organization, working to prevent genocide and other mass atrocities in Africa's deadliest conflict zone. Sasha, welcome, if I could start with you. I want to start with the situation in the DRC which you have long focused on. Conflict is nothing new to this huge country, so how is this moment in time different?

SASHA LEZHNEV, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF POLICY, ENOUGH PROJECT: Well, displacement is at an all-time high in Congo, 4.1 million people displaced now. I think that the new dynamics in Congo or that there is new conflict in the Kasai region, which had not been previously -- wasn't mainly in Eastern Congo. But I think the new interesting twist in Congo is that is a mass movement for, Democratic change to try to change the situation in Congo.

And so, what you have now is a many different youth activists across the country who are fed up with war and corruption in Congo, and the displacement, and the violence, and the billions of dollars that have been stolen trying to get the President out, and have new leadership in Congo. However, the President has delayed elections once again. And, so -- the international community needs to do much more to really get a proper democratic transition on track so that the conflicts that are metastasizing across Congo can finally be resolved, and corruption be brought to a halt as well.

SESAY: All right. So, I want to tackle violence itself and the corruption that's felt with the violence. Do you have a sense of who is perpetrating the violence? By that, I mean, you know, how much of this is, non-state actor, rebel groups, militias, versus state actors, you know, the army, security forces? I mean, what's your sense to who's actually carrying out the violence, the rapes, the losing, the killings?

[01:20:03] LEZHNEV: It's really a war on all sides against civilians. So, by all accounts from local human rights actors and U.N. investigators, in fact, the Congolese Army is one of the chief perpetrators of abuses against civilians, was a Congolese local parliamentarian who was found guilty of rapes against children last month. There was Congolese Army officer who was financing and aiding and abetting the ADF rebels.

There was another Congolese general who was distributing arms and ammunition to armed poachers and other armed groups. Of course, there are other armed groups out there that are also committing abuses. So, the FDLR, the remnants of the Rwandan genocidaires are still active, the ADF, the Allied Democratic Forces, the Ugandan organization is also active, and the (INAUDIBLE), and SAPU, and CASAI. But this combination really victimizes civilians the most.

And that's why you have right now, you know, intense numbers of children dying, you have what could be world's worst humanitarian crisis in 2018. Right now, there are 49,000 cases of cholera that've just broken out. And so, there's a lot more help that's needed. But more importantly, to resolve the structural problems of conflict.

SESAY: Yes. And this conflict, you said, it's being fueled by a corrupt system of banking and gold. Can you explain that further?

LEZHNEV: Yes. Well, in fact, the reason that the -- that conflict and corruption continue in Congo is that the President, and his family, and business partners are profiting from the situation -- something that we at the Enough Project have termed a "violent kleptocracy". So, that, in fact, an investigative team the Congo research group found last year that the President and his family control 80 companies.

Last month, the Carter Center released a report saying that the state- owned mining company lost 750 -- suddenly lost $750 million over the last four years. We ourselves found that the same company mysteriously lost 95 million last year. The list goes on. There's $400 million worth of gold that's stolen every year. And so, there are various armed groups that make money off of that. And, of course, their government contract for copper, cobalt diamonds, and gold that are fueling these, this crisis in large part.

SESAY: It's staggering figures that you just shared with our viewers there. Sasha, do stay with us. I want to bring in Brian now. This brings us to the situation in South Sudan -- world's youngest country, which has been in the grips of violence for the last three years. What is happening there on the ground is devastating to behold. And once again, it's being fueled by resources and corruption, correct?

BRIAN ADEBA, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF POLICY, SUDAN AND HORN OF AFRICA: That's correct. I mean, we at the Enough Project have investigated corruption within the system in South Sudan. We found it to be very prolific, and it goes to the highest level of individuals in government. These individuals have associates and contacts, and cross-border links that perpetuate these corruptions and allows the looting of financial resources from Sudan -- from South Sudan, and packing these resources in the neighboring country. So, it's a prolific gain and we have a system similar to what Sasha described in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We do have hypocrisy, a violent hypocrisy in South Sudan at the moment and that is part of the reason that there is this fighting going on in South Sudan.

SESAY: But South Sudan, you know, just to let our viewers know, had agreed on a cease-fire, negotiated a cease-fire that was set to go into effect on Christmas, only for a day or so later violence did break out once again, and for South Sudanese Military to wind up dead. I mean, with, with, with money on the table, with wealth on the table, what is the impetus on both sides to actually sit down and agreed to a lasting deal?

ADEBA: Well, the impetus here, of course, is that you know, without any external intervention, any external pressure, the (INAUDIBLE) of the conflict deflect their own devices unlikely to actually reach a deal. And we commend, of course, steps taken by the international community, notably, the United States to escalate financial pressures. Because when we talk about what's happening in South Sudan, we really need together the incentive structure that is in existence, that is perpetuating this war. And financial pressures on the individuals and the associates that are -- and the associates that are involved in this corruption, essential, to, to change the change calculus of the way that they think.

[01:25:18] SESAY: And I just want to get a sense, build a sense for viewers of the humanitarian toll, the cost of all this to the citizenry there in South Sudan. I mean, once again, we're talking about a grave humanitarian crisis, which points in 2017, slipped into famine by some accounts. I mean, talk to us about the cost to lives there in South Sudan of this endless fighting for the past three years.

ADEBA: Well, millions have been displaced. There's a total of about four million displaced, around two million internally displaced within the country. These people leaving very precarious living condition in what they call IDP Camps within the country -- so this is lacking. The United Nations is struggling to provide the resources to sustain these people. The disease is rampant. There's lack of housing. There's lack of education for kids. And, and any other ill-thoughts, you know, any other abnormalities that you can think of exist in these camps.

And on across the borders, millions have been displaced into refugee camps in Uganda, Ethiopia, in neighboring countries, and in the Congo. And they're leading the same precarious conditions that their counterparts inside the country face. So, the humanitarian crisis here is very huge, and there's no death toll right now. And there's no exact figure on how many people have died in this conflict. And yet, when you talk to humanitarian workers, the I.D., the picture that you get is one -- of a huge number of people killed. SESAY: Yes. The situation both in DRC and South Sudan requires I

would say a great amount of urgency in terms of international responses, no doubt about that. Sasha Lezhnev and Brian Adeba, thank you so much. We really appreciate the insight and analysis. Thank you.

LEZHNEV: Thanks so much for having us, Isha.

SESAY: Well, next in NEWSROOM L.A., a turbulent year shaped by the political and social change. We'll look back at defining moments of 2017. Plus, what do you do when your brand is dragged through the mud because of negative news? We'll review the winners and losers of 2017's public relations nightmares.


[01:30:09] SESAY: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour: Donald Trump says he thinks Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be fair in the Russia investigation. The U.S. President spoke with the New York Times on Thursday at this resort in Florida. During the 30-minute interview, Mr. Trump repeated 16 times that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.

International football legend George Weah has won a runoff election for the Liberian presidency, decidedly beating Vice President Joseph Boakai. When Weah takes office, the country will look to have its first democratic transition since 1944.

Well, with 2018 just around the corner, we take this time to reflect on the past 12 months. From Donald Trump's inauguration, to the viral Me Too Campaign against sexual misconduct. This year has been defined by controversies, conflicts, and chaos. Phil Black looks back at the events that shaped 2017.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Terrorism, conflict, natural disasters. 2017 was a turbulent year. Dominated by politics, it saw a U.S. President unlike any we've seen before.


BLACK: Donald Trump became known for his controversies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This controversial ban.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Calling the Russia investigation a witch-hunt.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: -- claiming both sides for the violence in Charlottesville.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another controversial tweet.

BLACK: Name-calling.

TRUMP: Rocketman. They call her Pocahontas.

BLACK: And internal battles.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sean Spicer is stepping down.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is out.

BLACK: But through all the chaos, he reshaped the White House and the world's perception of America. Across the Pacific, North Korea stepped up its rhetoric and its nuclear missile testing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: North Korea claimed it successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile. Claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is begging for war.

BLACK: In Iraq and Syria, ISIS was driven from key cities and villages.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mosul finally liberated from ISIS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raqqa fully-liberated.

BLACK: And a slew of terror attacks hit at the heart of cities around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were hiding upstairs and there's just gunshots going everywhere.

BLACK: The U.K. suffered the highest number off attacks since the IRA bombings in 1992. And New York City experienced its deadliest terror event since 9/11.

Myanmar, Yemen, saw some of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in decades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yemen is on the brink of collapse.

BLACK: Sarin gas was used against the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun.

TRUMP: That crosses many, many lines, beyond the red line.

BLACK: America reacted, launching its first military strike against the Syrian regime since the civil war began. Back at home, the U.S. suffered some of the deadliest mass shootings in its modern history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody was panicking, of course, girls screaming, people fainting on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just opens the door and we just keep hearing the gunshots.

BLACK: Across the globe, separatist movements push to independence, new leaders re-elected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: France's youngest President --

BLACK: Some gained more power than ever.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Seismic shift in Turkish politics.

BLACK: And others exited after ruling for decades. 2017 also experienced a mind-bending litany of natural disasters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my neighborhood in flames.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel so panicked.

BLACK: An urban fire raged through a London building, bringing death and destruction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can hear people screaming, help me. My baby, help me.

BLACK: Yet amidst the chaos, people spoke out against sexual harassment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women coming out in their millions with the #MeToo.

BLACK: A CNN report exposed slave auctions in Libya sparking outrage around the world and prompting investigations.

Away from the darkness, there was some light. Astronomers found new planets, Australia voted yes to same-sex marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For love, for equality, for respect.

BLACK: An epic mix-up at the Oscars went viral.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: "La La Land" was announced as the best picture winner, but it wasn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Moonlight was the actual winner.

BLACK: A royal wedding was confirmed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So sweet and natural and very romantic.

BLACK: And America got to see its first nationwide solar eclipse in 99 years.


SESAY: It's been an interesting year to say the least for some of America's biggest brands. Some found themselves at the center of scandals and controversy while others were praised being conscientious. So, how should companies, organizations, individuals manage a crisis in this digital age? Joining us now to discuss the worst and best communication responses of 2017 is Jim Haggerty. He's the President and CEO of PRCG, a strategic communications consulting firm and is also author of the book, "Chief Crisis Officer: Structure and Leadership for Effective communications response. Jim, welcome, good to have you with us.

JAMES HAGGERTY, PRESIDENT & CEO, PRCG: Thank you, Isha, it's great to be here.

[01:35:00] SESAY: So, managing crises is what you do for a living. And you've compiled a list of the five worst and best handled crises of 2017. Before we get into the weed so to speak, talk to me about the criteria you kept in mind, as you cataloged the winners and losers?

HAGGERTY: Well, we have a software product, CrisisResponsePro, and through that we analyze virtually every crisis through the course of the year. We have more than 12,000 statements that we analyze. And from that, we pull a list of the best and as importantly a list for the worst.

SESAY: So, I want to start with the worst. And, you know, you chose five for each side. And you have Harvey Weinstein topping the list for the worst. I mean -- I mean, I think before you even give us your take, I think we all can agree the public statement that he first put out. It was once the New York Times piece, was probably exhibit A in how not to respond to a crisis. I want to remind our viewers, a part of what it said, it was long, it was rambling, he misquoted, Jay-Z and he also said this. "I'm going to need a place to channel that anger so I have decided that I'm going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party." What stood out for you in terms of this handling?

HAGGERTY: Not great. Yes, not great. And it's obviously the ramblings of a man who didn't know the trouble he was in, I think. And you know, it -- the Weinstein saga for both the company and the individual, is a perfect example of a company or a person trying to kill a story rather than handle it. And I think in the -- before social media, you could kill a story, but now you certainly can't.

SESAY: And we're going to talk about social media. I want to get to number two on your list. You have the dragging of a passenger of that United Airlines flight. And what struck me here is that, this is a corporation, it's an entity that has its own in-house P.R. I mean, it's huge, it's got the money. How'd you get something so wrong?

HAGGERTY: Yes. And that's amazing. And a lot of companies you find, they get it wrong in their core area. You know, United Airlines says one thing, it moves passengers from point A to point B. And what happened in this case was they just -- they fell back on the lawyers early on. And that's the -- one of the defining criteria of companies that make our worst list, is that you fine the lawyers control the response through the first day or couple days or week until things start going really poorly. And then, cooler heads prevail.

SESAY: And to that point, let's remind our viewers of the first statement that they put out which was attributed to a spokesperson, said this, "Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily, and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbooked situation."

You know, what also shocked me because we covered this story extensively as you know when it -- when it took place, is how people misjudged the widespread use of cell phones, basically. That people filming things all the time, everywhere. And you have to be wary of the fact that there are pictures to back up the crises.

HAGGERTY: And what you find is that people at the top of these companies, you know, they're in their 50s and 60s, or beyond, and they don't understand how pervasive smartphones are in our society today. And so, they tend to make mistakes like you saw in the United Airlines case.

SESAY: Topping your list for the five best is corporate America's response to the Trump administration's travel ban. I mean, here was a crisis that melding brand identity with politics. And I would say, as layman, the potential pitfalls were plenty and the stakes were high.

HAGGERTY: Yes. And it's the first time we've ever put a category of response on our list as the opposed to just a company. And the reason is, virtually, every major corporation handled it well. And I think the reason is they had time to prepare and they had time to plan. Because well before the inauguration, we knew that President Trump was going to go after these folks. And so, they came back very strongly, very affirmatively. And most importantly, very quickly with the ideal response.

SESAY: And also something that I know you've picked up on is that they were united.

HAGGERTY: Yes, yes, that's absolutely the case. And I think that they -- it's not as if they all sat in a room and figured it out. It's that each of these companies were prepared. And every crisis we see, the companies that are prepared wind up on our best list, the companies that are not, well, they're going to wind up on the worst.

SESAY: Making to number two on your list of best handled if you will, the Academy Awards mixup with the wrong envelope being handed to the presenters which had all of us open-mouthed. What's your takeaway from how that was handled?

[01:40:00] HAGGERTY: Well, it's another example of a company that got out in front of the crisis rather than sticking their head in the sand and hoping it would go away. I mean, they were out with, social media, they were out with messages, almost immediately apologizing and saying that they will try to do better. And guess what, they'll be handing out the envelope at this year's Academy Awards as well.

SESAY: Yes. So, a job well done. You know, to pick up on the social media point, that's come up several times, I mean, how much does it complicate your job today? How much does it complicate the publicization of the crisis, the controversy, and the construction of the response? HAGGERTY: Well, it makes everything quicker. And the reason we got into technology with CrisisResponsePro is because we need to respond quicker for our clients. And our clients need to respond quicker. Because if you're not responding at the speed of social media, it's like pouring gasoline on whatever event you're facing.

SESAY: We shall be watching. And Jim Haggerty, we really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

HAGGERTY: Yes, it's my pleasure. Happy to be here.

SESAY: Well, 2017 was a tumultuous year in American politics, and that was reflected at every level of society including the music world. How artists responded next.


SESAY: Hello, everyone. A mix of artists brought back protest music and political performance art in 2017. And many of them took aim at the policies and practices of U.S. President Donald Trump. Here's a clip from our CNN special, "MUSIC THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE."


EMINEM, RAPPER: Yes, sick tan. That's why he wants us to disband because he cannot withstand the fact we're not afraid of Trump (AUDIO GAP) walking on eggshells. I came to stomp, that's why he keeps screaming draining the swamp because he's in quicksand.


SESAY: Eminem, just one of many rappers on the attack. Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, Chuck D, and more are making their voices heard.


CHUCK D, RAPPER, PROPHETS OF RAGE: We didn't wish for this scenario to be this F'd up or this messed up just so we could come out with an album of songs. It's like -- that's ridiculous. You want the world to be better place. Well, answer to it. We would have found 12 topics anyway.


SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) Prophets of Rage formed as a direct response to the Trump campaign. Combining to confront in the words of guitarist, Tom Morello, a mountain of election year B.S.


TOM MORELLO, GUITARIST, PROPHETS OF RAGE: One of the reasons we formed this band was to present sort of alternative ideas of forging a future -- a more decent and humane planet outside of the acceptable norms, and to really try to instill the idea of a people's movement that was independent of political parties and their financial constraints. [01:45:11] JACK JACKSON, MUSICIAN: Even when there's something that might anger you -- I mean, the music -- I'm not trying to write an anti-Trump song. I've heard people call it that. It's maybe anti a few of his ideas.

SESAY: Mellow melody maker, Jack Johnson, got a little political in 2017. He brought his guitar and a message to CNN.

JACKSON: I don't care for your paranoia. Us against them, fearful kind of walks. I don't care for your careless, me first, give me, give me appetite at all

I try not to get angry, I try to have joyful participation. It's a -- Joseph Campbell, one of my favorite writers, he always talks about, you know, if you're going to participate, do it joyfully and that's just the only way you should do it. And so, to me, it's an idea of, you know, walls that divide us, that's not a good thing. So, it's more about being proactive on how do you include people.

SESAY: Legendary rocker Roger Waters knows a lot about wars. He's not fond of Trump's and is back on tour with a new take of Pink Floyd's classic track, 'Pigs.'

ROGER WATERS, SINGER: This is a very, very dangerous pig, Donald Trump. And the fact that he hasn't been laughed out of office by an electorate, just shows how powerful the propaganda machines operate are.

SESAY: Former Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean chose not to pick a political side. He dusted off his song, "Mr. President," and gave it a makeover.

WYCLEF JEAN, SINGER: Only love will get us back. One heart, one mind, one soul if I was President. I'd call Trump on Friday, Hillary on Saturday, Bernie on Sunday, then on Monday everybody goes back to work

As an artist, it's important that we understand that we don't approach this on an emotional level but on -- but on level of policy where it's going to matter. The video actually took a shot at everyone.


JEAN: I took a shot at Hillary, Bernie, Trump in the sense of humor. My concern is really just a bipartisan one. It's like at the end of the day, if we don't find a middle ground, then we're going to be in trouble.

CNN International. Yes. Wyclef Jean (INAUDIBLE) talking, if I was President.

SESAY: Be sure to catch our special, "MUSIC THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE" on CNN. It will be airing this Saturday 6:00 a.m. if you're in London and 2:00 p.m. if you're in Hong Kong. Well, next on NEWSROOM L.A., grab some popcorn and we'll head to the box office, reel us back at the highs and lows of 2017. And a sneak peak of what's to come in the year ahead.


[01:49:59] SESAY: Well, Hollywood is looking ahead to 2018. It was the new crop of big budget science fiction action and animated films. But as our Sara Sidner reports, many of the new movies will seem very familiar.


SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The movies in 2018 might sound a bit like the 90s. "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" will roar into theaters in June, starring Chris Pratt as the snarky hero, and Jeff Goldblum reprises his role from the original Jurassic Park. The film joins a flurry of blockbuster spinoffs and sequels. The Star Wars franchise will release "Solo" this summer.

RON HOWARD, MOVIE DIRECTOR: Can we even say the name of the movie? I'll see you next year.

SIDNER: That's director Ron Howard. The film is part of Disney's strategy to appease voracious "Star Wars" year after year. Marvel Studio will release a new "Avengers" film and the "Blank Panther" will get his own spinoff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're yet to decide what kind of king you are going to be.

SIDNER: Starring Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o, movie studios are going all in with sci-fi films in 2018. Like "A Wrinkle In Time" based on a young adults' book.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard a cry out in the universe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you believe he is.

SIDNER: Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, and Reese Witherspoon make up this all-star ensemble only to be rivalled by the cast in "Oceans 8" where a crime ring featuring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Rihanna tried to steal Anne Hathaway's necklace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Valued at over $100 million.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's 150 million actually.

SIDNER: On the animation side, Disney Pixar will release the "Incredibles 2" more than 13 years after the original.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have powers! Yes, baby!

SIDNER: You may have noticed Disney will roll in to the New Year with its name on some of the biggest moneymaking franchises. Perhaps no surprise since Disney holds the top two highest-grossing films of 2017 in the United States, "Beauty and the Beast," and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." About a billion dollars combined. Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.


SESAY: Wow. That's a lot of money. Let's bring in entertainment journalist Segun Oduolowu to talk more about the buzz surrounding next year's movies and the films that are out right now. Segun, welcome.

SEGUN ODUOLOWU, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: It's nice to be back, Isha. Just the two of us.

SESAY: Just the two of us.

ODUOLOWU: No John bother.

SESAY: No John in the way. And let's talk about films coming out in 2018 to pick off Sara Sidner's package. What are you looking forward to?

ODUOLOWU: Well, it's going to be a very big year for action movies. We've got "Aquaman," it's going to come with Jason Momoa. We've got "Black Panther," we've got another "Ant-Man," we've got "Avengers: Infinity Wars," but the movies I'm really looking forward to outside of the superhero genre, "A Wrinkle In Time," with Ava DuVernay, that is a classic children's tale. I grew up reading it. And then, you're going to see a lot of female-driven roles. Jennifer Lawrence is coming with "Red Sparrow," where she plays like a Russian spy.

Then you've got Alicia Vikander fresh of her Oscar, reprising the "Tomb Raider" role that Angelina Jolie had made famous. And then you've got "Oceans 8," where you've got the women now taking the place of the men. And what I'm assuming is going to be a new franchise, Oceans 8, 9, 10, 11. You can see that coming in the works with the women.

SESAY: Very exciting. To look back at 2017, the year is not done yet. How good a year was it for cinema, for the quality of films made?

ODUOLOWU: Well, if you take just the last couple of weeks with the way, "Return of the Jedi" -- I'm sorry, "The Last Jedi" actually blew things out of the water and made so much money, it was trying to balance the scales. But overall, it was kind of a -- year. A lot of reboots, a lot of remakes, a lot -- you know, another Transformers movie, earlier in the year. You know, there were high points like "John Wick 2" was really good. We rated it fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. You had indie darlings like "Lady Bird" that was 99 percent rated fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Movies like "IT" you know, capitalized on the kid -- you know, the group of kids.

SESAY: Yes, yes. Those strange things.

ODUOLOWU: The whole "Stranger Things" bled into the movies. But honestly, you know, Wonder Woman was big for the superhero genre. But then "Justice League" wasn't.

SESAY: Yes. ODUOLOWU: And so, it was -- it was an up-and-down year. It was just kind of meh.

SESAY: Your top three, what did you like for the year?

ODUOLOWU: So top -- now, top three for me, and let -- everyone needs to understand that there's movies for everyone out there. But to make you think, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." I have been talking about this movie.

SESAY: Which is (INAUDIBLE) is profane that just a --

ODUOLOWU: It is super profane, dark comedy, but very, very good. Almost as profane, but laugh out loud funny, "Girl's Trip." Which, you know, Tiffany Haddish is been criminently underrepresented in award season, but she's great in this movie.

[01:55:04] And then a movie for families that's not "Wonder." Which is also based off a book that a lot of people have had read. "Wonder" is just a great movie, I think for adults to go with their kids, and they themselves will feel something. It's a very -- it's a really good movie for families.

SESAY: OK. What hasn't been family-friendly have been the -- let's say the social upheaval in Hollywood in the last couple months. We have seen allegation after allegation against high-profile powerful men, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Dustin Hoffman. How is that alongside the political upheaval. How does that bled into the moviemaking business and what does it mean for 2018?

ODUOLOWU: Well, for 2017, we need look no further than the post. Steven Spielberg's movie talking about how The Washington Post basically, you know, precursor to all the President's men, how they took down Nixon. And the importance of the press. Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, they refused to screen this at the White House. And this was their kind of own, you know, their own artistic political statement about, you know, not being bullied by what -- who they feel is in office. To the other allegations, you know, Sam Waterston, the actor -- everyone knows him from "Law & Order," D.A. Jack McCoy. He has a line that I think encapsulates what everybody should want with these allegations in Hollywood.

You want justice for the victims and punishment for the guilty. Getting there is the difficult part. But everybody knows what they want. They want justice for these women that are coming out and thank goodness they are. And they want punishment for the people that have wronged them. Hollywood I think now is always a pendulum. And so, you will see more movies now, more scrutiny in -- on sets, which is not a bad --

SESAY: Is necessary. Yes.

ODUOLOWU: Which is not a bad thing. And I think you'll see the Greta Gerwigs, the female -- more female writers being emboldened to tell their own stories, to direct their own movies. I mean, come on, Barbra Streisand was doing this over 30 years ago. We need more of it now. I think Ava DuVernay and Oprah are going to do a really good job with "A Wrinkle In Time." And kudos to them.

SESAY: You know, Segun, I cannot wait to see it. Segun, always a pleasure. Happy New Year in advance.

ODUOLOWU: Happy New Year to you.

SESAY: We'll do a lot more of this in 2018.

ODUOLOWU: I hope so.

SESAY: Thank you, my friend. Thank you.

ODUOLOWU: All right. Hi to my wife. She's in the audience, finally. Finally come to see me.

SESAY: He just got married. His wife is here. Hello, wife. We're going to end here. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay. The news continues with George Howell and Natalie Allen right after this.