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Trump's New York Times Interview; Trump: China Caught Red Handed Allowing Oil Into North Korea; Fire Swept Through An Apartment In New York; Apple's IPhone Apology; Roy Moore Continues to Contest Election Loss; Park And Rail Station Named On Trump; Puerto Rico Still Wait for Power. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired December 29, 2017 - 02:00   ET


[02:00:11] GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. president speaks candidly, about the Russia investigation chiming in or whether he thinks it will be fair.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: At least one dozen people are dead after a fire rake through an apartment building in New York City.

HOWELL: And Apple's apology, what it's now doing in response to the outrage over the slowing down of older iPhones.

ALLEN: Hand off our iPhones --


ALLEN: Welcome to our viewers in here the U.S. and around the world. We're coming to you live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters, NEWSROOM starts right now.

It's 2:00 a.m. on the U.S. east coast. The U.S. president is speaking openly, candidly, about the Russia investigation and the U.S. Justice Department, some of his comments, surprising.

ALLEN: Right. He tells "The New York Times" he believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller will treat him fairly in the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump also told the newspaper 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.

HOWELL: Here's another thing. Mr. Trump repeated 16 times during that interview that the probe had uncovered no collusion with Russia. Michael Shear is one of the reporters who worked on the "Times" story. Listen.


MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was about a half an hour interview and totally impromptu down at the president's golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida. But there was a lot there. The thing that struck us most was the comments that the president made about the Russia investigation, notably that he thought Bob Mueller was going to be fair to him, which really undercuts and undermines that argument that many of his party have been making for the last several weeks, that they've been attempting to discredit and undermine Mueller's investigation, calling it partisan. So this kind of goes against that.


ALLEN: Well, let's talk now with Scott Lucas, he's a professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and founder and editor of E.A. World View, joining us from England. Scott, happy holidays. Thanks for joining us.


ALLEN: First, it's interesting how this interview came about. In the grill room at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, no White House aides were around. And he talked about the Russia investigation all by himself. What do you make of that?

LUCAS: Well, some things are not surprising. I am not shocked that Donald Trump would say it again and again absolutely no collusion with Russia.

ALLEN: He said it 16 times.

LUCAS: Sixteen times. Just to make sure. But we do have this takeaway, which does after weeks of trying to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI not only through statements from White House sources but from Donald Trump himself on Twitter saying that they were unjust, they were biased against him, they were unfair, they were compromised by supporting Hillary Clinton, he says, oh, well, Robert Mueller is now OK, I can, you know, I can deal with him.

The reason why? We know from sources, multiple sources that Donald Trump believes that he will soon be cleared of all charges by Mueller. At times he gets frustrated and angry, but at other times, including because he gets people who say, it's all going to be OK. He thinks that this will be swept away. He thought it would be swept away by thanksgiving. Then it was Christmas. Now it's he New Year.

Here's the question. When it becomes clear that this investigation will not disappear in the next few weeks and that Donald Trump will not be absolved, and he won't be. Because there are so many witnesses to be interviewed, many documents to be looked through. Will he again get frustrated and then turn against Mueller. And once more say that Mueller and the FBI are institutions that are damaging the U.S. And his allies will say they're planning a coup against the president?

ALLEN: Right. I mean he's up, he's down, he's up and down. This investigation certainly has -- had its wear and tear on this president. So we'll wait and see what happens next. So it is interesting, as you say that Republicans and Conservative news outlets are also going after Mueller and all of a sudden the president is standing by him.

Let's look at another quote that he gave answering a question about Hillary Rodham Clinton and the e-mail investigation, whether he would bring that up again. He said, "I have absolute right to do that, do what I want to do with the Justice Department.

LUCAS: Well, that goes back so the Clinton -- to the Trump that we know and love and that is that he sees no reason why the Justice Department should work in effect independently, including with Mueller. He was angered that Attorney Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation. Therefore, Sessions could not limit it. He has been angered with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for not clamping down on the investigation. And what he has effectively said, in contrast to the rest of the interview, is look, I can do whatever I want to with these agencies regarding the inquiry.

[02:05:14] Well, of course, he can't. And the danger here is that when Trump finds out he can't work with agencies, we get episodes, as we get in May, when James Comey was fired as the FBI director. And that raises the possibility of obstruction of justice. So far from sweeping away the investigation statements like these by Trump often reinforce it.

ALLEN: Right. And he brought up President Obama and his attorney General Eric Holder saying, Holder was loyal to President Obama, indicating his frustration of course with his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation. What do you make of that?

LUCAS: Well, we know that he was frustrated not only with Sessions but to reinforce the point that we've just made. He asked James Comey, the FBI director, for a personal pledge of loyalty soon after the inauguration. He repeated that request until Comey was fired. That is part of the case that has been made against Trump by his critics, which says he tried to step in and kill this investigation, which would be obstruction of justice.

Now, whether Robert Mueller agrees with that, we have to wait and see. But I think it's interesting that Trump, you know, we get these moments where he's a bit more relaxed, he's not as aggressive, he's had a few days away from Washington, where he prefers to be in Florida, yet even when he's relaxed he leaves these hostages for fortune. And once we get back to Washington in the New Year and the pressure is back on, everything can get intense.

And remember, other thing, on a different topic we're talking about, this is the same man who last night denied climate change. Just went on Twitter and flat out said, you know, it's going to be really cold on New Year's Eve. Therefore climate change must not be happening which of course it's a shot across the bow against all scientists and all people who think, you know, maybe this climate change is real.

ALLEN: Right. Scott, Scott Lucas, thank you. We appreciate it.

LUCAS: Thank you.

HOWELL: And we'll talk about that climate change tweet a little later here on the show.

ALLEN: All right.

HOWELL: -- confusing climate with weather big, big difference there. In the meantime, a tweet from the U.S. president sent out Thursday morning, it's raised some eyebrows.

ALLEN: Mr. Trump wrote "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.

HOWELL: Also from that interview with the "New York Times" the president said this quote, China hurting U.S. very badly on trade. But I've been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war.

Let's go live to CNN's Alexandra Field following the story live in Beijing this hour. Always a pleasure to have you.

Alexandra, this response, a very sharp one from the U.S. president, has there been any response though to the tweet or the standard accusation?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the accusation has had a response, George. And that tweet caught red handed is certainly sure to garner some notice, some attention. That said, it probably won't shock people here.

They had seen President Trump take this kind of tune with the China throughout this tough year when it comes to the issue of how to reign and deal with North Korea. On the allegation itself, this accusation that China is allowing oil into North Korea and move that with defy U.N. sanctions. Well, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did respond to that earlier this week, denying those allegations and those accusations.

And that was actually a direct response to the South Korean media reports which suggested that there were satellite images showing Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels. Flat out, you had the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you're saying that that wasn't happening, that China is doing its part in fully implementing and upholding this wide ranging U.N. sanctions that you have seen leveled against North Korea several times throughout the course of the last year.

The spokesperson from the Ministry went on to say, that if there was evidence that Chinese ships were involved in this kind of practice that this is something that would be dealt with. Fast forward, you get this very accusatory tweet from President Trump. And now we are hearing from State Department officials, one official who is saying that the State Department is aware that there has been an effort to skirt U.N. sanctions by using ships to transfer prohibited goods that involves refined petroleum and also coal coming from North Korea.

This State Department official says that ships from several different countries appeared to be involved in this. And that some of the ships come from China. So we are awaiting further response from officials here in Beijing. But they continue to put up the same line really and with this from all accusations from the Trump administration that they are doing their part to uphold the sanctions.

This is a touching issue for China. We know that it's the priority, the Trump administration of course to cut off the resources that fund the elicit activities of the regime. They want to cut off the flow of oil to North Korea because the economy there and the military are so heavily dependent on the foreign oil that comes from China.

[02:10:05] But again, it's touching for China because they don't want to spark a crisis on their doorstep, the kind of crisis that could tend millions of refugees coming across that border right here into mainland China. George, Natalie?

HOWELL: Alexandra Field following the story live in Beijing, thank you.

ALLEN: In New York City at least 12 people are dead after fire swept through an apartment building. Four others are critically injured.

HOWELL: The fire commissioner says the fire started Thursday evening, started on the first floor of the building and then spread fast. The youngest victim, a 1-year-old baby. New York's mayor called it the worst fire tragedy in 25 years.


BILL DE BLASIO, MAYOR, NEW YORK: We're here at the scene of an unspeakable tragedy in the middle of the holiday season, a time when families are together. Tonight here in the Bronx, there are families that have been torn apart.

This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in at least a quarter century. Based on the information we have now this will rank as one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many, many years.


HOWELL: It's terrible tragedy. And cause of the fire is still under investigation. But here's the thing, more than a firefighters, they thought that fire in extremely cold conditions.

ALLEN: Yes. Jay Dow from CNN affiliate WPIX has the latest from the scene. We warn you though, some might find this video disturbing.


JAY DOW, REPORTER, WPIX-TV (voice over): It now ranks as one of the worst fires in New York City history in recent memory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Break a hole. Break a hole. Move. Go.

(voice over): Residents stood in 13 degree weather Thursday night and watched as firefighters frantically wheeled one unresponsive victim after another, performing chest compressions along the way. Away from a burned five-storey building at 2363 Prospect Avenue in the Belmont section of the Bronx.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last I heard was my mom text my sister that they were trapped in the room.

(voice over): Christine (ph), she declined to share her last name, stood in shocked at the corner. Her mother's last text message, she was trapped in the third floor apartment with her 8-month-old granddaughter with no way out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I asked if the third floor was cleared and I just -- they just looked at me and looked away.

(voice over): Residents recall climbing out of their apartment windows to escape the fire. Which they told us may have started on one of the lower floors.

What floor do you live on?


(voice over): Third floor?


(voice over): You saw the smoke coming in your apartment?


(voice over): And that's when you left through the back window?


(voice over): You climbed out the fire escape?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the way now, out of the way. Move back. Move, move, move, move, move, please.


ALLEN: So no word on the cause of that fire in New York.

Now, we turn to Mumbai, India. At least 14 people there were killed in a fire at a rooftop restaurant, most of the victims, women attending a birthday party. Twenty-one others were injured.

HOWELL: The fire reportedly started in a top floor restaurant before overtaking the whole building. Police say, the restaurant's owner and manager could be held responsible for homicide.

United States and Turkey have taken steps to ease raising tension. On Thursday they lifted all visa restrictions on each other's nationals ending a nearly three month dispute. ALLEN: It's started when Turkey arrested a local U.S. staff employee for suspected ties to exiled cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Turkey blames him for that failed coup last year.

The number of people killed in the war in Yemen keeps growing. The U.N. reports 68 civilians were killed in separate air strikes Tuesday. By Thursday, 109 civilians have been killed that's in just 10 days.

HOWELL: Tuesday air strikes in hit areas by Iran backed Houthis in Western Yemen. A U.N. official said that all parties in the conflict had shown a complete disregard for human life. The Saudi led coalition dismissed its comments as biased.

Well, Apple is trying to make amends after admitting it slowed down the performance of some of its older iPhones. What the company is offering of its customers? The story ahead.

[02:14:24] ALLEN: Also, millions of people in the Northern U.S. are dealing with breathing temperatures and lots of snow. We're talking lots of snow. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam will give the low down coming up here.


ALLEN: Apple is scrambling to counter customer outrage and multiple lawsuits after it revealed it deliberately slowed older model iPhones. Apple says chemical aging of batteries could be one reason behind the lower performance of iPhone 6 and 6s devices. They say they'll cut he price of battery replacement and issue a software update to help monitor battery health.

HOWELL: My wife has always thought something was happening with those phones. The company issued a letter to customers stating this in part, "we know that some of you feel that Apple has let you down. We apologize. We have never and would never do anything intentionally to shortened the life of any Apple product or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.

ALLEN: Let's bring in tech reporter, CNN tech reporter Heather Kelly. So Heather, nice to see you. But Apple did say it deliberately slowed down the iPhone operation. So what's up here?

HEATHER KELLY, CNN TECH REPORTER: It did. And it's important to note if you actually read the letter today, it's not actually apologizing for slowing them down, it's more apologizing for how it's communicated or, rather, not communicated at all to customers.

And it's going to keep on doing it going forward. It just going to try and be a little more transparent with what it's doing with this update that is going to roll out soon in IOS and it's going to help people get up to the full potential with cheaper batteries.

ALLEN: So, the apology seemed a little bit less than sincere. So, what's up here with Apple? Is it losing its way sort of?

[02:20:03] KELLY: Oh, absolutely. I don't think it's less than sincere at all. I think it's just they're being very careful about what they're apologizing for.


KELLY: It's actually a pretty clever work around on the tech side as a way of stopping these phones from shutting down automatically because their batteries are old. You know, I think it's kind of clever, but it's obviously angered a lot of people, hence the many lawsuits which I'm sure Apple is not pleased with.

I mean, it will be seen as taking over this loss of trust. This letter shows they're definitely a little panicked about that.

ALLEN: And how will people -- people that have been kind of curious about their iPhone and what it's been doing, George's wife is one of them. So appears to your thinking, what's wrong with my iPhone, how will you know if this is how you're being affected, if this is the situation?

KELLY: Well, it's only certain iPhones. They're looking at iPhone 6 and later. If you have an iPhone 7 and later, you shouldn't really be experiencing too much of this problem, at least not yet, it could come up in the future.

You can definitely go to an Apple store and ask them to check, you know, the life of your battery, how many charges it has on it, what percentage it's at. They can tell you if it's time to pay that $29.00 for a new battery.

ALLEN: Beats the 70 something dollar charge. Do you think this will do anything to customer loyalty or tarnish Apple's integrity?

KELLY: I mean, we have like a little Apple scandal maybe once a year. We usually put gate after it. I don't know if this is battery gate. It doesn't really seem to have a lasting impact. I mean, in the end, iPhones are often a superior product to competitors. And, you know, doing clever things like this might be one of the reasons why, but they definitely need to work on communication about these kinds of issues.

ALLEN: Right. In this era of apologies for other things we've been seeing, Apple needs to get its apology straight and learn how to apologize.

KELLY: Big year for apologies, doesn't it?

ALLEN: Heather, thank you.

KELLY: Sure. Thank you.

ALLEN: It's actually I'll feed by getting this quickly.

HOWELL: Or if not --


HOWELL: The last Arctic year have brought record low temperatures and historic announce some snow fall, parts of United States. Look at that. Some of these images is just incredible.

ALLEN: Yes. Right there is Ohio. It got so cold in an area that no snow that parts of Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park just froze right over.

HOWELL: It's very cold.

The U.S. president also weighing in on these cold temperatures, take a look at this tweet in the east it could be the coldest New Year's Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old global warming that our country but not other countries was going to pay trillions of dollars to protect against bundle up, the president say, Donald Trump is right that the temperatures will be frigid for New Year Eve but the tweet misleading it. Look, this is a very clear distinctions between climate and weather.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right. He did get the fact that New Year's Eve forecast is looking absolutely frigid in New York City. But just as you mentioned, he is kind of almost suggesting that global warming doesn't exist. And we know there are facts and science to prove that wrong. And what's really interesting is that NOAA has just released that 2017 looks to be ranked as one of the top three warmest years on record.

OK. So, this is just one of many scientific backgrounds that we could look at. We've got 2016, 2015 coming in, in a close first and second. And then you see pictures like this. This is in Minnesota. The Minnehaha Falls freezing over completely. And you say global warming? What global warming? Well, there is a marked difference between the weather and the climate just as George mentioned.

And trying to explain this to you weather phenomenon is something that is measured in how the atmosphere behaves between minutes and let's say as far as week or two in advance. The climate however, is how the atmosphere behaves over a average of at least 30 years. So, you could see the difference there. We're talking short-term versus long-term trends in the patterns across the world.

Well, one thing is for sure, the weather pattern, the distinct change in the jet stream that's going to pull our arctic air in from the north, is going to bring temperatures downhill for New Year's Eve across the New England coast line including in New York City whether the big apple is and where the ball will be dropping at midnight on the 31st.

Of course 8 degrees is one of the coldest temperature has ever for minimum temperature at least for New York City on New Year's Eve. And that ranks up there as the coldest since 1962 just as Donald Trump suggested. Of course when you start factoring in the winds that brings down your body temperature, you have the risk of hypothermia. And that's not what we want to see.

So national weather service is suggesting people to bundle up, obviously, it's going to be cold. Wind chill factor is well below freezing in many locations. And I've just seen images like this just incredible to see what the U.S. is dealing with right now. But again, mark difference between weather and climate.

[02:25:07] We'll end with this because, yes, everybody loves this type of video this time of the year. This is actually frozen or excuse me, boiling water turning to ice crystals in the matter of seconds. That's how cold it is across the Midwest right now.

ALLEN: I was up in New York. And I'll you, I've never experienced cold and hot in the State of New York City like that. Not even harding --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I know you fly back to New York City this weekend. And it will be even colder.

ALLEN: OK. Awesome.


ALLEN: All right.

HOWELL: Derek, thank you.


HOWELL: All right. A wise cracking star of the 1960's Dick Van Dyke show has died.

ALLEN: She was a charmer. Rosemary was 94 years old. The actress and singer played the woodey (ph) Sally Rogers on the sitcom, her trade mark, black bow and her hair always searching for a husband and earning three Emmy nominations along the way.

HOWELL: Rosemary, Ms. Anna, she was first child star, a baby Rosemary who began her nine decade career at just three years old. Besides numerous acting and night club gig, she became a fixture on T.V. game shows. Rosemary died at her home in Los Angeles.

ALLEN: She was a good for sure.


ALLEN: Well, it's official. Alabama gets its first Democratic U.S. senator in a quarter century but the Republican who wanted the job still won't admit he lost. That's coming up.

HOWELL: Plus, a high speed rail station opening soon in Jerusalem named for the U.S. president. How Israel is getting swept up in Trumpmania. CNN NEWSROOM live around the world and in the U.S. stay with us.


[02:30:06] ALLEN: And welcome back to our viewers here in United States and around world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen. HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. With the headline we've followed for you. This hour, U.S. President Donald Trump says that he believes the Special Counsel Robert Mueller will treat him fairly in the Russia probe that was in the odds though with other Republicans who criticized Mueller.

Lately, the president insisted in that interview 16 times to the "New York Times" that there was no collusion with Russia.

ALLEN: At least 12 people were killed in a fire at a New York City apartment building. Four others are in critical condition. The youngest victim, a 1-year-old baby. The mayor called it the worst fire tragedy in New York for 25 years.

HOWELL: Former international football star George Weah set to become the next president of Liberia. He is the country's vice president in a runoff election carrying more than 60 percent of the vote.

ALLEN: Apple is apologizing over slowing the speed of some of its older iPhone. The company said, chemical aging of batteries could be behind the lower performance of some model. Apple says, it will cut the price of battery replacement and issue a software update to help monitor its battery health.

HOWELL: All right. The U.S. State of Alabama a deep red state that typically votes Republican but it's about to get its first Democratic U.S. senator in 25 years.

ALLEN: Yes. Democrat Doug Jones has now been certified as the winner of this month's special election. In January he will fill the seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions, who was picked to become U.S. attorney general.

HOWELL: As you can see, the final vote against Republican Roy Moore was close but not close enough to trigger an automatic recount under state law. We get the latest now from CNN's Dianne Gallagher.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Broke every record in the history of the state for a special election.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doug Jones officially certified by the state of Alabama to be its next U.S. senator.

JOHN MERRILL (R), ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE: This election has been conducted with the utmost integrity, that it's been safe, secure, it's been credible.

(voice-over): In spite of a final hail Mary from the Roy Moore campaign, alleging potential voter fraud.

JANET PORTER, MOORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: This election was fraudulent, and what we need to do is ask the secretary of state to do his job and to investigate this. (voice-over): Moore's refused to concede to Jones after losing the election earlier this month by more than 20,000 votes.

ROY MOORE (R), FORMER ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: When the vote is this close, then it's not over.

(voice-over): But most Republicans, including the president, have called for Moore to concede.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as Roy Moore, yes, it's certainly -- I would certainly say he should.

(voice-over): And the state of Alabama says those voter fraud accusations just aren't true.

MERRILL: People are entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own facts.

(voice-over): Moore calling to delay certification until there is a thorough investigation and for a new special election. But minutes before the state certification, a circuit court judge denied Moore's complaint.

The complaint alleges out-of-state residents had been allowed to vote and that election fraud experts concluded that fraud had taken place. One of those experts is Richard Charnin, who has blogged about JFK conspiracy theories and the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich. And Moore is questioning the high voter turnout in Jefferson County, where a large percentage of the population is black, calling it highly unusual.

The Alabama secretary of state says many voter fraud complaints have already been dismissed.

MERRILL: More than 60 of those have already been fully adjudicated and dismissed, but we have several that are still active, and we'll continue to investigate those until they are fully adjudicated.

(voice-over): Doug Jones' campaign released a statement saying, quote, "This desperate attempt by Roy Moore to subvert the will of the people will not succeed. The election is over; it's time to move on."

Moore's complaint also brings up allegations he had relationships with teenaged girls while he was in his 30s and several others accusing him of assault. Moore denied those accusations throughout his campaign.

MOORE: These allegations are completely false. I did not date underaged women. I did not molest anyone.

GALLAGHER: But he released an affidavit he signed of a polygraph test he says he took after the election over the allegations made against him. Moore states, quote, "The results of the examination reflected I did not know, nor had I ever had any sexual contact with these individuals."

(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: Will the Democrat should elect will head to Washington to begin serving in January.

HOWELL: All right, Dianne Gallagher reporting that for us.

Now, to Israel where you could soon drive down Donald Trump Street, a picnic and a park named for the U.S. president or even visitor rail station that has his name.

ALLEN: It's Donald Trump mania. It's big thank you to Mr. Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital earlier this month. For more on that, here's Oren Liebermann.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Salah Ad-Din Street in Jerusalem one of the main arteries to the old cities famed Damascus gate. The large lead Palestinian street named after the great Muslim leader goes straight into the heart of the Muslim corridor. Now, Jerusalem city council member wants to name it after a different leader, President Donald Trump Street.

[02:35:07] It's part of a wave of projects across Jerusalem and Israel being dedicated to the American president. Another street in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon also to be dedicated to Trump. A park in a city in Northern Israel will be called Donald Trump Park, the mayor even getting a thank you letter from the president. The biggest project of all will be right in the old city of Jerusalem.

An underground stop for the soon to be operational high speed rail named Donald J. Trump Station. The idea came from Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz.

YISRAEL KATZ, MINISTER OF TRANSPORT OF ISRAEL (through translator): People who arrive oversees, pilgrims, Jews and Muslims. They will come on the train on the safest and quickest path to the most important places and they will hear on the microphone that you have arrived at the station of the western ward in table mount named after President Donald Trump.

(voice-over): Katz shows me around the plans site of the station entrance. It will leave passengers a few feet away from the western wall. Trump became the first U.S. sitting president to visit the holy site in the old city, in May. A move that was hailed by the Israelis as a diplomatic victory who saw it as acceptance of Israel's control of the holy site but not nearly as big as Trumps recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

TRUMP: And today we finally acknowledge the obvious that Jerusalem is Israel's capital.

(voice-over): Israel has allotted Trump as a hero even as the majority of the world overwhelmingly rejected Trumps decision. Any change to the status of the old city can set of demonstrations and protests across Jerusalem and the region. And a high speed rail project has already went into its share of controversy since the Tel Aviv & Jerusalem line runs under part of the west bank.

This underground stop in the old city for its location and its name sake is no less controversial no matter how deep it's buried. Oren Liebermann, CNN Jerusalem.


HOWELL: Liberia will soon have new president. How one of football's old time great became a political force in his home country.

ALLEN: We'll have that coming up. Plus, it's been 100 days as Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and still much of the island will start 2018 in the dark.


[02:40:25] ALLEN: A joyous celebration in Liberia as the West African nation welcomes a new president. And he's an ex-footballer. George Weah won Tuesday's runoff, getting more than 60 percent of the vote.

HOWELL: The country will have its first peaceful transition of power since 1944 if Weah's inauguration goes smoothly. Our Patrick Snell has details.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN ANCHOR: Dancing on the streets in Liberia. Supporters of former football star George Weah celebrate a hard-fought victory over vice president Joseph Boika in Liberia's presidential election.

The country held a runoff vote on Tuesday after neither candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote in the initial ballot in October. This week's election was also delayed after claims of fraud were investigated and later dismissed.

Weah was extremely popular with the country's youth who wanted to see change in the country's government which was criticized by not doing more to tackle problems like poverty and corruption. Whether or not the 51-year-old will enjoy a success as president is yet to be seen. But he certainly enjoyed plenty on the pitch.

Among others, Mr. Weah played for Monaco, PSG and AC Milan. He was Africa's first and only Ballon d'Or winner. And was voted African footballer of the year on three occasions.

Patrick Snell, CNN, Atlanta.


HOWELL: Patrick, thank you.

On now to Puerto Rico, many residents there, starting the New Year still in the dark. And it's been 100 days now, 100 days since Hurricane Maria struck that island. Much of still doesn't have electricity. ALLEN: Not the way they ring in the New Year, is it?

CNN's Leyla Santiago reports that is unlikely to change as well any time soon.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's more than just 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 that just got power.

IDA, VICTIM OF HURRICANE MARIA (through translator): She's able to take a hot shower. That's what she's excited about, a hot shower.

SANTIAGO: Yabucoa in south eastern Puerto Rico now has a massive generator to power its substation. 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 agricultural. Now it's known for that area, where Hurricane Maria came in with 155-mile-per-hour winds 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 they could be the last.

Mayor Rafael Sunillo was born and raised in these mountains near the coast. He calls Maria, monster that destroyed them.

SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (translating for Mayor Rafael Sunillo): He's saying the urban area could get power very soon. But this area, mountainous area it could be summer before they see it, which take note, summer is when the hurricane season begins.

SANTIAGO: 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 ruined more than furniture, it ruined her life. For now, new paint is all she can afford to fix any of it.

SANTIAGO, (translating for Cheryl de Jesus): She has no idea when she will get power back. I'm asking her if she thinks it will be soon. No.

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

SANTIAGO, (translating for Cheryl de Jesus): Without power, they don't have water.

SANTIAGO: 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 Sunillo calls this a start. He says they need more generators, power poles, cables. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers admits a shortage of supplies stemming from other natural disasters is part of the reason why it took so long to get power back to people like Ida.

[02:45:04] SANTIAGO, (translating for Ida): She doesn't have to wash clothes by hand anymore.

SANTIAGO: Back in town, Ida will spend tonight in home overjoyed. Power is the best Christmas gift they can ask for. But for the families up in the mountains the sun sets as they wait for their gift to arrive.

Leyla, CNN, Puerto Rico.


HOWELL: Leyla, thanks.

ALLEN: That was certainly a headline from this year. And coming up, you will look at some other headlines from this year including Hollywood which generated many. Some stories were fought with controversy.

HOWELL: While others though, help renew faith and love. Now, CNN counts down the top entertainment stories when we return.


HOWELL: 2017, what a year for headlines up for royal engagement to a monumental mix up at the Oscars. Oscars has been a big year in entertainment.

ALLEN: Now, CNN contributor Nischelle Turner counts down the year's top stories from Hollywood.


[02:50:07] NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): From political spoofs, to musical tragedies, to social media movements, entertainment and news intersected like never before in 2017.

MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: Sit down. All right. First of all, I would just like to announce that I'm calm now.

TURNER: Saturday Night Live hit record ratings after the latest presidential election and kept the momentum going by spoofing Trumps presidency throughout 2017.


TURNER: Alec Baldwin portrayal as the president, Kate McKinnon's double take of Hillary Clinton and Kelly and Conway. And Melissa McCarthy's scene stealing take on Sean Spicer made the sketch series required weekend viewing and earned all three actors Emmy Awards.

TURNER: Superhero movies aren't just a boy's club anymore. From "Batman" To the "Avengers" super hero films have dominated the box office for the last decade. But in 2017 "Wonder Woman" proved females have just as much power on the big screen. The first female led super hero film of the 21st century received critical raves upon his release and ruled the summer office becomes one of the year's highest grossing films. "Wonder Woman" also became the biggest live action film ever by a female director, turning star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins, into household names.

Despite new releases from music big wigs like Taylor Swift and Jay-Z, it was a Spanish-language ditty that took over American airways in 2017. "Despacito," by Puerto Rican sensations, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee became the first Spanish track to hit number one in U.S. since the "Macarena" 20 years ago. The songs music video went on to become the most viewed YouTube clip of all time with over 4.5 billion views.

Breaking Royal news, Prince Harry officially engaged to American actress Megan Markell. It's time for yet another Royal wedding as Prince Harry and American actress, Megan Markel, announced their engagement in November. The pair met on a blind date, as Harry told reporters, he knew the "Suits" star was the one from the start.

MEGAN MARKEL: I can barely let you finish proposing, I was like can I say yes now?

PRINCE HENRY: She didn't let me finish. I was like, and then there was hugs. And I had the ring on my finger, and it was like, can I give you the ring? She was like oh yes, the ring.

TURNER: All eyes will be on what Markel wears down the aisle when the couple married in 19.


TURNER: A mix-up leads to the most awkward finale in Oscar's history.


TURNER: Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty presented "La La Land" with the best picture trophy at February's 89th Academy Awards. But the celebration hit a pause when one of the "La La Land" winners pointed out that "Moonlight" had in fact won the award.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a mistake. "Moonlight," you guys won best picture.

TURNER: The uncomfortable moment continues as Beatty explains he had been given the wrong envelope. That mix up proves when it comes to live T.V., well, anything goes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Details are just coming in, this is breaking right now.

TURNER: A terror attack outside an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in May, killed 22 people. The tragedy was carried out by a lone suicide bomber and injured nearly 60 people. Grande returned to the city in early June to perform at the "One Love Manchester" benefit concert and visited fans injured in the attack at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. Just a few months later, a gunman opened fire at a Las Vegas country music festival killing 58 and injuring hundreds more. The awful events took place during singer Jason Aldean's set at the popular Route 91 Harvest Festival. The Las Vegas attack is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Aldean paid tribute to the victims with an emotional performance on SNL in October.

Hash tag metoo shakes up Hollywood. A series of sexual harassment allegations against numerous Hollywood heavyweights sparked an outcry sure to change the entertainment industry forever. Studio executive Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Louis CK were just a few of the men called to task for their alleged indiscretions. The allegations inspired the social media hash tag metoo to denounce sexual assault and harassment. The founder of the hash tag metoo movement was even included in "Time" magazine's silence breaker's person of the year.

The power of social media continued to keep entertainment in the news and inspiring both change and conversations, there are sure to continue in 2018.

Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.


HOWELL: Nischelle, thank you so much.

In northeast China an art expo is on display for people who are willing to step into the bitter cold and I mean cold through this one.

ALLEN: It's packed with all kinds of creations made up snow and ice. Here's Amara Walker.


[02:55:05] AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A dazzling 3D light show complete with polar bears, tigers and melting ice effects debuts in Harbin, China. The lights adorn a model of Harbin's Saint Sophia Cathedral, made completely of snow.

This is the first time a 3D light show has launched at the 28-year-old International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, known as the global leader of snow sculpture art.

The main sculpture this year is shaped as a sphere with angel wings atop a snow mountain, anticipating the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. The annual exhibit is a main feature at the famous Harbin Ice Festival, luring curious sightseers from all corners of the globe to a series of enchanting winter activities, competitions and glittering light shows.

There are penguins that slide, Siberian tiger sightseeing and palaces fit for a snow king, a wonderland saturated with rainbow colors, sure to bewitch any adventure seeking travel willing to brave the cold of the frosty months ahead.

Amara Walker, CNN.


ALLEN: It is stunning. Well, that will wrap up our first hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. Let's do it again, another hour of NEWSROOM. We'll be back after that right after the break. Stay with us.