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State-Run Media: 12 Killed in Anti-Government Violence. Kim Jong-un: Entire U.S. now within our Range; Bannon to Axios: January Make-or-Break for Trump. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 1, 2018 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. 7:00 a.m. Pacific. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

For President Trump the New Year begins with encouraging words for protesters in Iran and attacks on Iran's regime. Early this morning, here's what the president wrote, "Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food and for freedom along with human rights. The wealth of Iran is being looted. Time for change!"

This comes as the Trumps wrap up their Mar-a-Lago holiday this afternoon, head back to Washington by dinner time. They'll be returning to a packed agenda for this president leading up to year two beginning officially of the Trump presidency in 19 days.

Our Sara Murray is watching all of it from West Palm Beach, Florida, where the president is currently, a number of tweets and messages for the Iranian people. Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's clear the president's mind is on foreign policy this morning and as you mentioned in that tweet he's coming out on the side of the protesters taking a strong line against the Iranian government. Obviously that matches with the tough talk we've heard from this president when it comes to Iran.

He also weighed in last night amid his New Year's Eve celebrations on North Korea. He was asked about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and their potential to reach the United States. All he would say, though, is we'll see. Poppy?

HARLOW: And he also this morning is taking to Twitter, Sara, and talking about Pakistan, really directing the message of Pakistan's government leadership. Do we know why?

MURRAY: It's not clear exactly what has inspired this tweet from the president on Pakistan this morning. I'll read it to you though. He says, "The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They gave safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!"

We did hear from Pakistan's foreign minister on Twitter this morning saying a response would be coming shortly to tell the difference between facts and fiction. And the president has had sort of shifting tones when it comes to Pakistan in recent months. Obviously this is very tough talk toward the Pakistani government, but it was in just October that he was lavishing praise on that government when they helped to secure the freedom of a North American family that had been held by a Taliban linked group for five years. The president said that Pakistan was finally beginning to respect the U.S. Obviously his view on that has changed. Poppy?

HARLOW: That's a very good point and important context. Sara Murray traveling with the president in Florida, thank you very much.

So, In Iran the death toll is rising and rising as these anti- government protests continue, entering into their fifth day today. State-Run media reports at least 12 people have died since these demonstrations began on Thursday, and in a national address last night President Hassan Rouhani warned anyone committing violence will, quote, "pay the price."

Let's go to our Arwa Damon. She joins us with the developments. And you know importantly, Arwa, yes, he is saying that, condemning violence, but at the same time acknowledging some of the key reasons why these protesters are out there?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. We are actually expecting to hear from President Rouhani, presumably later this hour. But in all of the public statements that he has been making, he is on the one hand telling people, warning people, about chaos, saying that the government will not tolerate violence. But he is, perhaps, striking something of a conciliatory tone when he does acknowledge the fact that these protesters have legitimate grievances when it comes to the economic situation. He also acknowledges that people have a right to go out and voice their discontent, but that they must do so peacefully. That being said, as you mentioned there, we have been seeing this rising death toll with two people killed on Saturday, another 10 people killed on Sunday.

Now, the government had, as it said, restricted access to some social media apps such as Instagram and Telegram that are used to rally people. And what we're seeing right now is not necessarily massively large numbers in any one particular demonstration. But they are widespread across the entire country.

President Rouhani has also been lashing out against the United States, against President Trump, pretty much saying that President Trump is really at the root cause of trying to foment this kind of unrest within Iran to a certain degree.

[10:05:00] Saying that the Trump administration especially has had Iran in its crosshairs and this is where you see this taking on something of a different dimension as well. Repeated warnings by President Rouhani from other leading figures within the religious establishment that people should not be pawns in a greater game because we are also hearing some of these demonstrators chanting "death to the dictator." We don't want an Islamic republic. Something that is very rare as well, calling for the supreme leader to also step down.

But it's worth noting at this stage that these protests don't have a leader. There isn't a particular group that is in charge. So it's unclear exactly what the demands are, Poppy.

HARLOW: Arwa Damon reporting for us on that. Thank you. We appreciate it.

Also this morning, some very mixed messages coming from North Korea when it comes to their nuclear weapons and capability.

Our Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea, with more. Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two very different sides to the New Year's Day speech from the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un this year. There was the usual nuclear defiance. But on top of that, there was also a conciliatory tone taken when talking about South Korea, a great difference from what we heard last year. Usually these speeches give some kind of indication of what we can expect from North Korea throughout the year, and this one is certainly an interesting speech.

First of all, focusing, though, on what we did expect from Kim Jong- un. He actually declared that 2017 was the year when North Korea completed the nuclear capabilities. He also said that North Korea is a peaceful nuclear state and they have no intention of using their nuclear weapons as long as there is no aggression shown towards them. He also had a very specific message for the United States.


KIM JONG-UN, PRESIDENT OF NORTH KOREA: (through translator): America will never be able to provoke war or attack us. The entire continent of America is within reach of our nuclear attack. They must never forget the nuclear button is placed on my desk at all times. They must realize correctly that this is not a threat, but reality.


HANCOCKS: So we're certainly seeing a more conciliatory tone towards South Korea. This time last year we heard from North Korean officials suggesting that they wanted to talk to the United States or at least they wanted to see what kind of relationship they could have with the new Trump administration. We heard nothing of that this time around. They are focusing now on the South Korean side, saying that North and South Korea must work together to alleviate the tensions.

Also, saying that if they work together, they will be able to alleviate those tensions without help from the outside. They would do it on their own. This is a very different strategy really that we're hearing from North Korea at this point, saying -- he also said, quote, "We genuinely wish for peaceful resolution with our southern border." Also, saying that he would be willing to send a delegation to the Pyongyang Winter Olympics which start in February being held here in South Korea. That would certainly be music to the ears of the South Korean president Moon Jae-in, so really a very different kind of speech that we are hearing this year from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.

HARLOW: Paula, thank you for that reporting.

A chilling new assessment of North Korea's threat to the United States and it comes from the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen. Listen.


ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN (RET), FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We're actually closer in my view to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we've ever been and I just don't see how -- I don't see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point.


HARLOW: Our global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier joins me now from Washington. Thank you so much for being here. Let's just start on North Korea and then get into what's happening in Iran. What do you make of Admiral Mullen's assessment?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think he can see that there isn't a strong diplomatic front. There isn't a strong outreach to get North Korea to the table. Also, you can see in Kim Jong-un's speech that he detects that the South Korean people are fearful. They're on the firing line.

Yes, the U.S. might face a nuclear strike by North Korea, but we also have counter measures that could likely knock such a missile out of the sky. South Korea is under the firing line of all of that artillery from the North and it's been estimated that in the first 48 hours of any conflict, that tens of thousands of South Koreans would die. So he is opening a front by offering them the olive branch, saying there is another way out of this, a sort of divide and conquers strategy that probably won't work, but it certainly muddies the waters.

HARLOW: What about these very mixed messages that we got as Paula just went through from Kim Jong-un? I mean, he says in this New Year's Day address to his own people. We, as a nation have to accelerate this missile program.

[10:10:02] I have the button on my desk, right, to launch at any time. By the way, I won't launch unless I am threatened.

HANCOCKS: Well, what he is messaging is the same sort of thing that President Trump has been messaging with his fire and fury remarks, that he has this capability. Kim Jong-un has long seen nuclear weapons as a guarantor of his regime and the people who follow him believe the same. So, nuclear weapons as Will Ripley's reporting on the ground has shown are seen as a matter of pride, but also a matter of survival.

HARLOW: Yes and preventing regime change, right, which is what he's ultimately most scared of. Let's talk about the protests that are happening in Iran right now. You have five days, we're going into the fifth day here, you have at least a dozen people killed, and as Arwa Damon was reporting, no clear leader in these protests. No clear single reason -- why these protesters are protesting the Rouhani regime and the ayatollah, at the same time you say this looks partially like a win for the Trump administration, at least on messaging?

HANCOCKS: Well, it seems in the first couple days of these protests it was because of the economic grievances.

HARLOW: Right.

HANCOCKS: The Iran nuclear agreement didn't produce the economic rewards that the Iranian people were expecting. A lot of companies have been slow to invest in Iran, often in large part because of some of the signals that the United States has been sending of a half embrace of the JCPOA under the Trump administration and possible complete repudiation. So, you have people who started protesting for one reason, but then it's become a relief valve for a lot of other unrest. I've heard from Iranians even in this country, they talk about how our government, our relatives, can't eat or can't pay for their gasoline to get to work, meanwhile we're conducting wars in what, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria. They don't like it.

HARLOW: Right. And just to be clear here, I mean, unemployment is a big issue, 13 percent overall. That's the headline number. The perhaps more telling number as my producer points out to me is almost 30 percent youth unemployment. You've got a lot of young people on the streets leading this protest, no?

HANCOCKS: A lot of young people who have been hearing these complaints - or hearing these promises for years and not seeing results and not seeing a way out. The backlash against them will come, though, when these protests ebb because one of the things that you'll see a lot of people in the crowd and some of the video that's been smuggled out are videoing each other. Some of those people are state security. They will be watching for the ring leaders and in the weeks and months to come, those people will be taken away for questioning to make sure they never protest again.

HARLOW: Again, a fifth day of protest is under way right now across Iran. Kimberly Dozier, thank you for the analysis on both fronts.

So, back to U.S. politics, the president needs Democrats to push forward his ambitious agenda for the New Year. We're going to get reaction from a Democratic lawmaker who says she is open to working with the president.

Also, is this month make or break for President Trump? Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon certainly thinks so.

And California is lighting up the New Year in a different way, pot shops, set to sell recreational weed starting today. Our Miguel Marquez takes you live inside.


HARLOW: President Trump seems to have the mid-terms on his mind this morning. In a New Year's Eve tweet here's what he writes in part, "Why would smart voters want to put Democrats in Congress in the 2018 election? Their policies will totally kill the great wealth created during the months since the election. People are much better off now.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. It's a pleasure to have you here and you are one of the few Democrats that I've heard recently saying look, I'm open to working with the president. You also said, Congresswoman that you do not think that the issues that voters are going to the polls on in the midterms are just about the president. So is it a miscalculation among fellow Democrats who say we don't want to give this president a win?

REP. DEBBIE DINGEL (D-MI), ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE: I think it's complicated. I think there are a lot of people that were just not happy. I think that you can sort of - I was someone that predicted Donald Trump could win because I saw two things -- I saw anger, I saw a lot of anger among people, about people not caring about them and they were mad at Republicans and Democrats. And then, there were a lot of people that stayed home just because they didn't like any of the candidates. I think that many people stayed home who stayed home last election, are energized.

I have to tell you honestly, my town halls, I'm not somebody who is afraid of town halls. My town halls last January had thousands of people at them. Still, if they're organized like an opioid with the school, I will have 400 or 500, but I did a trade town hall and had eight people at it in October. So, we have to make sure that we are keeping people's energies up and it's still a year from now.

HARLOW: Did you say on trade, eight people?

DINGELL: But I also think that -- I know people care deeply. I know they care. It's still getting people who care to say I can make a difference.

HARLOW: Here's why I ask. Because I spent a good amount of time in your beautiful state in the last few months doing some reporting and here's Sal Moceri. He is a lifelong Democrat who flipped, who voted for President Trump, first Republican he's voted for president, worked in the auto sector like you used to, worked there for dozens of years. He voted because of NAFTA, because of trade. Listen to this.


HARLOW: You called NAFTA a shakedown --


HARLOW: -- of America.

MOCERI: It was. HARLOW: Did you vote for President Trump because he wanted to change NAFTA?

MOCERI: Right. He was talking about renegotiating NAFTA.


HARLOW: Will you work with the president on that front?

DINGELL: Oh, I've been very clear, I probably agree with the president on NAFTA more than most Republicans do. I think it's really -- I mean we have lost so many jobs in the state of Michigan that have gone to Mexico where they're paying much lower wages, the environmental standards, it's almost impossible to compete.

[10:20:09] You know my job is to represent the working men and women of my district. So, trade and pension, I've got a very large group of people that spent their lifetime working. They put their contributions into their pensions and thought they would have a safe and secure retirement. President Trump promised him he was going to do something about it and he hasn't delivered right now on either trade or pensions. So how is that going to play out next year? I think those two issues will matter in November.

HARLOW: We'll see. Also, of course, on the jobs front, NAFTA is part of it, as you know, automation, especially in the auto sector, another part of it.

Let me get you on impeachment. There have been calls, as you know, from some of your fellow Democrats to impeach this president, some have put forth article of impeachments, doesn't matter really unless they retake the House and that's another conversation. Do you think they're getting ahead of their skis here, your fellow Democrats, who are calling to impeach the president right now?

DINGELL: I think we need to do two things. I think one we need to focus on the issues that they want to see us deliver on. I think they're tired of the partisan bickering and scared of a lot of issues. Billionaires are getting their tax cut but working men and women are still scared. They haven't forgotten the depression that happened in 2008 and that anxiety is still in their hearts and souls and they want to see us work on those and make sure the country is competitive which is why infrastructure -

HARLOW: What about impeachment? What about those impeachment calls.

DINGELL: But on impeachment, we need to let the special prosecutor continue his investigation. We need to have all of the facts and when we get the facts we need to see where that takes us. But we need to focus properly on both issues.

HARLOW: Will you give anything to the president on border wall funding in order to get a DACA deal done?


HARLOW: But then he says no go without it. Where does that leave DREAMERS?

DINGELL: This is a man -- listen, these kids, they were -- I have met so many of them. They're just crying. They're scared to death. These are human beings. And when the president said that he was going to force the Congress to act, he himself said, we have to do something for these kids. You know, -- we need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to talk about national security. But we need to quit playing games with all this stuff. We need to take care of the DACA kids. We should not pass a budget in January that does not ensure that we are taking care of DACA and then we need comprehensive immigration reform for this country.

HARLOW: All right. He says he won't do it without wall funding. We'll see where this goes. I want to get you on a different issue not getting the headlines but really important and it's about guns. And it's about something called the boyfriend loophole and this is legislation that has been put forth time and time again by your Democratic counterpart, Senator Amy Klobuchar and you are on board now. This is the loophole in the Lautenberg legislation from years ago that essentially does not ban guns from those who are guilty of domestic violence, but are not married to their victim or live with their victim or have children with their victim. Explain what it is and what your legislation would change.

DINGELL: So the -- and I actually have Dan Donovan from New York has introduced this bill with me and I am getting bipartisan co- sponsorship of it. It would say that someone who -- a partner who has been convicted of domestic violence, would not be able to own a gun. Most of the deaths in this country are coming from -- in domestic violence are coming from people with guns.

And you know, Poppy, even "The New York Times" has been doing a series this last week talking about the disparity between states. One of the things that I've said, I lived in a home that there shouldn't have been guns. It's still hard for me to talk about it. How do we keep people that are mentally ill from owning guns? And we don't even -- when we have people, because of domestic violence or something that happens in the home and they get convicted, there are just too many loopholes. And if we can keep people who have issues that are mentally ill that we can help and not have access to that gun, we can save lives. We need to work together to do some common sense things like this that help save lives.

HARLOW: Congresswoman, please keep us posted on where this goes, so often things like this get lost in the other headlines. We appreciate your time.

DINGELL: Thank you. It will be very important this year as we reauthorize the violence against women this should be a part of it. We need to talk about all of this as we do that.

HARLOW: Thank you, Congresswoman and our best to your husband. We know he's recovering in the hospital.

DINGELL: He's getting there.

HARLOW: He's on the mend. Thank you.

DINGELL: Thank you. Happy New Year.

HARLOW: Happy New Year.

All right, long before the November mid-terms the president has to deal with this month, January, a month his former chief strategist says could be make-or-break for his presidency. We'll see the many reasons why when we come back.


[10:28:53] HARLOW: President Trump has sent pretty big boxes to checkoff in the last days of his first year in office. And through it all, the Russia probes loom.

Joining me now, CNN political commentator Alice Stewart, Robbie Mook and from the Washington Examiner Salena Zito. Thank you for all being here, looking sharp. Did anyone come from being out last night or have we all slept. We all slept?

I was saying to my team I can't believe we booked such great panels on New Year's Day. So thank you for being here, one and all. Alice let me begin with you, this is a big year for the president. He comes off this legislative win on tax reform for Republicans. He wants to get infrastructure done. He wants to get health care done. He wants to get DACA done. He needs Democrats this time around. He can't do it all through reconciliation and get 51 votes. Does the drip, drip, drip of the Russia investigation, big piece in "The New York Times," on Papadopoulos and his role in all of it does that hurt on these fronts?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTAOR: It doesn't appear to be an impact with regard to moving the ball down the field. It took some time to get a legislative accomplishment but Republicans were able to work together to get tax reform. And now they realized that have momentum in their favor and they do want to work together with Democrats, specifically with big issues like infrastructure and certainly they cannot do nothing on DACA.