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Trump and Bannon Feud Catches New Attention; Protests in Iran Are Over; North and South Korea Reopen Communication; France To Pass New Laws Against Fake News. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 4, 2018 - 03:00   ET


[03:00:00] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Trump versus Bannon. The president unleashes his fury on a former top adviser over explosive comments in a new book.

Iran's revolutionary guard declares anti-government protests are over. We are live in Tehran for the latest.

Extreme winter. A massive storm brings a rare snowfall to the American south. And parts of the northeast will soon be colder than mars.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.

The book is called "Fire and Fury," and it paints a very unflattering picture of Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the White House. Many of the harshest quotes come from former chief strategist Steve Bannon. He was fired in August and now wields power by backing anti- establishment candidates for office.

Mr. Trump lashed out at Bannon saying this, "Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory. Steve doesn't represent my base. He's only in it for himself."

In a radio interview late Wednesday Bannon called President Trump a great man and said he supports him day in and day out.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more now on the salacious new book.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump firing back today at his former chief strategist Steve Bannon for calling a 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer treasonous and unpatriotic.

In a blistering statement the president said, "Steve Bannon had nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind." The extraordinary war of words broke out over a new book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House." Part of which were reported today by the Guardian and New York magazine.

Bannon taking direct aim at Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, all of whom met with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton's campaign. "The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers," Bannon reportedly says in the book. "Even if you thought this was not treasonous or unpatriotic or bad expletive, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."

Bannon went on to say, "They're going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV." White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed the book as trashy tabloid fiction and described the president's reaction like this.


SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think furious, disgusted would probably certainly fit when you make such outrageous claims and completely false claims against the president, his administration and his family.


ZELENY: The explosive comments from Bannon undermine a White House effort to downplay and discredit the investigation into election meddling and potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. "You realize where this is going. This is all about money laundering," Bannon reportedly says in the book. "Their path to expletive Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner. It's as plain as the hair on your face."

In unusually personal terms the president blasted Bannon, his former adviser saying he's only in it for himself. The book written by journalist Michael Wolff, also has strong words for the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump and Kushner her husband. "Jared and Ivanka decided to accept roles in the West Wing over the advice of almost everyone they knew. The two made an earnest deal. If sometime in the future the opportunity arose she'd be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton. It would be Ivanka Trump."

So the president and the White House tried distancing themselves from Steve Bannon. Clearly trying to diminish his role in everything that had happened here during his time at the White House, even saying he had few one-on-one meetings with the president.

One administration official says that's actually not true, he met privately with the president all the time, he had walk-in privileges into the Oval Office. One thing that's clear here, this Russia investigation still so sensitive to this president.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: And among the other details in "Fire and Fury," author Michael Wolff writes about Mr. Trump saying this. "He didn't process information in any conventional sense. He didn't read. He didn't really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-literate. He trusted his own expertise, no matter how paltry or irrelevant, more than anyone else -- else's." [03:04:58] The book claims Melania Trump was horrified at the prospect

of her husband winning the election, saying she was in tears and not of joy. Her spokeswoman denies that account and calls the book fiction.

Author Michael Wolff quotes Trump confidant Tom Barrack saying Mr. Trump is not only crazy, he's stupid. Barrack adamantly denies saying that, and Donald Trump Jr. tweeted this. "Steve Bannon squandered the privilege of working in the White House and turned that opportunity into a nightmare of backstabbing, harassing, leaking, lying, and undermining the president."

Larry Sabato joins us now via Skype from Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Larry, always great to have you on the show. Good to see you.


CHURCH: Well, the book "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff has set off some fire and fury at the White House. What's your reading of this sudden end to the bromance between President Trump and Steve Bannon?

SABATO: It's significant because Steve Bannon, as unusual as he is, knows an awful lot. Despite what Donald Trump is saying now. He was involved in many of the key meetings in the later stages of the campaign, and then of course for months was in the Trump White House as Trump and his associates tried to organize that administration.

So he knows a lot, and for a while Donald Trump was doing everything he could to keep him happy even as he fired him. But obviously, that's fallen apart. I expect we'll hear a lot more from Steve Bannon.

CHURCH: I would say so. And of course the book contains some extraordinary excerpts including Steve Bannon apparently calling Don Jr.'s meeting last year with the Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton treasonous and unpatriotic. That's not what he was saying just a short time ago.

I want to just listen to what Steve Bannon had to say when he first left the White House in September. Let's bring that up.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Donald Trump is a fighter. Great counterpuncher. Great counterpuncher. He's a fighter. I'm going to be his wing man outside for the entire time.

CHARLIE ROSE, FORMER HOST, PBS: So you'll not be attacking Donald Trump in your role in...


BANNON: No. Our purpose is to support Donald Trump.


CHURCH: His wing man, his ally. Why the sudden departure from his original interpretation of that meeting between Don Jr. and the Russians, and why has he suddenly turned on the Trump family after saying he would be an ally?

SABATO: If you look at Steve Bannon's history, you'll see that he's very good at evening the score. It may not be fair, he may not always be right. But he is very good at evening the score. And he's going to even some scores not just with President Trump but with Don Jr. and other Trump family members in the White House.

He lost the internal battle. That's one reason why he had to leave. Well, when you add to that the fact that Steve Bannon was pushing the extremist candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, who unbelievably managed to lose a Senate seat as the republican nominee in heavily republican Alabama, you can see why Bannon and Trump have split. They simply aren't on the same wavelength anymore, and it will be Trump who pays the price.

CHURCH: And what did you make of the excerpts that indicated that Donald Trump was just as surprised as everyone else when he won the election and that his wife Melania was distraught? Does that change the way may be his base look at him?

SABATO: I doubt anything will affect the base. All Trump has to say, and he's already said it, is that this is fake news. He's calling the book fake news. And the White House is absolutely disputing that any of them thought that Trump had any chance of losing.

I personally know that that is false, even on Election Day. And lots of people in the news media know it too because they were talking to people in the Trump headquarters. They had no idea they were going to win. And to some degree Trump was hoping just to do relatively well so that he could take that victory and capitalize on it in his business interests.

CHURCH: Larry Sabato, many thanks to you for joining us with your perspective and analysis.

SABATO: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And amid all the political drama in Washington, President Trump shut down his administration's voter fraud commission on Wednesday. Mr. Trump established the commission last may after claiming without evidence that massive voter fraud had cost him the popular vote.

Hillary Clinton had nearly three million more votes than him in the election, but due to the controversial Electoral College voting system in the U.S. he beat her and won the presidency by 74 electoral votes.

[03:09:57] The White House blamed various states for refusing to take part in the voter fraud commission as one reason for shutting it down on Wednesday. Well, a week after anti-government protests began in Iran the head of

the Revolutionary Guard says they are over. In their place, pro- government demonstrations like this one which are bolstering officials' claims that the protesters' defeat is definite.

CNN's Arwa Damon joins us live from Istanbul. And Arwa, let's talk about this claim that the protests are over. Is that the case? You mentioned last hour that we would need to wait until Friday prayer. What is the sentiment? What are you hearing coming from Iran?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These anti- government protests diminished slightly over the last few days, especially yesterday, on Wednesday, when we saw massive pro-government protests in the street and Tehran really validating its capacity to a certain degree to be able to sort of get the popular masses out into the streets.

But a lot of eyes will be focused on Friday, especially what happens after Friday prayers, something that is viewed as a litmus test as to how much momentum these anti-government protests may have going forward.

Of course it's also important to keep in mind that even if we do see them diminish this does not mean that they have not entirely gone away. Remember, Tehran was quite surprised to a certain degree, caught off guard when these protests did initially emerged focusing on those economic grievances, anger towards the widespread corruption and the fact that people quite simply had not seen their livelihoods benefit or increase, quite the contrary, they've been having to deal with widespread unemployment and this increase in food prices, especially when it comes to basic things like the cost of eggs or when it comes to the cost of fuel.

And as long as those underlying grievances still exist, there is going to be a certain level perhaps of unpredictability when it comes to whether or not protests diminish, temporarily diminish, or continue with the current momentum.

CHURCH: And Arwa, I did want to ask you about the European leaders because they have been criticized by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. He says that they need to be more vocal. They have -- they've been monitoring the situation in Iran, but they haven't been saying and doing as much as the United States. Why is that?

DAMON: I mean, a lot of the commentary we're hearing from Europe's leaders has been along the lines of allowing for the need for peaceful demonstrations to move forward, that demonstrators' grievances should be taken into account, that the government should not use a heavy hand, that they should not be carrying out these widespread detentions, and that all efforts should be made to try to restore stability.

And of course this is very mild rhetoric, especially compared to what we hear coming from President Trump himself and from other members of the Trump administration. And this could arguably boil down to the fact that Europe has a much closer relationship to Tehran when compared to the fairly aggressive relationship that the U.S. has had and the U.S. especially has under this administration, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And of course the big concern, you mentioned there the price of food, the spike, some increases as high as 50 percent or so. Since the protesters were out on the streets because of the economic situation and the high unemployment. The worry here would be that protesters would continue to get out on the street eventually, and what could that mean for them? For, you know, what we're hearing from Iran's revolutionary guard leader.

DAMON: Well, it is quite ominous at this stage, and it does seem as if the government is ready to crack down even further. Especially since whilst on the one hand, you know, President Rouhani has been acknowledging the fact that these demonstrators do have legitimate grievances, the chance that we have been hearing in the later days since the demonstrations began have been staunchly against the government, against the president, against the supreme leader.

And we have been seeing these demonstrations go from their first few days where there were very little actions in terms of violent action, where there weren't that many deaths, to the latter days where there was quite a lot of rioting and clashes that did break out and the underlying tone of them becoming of course much more sinister, especially when it comes to the rhetoric that I was just mentioning.

[03:15:12] So, again, this is perhaps a case where the protest began because of one reason but then fueled by anger, by perhaps other factors. At least Tehran would say fueled by other factors and outside instigators and foreign agents have taken on a much different flavor.

But again, this is a fairly unique situation for Iran, these protests that we're seeing right now do not necessarily compare to the 2009 Green Movement, and that of course brings with it an element of unpredictability, especially when trying to perhaps ascertain the direction all of this is going to take.

CHURCH: All right. We thank our Arwa Damon joining us live from Istanbul with that live report.

We'll take a short break here. North and South Korea have reopened a line of communication for the first time in nearly two years. We will look at the significance of these direct talks.

Plus, a storm of criticism as the U.S. president threatens aid to the Palestinians. We'll go live to Jerusalem. We're back in a moment.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. North and South Korea have taken a big step forward in their relations by reopening their hotline in the demilitarized zone. South Korea says the North called three times in less than a day, mainly to check technical issues.

Paula Hancocks joins us now from Seoul with the very latest on this. So Paula, let's talk about this increased communication between North and South Korea. What has been said? Do we know in those calls made on the nearly open direct hotline? And what's the significance of all of this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, what we're being told officially is not a lot of the content of these phone calls. We've actually just had two more phone calls, we understand, within the last hour and a half. So at 4 p.m. local time, 2 a.m. Eastern, the South Koreans called the North Korea and so they picked up, and then half an hour later the North Koreans called the South Koreans and said that they had nothing to report.

So it almost sounds comical, the fact that these phone calls are going back and forth but they're saying there's nothing to report. But we're being told by the South that it is also trying to test the line. It's sort of technical issues being ironed out, making sure that they are able to communicate with each other.

So we've now had five phone calls. And as far as we understand, there has been no date set for any high-level talks. Now, within that first phone call, PyeongChang Winter Olympics was not mentioned at all. The future talks was not mentioned at all.

The fact that South Korea has suggested next Tuesday, January 9th, as the suggested date for high-level talks, that has not been responded to by North Korea of this point.

[03:20:06] This is information we're getting from the unification ministry here. So it is significant that this second day we are seeing this communication between North and South Korea but it is a very basic level, really almost testing out the line it appears at this point. Rosemary?

CHURCH: And Paula, how unusual is it that North Korea has not yet responded to that taunt from President Trump that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong-un's. Could this perhaps be part of the strategy because we don't see him reaching out to the U.S. in any way but he is reaching out to the South?

HANCOCKS: We're not certain whether he will respond or not, obviously. In the past he has responded even personally, reading out a statement to personal attacks, to taunts, to threats that he sees from the U.S. president. But some of course he has let go as well. There have been a tremendous amount of tweets leveled at the North Korean leader himself and at North Korea.

So, not all of them are responded to. Of course, this was a particularly strong tweet that the U.S. president leveled towards Kim Jong-un. It's really impossible to know whether or not he will respond but it is interesting, as you say, the fact that Kim Jong-un is focusing on South Korea now in that New Year's Day speech he almost sidelined Washington and the United States by saying I will talk to the South Koreans.

The South Koreans and the North Koreans need to join hands so we can alleviate the tensions on the peninsula together without outside aggression, as he put it, and saying we can sort this out on our own. So he has effectively sidelined the United States when it comes to negotiations. Now, of course, the South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said that

if we're talking we will inevitably have to talk about the nuclear issue as well and we'll have to get guidance from everyone around the world. So he's made it clear that it's not just going to be a discussion about whether the North Koreans can send a delegation to the Olympics.

But it is very early days. At this point they don't even have the first date for these high-level talks. But once it starts, I mean, history tells us that it could actually happen quite quickly. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. Moving slowly at this point but moving nonetheless. Paula Hancocks joining us live from Seoul where it is nearly 5.30 in the early evening. Many thanks.

Well, the first phone call on that DMZ hotline came a short time after President Trump tweeted about the size of his nuclear button. But as Barbara Starr points out, the only buttons being pushed at this point are figurative.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: For President Trump there is no actual push to launch a nuclear war.


PETER FEAVER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPECIAL ADVISOR: The system is not a button that the president can accidentally lean against on the desk and immediately cause missiles to fly, as people in the public I think are -- fear it would be. It requires the president to work with military aides who are attending him and who have possession of the materials that he needs, and it requires personnel at all levels, echelon command all the way down to the missile silo, to carry out an order.


STARR: But the president decided to challenge Kim Jong-un on who has the bigger button. "I, too have a nuclear button and it is much bigger and more powerful one than his and my button works." Trump was responding to Kim's statement.


KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER (through translator): 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.


STARR: Like all presidents, Mr. Trump has been briefed in detail from the beginning on nuclear launch procedures. A military officer is nearby at all times with everything the president needs.

Former White House military official Bill Gully wrote in his book "Breaking Cover" that the football, or presidential emergency satchel, historically contains a list of strike options, authentication codes, a list of secure bunkers where the president can shelter, and then instructions for the emergency broadcast system.

Whether the president is on the golf course or at the White House, he has sole authority to launch a nuclear attack. But the consequences of what is political rhetoric may be enormous.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We were closer to some sort of an encounter, military encounter, with the North Koreans than we have been in some time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of a tweet like this?

CLAPPER: Because of statements like that.


CHURCH: All right. Let's turn to the Middle East now. And some Palestinians call it blackmail. President Trump saying he might cut off aid if they don't get back to negotiating a peace deal. Mr. Trump tweeted out that threat Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the White House press secretary had this to say.


[03:25:03] SANDERS: We still want to continue to have conversations and continue the peace process. We're still very much committed to that.


CHURCH: So where do things stand now? Let's go to our Oren Liebermann, who joins us live from Jerusalem. Oren, we just heard there that the Trump administration is still committed to the Middle East peace process. What are Palestinian leaders saying about that? And what impact will Mr. Trump's threat and his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital have on any future peace efforts?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you could hear Sarah Sanders there, the White House spokesperson, acknowledging what is essentially the difficulty of a peace process because as of right now it seems like a wild impossibility from President Donald Trump as he still pursues what he has dubbed the ultimate deal.

About a month ago now when Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel the Palestinians have said -- or said then, we reject any offer Trump puts on the table because he appears to be to us so biased towards the Israeli position.

And this, the threat to cut off foreign aid, has only entrenched their position. The White House had said then after the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel that it would take a cooling off period, it would take some time for the Palestinians and some of the Arab states to sort of get used to the idea. Perhaps they completely underestimated how much anger there would be

or how long that would be because right now it doesn't seem like there's anything on the horizon in terms of possibilities of a peace plan or even engaging either side here on any sort of process, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And Oren, what would be the consequences if the United States goes ahead and carries out Mr. Trump's threat and withholds aid to the Palestinians?

LIEBERMANN: It would be nothing short of devastating. In 2016 the U.S. gave $616 million to the Palestinians. And that money touches almost every aspect of Palestinian society, from education to health care to infrastructure projects to security coordination between the Israelis and Palestinians. So it affects everything here.

To take that away, to take even a portion of that away would simply make everyday living much more difficult for Palestinians, and that would inevitably affect Israelis and the relations between the two. It's hard to imagine the full consequence of that, and I think everybody here doesn't want to imagine the consequence of that.

So hoping that it remains a threat, but of course because the threat itself came out of nowhere we'll see where it leads and if it's followed up with any action.

CHURCH: All right. Our Oren Liebermann, bringing us that live report from Jerusalem, where it is nearly 10.30 in the morning. We thank you.

Donald Trump hasn't had any public events since he returned to the White House on New Year's Day, but now we know why the president has been so angry on Twitter in 2018. That story just ahead.

Plus, we will go back to the Iranian capital where a week of protests both pro and anti-government has made for a volatile environment.


[03:30:20] CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church. Want to update you now on the main stories we're following this hour. Donald Trump is firing back at his former chief strategist Steve Bannon after some unflattering quotes in a new book. Bannon calls the Trump campaign's 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer "treasonous and unpatriotic." President Trump says Steve Bannon has lost his mind.

North and South Korea have reconnected. The north made three phone calls to South Korea in less than 24 hours on a DMZ hotline. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had the line reopened to begin talks on sending a delegation to next month's winter Olympic. And there have been more calls since then.

Well, France's President says the country will pass new laws this year to curve the spread of fake news, especially during elections. Emmanuel Macron says the new measures are necessary after Russia interfered with last year's French Presidential election. U.S. President Donald Trump has been on something of a twitter tirade

in the first few days of 2018. Guests at his Florida resort say he was in good spirits as he rang in the New Year on Sunday. But since returning to Washington his mood has changed. He start, with a twitter attack on Pakistan saying he would cut off all aid if the country didn't do a better job fighting terrorism. Then he threatened to cut off funding to the Palestinians, who he say have abandoned the peace process.

The President taunted North Korea, saying he has a bigger and more powerful nuclear button than Kim Jong-un and then a few minutes later, he went after the news media, promising to announce awards for the most corrupt and dishonest reporting of the year. More than a dozen sources tell CNN the President is angry that the Russia investigation has not wrapped up yet. Here's CNN's Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His legal team was trying to manage the President, keep him calm for months, by assuring him that the probe would be over soon. They said that in public. The said that in private. Well, here we are and here he is beginning 2018, and it's not over by a long shot. And in fact, the President was actually hoping his lawyers could convince Robert Mueller to announce that he is in the clear, and that has not happened.


CHURCH: Well, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is suing the U.S. Justice Department and the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller. Manafort alleges they overstepped their bounds and the charges against him have nothing to do with the 2016 election campaign. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money laundering and other charges. A Justice Department spokesman calls his suit frivolous.

Now to that infamous dossier and the role it may or may not be playing in the Russia investigation in Washington. The company behind the dossier, fusion GPS, is now publicly imploring congressional investigators to follow the money. CNN's Jessica Schneider has the details.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Tonight the founders of fusion GPS say lawmakers' Russia probes aren't on the right track and they're urging congressional investigators to focus on bank records and potential money laundering after their own research partnership with former British spy Michael Steele revealed widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering.

The push from fusion GPS's leaders, who say the first spent more than 21 hours testifying on Capitol Hill, comes in a "New York Times" op-ed where they slam Republicans for refusing to follow the money. "We suggested investigators look into the bank records of deutsche bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump's businesses." Congress appears uninterested in that tip, reportedly ours are the only bank records the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed. The President has repeatedly dismissed questions about any financial ties to Russia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.


SCHNEIDER: But the fusion GPS founders say they told lawmakers about possible money laundering schemes with Russian that is span from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, from Toronto to Panama. Trump has admitted a real estate sale to at least one Russian.


TRUMP: You know the closest I came to Russia, I bought a house a number of years ago in Palm Beach, Florida and I bought the house for $40 million. And I sold it to a Russian for $100 million. Including brokers' commissions. I guess probably I sell condos to Russians. OK?

[03:35:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe he was not successful in closing a deal but certainly they were attempting to do that and certainly there were business dealings with Russian nationals in the United States and that shall be fair game for investigators.


SCHNEIDER: The White House isn't commenting on the fusion GPS op-ed but its founders point out that both Republicans and Democrats funded the controversial anti-Trump research. Republicans have seized on the dossier, claiming it was the reason why the FBI launched its Russia investigation. But the op-ed rejects that argument. As we told the senate judiciary committee in August, our sources say the dossier was taken so seriously, because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources including one inside the Trump camp. No word on who that source could be, though "The New York Times" reported last weekend that George Papadopoulos told Australia's top diplomat in London that the Russians reached out to him with promises of dirt on Hillary Clinton. The former Director of national intelligence backed up that claim, that the dossier did not prompt the FBI's investigation.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER INTELLIGENCE CHIEF: No. There were other factors that think were the stimulus for the investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, in the special counsel's probe CNN has learned

Trump's lawyers held talks with Mueller's team just days before Christmas to get a read on the special counsel's next steps since the White House has handed over all requested documents so far and several current and former White House staff have been interviewed. The President's team have repeatedly insisted the investigation would be wrapped by the end of 2017. But the founders of fusion GPS cast a more ominous tone at the end of the op-ed. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States President. Congress should release transcripts of our firm's testimony so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important what happened to our democracy.


CHURCH: Jessica Schneider reporting there.

It has been eight days since the first anti-government protests erupted in Iran and the revolutionary guard says there will be no more. In their place, massive shows of support for the government, huge crowds celebrating the supreme leader with signs and banners. It has been a week since protests began in Iran, sparked by the country's struggling economy and the rising cost of basic goods. So just how much have prices risen? Well, CNN spoke to a shopkeeper in Tehran who noticed the following increases. In his shop the cost of 30 eggs is now the equivalent of $4.50. That is a 50 percent increase from just a month ago. One kilo of rice is now at $1.64. That is up 37 percent from just two months ago. And 400 grams of cheese is $1.55, a 12 percent increase from one month ago. So let's go to CNN producer Shirzad Bozorgmehr in Tehran now we should point out the Iranian government has denied a CNN request for visas for an additional team to report from Tehran. So Shirzad the head of Iran's revolutionary guard says the anti-government protests are over. Is that what you're seeing right now?

SHIRZAD BOZORGMEHR, CNN PRODUCER: It certainly feels that way. And also the first thing that you said about CNN not being given visas, it's not just CNN. Any foreign news organization is not allowed to come in for the time being. And yes, you're right, it seems very much like the worst is over, all the demonstrations that we see throughout the country are now pro government. There hasn't been as far as reports are concerned, there hasn't been any new anti-government demonstrations whatsoever, and so it seems like he is absolutely right and things have quiet down.

CHURCH: Now, we mentioned the mood prices in Iran having spiked considerably in the last few weeks and months with some items rising by 50 percent. What are you seeing in the stores, and how are people coping with those sorts of increases? If they're so bad, are we likely to see more protests, though, in the days ahead?

BOZORGMEHR: The prices have steadily been going up. This is not a new phenomenon. But recently the amount of increases have been more than previous times. People are really feeling it. And there's no question that there are economic problems, but the government is now saying they're going to do their best to remedy this and, for example, the talk about the gasoline prices now seems to be out of the question. They're even talking about issuing gasoline coupons to help the people with their purchase of gasoline at lower prices and there probably will be no effort to increase it at any time soon.

[03:40:11] CHURCH: Shirzad Bozorgmehr, we thank you.

We'll tack a short break. Coming up after the break, one small country gives a big boost to working women. We will explain what Iceland is doing to ensure they have the same earning power as men.

And in North America the freeze is on. The first major winter storm of the year is about to hit, and millions of people are bracing for it. We're back in a moment.


CHURCH: The battle for women's rights scored a huge victory in Iceland this week. A new law there mandates that women receive the same pay as men when doing the same job. Equal pay laws have been on the books for decades and more than a year ago thousands staged this giant rally in Iceland's capital over the issue. But now companies with at least 25 employees in the island nation must prove that everyone is paid equally. This is a big deal. The world economic forms says making women's pay equal to men is healthy for economies. By one estimate it would grow the gross domestic product in the United States by $1.75 trillion. The impact on other countries' economies could also be dramatic. Amazing numbers there. Women's rights activist (inaudible) joins us now from the Icelandic capital. Thank you so much for being with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: It is of course worth pointing out that it is illegal to pay women less than men in many countries. What makes this so significant in Iceland?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we have tried everything. Just like in many countries of the world, as you said, paying women less than men has been illegal in our case since 1961, but legislation didn't work. Education didn't work. We decided that we wanted to go the route of the bureaucracy. What happened was the labor union, the employees federations and the government, they sat down and created a new equal pay management system called the equal pay standard. It's basically a bureaucratic tool whereby accountants actually go into the books of companies to make sure that men and women are being paid equally. And the standard has actually been in use in Iceland since 2012. Many companies that have already undergone the standard voluntarily and received certification. But what happened last year in 2017, the government proposed a law which was passed by parliament mandating that all companies with 25 or more employees actually utilize the standard and then recertify every three years, continually proving that they're actually paying equal wages.

[03:45:04] CHURCH: Interesting. And how is that going to work?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Companies which do not -- CHURCH: How is that going to work exactly? What's so stop a company

saying, well, the reason why we're paying this man a little more is he does a better job than this woman? How do you prove that job isn't slightly different to the one on the books?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The equal pay management system actually places a -- actually it gives the guidelines to put values on jobs to a company. And I'm actually not an accountant myself, so I don't know how the equal management system works, but from what I've heard and from people I've spoken with, the companies that have undergone the standards are very happy with it.

CHURCH: Yeah, that is a problem, though, now, isn't it? As we pointed out, it is illegal to pay them unequally, but a lot of companies might say and have said, well, they're different doing a different level or different standard of job. So why --


CHURCH: I just want to ask you this, why are women paid less than men in most countries in the world despite of being illegal?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We live in a society where women's work is valued less than a man's work. And that is a very sad fact. We as a society in Iceland, we have made a declaration basically saying you know what, we actually place -- companies, for example, safety restrictions, we place this onus on companies to prove they have a safe working environment. We're now making a commitment saying that you know what, we value gender equality and we want companies to practice gender equality for real.

CHURCH: Thank you so much for joining us, and let's hope that other countries follow suit. Many thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Well, every state on the U.S. East Coast from Maine to Florida is under a winter storm watch or warning right now. 60 million people are in the path of this monster storm. It's brutally cold. At least 12 people have died, because of the below freezing temperatures. In New York City schools will be closed on Thursday because of the coming snowstorm. By the end of this week parts of the northeast will be colder than Mars, which averages a high of about negative 16 degrees Celsius. And if you're planning on flying, check with your airline. Right now reports more than 2,800 flight are canceled in the United States.

And in South Carolina people are having fun with all this snow. One woman took a snowboard ride through Charleston with help from her boyfriend's dog. And check out this man getting pulled by a truck while riding on an inner tube. In Florida these children who had never seen snow before had a good time making snow angels in Tallahassee. The City saw its first measurable snowfall in 29 years on Wednesday. Happy kids there.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now from the international weather center. Not everyone is happy with all of this cold. How long is it likely to last?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN'S METEOROLOGIST: The kids are happy because they can make snow angels in the snow. But I think the adults and the families who have to travel will probably get a headache just looking at this graphic, because we all know what 2,800 canceled flights means today across the east coast from Boston to Philly and New York. It means headaches, and it means problems and it means a snowball of effects as we head into the weekend. No pun intended, by the way. This storm is big, and it is forming and strengthening very quickly. Right now we have 13 -- no, rather 15 states on the east coast of the U.S. under some sort of winter weather advisory including a blizzard warning that is in effect for the Boston metro region.

New York under a winter storm warning. If we're going to time this thing out, we expect the heaviest of snowfall to occur locally in New York City from 7:00 a.m. Right through about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. Then we focus the heavier snow bands into Boston by this evening just in time for the evening commute home. That is going to create a travel headache for that region, especially when you factor in hurricane-force winds in excess of 100 to 120 kilometers per hour.

And we can't forget about our friends in Canada. We have all kinds of trouble for you as well into that part of eastern Canada that is going to be pelted with heavy snowfall and strong winds. Now, this particular system is expected to produce anywhere between 8 to 15 centimeters of snow. For Philadelphia this is really the brass tacks here. Getting down to the nitty-gritty 10 to 20 centimeters is what we're anticipating in New York. Boston 30 to 45 centimeters for you. It is all about the center of the storm. Where will it go? Is it going to track a little further east? A little further west? It's a game of kilometers as we speak, and every meteorologist on the east coast of the United States is monitoring the system so closely because if it jogs left or right we know that that can make a major difference in the snowfall totals. One thing's for sure, there's a lot of wind attached to this strengthening and deepening low pressure system, computer models there indicating winds --



JIMMY KIMMEL, JIMMY KIMMEL SHOW: This book paints a very unflattering picture. He sprays his hair with just for men and Ivanka makes fun of him for it. He is constantly leaking information about himself and then demanding to know who leaked the information.


He didn't want to win the presidency and was horrified when he did. Melania cried. We all cried, really. But Melania.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is so amazing, man. In the middle of completely ripping his former chief strategist he takes a moment to remind us of how dope he is.


You know what it's like. It's like someone bitch slapping you and dabbing in the same motion. Like pa!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lost his mind. That is pretty harsh. What kind of stuff has Bannon been saying since he was fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every person in this country should get down every night and thank god Donald Trump is President of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly insane.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve had very little to do with our historic victory. I do agree with Trump there. That victory was the selfless, uncredited work of one eager young staffer.


CHURCH: Well, there you go. Diplomatic language is carefully crafted, as you know. Often the meaning of something has to be deciphered by reading between the lines. Not so with President Trump. In his message to North Korea he reduced the U.S. Nuclear capability to a quintessentially male boast. Mine's bigger than yours. Jeanne Moos examines how much size matters to Mr. Trump.


[03:55:21] JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And here you thought button size only mattered in sewing. Now the President is tweeting about how his nuclear button is much bigger and more powerful than Kim Jong-un's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have two maniacs with nuclear warheads bragging about who has the bigger button.

MOOS: One journalist called it a button measuring contest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How big is your button?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buttons, been size, and button performance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all about who's got the bigger button. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yeah.

MOOS: When it comes to big buttons --


MOOS: The one on President Trump's desk can't compare. But he use this is tiny one to order diet cokes, not nuclear strikes. The so- called football carries everything needed to launch a nuclear attack. Its obvious size matters to President Trump. From his I.Q --

TRUMP: I guarantee you my I.Q. is much higher than any of these people.

MOOS: To his tax cut.

TRUMP: This is the largest tax cut.

MOOS: To his hands.

TRUMP: He referred to my hands, if they're small something else must be small. I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee you.

MOOS: Cher referred to President Trump and Kim Jong-un, tweeting "they're probably both the size of tom thumb." when it comes to bragging about the size of your nuclear button, it might be wise to button it. And even if the button's huge, that doesn't mean a leader will press the right one, as we saw in "monsters versus aliens."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a disaster.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That button launches all of our nuclear missiles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, then which button gets me a latte?

MOOS: Make that a diet coke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other one, sir.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What idiot designed this thing?


CHURCH: Apparently size does matter. Thanks for your company this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. Remember to connect with me anytime on twitter. Love to hear from you. And the news continues now with Hanna Borne Jones in London. You're watching CNN. Have a great day.