tv CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin CNN December 26, 2018 12:00pm-1:00pm PST
illegally. there's no u.n. resolution that would allow the united states to be there and they believe the united states should leave. they've said that, the assad government has said that as well. this is something they would like to hear and something they've been wanting to hear for a very long time. it does open a lot of doors for them in syria. >> fred pleitgen live from syria with the view there. fred, thank you. >> we're now at the top of the hour. i'm ryan nobles. we begin with breaking news. president trump has made his first-ever visit to a combat zone along with the first lady. he's reportedly defending his decision to withdraw the u.s. from syria. he also said that there are no plans for the u.s. to pull out of iraq at all. you'll recall the president received criticism for not making a war zone visit, which other presidents have come in the past. let's go now to cnn.
sarah westwood is at the white house with the view there. barbara, let's begin with you. just tell us what you're hearing from the pentagon. >> reporter: well, look, ryan, this visit would in fact have been in the works for some time. we've chatted about that. this is something that involves the maximum amount of presidential security and security always high for a president. but to travel to a war zone, the secret service and the u.s. military would have been working to the for several weeks to actually plan this out, to secure the airspace as he entered iraq, to ensure that there is security communications, complete lockdown of security for him, the first lady and the entire traveling party to make sure airspace is monitored into that airspace and as they leave. this is a complex event, the secret service, the u.s. military obviously know how to do it. they did it for george w. bush,
for president obama any number of times that they visited iraq and afghanistan. it comes at an interesting time for the president but nonetheless, he has according to reuters set out a couple of interesting facts saying there are no plans to pull out of iraq. there are 5,200 u.s. troops there and that is going to be of some reassurance to iraqi government officials who are not at all clear that he saw any iraqi government officials during his visit there. y did speak to some commanders on the ground. the level of briefings that he got, we don't know, how much he was told, what he asked. the visit lasted about three hours. he spoke to the troops for about 20 minutes, we are told. but this also comes as the pentagon is under orders to withdraw some 2,600 u.s. troops across the border in syria. now, the president saying that he might use some of those -- some troops in iraq to stage
missions in syria, but that he definitely wants all u.s. ground troops out of that country. ryan. >> barbara starr at the pentagon. let's now go to sarah westwood. usually these trips bip preside presidents are feel-good missions but president trump has gone there and defended himself from a political position and he's also talking about the government shutdown. give us the view there from the white house. >> reporter: that's right, ryan. it's certainly an interesting backdrop for the president to be defending his decision to withdraw the troops from syria. i recall that during the 2016 campaign went after his former predecessor, president barack obama, claiming because of his decision to withdraw troops, he was the founder of isis. nonetheless, the president is defending his decision to remove
those troops to syria saying anything that needs to be done in syria could perhaps be done from the bases in iraq. this is an unconventional preds, as you know, but this has unfolded in a scheduled way. and even when they did do so, it was unwraps until they arrived, just a trump's trip was. back home the president has a lot going on but this going to change the conversation for the next several days, ryan. >> you told us at the top of last hour before we had gotten any significant reporting that your insight into this was that perhaps these troops in iraq were a key symbol for the president because it meant that there was going to be an additional burden for these iraqi troops because he was calling for this pull-out in syria and that's exactly what the president said that, he has no plan foss pull out of iraq
and, in fact, this will become one of the most important military positions for the united states. why iraq was already important but if we decide to pull these troops out of syria, why does that become even more important? >> i think it goes pack to eyis was on the move in iraq, was going to start being on the move in syria. ey eyis posed a die threat to the security of baghdad. the u.s. could not let baghdad fall to isis militants so they sent u.s. troops in and it has been a slug ever since through iraq and through a good deal of syria to push isis out. you have still several hundred if not thousands of ice and that of course have very close to the
iraqi border. they're going to want to make sure they don't see that bleed over of isis back into iraq and try to do -- the military will want to do what it can through air strikes or counterterrorism, special operations missions to go after isis remnants inside syria. by the day, by the week that, will become a very difficult proposition. there are indications that syrian regime forces, russian forces and turkish forces already have their designs on -- this may be wishful thinking and may be very difficult to this point. the u.s. commander felt they were close to defeating isis in syria but didn't feel they had actually accomplished that yet. nobody wanted the forever war in syria, but the question is was the withdrawal too presib to us
in and not just suddenly pull out of the country, ryan. >> barbara and sarah, thank you both for your reporting. let's talk to folks with military insight on all of this. joining me now, two cnn military analysts, retired general mark hertling and retired rearkirby. this is a difficult time for troops in a war zone. they're away from their families. they're not able to celebrate the holidays in perhaps the fashion they would like to. what does it mean to see their commander in chief? >> it's a big deal. general hertling can probably speak to this better than me. any time the commander in chief comes to visit and expresses thanks for your service, for your sacrifice, shows he's there in solidarity with you and it also means a lot to their families back home.
in the person of the president, the united states is behind their husbands, their wives, their brothers, their sisters. >> general, talk about that. having been to iraq, what will it mean to see president trump up up close and personal? >> it is critically important, as add mrl -- i was there in 2003 when president bush surprised everyone at thanksgiving. he showed up at, i was there in 2007 when president obama came, 2007/2008. we didn't get to see him at that time, he was more out in the western provinces, which is where president trump is right now. the president went to the air base in the western part of iraq. that air base has been
instrumental in providing support along the syrian border, as barbara starr just said. there are bases of u.s. forces helping train iraqis and advising iraqis along the border with syria and another base in anbar province. so the president going there, it's critically important for him to say what he said because those forces are contributing not on to the fight of isis in iraqs abo but also in syria. right now about a year ago the former prime minister of iraq said that isis was defeated. the current prime minister of iraq says that he knows that's not true, that they have gone to ground all along the euphrates and tigris river valley. this is critically important. isis is still there but they have gone to ground.
the president of iraq, who happens to be a good friend of mine, is a kurd. so him hearing this news the other day that the president is pulling out of syria and affecting his kurdish brothers, even though they're in a different country, is thitically pore -- particularly porous. they had a vote inside the iraqi parliament that was narrowly defeated to pull troops out of iraq. in a ti this is a time to deal with the iraqi government to see how they feel about the issues of what the united states is doing in the fight against isis and the support of allies in both iraq and syria. >> to that point, general, obviously the president is there shaking hand, posing for selfies with the troops. how important is it for him to,
a, private lily meet with these generals who will be faced with significant new challenges and to meet with iraqi government officials to at least take their temperature to see how they view this decision? >> it is critically important. truthfully, ryan, the photographs with the troops are the morale builders, having a meal with them at christmas for the troops it see the president, it's all important for morale. but the most important part of any presidential visit is getting information, firsthand information, from the commanders, the u.s. and coalition commanders on the ground. the other thing that's important is talking to the iraqi government. >> all right, excellent perspective from both of you gentlemen, lieutenant hertling, admiral kirby, thank you both for being here. we'll have much more in a moment. stay here.
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back now to our breaking news, president trump and the first lady making a surprise trip to iraq to visit troops. the trip comes as president trump has been criticized for not visiting a war zone like his predecessors had by this point in their presidencies. here to discuss, margaret taleb and elise labott. elise, the president has it and some heat because of the decision to pull troops out of syria, not just from democrats but from republicans as well. today he broke a little bit of news because he said that he's sticking by decisions to keep troops in iraq, and he actually said that these troops in iraq could help the fact that this could change the situation by pulling troops out of syria. now optics aside, does this trip give the president a chance to
reassert the foreign policy position on the world stage that the u.s. has? >> well, it does, but i don't think it's the foreign policy position that allies in the region want to hear. this was a decision that was not made in consultation with allies. there was no reassurance that it was going to be done in a way that would help allies prepare for what comes after. there's been a lot of concern that not just in syria but also in iraq isis still has remnants that could reconstitute and make it even more dangerous. the situation in iraq is still very unstable with the government there and i think that president trump certainly is delivering on his campaign pledges to withdraw u.s. troops out of war. but in terms of u.s. leadership, america being a reliable ally, i don't think this is the foreign policy position that the allies are looking for right now. >> still talking about the optics, margaret, president trump fancies himself a
president that really appreciates veterans, he often touts his support of the military, but he did receive quite a bit of criticism for not visiting arlington ceremony on veterans day and skipped a service in france because of the rain. do you think he was under pressure or do you think this is something he felt was a priority at this time? >> ryan, i do think some of those missteps abroad and here in arlington focused the president's attention on the fact this was a problem. we have seen some military polling even prior to jim mat s mattis's resignation some waning support. inside the military he's less popular than when he took office.
i think this visit was in the planning staging for quite some time. it is important to distinguish between the decision he made in syria and in iraq. it was a visit he wanted to make anyway but it just hit a whole new number of imperatives given his decision in syria and everything that has happened in the wake of that. >> elise, president trump talked a lot about the middle east during his campaign. he certainly removed himself from the neoconservative wing of the republican party in talking about his foreign policy. i want to play for you a statement that he made about president obama and isis during the campaign. take a listen to this. >> isis is honoring president obama. he is the founder of isis. he's the founder of isis. he's the founder.
he founded isis. and i would say the co-founder would be crooked hillary clinton. co-founder. >> so if you can follow the president's logic during the campaign, he essentially said it was president obama's decision to pull out of iraq that led to the founding of isis and that's why he was the creator of isis. elise, is history repeating himself to a certain degree with president trump's decision here in syria? couldn't this lead to the same sort of situation that he criticized president obama for? >> well, i think that's a big concern, ryan. when he said that he founded -- this was like a glib remark about president obama and hillary clinton. there was, if you remember, a lot of criticism of the obama administration for failing to see the signs of this group that kept gaining steam and gaining strength and before you knew it, they had amassed power of a
whole swath of both syria and iraq. i think that there was a lot of responsibility placed on the obama administration. i think the fear is right now that president trump wants to declare isis over, even though his commanders and the u.s. envoy to the isis coalition, brett mcgurk, who just resigned a few days ago in large part that he's concerned that the job is not finished and this was a precipitous withdrawal. there is a lot of concern that you could not only see isis come back but something even more dangerous. you look at iraq, the situation is precipitous, there's no reconstruction to speak of, no services. people in iraq, that's what they're very concerned, about that this is the situation that helped isis to flourish in the first place. i think president obama, you can harken back to when president bush had that sign that said
"mission accomplished," i think that president trump might come to regret those words because the mission is not accomplished and i think there are a lot of questions now about whether this withdrawal, whether the u.s. will pay the price in years to come. >> elise labott, thank you very much. stand by. we are get nting new details abt president trump's visit to iraq. we'll have it all for you. you're watching cnn's special live coverage. hi i'm joan lunden.
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more now on our breaking news, president trump and the first lady make a surprise visit to troops in iraq. it his first visit to a combat zone since become being president, and it comes amid his decision to pull troops out of receiveri cyria -- syria, the resignation of james mattis. fred, obviously the kremlin has reacted to the president's decision to pull troops out of syria. today the president said, quote, our presence in syria was not open ended. he seems to be sticking by this decision, despite the criticism here in the united states. how is this news being received where you are?
>> reporter: well, certainly it's one of the things i think the kremlin will be very happy to hear the president say this and certainly second his decision to pull out of syria. i think they're going to be watching this very, very carefully and very clearly watching this because one of the things that we've heard over the past couple of days here in moscow is the russians on the one hand applauded president trump's decision to leave syria. they said it's something that was long overdue. the russians of course believe the u.s. presence in syria is negative to what they want to achieve there. russia is on the ground by far the most powerful country that has a presence in syria. certainly they think that's going to grow if and when the united states leaves that country. it was interesting because vladimir putin at his year-end press conference just a couple of days ago said we need to verify this is really going to happen that, the u.s. is really going to pull out. he brought the example of afghanistan saying we've heard from the u.s. multiple times they want it leato leave afghan.
they've never done that over the last 17 years. this is something they want to reassure, something that is going to be music to their ears. one of the things we heard president trump say in the past when he was speaking about president obama's middle east politics, he was saying president obama tended to telegraph what he was going to do to america's adversaries. right now president trump is reassuring at least moscow this is something that will really happen. >> let's go to london now. nima, you have covered the conflict in the middle east, you know about the reality in syria. president trump has said that the war was won there, that isis was defeated. today he told troops in iraq that they were very nearly defeated. he seems to be changing his description of the situation there with each passing day. how will this impact the stability of that region and
then by an extension, what will it mean for those troops that the president was meeting with today in iraq? >> well, he has already confirmed the initial suspicions by clarifying to troops in his remarks to them that these are the troops that would be expected to pick up that slack when the withdrawal from syria is completed, that the troops stationed in iraq will be expected to do border work to stop the isis elements that still continue to exist along with western border of iraq and are along the iraq/syria border. the bigger concern is what this telegraphs to leaders in the region. this has already been an incredibly unsettling, unstable time. they're waiting to see if turkey will take the lead, as president erdogan said they would do. what does that mean for what the iraqi government can expect with
regards to support from america? it really only adds to this morace of instability. >> the president has signalled he's willing to remove troops out of afghanistan. >> reporter: we've heard this the white house is drawing up plans to cut that presence in half. afghanistan is america's longest running overseas conflict. and decisions like that have huge ramifications for central asia, for the stability of the afghan government. this is a war that is not going well after 17 years. the afghan government, according to u.s. military estimates, has only control over about 55% of the country. there are horrific taliban and isis attacks that are going off every week, every month.
a u.s. general injured in an assassination attempt that succeeded in killing the police chief of kandahar at the beginning of the fall, a horrific terror attack that took place in the afghan capital just this week with the death toll in the dozens. but the announcement that the white house was talking about drawing down troops there was one that caught many allies there in the region by surprise. the u.s. is one of some 41 state oaf contributing countries that are part of a coalition on the ground in afghanistan. the u.s. the biggest troop contributor. it definitely rattled and unsettled some of the allies there as well as the government that relies on the international coalition there and raises real questions about whether or not the u.s. is a reliable ally in a place even as complicated and bloody as afghanistan.
>> before we go to break, we have a new piece of information from the pool traveling with the president. the pool traveling says that the president did not meet with the prime minister of iraq during his visit to the country, which we've been talking about was an important part of this trip, not just meeting with the troops but meeting with the political leaders there. nima, what does this say about this process if the government didn't get the opportunity to talk to one of the iraqi leaders about these decisions he's made regarding the troop withdrawal and his commitment to keeping american troops in the country? >> that immediately speaks to this being for domestic u.s. n consumpti consumption. if this is going to be one of your key allies in the remaining fight against isis, to not meet with the prieps me minister of
he discussed the shut double play stalemate with u.s. military members there. trump is demanding funding for his border wall, which democrats are resisting. he reportedly said about democratic leader nancy pelosi, quote, nancy is calling the shots. the american public is demanding a wall. meanwhile, we are just minutes from the closing bell and wall street is bouncing back in a big way, erasing all of the losses from the worst ever christmas eve. alison kosik is tracking all of the changes. i think this is a bit of a surprise that the the markets would be doing so well given financial eve. >> maybe it's because the president hasn't tweeted about the market. the dow still has a lot of ground to make up. just in the month of december, the dow has shed thousands of
points. you can see the volatility, even with these green arrows the concerns are still there, of higher interest rates, of the unresolved trade situation, glowing economic growth and now a new one, political risk. this is now part of the play book here on wall street. when in the past president trump's tweets and statements used to be background noise, now driving the markets down, undermining confidence. trump's unpredictable nature continues to be an underlying threat to the stability of the market. ryan? >> alison kosik live at the new york stock exchange, thank you. back to our breaking news, more on president trump's surprise visit to iraq. we'll have more on that when we come back.
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back to our breaking news about the president and first lady's surprise visit to u.s. troops in iraq. during his speech to the troops, president trump described how he told the generals would get no more extensions when it came to pulling out of syria. let's bring in general cedric leighton. the president essentially revealing to these troops these behind-the-scenes conversations he's having with the generals about this really strategic decision. is this uncommon for a commander in chief to do during a visit like this? >> very uncommon, ryan. the thing we're looking at here is the fact that the president is so open about his motivations
when it comes to withdrawing troops from syria. i think what the troops are getting is a bit of inside baseball and i think they're grateful to hear some of that, but the real problem is that other people are listening in to this and they understand that the president is basically moving everything out of syria, placing it into iraq. that gives russia, syria in the form of the assad regime and iran, as well as isis an opportunity to maneuver. that cab very dangerous game and may force the president to reverse course depending on how things going in syria. >> the president also indicated that he's in no rush to nominate a new defense secretary. he said the deputy he's appointed, the deputy secretary shanahan could be in the office for quite some time. interesting first that he makes this news in front of a crowd of troops, but what's your overall reaction to that timeline?
>> i think it's very interesting because the department of defense is one of the most critical functions of the u.s. government, and it's really important not only from a stability factor from the messaging that it sends to foreign powers that we have a permanent a second in place as the secretary, as the actual confirmed secretary. to put mr. shanahan in an acting position probably goss an octobering not only to the department of defense but also to mr. shanahan. i would suggest the president really look very carefully at making sure we have a permanent replacement for secretary mattis in that position as possible. there's too much going on not to do that. >> quickly, if you can also we spond to t -- respond to the fact that the president was supposed to miss with the prime minister but that meeting was cancelled. was that a missed opportunity for the president? >> absolutely. any time you're on foreign soil, it's really an obligation to meet with the head of government
and possibly the head of state of the country that's being visited. iraq is not part of the united states. iraq is a sovereign nation. and we owe the courtesy that -- to the prime minister for our head of state and head of government to visit him. so i think it definitely was a missed opportunity. i would also hope that the president would go to oof began stan as well as iraq. >> cedric leighton, appreciate your response. >> breaking news, the stock market bouncing back into the green after the worst christmas eve selloff ever. back in a moment. this isn't just any moving day.
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a lavish royal wedding, the death of the queen of soul and diversity at the box office. cnn contributor nicschelle turnr looks at the top entertainment stories of 2018. >> jackie, would you like to take a knee? >> a tv star booted off her on show, getting crazy-rich at the box office and kanye's white house romance? here is a look at the top entertainment newsmakers in 2018. number eight, ariana grande, thank you, next.
♪ the lyrics say it all. ariana grande's newest single is a deeply personal look back at 2018, a year full of love, breakups and heart ache. but capped off what she says is one of the best years of her career, and the fans agree. ♪ ariana grande's fourth album, "sweet nurse" skyrocketed. on spotify, had the biggest opening week by a female artist and her star studded music video became the most-watched premier on youtube. number seven. pay inequality in hollywood. hollywood fights to close the gender pay gap. stars wore black to raise awareness on issues like pay inequality. >> we are here standing in solidarity with women everywhere. >> reporter: this came on the heels of an announcement from e news host catt sadler who says she left after learning her co
host made double her salary. co star mark wahlberg was paid $1.5 million. wahlberg pledged support for williams, donating his payment to the time's up legal defense fund. three counts of aggravated indecent assault. >> number six, cosby and weinstein's woes. america's dad behind bars. >> any comment, sir? >> reporter: bill cosby found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home, sentenced up to ten years in prison, and will be classified as a sexually violent predator for life. cosby's case was the first celebrity sexual assault trial, conviction and sentencing since the start of the me too movement. but another industry heavyweight, harvey weinstein, was arrested and charged with rape and sex abuse from incidents dating back to 2004. he faces dozens of additional accusations, but denies all allegations of, quote,
nonconsensual sex. investigations are under way in the u.s. and abroad. ♪ >> reporter: number five, kimye. kim and kanye dive into politics. kim's plea for president trump to commute the sentence for drug offender, alice johnson. >> thank you! >> reporter: after a trip to the white house and some words of advocacy on twitter, trump commuted johnson's sentence. she was freed from prison after serving 21 years. meanwhile, kanye's bromance with the president flourished. >> i love this guy right here. >> reporter: they have admired each other since 2014, but sealed the deal during a bizarre visit to discuss prison reform. the wild antics went on and on, leaving trump speechless. >> that was quite something. >> reporter: number four, aretha franklin dies. ♪ r-e-s-p-e-c-t >> reporter: saying goodbye to a legend. aretha franklin died from pancreatic cancer in august. in the wake of her death,
thousands lined the streets to honor her life and career. ♪ and her famous fans were just as sorry to say goodbye from stevie wonder to jennifer hudson and ariana grande and smokey robinson. it was a tribute fit for a queen. aretha franklin was 76 years old. breaking news in the world of entertainment. the top-rated television comedy of the year is now cancelled. >> reporter: number three, roseann's reboot drama. the show booted off abc in may after the show's star made racist comments about former white house aide, valerie jarrett on twitter. and as they say in hollywood, the show must go on. months later, the network announced the show would return without its name sake, as "the connors." >> do we have to keep talking about death all of the time? >> reporter: the spinoff, which chronicles life after the sudden death of roseann connor premiered to 10.5 million
viewers, down 35% from the original reboot. >> my son, it is your time. >> reporter: number two, box office diversity. diversity ruled at marvel's "black panther," bringing in $1.3 billion worldwide. this superhero flick resonated with theater-goers everywhere. >> so your family is rich? >> we're comfortable. >> that is exactly what a super rich person would say. >> reporter: and social media favorite "crazy rich asians" made over $237 million globally. it's the first major studio film to feature a predominantly asian cast since "the joy luck club." but that's not all. ticket sales showed it became the highest-grossing romantic comedy in the u.s. in ten years. the countdown to the royal wedding is very nearly over, don. >> and number one, a royal wedding. a story book wedding for prince
harry and actress meghan markle. they tied the knot at windsor castle. the dress, the ring, the fashion and the fascinators. and, of course, the queen and a princess. no royal wedding is complete without a star-studded guest list. george and amal clooney, cesere williams. and a royal baby on the way in 2019. kevin hart stepped down as the host of the oscars after homophobic tweets from his past surfaced online. so the question is, who is going to step in? well, we will find out very soon. nischelle turner for cnn, los angeles. >> nischelle, thank you. that does it for me, i'm ryan nobles. dana bash continues our breaking news coverage of president trump's surprise visit to iraq and the major stock rebound on wall street as we count down to the closing bell.
this is cnn breaking news. >> welcome to a special edition of "the lead." i'm dana bash in for jake tapper. we begin this afternoon with major breaking news on two fronts. look at that. the dow is up over 1,000 points after a tumultuous christmas slide. this as we are waiting comments from president trump, who is in the midst of his first visit to u.s. troops in a war zone. the commander-in-chief, along with first lady melania trump, flew overnight and landed at 7:16 p.m. iraq time, meeting with service members at al assad air base, just west of baghdad. he was on the ground for around three hours, surprising troops with this secret visit. all of this happening, of course, while the government remains partially shut down over funding for the president's proposed border wall. and a major shakeup at the pentagon is under way. defense secretary james mattis will leave his post
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