tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN December 26, 2016 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
happening now. lashing out. the israeli prime minister defends his scathing criticism of president obama. tensions are escalating after the u.s. refused to veto an anti-israel resolution at the u.n. tonight, israel claims it has evidence against the obama administration that it says it's ready to hand over to donald trump. nuclear fallout. as the president-elect gets closer to inauguration day, there are growing questions whether he's preparing to launch a new nuclear arms race with russia. there's new proof tonight that words can indeed be dangerous when nuclear weapons are in play. third term?
president obama suggests that if he had run against donald trump, he would have won. is he dodges all blame for the democrat's defeat? i'll talk to the obama insider who interviewed the president, cnn's own david axelrod. and pop icon. george michael's impact on the music world is being remembered tonight after his shocking death at the age of just 53. this hour, the man and the hits that rocked the 1980s and beyond. we want to welcome our viewers here in the united states and around the world. wolf blitzer is off. i'm jim sciutto and you're in "the situation room." tonight, israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu is promising his country will not turn the other cheek after a stinging diplomatic slap by the united states and the united nations. cnn has learned that israel is suspending all working ties with 12 security council nations that voted for a u.n. resolution, condemning israel's settlement
activity in the occupied territory. netanyahu is fuming at president obama after the u.s. abstained from the vote, refusing to use its veto power. the israeli ambassador to the u.s. tells cnn that his country has evidence that the obama administration led what he called a gang-up on israel at the u.n. he says israel will give that evidence to president-elect trump. tonight, donald trump is disputing president obama's new suggestion that he could have won a third term if he had been eligible to run. trump posting a tweet just a short time ago saying, no way. and in a new interview, mr. obama argues that americans still support his vision for progressive change, despite hillary clinton's loss after she had largely embraced his own agenda. we're following a new complication for president-elect trump and his promise to dissolve the trump foundation to avoid some conflicts of interest. new york's attorney general says trump cannot legally do that until his office completes an investigation of that
foundation. we'll talk about all those stories and more with our correspondents, analysts and guests. they are standing by as we bring you full coverage of the day's top stories. cnn's oren lieberman is standing by in jerusalem. first, though to our correspondent elise labott with more on israel's response to that resolution. what are your sources telling you tonight? >> reporter: israel is cushing working ties with embassies and refusing to meet with ambassadors with countries that voted for the resolution. but he saved his strongest fury for the u.s. who he said led a shameful ambush. still fuming over friday's u.n. vote declaring israeli settlements illegal, prime minister benjamin netanyahu escalated his attacks against the obama administration. >> friends don't stake friends to the security council. >> reporter: summoning the u.s. ambassador and accusing president obama and secretary of state kerry of orchestrating
what he called a shameful ambush at the u.n., telling his cabinet he has iron clad proof. >> translator: from the information that we have, we have no doubt that the obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording, and demanded that it be past. >> reporter: the white house denies that, calling the claim absurd. >> we did not draft it, we did not put it forward. >> reporter: the obama administration maintains the u.n. vote was a last resort, after struggling for eight years to convince israel to halt settlement construction on occupy lands the palestinians claim as their state. >> for years we've seen an acceleration in settlements. if these current trends continue, the two-state solution is going to be impossible. >> this is not a resolution against israel, this is against the expansion. the move was just to really save us and israel and craft our way towards the future. >> reporter: but for israel, that future is uncertain.
officials now worry that with u.n. backing, palestinians will push for sanctions, boycotts, and take israeli soldiers to the international criminal court. >> this gave the palestinians ammunition in their diplomatic and legal war against israel. the united states not only didn't stop it but were behind it. >> reporter: donald trump condemned the u.n. vote saying "it will make it much harder to negotiate peace." >> i look forward to working with those friends, and with the new administration when it takes office next month. >> reporter: and it isn't just the president-elect who opposes this vote. but members of congress from both parties who urged the obama administration not to go through with it. and now leading republicans say they will move to defund the u.n. unless the security council overturns this vote. jim? >> elise labott in jerusalem.
so how much of this is about netanyahu trying to set up a new relationship with the incoming trump administration? >> reporter: jim, there's no doubt that's a significant portion of what's going on here. prime minister benjamin netanyahu has mentioned president-elect donald trump in almost every statement he's made since friday, talking about how much he's looking forward to working with him and trump's pick for ambassador to israel has to make netanyahu very happy. the ambassador pick much more closely aligned with netanyahu. we've known this is a strained relationship between obama and netanyahu and now we're seeing it fall apart very quickly in its final days. part of this is also local. those that vote for netanyahu are not fans of obama and this is netanyahu appealing to his own voters, as well. >> let me ask you this. the u.s. made it clear that the decision to abstain was not about israel, it was about the settlement's policy. talk us through so our viewers
understand settlement growth and expansi expansion. how much has it accelerated under netanyahu's leadership? >> reporter: let's go back specifically to 1993, the oslo accords, the first major agreement between the israeli and palestinians. the settlement council tells us there were approximately 110,000 settlers. present day, this is just specifically the west bank, not east jerusalem, through now four times that many settlers in the west bank. that is what the obama administration is referring to when they say this decision to abstain was all about settlements. this resolution shows there's a consensus that settlements are the problem. that is a process israel disputes. >> the prime minister of israel did a freeze. he did a freeze for ten months for the settlements and the palestinians did not come to the negotiation table. what do the palestinians want? what they want to do is to blame israel for not negotiating, refuse to sit down and have discussions with us, and internationalize the conflict.
and for the last eight years they've not been able to do that, because thankfully the president has stood up to those efforts in the security council. now he gave the palestinians exactly what they want. he gave them the ammunition for a political and diplomatic and legal war against israel. he gave them that ammunition by not vetoing the security council resolution. >> reporter: some of the harshest criticism we've seen from obama directed at netanyahu was in october when the u.s. accused israel of establishing a new settlement. israel denied it was a new settlement, but the criticism we're seeing today was reversed. it was the u.s. accusing israel of breaking long-standing promises not to establish new settlements in the west bank. >> certainly a lot to dissect with our guests. if i could bring with you, professor dershowitz, you said you agree with donald trump that
the u.s. should have veet oth-- vetoed this resolution. why do you oppose this resolution? >> if it was simply opposed to settlements on the west bank, it would have been controversial but wouldn't have got the outrage. this resolution says it is illegal, unlawful for israel to control the western wall, the holiest place in judaism, the access roads to hebrew university where jews and arabs study together. the access road to the hospital, the jewish corridor, french hill, and other areas in jewish jerusalem. it was a stupidly drafted resolution. it could have avoided this conflict if it had just limited itself to what it says is its purpose, complaining about the expansion of the settlements. it ended up being a bait and
switch that. is the president and his advisers say this is about expansion of settlements. then you read the text and it's all about the western wall, jerusalem, it's about any changes post '67. it's all about the nine-mile wide area that separates the palestinian state and potential terrorism from tel aviv. that poses a threat to israel. >> just for a moment, because i want to get a different view for the situation on the ground. to be fair, there's been a lot of talk about the settlements around jerusalem. but settlements have expanded in a number of places. was this justified? >> no, not under those circumstances. we've never gone as far as we went this week in allowing a u.n. resolution to go through
for exactly the reasons that professor dershowitz said. this makes illegal much of the israeli negotiating position. but jim, the other thing it does is, it's -- it's part of a pattern with egypt, saudi arabia, turkey, the syrian resistance, to some degree the people fighting isis in iraq and this administration abandoning or not supporting our allies. we have been walking away from them all across the middle east. >> let me ask you a question, and i'm aware of that criticism. i talk to people in the middle east on a number of issues. they have felt abandoned that there's been weak leadership from the u.s. but on this issue of the settlements here. successive democratic and republican administrations have allowed resolutions to go through by abstaining that have criticized israel's settlement policy. >> the strength of it was
particularly noteworthy, as we just heard. the other thing is, our u.n. ambassador, samantha powers, spent most of her explanation of the abstention explaining why the u.n. is exactly the wrong institution to be dealing with anything on israel -- that's the problem we have here, and that's why people are so enraged here. >> her original speech was a veto speech, and she changed some parts of it at the last minute. if you read the entire speech, it sounds to me like it was a speech designed to veto, and then she was told at the last minute no, we're pulling the prug and not vetoing. read the speech carefully. >> explain the timing and politics behind this, what is your view and what are lawmakers telling you the goal of the obama administration was doing this weeks away from the inauguration day when a president is coming in who has a different approach to israel than obama. >> the timing is not a coincidence. over a year ago, president obama
himself asked staffers to come up with a list of possible things they could do on their way out on the israeli-palestinian conflict. this is one of them. there were other ones, sanctions on companies that do business in the west bank, and they chose this one as an intentional sign to send a message. so it calls into question this claim that they were innocent bystanders along for the ride. when the u.s. decided to abstain vote, that's a planned out thing. the problem is, that now that they are going out the door, there's no followup. it can't be part of a strategy to pressure israel to do a, b, and c. so it is a parting shot and whatever fallout there is, they won't be around to deal with it. >> professor, does this arguably make it more difficult in particular for the palestinian representative here i asked, but
is the trump -- there a danger to an administration backlash? >> the diplomatic fallout is extraordinary. it will make it harder for the palestinians to, as they must in any agreement going back three administrations, make territorial swaps. because now all of this israeli held territory is by u.n. decree illegal. moving abroad, it has hurt israel's relations with egypt, where it's conducting join operations in the sinai. and even hurts relations with russia. this is a disaster from whatever point of the compass you look at. >> alan dershowitz, three weeks from now when donald trump is inaugurated as president of the united states, he's surrounded himself who have a hard line on israel. how does this play out? >> first of all, obama purposefully tried to tie the hands of his successor, which is
undemocratic during a lame duck period. it will make it much harder for trump to bring about a negotiated peace, because the palestinians have no incentive to do it. look, this is not policy. this is a president who is angry and is trying to get even. there's no other way of explaining why the president would allow this kind of overwrought resolution that doesn't speak only to the expanded settlements, but speaks to the heart of jewish jerusalem. it is a revenge, not a policy. and it is part of obama's legacy. he is going to go down in history as one of the best domestic presidents and the worst foreign policy president in the history of the united states. when you think about history, opening up to russia, the iran deal, and now this culminates it. one of the worst foreign policy presidents in american history. shame on him for doing this on the way out. >> ambassador, that's a pretty bold criticism of president
obama. do you agree with that assessment? >> i wouldn't have gone quite so far, almost i almost did a few minutes ago. the basic thing is to reiterate, don't do anything in the last few weeks of an administration. the last time we did anything big, it was going into somalia in 1991, and look how that turned out. this is going to turn out as bad. >> this is just the beginning. because when the new congress comes in, they're going to be acting on this. they're going to try to defund the u.n., they're going to try to take away aid from the palestinian authority. it will be a big fight. so this is a mess that the trump administration will have to deal with. >> it's obama's mess. >> thank you very much for joining us today. coming up, could president obama have won a third term against donald trump as he claimed today? stand by to hear the president's remarks and trump's response as democrats debate who is to blame for their election defeat. the world is full of surprising moments.
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tonight, donald trump says there is no way that president obama could have beaten him if mr. obama had been eligible to run for a third term. the president is claiming that his message of hope and change could still win elections despite the democrat's surprise defeat in november. the president spoke with his former adviser, david axelrod, and we'll talk to him in a moment. but first, let geese to athena jones. he's covering the president in hawaii tonight. some striking remarks by the president, and perhaps a dig at hillary clinton. >> reporter: an interesting conversation. you heard a very honest, relaxed president obama. he's speaking to an old friend, someone he's known for more than two decades.
one of the things i thought was most interesting about what he had to say during that nearly hour-long sitdown for the podcast is that he still believes in that vision he laid out back in 2004 that key to the democratic national convention that put him on the map, he still believes there's not a red or blue united states of america, there should be a united states of america. he suggested that if he could have run again, he would have won. take a listen. >> in the wake of the election and trump winning, a lot of people have suggested that somehow it really was a fantasy. i am confident in this vision, because i'm confident that if i had run again and articulated
it, i think i could have mobilized a majority of the american people to rally behind it. >> reporter: he also went on, as you noted, jim, to deliver an implicit criticism of hillary clinton's run. he had a lot of good things to say about her run for the white house, but he said that democrats need to do a better job of connecting with voters everywhere on a visceral level. factory workers, farmers, people living outside urban centers, and also white voters in the south. here's more on what he had to say on that. >> if we can't find some way to break through what is a complicated history in the south and start winning races there and winning back southern white voters without betraying our commitment to civil rights and diversity, if we can do we can elections.
but we will see the same kinds of patterns we saw during my t presidency, a progressive president but a gridlocked congress that can't move an agenda for us. >> reporter: we heard president-elect trump weigh in on twitter saying president obama said he thinks he would have won against me. he should say that, but i say no way. jobs leaving, isis, obamacare, et cetera. so trump trying to have a conversation with the president via social media. jim? >> not the first or the last time. thank you very much, athena jones. now let's bring in david axelrod, the man who sat down with the president there. really, david, a fascinating interview, a deep-thinking interview, but also a bit of news in there. did you hear president obama blaming hillary clinton, at least in part for the party's loss in 2016?
>> as athena suggested, he was very, very careful how he raised this subject. he was clear that he was proud of hillary clinton, thought she had done a great job under tough circumstances. thought she had been treated unfairly by the news media. but he did say that he thought that the campaign, perhaps the candidate, took too much for granted and played things cautious because of the polling, because of some of the things that donald trump had said and done that they felt had made him vulnerable and perhaps neglected some key parts of the country as a result of it. and wound up on the losing end, even though she won the election in the popular vote by 3 million votes. >> let me ask you this. there's a lot of blame going around and being assigned but not necessarily accepted as we look at this race. if you look at president obama, certainly he won two big
elections, no question. but if you look at the democratic party lawsuits since 2009. in the senate, in the house, in the statehouses, in the state legislature, which will be enormously important, did the president accept any of his own responsibility for the loss and for the tough position democrats will in today? >> well, i raised it with it, and jim, i have some standing on this, because i was in the white house for the first two years of the obama administration and intimately involved with the dnc and political figures around the country. and i think it's fair commentary. and what the president said was, yes, we connected with these voters and campaigns. but once in the white house, with all that was on our plate, he suggested again implicitly perhaps there was some neglect there. but he also said that democrats
have to find a way to reach these voters and penetrate the filter of a rush limbaugh and some of the right wing talkradio internet sites and so on, which he says has distorted the message, as well. so he said that's a project that democrats have to work on, along with working harder and electing people at the statehouse level. >> donald trump delivered his review via tweet. let's just remind our viewers what he said about the president's claim. president obama says he thinks he would have won against me, i say no way! jobs leaving, isis, obamacare, et cetera. is that a fair criticism? does he have a point? >> well, i think -- you know, this is great bar stool talk. it's like would marciano have beaten muhammad ali. but the president is leaving the
office with a very high approval rating, akin to ronald reagan. and there was a poll that bloomberg did after the election that suggested he would have beaten trump by 12 points. now, that's not a campaign, and you don't know what will happen. but the president's point was that his point of view, and that's a more progressive, tolerant one america kind of outlook, has a majority constituency in the country. but he did say as athena mentioned, if the democratic party doesn't solve its problems, the democratic party could regain the presidency but still face gridlock in congress because of its inability to penetrate small towns in rural areas. he said that has to be a focus moving forward. >> and he said he would want to be involved in it. david axelrod, thank you very much for walking us through it all. >> thank you. coming up, the question that's making much of the world extremely nervous now.
is president-elect donald trump opening the door alarmingly to a nuclear arms race with russia? we'll take a closer look at trump's back and forth with vladamir putin and what it could mean for the world's security. approach remains. rd global markets may be uncertain... but you can feel confident in our investment experience around the world. call us or your advisor... t. rowe price. invest with confidence.
which is used to authorize a nuclear attack. and there are many unanswered questions about his plans for america's nuclear weapons. our pentagon correspondent barbara starr is on that story for us. this is a serious issue, there are very real concerns now about a nuclear arms race with russia. >> reporter: there are, indeed, jim. look at where the u.s. has come from. back at the height of the cold war in the '60s, the u.s. had some 30,000 nuclear weapons. now today, it's down to about 7,000. the question is, does donald trump really want to reverse that trend? less than a month before he takes command of the u.s. nuclear arsenal, the world still is not sure what president-elect donald trump meant with his tweet. "the united states must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."
a trump administration moved to expand the nuclear arsenal would be a stunning and unprecedented reversal of both democratic and republican foreign policy, largely set by ronald reagan. >> a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. [ applause ] possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. but then, would it not be better to do away with them entirely? >> reporter: reagan overcame his own opposition to arms control, sat down with mikhail gorbachev, and negotiated nuclear arms limits. but trump doubled down, commenting to a tv morning anchor in a dramatic statement, delivered in a surreal, festive setting. >> he told me on the phone, "let it be an arms race," because we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."
>> any time a president talks about a nuclear arms race, it should be alarming. because the last thing we need is more nuclear weapons out there. >> reporter: vladamir putin already signaling he won't bankrupt his economy on a nuclear race. >> translator: if someone accelerates and speeds up the arms race, it will not be us. i would say that we will never, iffer in an arms race, we will never spend too much. >> reporter: but putin is moving ahead. >> the russians in the last few years vin creaincreased the cap of their systems dramatically. >> reporter: it's not known if trump has been briefed and he believes the u.s. intelligence assessment that russia is testing a new nuclear capable ground launched missile. >> under president putin, the russians have violated that
agreement. they have not admitted it and they have not yet, to our knowledge, fielded those weapons. but once they do, that will be an immediate threat to our european allies and probably on president trump's watch he'll have to do something about it. >> reporter: and the europeans are nervous about that prospect. north korea would be getting ready for another nuclear test. and just today, india test fired an intercontinental ballistic missile. >> barbara starr, thank you very much. let's bring in democratic senator chris coons. thank you very much and happy holidays to you and your family. >> thank you, jim. >> so let me ask you this, this is not the first time that donald trump has tweeted on an issue of national or international importance. do you take this as a serious statement of a policy position that donald trump may order an expansion of america's nuclear arsenal?
>> jim, this is a troubling trend that seems to continue. obviously, donald trump was in part successful in the presidential campaign because millions of americans liked the way that he uses twitter to talk directly to them, to sort of shape things up and to be a different sort of political leader. but less than a month from now, he's going to be the president of the united states. i think this is a very troubling trend. he should not be launching us into a whole new debate about growing our nuclear arsenal with just 140 characters at a time. this is a big departure from policy going back to ronald reagan, of mur pursuing reductions and promoting nonpro-lnonpr nonproliferati nonproliferation. when we face real problems around the world, i don't know why donald trump would pick this fight when there's no immediate or pressing need for us to address it in the next couple of weeks. i'm hopeful once he becomes
president he'll put the phone down and stop causing these international incidents with unguided tweets. >> let me ask you this, and this graph references a point you said. the u.s. arsenal going back to the cuban missile crisis and how it's come down from tens of thousands, just above 30,000 at the peak there. and as you note, through republican and democratic administrations, nixon, carter, reagan, serious reductions down to a fraction of where they were. the question is, are you concerned about russian moves that barbara starr referenced there to perhaps violate some of these treaties, the possible deployment and development of a mobile launched missile, is that a real concern from the u.s. per spe -- perspective? >> yes, one of the challenges donald trump will face right away is russian aggression. russia has pushed up against the
boundaries of different treaty commitments, including the invasion of crimea. so trump is going to have to demonstrate his ability to stand up to putin and that may be a part of what he's predicting with this tweet is that he's willing to do so. but there are so many other ways which, in the course of his campaign, he's made troubling positive statements about putin. so i don't know what to make of this. i do think that the united states retains a very large and lethal nuclear arsenal, the 7,000 warheads we have today, we have plans in place to modernize them and able to deliver a knockout blow to any enemy that might seek to take us out with a first strike. so i don't have any concerns about our nuclear capabilities and i'm not clear on what president-elect trump is suggesting or what his intentions are, with this series of tweets saying we need a new nuclear arms race.
>> and we had a disturbing recent example of misunderstanding leading to threats of a nuclear war, a fake news article quoting a nuclear threat from a former israeli defense minister. that caught the attention of the pakistani defense minister who responded as if that was a real threat. how concerned are you that these 140 character statements of potential policy could spin out of control in a theater like that, india/pakistan, north korea, et cetera. >> i'm very concerned about that. one of the first issues that president-elect trump wandered into was the status of taiwan and the potentially harmful impact on u.s.-china relations of his taking a call from the president of taiwan. there's lots of places in the world, and india and pakistan is one of them, where we have hostile nations on a hair trigger. interjecting ourselves with
tweets from our president-elect is not good policy. and i hope that he's going to be taking more of the advice of the career professionals in the intelligence community and department of state, and approaching these complex issues in a more measured way. the example you just cited where a fake news article prompted this very belligerent response from pakistan is a reminder that there's lots of places in the world where we face the potential of a nuclear ex-change. i think that calls for our leadership to be more measured and thoughtful, not more misguided. >> senator, please stay there. we have new information on questions of donald trump's conflicts of interest, his foundation. we'll be back with the senator just after this. when heartburn hits, fight back fast with tums smoothies. it starts dissolving the instant it touches your tongue. and neutralizes stomach acid at the source. ♪ tum -tum -tum -tum smoothies! only from tums on a perfect car, then smash it into a tree.
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welcome back. and we're back with senator chris coons, and the latest on donald trump's scramble to figure out the future of his businesses before he takes the oath as president. senator, please stand by. i want to check in with dana bash. president-elect certainly getting strong pushback on his promise to dismantle the trump foundation and questions about other conflicts of interest. >> reporter: the trump foundation was a political problem for him during the campaign. questions about how it raised the charitable money and how
they spent it. the president-elect's team is frantically trying to figure out what to do about his vast business interest, even trump-owned properties like mario logo where he's staying for the holidays. but they're off to a tough start. a christmas eve transition announcement about shuttering the trump charitable foundation hit a roadblock. the new york attorney general, who is investigating the foundation's alleged violations, said through a spokeswoman, the trump foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete. "washington post" investigation reported the foundation spent $258,000 to settle legal problems unrelated to the charity and trump separately used charity money to buy a six-foot tall portrait of
himself. >> you need to make sure the foundation is completely independent of your for-profit business enterprises, you cannot have self-dealing in the foundation. and i don't know whether the rules were violated here or not. >> reporter: regardless of the investigation, ceasing operations on the trump foundation is hardly a heavy lift. trump hasn't donated since 2008 and it has no paid staff. the real question is how trump will separate himself for the for-profit organization, a worldwide empire, including trump golf, international realty, trump winery and trump hotels. the law does not require a president to divest himself from business breasts, but potential conflicts abound. people could try to influence the president by staying at his hotels, and the most difficult hurdle could be the clause of the u.s. constitution, which
prevents any president from accepting money from foreign governments or leaders. >> there are a lot of problems that i think president trump could deal with by selling off his business interests or giving them over to a trustee so the trustee can figure out how to dispose of these. >> reporter: a press conference was scheduled for two weeks ago. but that was delayed until january to give them more time. now, an attorney for the trump organization tells cnn it is continuing to re-evaluate various transactions, trying to take measures to comply with all conflict laws. but ethics experts say the only iron clad way to do that, to separate the trump administration from the trump businesses is to put it in a blind trust. but the president-elect, jim, he's resisting. instead, sources say he's leading towards finding a way to let his two eldest sons run it.
>> and his sons that will be advising him on many issues. i want to go back to senator chris coons on this. let's look at the practical if we can. republicans have majorities in both houses of congress. will congress hold trump accountable on these conflicts of interest? >> well, jill, given just how much time and attention donald trump paid in the course of the campaign to attacking hillary clinton for what he alleged were conflicts of interest in the clinton foundation, it's my home that donald trump will live up to those same standards and resolve ethics problems with the trump foundation and the very real potential for conflicts of interest with the trump organization going forward. i think you'll see republicans and democrats in the congress stepping up to call for president-elect trump to make it clear that he's acting in the best interest of the american people, and not in the best interest of the trump organization. and some of the very real challenges that you just laid out, that dana just laid out in
that piece, will make it quite difficult for him to do so, unless he does sever his ties to the trump organization. >> so you could conceivably have bipartisan calls for him to divest himself, but what power, what leverage, legal leverage, can they tell trump to do this, or just ask him to do this as president? >> well, three things. first, there is a clause in the constitution which has not been applied fairly frequently, but that is relevant to this particular case. as you know, there's been real questions raised about the new trump hotel on pennsylvania avenue in washington, d.c., and whether or not it violates a clause in the contact with the gsa, with the government entity that leased it to the trump organization for it to still be in his control when he becomes president. second, i do think that there's going to be lots of public calls for a resolution of these conflicts of interest so that
it's clear what decisions the president-elect is making. and third, there's recently been some dust-up, some challenges with suggestions of foreign governments and their diplomats are already changing which hotels they're booking, which facilities they're working with for the short finally -- >> i think all of these factors in conversation -- >> will make a difference. >> this will be a distraction. republicans in congress, jim, want to move ahead with their legislative agenda. they don't want this to be a constant source of distraction. so i do think they'll join with us in pressing for the president-elect once he is president to clarify these issues. >> finally, just quickly, can the democrats do it on their own without republican backing? >> i think it'd be very difficult for us to get any legislatively done in congress without republican support, but i frankly think the amount of public outcry on this issue in the weeks and months ahead, if donald trump really does fail to do anything to drain the swamp,
as he promised in his election, will be enough to motivate some republicans to join us. >> senator coons, happy holidays to you and your family. thanks for coming on today. >> thank you, jim. happy holidays to you. and just ahead, the shocking death of pop star, george michael, and the musical memories he leaves behind. ♪ oh, that's lovely... so graceful. the corkscrew spin, flawless... ...his signature move, the flying dutchman. poetry in motion. and there it is, the "baby bird". breathtaking. a sumo wrestler figure skating? surprising. what's not surprising? how much money heather saved by switching to geico. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more. getting older shouldn't mean ♪ giving up all the things she loves to do. it should just mean, well, finding new ways to do them.
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well tonight, fans are remembering pop music superstar, george michael, as an icon of the 1980s and beyond. british singer died on christmas day after reportedly suffering heart failure. he was just 53 years old. cnn's george howell has a look back at michael's tremendous career and the controversy, as well, that surrounded his life and his music. ♪ >> reporter: it's the song that has the world dancing, the hit "wake me up before you go, go." it was 1984 and they were the british duo. ♪ they had several top ten hits together, but really, it was george michael with that statement t-shirt. those moves that quickly took the spotlight, sealing his fame with this chart-topping song, "careless whisper."
♪ time can never ♪ careless whisper >> reporter: michaels split from band mate, andrew ridgely in 1986 and launched his own solo career, never looking back but headed straight into his first big culture clash. ♪ the year was 1987. george michael looking the confident rock star, a provocative video with an equally provocative title. ♪ the song's lyrics were can considered by some to push the envelope. the legendary casey kasum refused to say the title of the song. some wouldn't even play the song until after dark. ♪
michael's lyrics speaking directly about sex bumped heads with not just conservatives who thought he'd gone too far, but with a hollywood desperate to bring attention to the aids epidemic and the need for safe sex. michael would later say his lyrics were misunderstood. by the late 1980s, george michael was a bona fide superstar. garnering awards, hanging out with celebrities and royalty, and delivering more hits. like "father figure." ♪ and "one more try." ♪ and there was the hit song, "monkey." ♪ in the 1980s, george michael saw the height of his success. it can be said the 1990s weren't quite as kind.
fewer smash hits then this, april 7th, 1998, michael officered by an undercover male officer. it took no time for his arrest to become an international headline. on cnn not long after the arrest, michael confirmed what had long been rumored. he was gay. >> i want people to know that i have not been exposed as a gay man in any way that i feel -- i don't feel any shame for -- i feel stupid and i feel reckless and weak for having allowed my sexuality to be exposed this way, but i don't feel any shame whatsoever. neither do i think i should. >> reporter: in the years to come, there were more scuffles with the law, drug-related arrests, and a nasty car accident in 2010. michael was found to be driving under the influence of cannabis. went to jail.
in 2011, he fell ill with a severe case of pneumonia and had to -- ♪ but there was always the music. syphonica, creative masterpiece, with full orchestra. a critical success. ♪ first time ever i saw your face ♪ george michael once said "i still believe that music is one of the greatest gifts that god gave to man. lucky for us, he left us plenty of it. ♪ freedom ♪ freedom ♪ freedom george michael dead at the age of 53 years old. ♪ freedom ♪ freedom george howell, cnn, atlanta.
>> our thoughts with his friends and family tonight. thanks very much for watching. i'm jim sciutto. i'll be back on "a.c. 360" in about an hour. "erin burnett outfront," she starts right now. "outfront" next, the current president tells cnn he could have won a third term. trump's reaction tonight, no way. plus, more breaking news. trump says the u.n. is, quote, just a club. this as israel accuses the obama white house of conspireing against it. and the fight of the year. kangaroo versus man. let's go "outfront." good evening, everyone, i'm kate bolduan in for erin burnett. breaking news tonight, no way, says donald trump, the president-elect responding to the current president who tells cnn's david axelrod that he