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Military to Accept Transgender Recruits. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 1, 2018 - 12:30   ET


BORIS SANCHEZ: Starting today, the military will begin accepting applications from transgender recruits, this of course going against the wishes of President Trump. The president and commander in chief issued a memorandum last summer barring transgender Americans from military service. The move of course is very controversial and essentially reversed Obama era policies. Federal appeals courts have blocked key parts of President Trump's order. CNN's Barbara Starr joins me live from the Pentagon. Barbara I can't imagine that this legal battle is over.

BARBARA STARR: Not likely Boris. Where we are right now is as you just said people -- transgender individuals who wish to serve the country may now apply to be recruited into the military services; that was something that was not very clear once President Trump had said earlier last year that they would be banned. Now they can apply to join the military because the Pentagon and the Justice Department have decided not to pursue an appeal of a court case in which had ruled that they could join. So no appeal by the Government of that right now, it is not clear those persons who are transgender and already serving inside the military, what will happen to them.

But what we do know is over the next several weeks implementation plans, rules, regulations will be developed and by March there should be a plan in place by the Pentagon, recommendations to the president about how to proceed; how to allow transgendered persons to serve the country. It remains to be seen if The White House accepts that or orders the Justice Department back to court on all of this, Boris.

SANCHEZ: A story we will continue following, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon thank you. The U.S. State Department is confirming the deaths of 10 U.S. citizens in a plane crash in Costa Rica. A statement says in part, "the protection of U.S. citizens overseas is one of the highest priorities for the State Department, we stand ready to provide all appropriate counselor assistance to affected U.S. citizens."

We learned that five members of one New York family were among the victims killed in the crash, CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now with more, Jean good morning.

JEAN CASAREZ: Boris, this is devastating and the Costa Rica Civil Aviation just has confirmed not only that 12 people on board that plane, 10 of them Americans, but it appears as though as two full families were on that flight and perished. And as you can see this video it's fiery, it was fast, the plane took off yesterday at 12:10 from Punta Islita Airport in Costa Rica, bound for the capital, San Jose and it was 10 minutes later that it was reported the plane had crashed.

So 10 minutes or less after takeoff this was the scene out there and someone obviously there very quickly to capture it on video. Now we do as you mentioned, the family from New York were the Steinbergs and it was a family of five; mother, father and their children. They lived in the Westchester County area, very involved with their temple; their rabbi sent out an announcement today of the family perishing, very involved in charity work and we do know that the plane was a Cessna 208B a Grand Caravan Nature Air fleet, a utility plane carrying people; carrying cargo, just a general plane that had been in the air for a long time.

Now this is what's interesting Boris, the plane was diverted earlier yesterday on another flight because of high winds so it was actually late to come into this airport to then take this flight bound for the capital. The investigation begins today they will say autopsies have yet to be performed but Boris with the fiery crash, those autopsies could be very, very difficult.

SANCHEZ: Just a heartbreaking story to start the year; Jean Casarez thank you for that.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Next after cutting taxes and government red tape in 2017, what's on the agenda for 2018? President Trump and the GOP's big plans for the New Year right after a quick break, stay with us.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back, President Trump is feeling rather optimistic about 2018, tweeting in part that there is much work to be done, but that it'll be a great New Year." He's certainly right about the first part; in January alone, he and the Republican Party need to nail down a spending bill, a disaster relief package as well; they need a solutions for the Children's Health Insurance Program and they also wanted to address fixes for Obamacare. It's hard to forget that 2017 was not exactly a year full of party unity and bipartisanship so this agenda appears to be harder than it looks. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins me live from Washington, Suzanne how do Republicans and the president get on the same page with everything they want to accomplish?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX: Sure well Happy New Year's Boris, everyone's got their New Year's resolutions, but for President Trump and the Republican Congress the first order of business is to make sure that they are the same ones. Trump is all about pushing an infrastructure package, at least $200 billion worth of projects over 10 years with the hopes of adding $800 billion from state and local funding. Now according to Trump's top legislative aide, the president is going to sit down with his team; they're going to hash out the details, present it Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan at Camp David, that's going to happen this coming weekend. We are told that the president is going to provide the details of the plan; allow Members of Congress to actually craft the legislation, and Trump, like previous presidents, is expected to travel around the country, possibly to these dilapidated sites to sell this plan.

The goal is to have enough lawmakers behind it by the time he delivers his State of the Union Address, that's at the end January. Of whereas (ph) the first problem, however, is getting republicans united over this plan.

House republicans, led by Ryan, well, they have their sights on entitlement reform, going after the cuts to welfare, food stamps, and overhauling Medicare. McConnell has made it clear that the Senate has no appetite for that, and he has noted that republicans, they have a one seat majority on the Senate side, they've got to go after things that they can work with the democrats on, like a broad agreement over government spending, or bipartisan legislation, overhauling immigration, what to do with the young undocumented immigrants when DACA expires in March.

SANCHEZ: Alright, Suzanne Malveuax, Happy New Year to you as well, thanks so much for joining us. I want to continue the discussion with our next panel. Joining us to share their insights, David Drucker with the Washington Examiner, and USA Today's Eliza Collins.

David, first to you, the president seems to have as his top priority for 2018 infrastructure. It's something that he talked about before he left for his holiday in Mar-a-lago. On the other hand, you've got Paul Ryan saying that entitlement reform should follow tax reform.

Who do you think takes the lead here, what ultimately gets addressed first?

DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, I think the president always has the upper hand in these negotiations, he's the president.

Nothing gets done without his signature or his support ultimately. But I think everybody might be getting a little bit ahead of themselves. I think before, the president can concentrate or at least hope to get something done on infrastructure before the republicans can try and convince Trump to abandon a campaign promise, not to touch entitlement programs and actually do some reform there.

They've got to do a couple of things, they've got to get the government funded, they've got to deal with the CHIP, with the Children's Health Insurance Program which is a federal program that helps fund health insurance for low income children.

They've got a deal with some defense spending issues, and then there is the stabilization of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, that Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have been working on for those cost sharing reduction subsidies.

All of these things, parts of them which were promised during the tax reform debate that brought along republican votes, they're going to have to be dealt with in January and it could be a really tough fight. So even though they got a big win on tax reform, and that was a big

deal, and even though republicans are hoping that it creates a lot of momentum and it could - you're also going to have some members of Congress now going alright, I made a lot of the compromises that were required. I took a lot of the tough votes, and now I want something in return, and so some of these things might be a little bit difficult.

SANCHEZ: Someone is adding to that list, it's former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon who told Axios that there are other things that need to be accomplished in January that are going to be make or break for the president, including a solution to DACA, including a challenge to China.

Staying with you, Dave, is this something that has to get done in January?

DRUCKER: Well, DACA has a little bit more time, and I think it's going to require a lot of negotiation. People always like to point out that there are a lot of votes to make sure that the dreamer kids who are actually adults now, but they were brought here as children by their parents illegally across the boarder, that there are a lot of votes to make sure that they can stay and that they're legal.

And that's true, but nothing is going to happen unless it has the president's support. I interviewed Mitch McConnell right before Christmas. He said he wants a solution to the DACA problem, but he wants a solution that the president will sign, and so it's not quite as simple as simply there is a lot of republican and democratic support.

It's what does the president want and democrats in that negotiation, if the president holds firm and he demands money for the wall, democrats are then going to have to decide whether they're going to swallow something which is helping the president fund the wall, which is going to make their base very uncomfortable.

SANCHEZ: Well they may not have to if Mexico pays for it, right? I'm kidding. But Eliza, what are democrats willing to work with republicans on, because you've had many democrats that have said we need a clean DACA bill and they're not going to pay for a wall?

ELIZA COLLINS, POLITICS REPORTER, USA TODAY: So they are willing to work on DACA and immigration and border enforcements, not quite clear what, but the wall seems like it's a no go right now.

I mean, just the word wall, they'll do a lot of border enforcement security, there's a group of senators right now negotiating - a bipartisan group, and they're pretty clear that it's not going to be a clean DREAM Act, but where - how far they're willing to go is unclear.

And DACA does have - or a fix (ph) for DACA does have bipartisan support, so democrats are feeling pretty confident here that they can do this without the wall. But it does, it all goes down to the president, who can veto it. SANCHEZ: Right, so a lot of experts are looking at polls that suggest there's a blue wave headed to congress in 2018. Despite that, there seems to be some disagreement within the Democratic Party about the message.

On one hand, you have Howard Dean saying that just not being Donald Trump is enough, and then you have Chuck Schumer saying that we should be the party of the working class.

Ultimately what message do you think is going to resonate more with voters, just being anti-Trump or having the same kind of economic populous type message that got Donald Trump in the White House?

COLLINS: Well, I think that's definitely what they're struggling with. When you talk to law makers, generally unless they're from really, really progressive areas, they'll say that it is the economy.

It's jobs, it's healthcare, they were able to really rally people around healthcare, around the site to repeal Obamacare, and so they're looking to go forward on that. But then again, you also have some members of the far left of the party who think that being anti-Trump is enough.

You are seeing the party united in sort of this anti-Trump or at least anti - sort of the anti-immigration messages, things like that, where you could see them going forward. But I think that the economy is where you'll see them go.

SANCHEZ: David, is there a sense of urgency from republicans right now? I mean, we've heard about these heated White House meetings in the memo from the RNC, but is there a serious concern that if this blue wave actually does happen, that the president could potentially be impeached by a democratic controlled house.

DRUCKER: Well, look, I think we all know that there is going to be a lot of support for impeaching the president on the democratic side if they win back the House in 2018. I think the democratic leaders are going to try and sort of tone that down and try and focus on what voters will get from democratic leadership, and a democratic controlled Congress working with the president if they manage to gain seats.

If you focus too much on impeachment and you focus too much on something overtly political like that, it could rub independent voters and swing voters the wrong way. Look, make no mistake about it, there is a deep amount of dissatisfaction with the president in enough House districts to put the House in play.

And that has created the conditions for a democratic takeover, but it's not in any - it's not a sure thing by any measure, still a lot could change between now and Election Day. Voters could come to really like the tax overhaul, they could feel really good about the economy, and they could think the democrats - no matter what they think about the president - are simply playing too much politics.

But - and I think that's why you've seen Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi try and say look, we want to be the party of the middle class and ideas, and we saw this in 2010. There was a lot of dissatisfaction with President Obama, a lot of dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act, but the republicans always tried to bring it back to the question of jobs and the economy so that they had something positive to say.

And I think that's what you'll see democratic leaders try and do, we'll see if the progressive wing of their party will sort of allow them to craft a message like that. And then let the dissatisfaction with the president take care of itself.

SANCHEZ: Eliza, I owe you a question, because unfortunately we are out of time. We have to leave the conversation there. Eliza Collins, David Drucker, thank you both very much and Happy New Year.

COLLINS: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Next, much of the country is starting the new year in a deep freeze. How long is it going to last? It is a frigid forecast ahead.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New Year's Day is heaven for sports fans. The college football playoff just a few hours away with a pair of blockbuster matchups. Coy Wire joins us now with a preview.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Boris, the time has finally come. The college football playoff is upon us and it is win or go home time for the chosen four. They battle it out today for a chance to make it to the title game. In New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl, Clemson and Alabama squaring off for the third year in a row in the playoff. The Tide won two seasons ago to become champs; the Tigers got revenge last season with the come-from-behind last second game winner. This matchup is epic. (BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is big boy football. You got a lot of incredibly talented football players that are going to be on the field and they all want the same thing. And I don't have any doubt it will be a great game. But from a fan's standpoint, I think it is a very healthy respect on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We played them several years now, so it makes it a little bit of a rivalry game and circumstances like this and seems like we had really good preparation for the game and I think it's time to go out and play and just see who the best team is.


WIRE: And in Pasadena, California, at the Rose Bowl, this was the scene about 24 hours ago.


WIRE (voice over): A sea of Georgia fans traveling from far and wide to cheer the Bulldogs as they take one step closer to their first national title since 1980. The Sooners and their Heisman Trophy Winner Baker Mayfield, he has been hit with the flu. He hasn't made any appearances other than his team's meetings and practices, but he showed up at media day over the weekend saying that he felt bad that his illness was becoming a distraction for the team.


BAKER MAYFIELD, HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER AND MEMBER OF THE OKLAHOMA SOONERS FOOTBALL SQUAD: This whole thing is not about me. Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma is here to play a playoff game. It's not about any sickness that I have. We're here to win a game and that's what it needs to be about. My teammates don't need to answer questions on my behalf. I'm not dying; I'll be playing, and we're a focused circle.


WIRE: Mayfield and the Sooners in the grand daddy of them all, the Rose Bowl. I've played in it; I'm getting the goose bumps just thinking about it. They will face the Georgia Bulldogs, attacking the day at 5 Eastern, then it's Alabama and Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. The winners from each of these games will meet next Monday in the 2018 college football playoff national championship right here in Atlanta.

SANCHEZ: Coy Wire, thanks for that. It was one of the coldest New Year's Eves in years for many cities across the country, and millions are still stuck in the deep freeze today. CNN Meteorologist Tom Sater joins me now with a look at continues. Tom, just how cold is it going to get in some parts of the country?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, typically Boris, the ice box of the country is the arrowhead of Minnesota, but the frozen tundra for everyone east of the continental divide. You know you mentioned Times Square last night, 9 degrees, wind chills down to minus 4. It's the coldest New Year's Eve in Times Square in 100 years. It was the second coldest of all time, 1017 it dropped to 1 degree. Look at the temperatures. This is how it feels right now with the wind chill and it's deadly. We've had a few fatalities, a number of frostbite cases, hypothermia. Minus 23 in Green Bay, minus 19 in Minneapolis, Detroit minus 7 degrees. High temperatures today, the freezing mark, Charlotte to Atlanta, all the way south of Dallas. A number of high temperature records out west, but its low temperature records really that are concerning because it is quite dangerous.

24 possible record lows tonight, down in Louisiana, southern Mississippi, Alabama as well. The next batch of cold air, and unfortunately there will be another one, does not make its way all the way to the deep south. But the cold air in the great lakes will continue the lake effect snows. Erie, Pennsylvania end of the month of December with over 121 inches. That's 20 inches more then the entire seasonal average. Lake Erie is about 30 percent froze over, by the end of the week 60 percent. That should start to shut off that cold air.

But just to quickly run through the temperatures Tuesday, Cincinnati 21, Chicago 12 as we get into Wednesday 16, by Saturday high temperature in New York 8 degrees. Boris the average is 39, it's going to be around for a while.

BORIS SANCHEZ: A high of 8 degrees, thanks for being the barer of bad news Tom. We appreciate it. And thank you so much for joining us on at this hour we hope you have a safe and happy New Years day. Brianna Keilar is up after a quick break.