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Trump's "Office of First Family" Raises Conflict Concerns; U.S./Russia Relationship May Get More Complicated; 911 Call Played in Dylann Roof Trial; Judge: Trump Must Sit for Deposition in Case Against Chef. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 15, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANHOR: Those crossing the "T"s, dotting the "I"s, lawyers need to obsess over.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's not simple.


BOLDUAN: Not simple.

Mayor, I do hear from Team Trump and the transition folks that people, there's a belief that people are never going to be satisfied no matter what they decide, no matter what they announce, even if it is the biggest bright line they draw between business and family and the White House. From your perspective, what is the right amount?

PHILIP LEVINE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think, first of all, we have to realize that Donald Trump probably never expected to be president in November. He spent an entire life building companies. Between November and December, how do you just divest yourself of everything that you own? I really do believe -- and I'm not trying to defend President-elect Trump, but --


BOLDUAN: You don't do that very often, Democratic mayor of Miami Beach.

LEVINE: You've got to give them time. Give them time. Donald Trump would love to get it done overnight but it doesn't happen that way.


BOLDUAN: You think you are going to be satisfied with what they --


LEVINE: The country elected a business person. They elected a huge international business person, and they knew it. This is what they got. This is what they elected.

BERMAN: It's great. But don't call it simple --

(CROSSTALK) BERMAN: -- when you are talking to the American people.

LEVINE: The simple comes down to Twitter. He likes to write things simple.


BERMAN: I want to talk about something that's decidedly not simple now. That's Russia. The U.S. relationship with Russia, which is complicated now, and may be even more complicated going forward.

Sara, Jack Kingston, former congressman, who is close to the Trump team, was just in Russia talking to American businesspeople there. He told NPR that Trump will reconsider sanctions, reconsider sanctions against Russia. They have been in place long enough. That would be a major policy shift. But again, I don't think we should be surprised at this point. The Trump team has made clear that relations towards Russia will be radically different.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It would be a major policy shift. We need to watch for two things. One, incoming presidents have this sort of view of Vladimir Putin that suddenly they are going to reset their relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin will treat them differently than he has past presidents and things will be better. We saw this with Obama, we saw this with Bush. Everyone goes in with a rosy view, then they sort of eventually evolve when they start dealing with Putin.

But I think the second thing we need to watch is Rex Tillerson's confirmation hearings. That will become a proxy battle for what Donald Trump believes on Russia and what he wants to do. We have seen Lindsey Graham out there this morning essentially saying he is going to ask Rex Tillerson questions about his view on Russia, about whether the sanctions should stand, and is willing to vote no on him if he backs down on sanctions. I think that could be our best sort of window on what Donald Trump actually wants to do with Russia as president.

BOLDUAN: It was fascinating. Matthew Chance spoke with another Trump surrogate, Carter Page, who is in Russia quite a bit, and he sat down and said all the money, all the resources we spent on what he called an old battle from the '90s, he thinks it makes no sense.

Are you comfortable with that position, considering it doesn't seem an old battle when you have Russia meddling in the election, you have Russia involved in the conflict in Syria. This is not an old battle.

CARL HIGBIE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You make a good point. Look what we did in the '80s in Afghanistan with the proxy war with Russia. We can't afford to do that again. Syria is a huge milestone here. We need to get on the same page in Syria or get out of dodge. That's the first thing they need to establish.

BERMAN: Same page as whom?

HIGBIE: They need to get on our page or we need to get on their page --


BERMAN: They being Russia?

HIGBIE: Yes, they being Russia. We need to reach some sort of agreement in Syria. We are fighting the same '80s Cold War proxy war there and it will create massive tensions.

BOLDUAN: You want the United States to get on the page that Russia is currently on? In Syria?

HIGBIE: We need to figure out which page we are going to get on. If we go the American way, we overthrow Assad, we need to commit to five decades of occupancy. If we get on Russia's side, and leave Assad in place, we need to be willing to deal with his murderous dictatorship, or however he runs his country. We can find a middle ground, which I would be happy to do. But we need to get on the same page. We saw a real dis-evolution when we had the red line in the sand in Syria the first time, then Putin came in and started bombing the rebels. There's eight factions in Syria right now. We need to get on the same page as Russia. Otherwise, this relationship will devolve quickly between Trump and Putin.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a remarkable statement that indicates that it really does signal the gulf on Russia policy between the incoming administration and some of the most important Republican members of the U.S. Senate, that Lindsey Graham has been one of the most vocal, John McCain, Marco Rubio among them. In a 52 seat Senate majority, when you are trying to enact international agreements, appoint the staff of your State Department, that's the margin of just operability for control of the U.S. Senate --


BOLDUAN: Lindsey Graham couldn't be more clear yesterday, we should tell Russia, if you interfere in our election, we don't care why, we will hit you and hit you hard.

BERMAN: Like we said, this represents a major policy shift. We are seeing it happen. Elections have consequences.

Ladies and gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

BOLDUAN: Ladies and gentlemen -- so formal --


BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: Just two weeks before Donald Trump puts his hand on the Bible, a judge just ruled he will have to sit down for a deposition involving a legal fight with a celebrity chef. What's his move there?

[11:35:06] BOLDUAN: Plus, new this morning, the driver in that tragic bus crash in Tennessee, killed six children, he's in court for the first time today. We will show you what happened.


BOLDUAN: Closing arguments are under way in the trial of Dylann Roof, accused of gunning down nine people during a Bible study at a church in South Carolina. Before the prosecution rested, they called one final witness against Roof, Polly Shepherd. She told the jury that Roof spared her life during that massacre because he wanted her to tell the story of what happened that night. Prosecutors played her 911 call from inside the church.

A warning here. This may be difficult to listen to.


POLLY SHEPHERD, WITNESS: He's coming, he's coming, he's coming. Please.

911 OPERATOR: OK. Ma'am, are you able to -- if he's coming I need you to be as quiet as possible. Is there something you can hide under?

SHEPHERD: I'm under the table.

911 OPERATOR: Did you see him at all?

SHEPHERD: Yes. He's a young 21-year-old white dude.


SHEPHERD: We got some people very hurt. Please.

911 OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am. Were you able to see the gun? You know what kind of gun it was?

SHEPHERD: No. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know anything about guns.

911 OPERATOR: OK. That's OK. Where are the weapons now?

SHEPHERD: He's got it in his hand. He's reloading.


BERMAN: CNN's Nick Valencia is live for us in Charleston, where he's been covering this story

Nick, I understand there are new developments in the closing arguments just now.

[11:40:02] NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just got out of court. I was inside that courtroom. It was, as you can imagine, a very sad day. The prosecution began their closing arguments with an impassioned plea to the jurors asking them to hold Dylann Roof accountable for every single one of the 77 bullets that he fired that day. They outlined his journals, a manifesto fueled by white supremacy, his belief he was superior to black people simply because he was white. They talked about his meticulous planning over the months leading up to his action, and also talked about the actions he committed that day inside Mother Emmanuel Church.

I sat directly behind his grandmother, who was flanked by priests inside that courtroom. I had my eyes on Dylann Roof the whole time, watching him as he listened to the prosecutor label him a calculated killer. He was motionless and expressionless as he has been for much of the trial, his eyes trained down. The only noticeable difference today was that he wasn't in prison-issued jumpsuit. He was wearing a blue sweater and gray pants.

I mentioned how sad it was inside that courtroom. There was audible gasps, sobs from the family members of the victims who were in the gallery listening to the closing arguments, especially when the prosecution showed photos of the bloody crime scene, the bodies of those worshippers laying on the ground. I looked at the jury box and saw at least one of the jurors tearing up at the sight of that photo. There was another was noticeably grimacing at the sight of the horrors of what happened that day.

Just a little while ago, about 20 minutes ago, the defense began their closing arguments and began by saying what happened that day, and who did it is clear to answer, but the question that the jurors must consider before they go into deliberation is why this happened.

Interestingly enough, the attorney for Dylann Roof said that his client might be delusional, and they said that's something the jury must consider before they begin their deliberations -- John?

BERMAN: Nick Valencia, in Charleston, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Mark O'Mara.

Mark, to that last point that Nick just made, the defense here was sort of odd. They didn't call any witnesses. They didn't really say much in the defense of Dylann Roof. But they just suggested that he might be delusional. What's the significance of that?

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think at the best of what they're doing, I don't think they will avoid guilty verdicts on all or most of the counts. What they are trying to do is set the foundation as best they can for the penalty phase. We know Roof offered to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. The best thing they could do, and they tried to do it as best they could throughout the trial, was to bring out the evidence they are going to focus on during the penalty phase, which is there's something wrong with him. We don't know exactly what it is. It doesn't look like he's a sociopath because that normally shows up earlier in life. He doesn't have that history. He's obviously is a megalomaniac of some sort because of the way he viewed it. He has a lot of hatred in his heart. What they have to do is convince at least one juror, and I think that was the seed they were planting now. They have to convince one juror to vote for life, then you get the life sentence, which is the only reasonable outcome the defense can hope for in this case. BOLDUAN: Mark, Roof, even though there was some discussion of it

during this trial, he did not end up defending himself. He had counsel. But there is talk that he might defend himself -- might represent himself during the penalty phase. What do you think the impact of that will be?

O'MARA: Well, remember that in the overall scheme of the death penalty -- first of all, the death penalty community, the lawyers who fight against the death penalty, even the prosecutors who fight in favor, have to try and secure the legitimacy of the system. Having someone like Dylann Roof come in and probably represent himself -- he said he was going to -- I have a couple of fears. One, he's going to use it as a grandstand to now go at the victims' families or to have some platform from which he can espouse his anger and hatred. That, I'm very concerned about. Also, the judge has to be very careful because defense generally is given a great deal of leeway, certainly in a death penalty case presentation, so they have to let him go almost everywhere he wants to, and that could make this whole thing a charade.

BERMAN: Even harder on the families that have been through so much and shown such strength already.

Mark O'Mara, stick around. We have more to ask you on a much different subject.

More tears in court as the bus driver involved in the deadly Tennessee crash that killed six young children faces a judge. Officials say the driver was going about 20 miles over the speed limit. Details ahead.

[11:44:37] BOLDUAN: Plus, you remember this? A moment at a Trump rally, a Trump supporter punching a protester at a rally back in March. The men just met again in court. You may be surprised to see what happened when they came face to face this time. That's coming up.


BERMAN: New development this morning. A major development in the tragic school bus crash in Chattanooga that left six elementary school children dead last month. The driver, Jonathan E. Walker, faces a multitude of charges, including vehicular homicide. A short time ago, a judge bound this case over to the grand jury.

BOLDUAN: Among the details that came out today, coming from police testimony is that Walker was driving at least 50 miles an hour in a 30-mile-an-hour zone before the crash and was using a cell phone on the bus, although it is not clear, accord to police testimony, if Walker was on the phone just before the crash, before the bus left the road and slammed into that tree. It is illegal for a bus driver to use a cell phone, to be on a cell phone with children on board. We're going to be keeping a close eye on that.

Also watching this. Just weeks before Donald Trump takes the oath of office, the president-elect will be taking a very different kind of oath. A judge has ordered Trump to sit for a deposition in early January. He'll face questioning over an ongoing legal battle with celebrity chef, Jose Andres. Andres backed out of a deal with Trump last year in protests to remarks Trump made about Mexican immigrants. That deposition could go on for quite some time. Some folks saying up to seven hours.

BERMAN: Back with us now, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Mark O'Mara.

Mark, is there any chance Trump will sit through this deposition? What would he be opening himself up to if he did?

O'MARA: Right now, there's a court order, so he will, because he can't execute executive function right now. But it would be absurd for him to actually sit for a deposition. I mentioned this when I wrote something about the Trump University settlement and said $25 million sounds like a lot of money, but maybe not to a multibillionaire, but certainly he had to get rid of that case. This is the same type of case. There's no reason why he should sit for a deposition when he's about to become basically the leader of the free world.

So, what he needs to do, as he did with Trump University -- look, he is a pure pragmatist. It is the pragmatic move to get rid of this lawsuit and, for that matter, any others that are cropping up, because he has a lot more to focus on than that litigation from six months ago, or a year ago. He needs to put this behind him and not sit for a deposition.

[11:50:30] BOLDUAN: Mark, you call it absurd that he would face this question, he would face this deposition. Remind us what can be asked what can happen during a deposition? What kind of questions can come up?

O'MARA: Depositions are wide open. You're allowed to, in a deposition, ask anything that might get you to discoverable information. So it's not just what you say in this negotiation. It is literally background, other cases, other contracts he's had, had contract disputes with. That deposition is going to be open, as all are. Not just the questions on the individual lawsuit, but he needs to not open himself up to the ongoing discovery that's going to happen.

Then, most importantly, for us as nation, the now review everything being said and all that's going to be opened up, he needs to just stop it now, move forward, pragmatically.

BERMAN: The advice of counsel is settled.

Thanks, Mark. Mark O'Mara, thanks so much.

O'MARA: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Mark.

O'MARA: Thank you. BOLDUAN: It was the sucker punch seen and heard round the world. A

Trump supporter clocking a protester at a rally in March. You remember this happening. I still can't believe it did. Update, they just met again, in court this time. What happened this time? That's next.


[11:55:31] BOLDUAN: Let's hug it out. We all need a little more of that. That's what happened in a courtroom followed by applause when a Donald Trump supporter and the protester he elbowed in the face at that Trump rally back in March when they came face-to-face again. This, of course, is after the Trump supporter who did the elbowing was sentenced to one year of probation for that altercation.

BOLDUAN: This is the history here. You see it right there. John Franklin McGrath (ph) sucker punched Rakeem Jones at this rally. Frankly has now apologized and said both he and Jones were caught up in a political mess. Jones accepted the apology.


RAKEEM JONES, ASSAULT VICTIM: I just felt good in being able to shake his hand and being able to, you know, able to actually face him.


BERMAN: The two agreed to work together to help heal the country.

It's amazing what happens when a judge orders you to do things.

BOLDUAN: That's so hopeful of you.


BERMAN: New questions about potential conflicts of interests amid reports that the president-elect's children are eyeing office space in the White House. Details coming up.