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Battle over Obamacare's Fate Under Way; Trump Quotes Assange on Russian Hacking; Protests against Trump's A.G. Pick; Convicted Killer Dylann Roof Speaks Out in Court. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 4, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The problem is -- and this is to your question -- what are people looking for. They should look to see do high-risk pools work. We have evidence. It's been tried before. We know it's difficult to administer. They don't offer particularly good benefits and it's expensive for the consumer. Is that the same sort of patient protection? You'll hear a lot of language. But taking a one-step- further look and figuring out what exactly -- are we really maintaining protection against preexisting conditions or are we using a different vehicle that hasn't been proven to work in the past?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Avlon, it was interesting, Dana Bash said it was the first day of the 2017 campaign. We've seen Obamacare on the ballot, in way, before. We've seen it four times before. If you're keeping score, you know, Republicans won three of the elections, all the mid-terms, and this recent presidential, and President Obama and the Democrats have one won. So, if this is a campaign that we've seen before, hasn't Republicans been winning this $ argument at the ballot box?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what's key is they've been winning it in the mid-terms and losing it in the general. What the Republican argument for a mandate is complicated by is almost a three million vote popular margin. But the fact is they have unified control over Washington. And repealing Obamacare, ripping it out root and branch, has been an article of faith for conservatives over the course of the Obama presidency, therefore, they have to do it. But as Sanjay and Dana pointed out, the devil is in the details. Democrats have been glorying in the fact that Republicans will have to own any reform, any repeal. And they don't have a plan. In fact, even conservative groups, like American Enterprise Institute, right now, are saying repeal and delay could be deeply disruptive to the market. So, the Trump organization is trying to say it will preserve aspects that are popular, including making sure those covered today are not kicked off, but not offering a plan on how they will do that. It's difficult to do, let alone, pay for. Expect a lot of sausage-making on Capitol Hill as promises collide with real responsibilities, grandstanding comes to government.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Guys, thanks so much for that.

We're going to go from one fight to another fight. This time, over intelligence. A new tweet from President-elect Donald Trump on Russian hacking allegations indicating, suggesting that he is more siding with WikiLeaks Chief Julian Assange than he is with the U.S. intelligence community. Here is the tweet, "Julian Assange said a 14- year-old could have hacked Podesta. Why was the DNC so careless? Also, said Russians did not give him the info."

This, as Assange accusing the Obama administration of trying to de- legitimize Donald Trump. Listen.


JULIAN ASSANGE, DIRECTOR, WIKILEAKS: Why such a dramatic response? Well, the reason is obvious. They're trying to de-legitimize the Trump administration as it goes into the White House. They're going to try -- they are trying to say that President-elect Trump is not a legitimate president.


BERMAN: That was Julian Assange speaking right there.

Joining us now is Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina,

Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

What's interesting is Donald Trump continues to cast doubt on the intelligence coming from the intelligence community in the United States about Russia's alleged hacking into the political process. Now in these tweets he seems to be trusting Julian Assange over them. Your reaction?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, one, I don't believe any American should give a lot of credibility to what Mr. Assange says. In Julian Assange's world, we're the bad guys, not the Iranians, not the Russians, not the North Koreans. You have to remember who this guy is. WikiLeaks released classified information during the Iraq war that our military said put our soldiers at risk. They released combat footage to try to say that our helicopter pilots are war criminals. They released classified information about communications between our government and foreign leaders that embarrassed foreign leaders and our government. So, Mr. Assange is a fugitive from the law, hiding in an embassy, who has a history of undermining American interests. I hope no American will be duped by him. You shouldn't give him any credibility. Look at his record in terms of how he treats our country. And he seems not to be concerned at all by Russia, Iran, or North Korea. So, I hope the president- elect will get his information and trust the American patriots who work in the intelligence community, who swear oath and allegiance to the Constitution, and not some guy hiding from the law who has a record of undercutting and undermining American democracy.

BOLDUAN: But the fact that, to this point, Senator, that the president-elect is citing Julian Assange as he continues to cast doubt on the intelligence community with regard to the hacks, says what to you?

GRAHAM: It's very disturbing, quite frankly. He'll be briefed Friday. I encourage the president to be doubtful and to ask hard questions of the intelligence community. I've been briefed by the FBI.

You know, I don't know a lot about hacking but I know a lot about the Russians. I just got back from the Baltic States, Georgia, and the Ukraine. And when you go there, you understand that Russia is trying to undermine democracies all over the world. That when Estonia removed a statue of Lenin in 2007 and '08, the Russians shut down power in Estonia. And when the Georgian parliament invited Crimean parliament members to come to a regional conference to stand up for the Crimea, the parliament website got hacked by the Russians.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Russians hacked into the DNC political organization and John podesta. It wasn't a 14-year-old kid, unless he was working for the KGB. It wasn't a 300-pound guy, unless he was a Russian agent.

So, every American should worry about this. It's the Democrats today. It could be the Republicans party. Out parties are the backbone of democracy. None of us should be gleeful when a foreign entity hacks into our political system to interfere with our elections, and that's what the Russians did. That's what the Russians did. This was done by the Russians. And I hope by Friday, President-elect Trump comes to that realization and ignore Mr. Assange. Not only should he ignore Julian Assange, he should condemn him for what he's done to our country, putting our soldiers and foreign policy at risk. Julian Assange is no friend of America and no friend of democracy.

[11:36:21] BERMAN: Clearly, he's not doing that. The president- elect is not doing that.

GRAHAM: Right.

BERMAN: He's tweeting, he's citing him right now in his statements. You said I hope no American will be duped by him, Julian Assange. Do you think the president of the United States has been duped?

GRAHAM: I don't know. All I can tell you is I hope he listens to the intelligence briefing. I'm sure he will. All 17 intelligence agencies have come to the same conclusion. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what the Russians are up to. They're trying to break the backbone of democracies throughout the entire world. Every time somebody does something they don't like in the neighborhood, where you have emerging democracies, like the Ukraine, they hack them or invade them. So, I am fully convinced that the Russians did this. I hope the president will come to that conclusion.

And I'm introducing sanctions next week in a bipartisan fashion with Senator McCain and others to go after Russia, more sanctions, not less, to deter their behavior, not just against us but the world at large. If we don't stand up to the Russians, you're going to get more of this.

BOLDUAN: Senator, you're fully convinced. Other Republican Senators are fully convinced. What is the chance that Donald Trump receives this briefing on Friday and he comes out and agrees with your assessment? At this point, do you think he can be convinced? GRAHAM: Yeah. You know, General Mattis mentioned to the president

that when it comes to gathering information on the battlefield, give me a couple of packs of cigarettes and a cold beer is better than waterboarding, and that impressed the president. I'm going to give the president-elect the benefit of the doubt.

Again, I don't mind him challenging intelligence. I don't mind him being doubtful. I do hope he will listen. All I can tell you is everybody that I know of who has been briefed comes to the conclusion that the Russians did it. And again, they're doing it everywhere, not just in our backyard. And if he goes after China and Iran, they're very capable of hacking into the Republican political establishment. We can't let any foreign entity, Mr. Assange included -- I don't believe a word of what Mr. Assange has said. This is the guy who has tried to put Americans at risk by releasing classified information during the Bush years. This is the guy who basically is a fugitive from justice, an accused rapist on the run. For heaven's sakes, don't listen to him. Listen to the American intelligence community, who are patriots.

BERMAN: Senator, you're going to vote on a number of confirmations, a number of nominations coming up.

GRAHAM: Right.

BERMAN: Will your vote be contingent on these nominees saying, declaring that they believe that Russia was behind the hacks, something the president-elect is not willing to do?

GRAHAM: I'm looking for people who understand the world as it is. That the Russians have been not only invading their neighbors but undercutting democracy throughout the entire world. They kept the butcher of Damascus, Assad, in power. They're a disruptive force. If a nominee for a critical job doesn't understand what the Russians are up to, I'll have a hard time believing they have the judgment to do their job. It's ultimately up to the president. If, after good, sound advice, he turns down that advice, that's his -- that his opportunity to listen.

BOLDUAN: But, Senator, if Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, if he does not agree with your assessment, if he does not see what you and others see with regard to Russia, does he have your vote?

GRAHAM: He'll have a hard time getting my vote, because it's clear -- again, you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes. What bothers me is President-elect Trump seems to get what the Chinese are. The Iranian agreement is bad. He understands that. He understands the threat we face from ISIL. And he understands we can't let the North Koreans build an ICBM to attack our homeland. When it comes to Russia, he seems to have a blind spot. And I'm completely perplexed, because the Russians are undermining democracy throughout the entire world. They're taking land owned by others by force. They did hack into our political system. They're doing it to other political systems. And they need to pay a price. So, sanctions are coming, President-elect Trump. I hope you will,

after Friday, understand that the Russians did interfere in our election. You're the legitimate president. They didn't change the outcome. But they did release information embarrassing to the Democratic Party. It did affect Hillary Clinton. It wasn't hacking into the vote itself. But it could happen to Republicans in the next election by Iran or China if you don't push back now.

[11:40:37] BERMAN: Senator Lindsey Graham, thanks so much for being with us on this very, very busy day. And --


GRAHAM: And don't listen to Julian Assange on anything.

Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Senator, thank you as always. We appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BERMAN: Breaking AT THIS HOUR, President-elect Donald Trump makes another announcement, his choice for the top cop of Wall Street. We're hearing the Democrats may not be very happy about it.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, convicted killer, Dylann Roof, speaking out in court ahead of his sentencing for the Charleston church shooting spree. Why he says he's asking the jury to forget everything his lawyers have said about him. This is an important part. Listen to this.

We'll be right back.


[11:45:10] BERMAN: Some breaking news out of the Trump transition. We're hearing President-elect Donald Trump is going to nominate Wall Street lawyer, Jay Clayton, to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Clayton is currently a partner at the powerful law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell and he's worked on a slew of big financial deals, including the sale of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. Clinton also helped secure toxic mortgage settlements with the government on behalf of some large financial institutions.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. This also happening. A protest inside the office of Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general ending with six arrests overnight. The president of the NAACP was among the activists who sat-in at Senator Jeff Sessions' office in Mobile, Alabama, demanding Sessions' name be withdrawn from consideration.

BOLDUAN: The confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions is set for next week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Today, that committee is being urged by more than 1,000 law professors across the country to reject Sessions as attorney general.

Let's get the latest from CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, what are you hearing?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jeff Sessions is clearly one of the controversial nominees, at least in some eyes. We are seeing liberal groups across the board calling on this confirmation, the nomination to be halted. But it is scheduled for next Tuesday.

John and Kate, as you know well, Jeff Sessions, long-time Senator from Alabama, in a Republican-controlled Senate, there is very little chance, based on what we know right now, that he will not be confirmed. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy necessarily. We saw those arrests in Alabama yesterday as well.

But specifically, what some liberal groups are asking for is some more information that they say he did not submit to the Senate. They say he did not include any speeches or anything from before he arrived in Washington. So, they're targeting his time in Alabama. There are questions about his civil rights work there. But the reality, again, in this Republican-controlled Congress, really hard to imagine that he would not ultimately be confirmed to lead the Justice Department.

BOLDUAN: That's happening in attorney general news.

Also, in attorney general news, a former attorney general for President Obama, Eric Holder, California Democrats hiring Eric Holder. What's going on there?

ZELENY: This is incredibly interesting. Eric Holder is, of course, the first attorney general in the Obama administration, is going to be hired by the state of California. Democrats in California are hiring him to represent the state, he and his law firm, against any potential lawsuits coming down the pipe, or also lawsuits that they may file against the new administration here.

A good reminder that all power is not based here in Washington, that it is in state capitals as well. California, a liberal state, of course, Democrats control it from top to bottom, they intend to flex their muscle here and challenge the Trump administration on things from immigration to, you know, social service things, hiring, other matters. Eric Holder, having him front and center, is going to be fascinating, to be, you know, ultimately, one former attorney general going up potentially against a new attorney general and certainly a new administration.

BOLDUAN: That will be fascinating to watch. I'm sure we'll see those clashes very quickly.

Great to see you, Jeff. Thanks very much.

ZELENY: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Keeping an eye on all these moving parts today.

Also this, moments ago, convicted killer, Dylann Roof, is speaking out in court, telling the jury to forget everything his attorneys have said about him to this point. Why? That's next.


[11:52:59] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: We have more breaking news from South Carolina. This morning, the sentencing phase has begun for the man convicted of murdering nine people at a South Carolina church. Dylann Roof is acting as his own attorney today. He spoke to the jury just moments ago. He said, "My opening statement may seem a little out of place. You may have heard the reason I chose to represent myself so to prevent my lawyers from misrepresentation. That's absolutely true." He later concluded, "There's nothing wrong with me psychologically. Anything you heard from my lawyers in the last phase I ask you to forget it."

Joining us now on the phone is CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan.

Paul, I know you watched the trial and now the sentencing phase, watching this very, very closely. What he says to the jury, there's nothing wrong with me psychologically, anything you've heard from my lawyers forget it, what affect does that have on a jury?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): Well, Kate, you know, I think this is the equivalent of watching a legal suicide being committed by a defendant in a criminal case. He is represented by one of the top death-penalty defense lawyers in the country, who he has chosen to fire in the death-penalty phase of the case. I mean, he is still involved, but not speaking to the jury. And Dylann Roof is giving a crazy statement to the jury, which I think will result in his conviction.

You know, I've followed a lot of these cases. It's the first time I've seen a defendant do this in a death-penalty case, represent himself and in such a detrimental way in his opening statement.

BERMAN: Just remember how hard it must be for the families of the victims of that church shooting to be listening to this right now.

All right, Paul Callan --


CALLAN: -- John, because they're going to -- he is going to be able to cross-examine people during this phase of the trial when they take the stand. So, this is going to be a horrific experience for the family and the victims' relatives.

BERMAN: All right, Paul, thanks so much. We'll keep our eye on that throughout the morning.

BOLDUAN: Keeping our eye on this, of course, as John said. We're also keeping our eye on politics. If you have an opening on your coffee table, at the moment, you might have some space for this, the first ever book from CNN Politics. "Unprecedented" -- it's called -- "The Election that Changed Everything." There's so many unforgettable moments during the 2016 election. How do you sum it up in one book? It's a big book.

[11:55:19] BERMAN: Yeah. Photographer Melissa Golden witnessed and documented Donald Trump on the campaign trail, including the huge rally in Mobile, Alabama. That is a rally that Donald Trump cites again and again and again, even now, after the election.

Photographer Melissa Golden joins us right now.

Melissa, Donald Trump calls the Mobile rally "where it all began." It was supposed to be a venue where 4,000 were fitting, and then he had to make a bigger venue, and some 30,000 people, he says, went there. When you were there taking pictures, what did you see that indicated that this was something big that was happening?

MELISSA GOLDEN, PHOTOGRAPHER: It was pretty obvious from the beginning of that day covering that rally. The crowds were huge were huge, the lines to get in. I had never seen anything on this scale that early in a campaign in an election cycle. It was a very carnival-like atmosphere. And most people, I think, were there initially for the show. And as I talked to people in the crowd, which is my job after I photograph them, it became apparent that while some of the people were there to see the show, others had a very, you know, very deep-seated anger, and they were really looking for a change, and they were seeing if this was the man for the job. I was hearing things from the people attending that I had never really heard at political rallies before, and this is my third presidential election cycle that I have covered, and it was pretty unique.

BOLDUAN: So, Melissa, you are with him then, and then you were also with Donald Trump when he returned to Mobile, just weeks ago, as part of his "Thank You" tour, when he was touring the country in states that helped him get elected. Did you ski a change? What was the biggest difference that you noticed?

GOLDEN: It was a fascinating situation because both these rallies were bookends, and I noticed a pretty strong change. I used to cover a lot of SEC football, and the atmosphere at this most-recent rally, people were tailgating. It almost felt like a football game in the south. People were in a very good mood. It was, of course, the lead up to Christmas. There's a lot of Christmas decor. The atmosphere -- there was no tension, no anger. A banner, excited, basically, calling Trump a Christmas president to America. I think that that was the general attitude the second time around. People were ecstatic. As they were tailgating, they were offering me Bloody Mary's and food, which I did not partake. But even being an obvious member of the media with my camera on my shoulder, they were happy to see me.

BERMAN: Melissa Golden, terrific images from Trump country.

GOLDEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Truly.


BERMAN: The book is "Unprecedented." Go pick up your copy right now. BOLDUAN: Thank you, Melissa.

And thank you all so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: "Inside Politics with John King" starts right after a quick break.


[11:59:57] JOHN KING, ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing some time with us today.

Just day two of the new Congress but a very busy one. After a rocky day one, the Republican majority turning today to a more unifying policy goal, and getting an assist from the next vice president of the United States.