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Sources: Trump Wants Intel Shake-Up; Netanyahu Calls For Soldier's Pardon; Beating Broadcast Live On Facebook; Republicans Make First Move To Repeal Obamacare; South Korea To Beef Up Its Defense Assets; Turkey: Gunman Identified But Still At Large. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired January 5, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, another twist in Donald Trump's battle with U.S. Intelligence Agencies. The President-elect wants to shake things up.
Plus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for a pardon for an Israeli soldier, convicted in the deadly shooting of a Palestinian.
Also, police say, it is a sickening crime, a young man tied up and tortured and the whole thing broadcast live on Facebook. Thanks for your company, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes, and this is NEWSROOM L.A.
Welcome, everyone. Donald Trump's stated criticisms of the U.S. Intelligence Community may soon translate to action. Sources with the transition say the President-elect is looking at ways to limit the power of the Director of National Intelligence. Now, that office oversees 16 different agencies. A source says Trump's pick for National Security adviser Michael Flynn, is behind the idea. The retired, Lieutenant General was pushed out of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. Now, Trump's plans for U.S. Intelligence Agencies come while he remains doubtful of Russia's involvement in alleged hacking during the Presidential campaign. Sara Murray reports Trump's stance puts him at odds with leaders of his own party.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Donald Trump's relentless skepticism toward U.S. intelligence, and praise for Julian Assange highlighting a sharp split between the President-elect and other GOP leaders. House Speaker, Paul Ryan, unleashing a wave of criticism against the WikiLeaks founder, who published the hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's Campaign Chairman, John Podesta.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the guy is a sycophant for Russia. He leaks, he steals data, and compromises National Security.
MURRAY: As Senator Lindsey Graham offers this advice to Trump.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Not only should he nor -- ignore Julian Assange, he should condemn him for what he's done to our country.
MURRAY: Assange insists his information isn't coming from the Russian government.
JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: Our source is not a state-party. So, the answer for our interactions is no.
MURRAY: As CIA Director Brennan, questions his credibility.
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: He is not exactly a bastion of truth and integrity.
MURRAY: And implored skeptics to wait for the upcoming intelligence report on Russia.
BRENNAN: I would suggest to individuals who have not yet seen the report; who have not yet been briefed on it, that they, wait and see what it is that the Intelligence Community is putting forward before they make those judgments.
MURRAY: Today, Vice President-elect Mike Pence is backing up his boss's leeriness of U.S. intelligence.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, that the President-elect has expressed his very sincere and healthy American skepticism about intelligence conclusions.
MURRAY: Now, Shaun Spicer, the incoming Press Secretary for Donald Trump's administration said, it's not the raw data -- the raw intelligence that Donald Trump is questioning when it comes to Russia, but rather the conclusions that Intelligence Agencies are drawing. He said Donald Trump looks forward to his face-to-face meeting to learn more about these inclusions that's slated for Friday. Sara Murray, CNN, New York.
HOLMES: And joining me now here in Los Angeles, democratic strategist Dave Jacobson, and republican consultant, John Thomas. I guess, we will going to start with this director of National Intelligence, the overhaul of this and what that might look like. What do you think, John? Is it -- is it a bloated bureaucracy that needs looking at, or is that meddling with the intelligence agencies?
JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Yeah, I think, to call the federal government a bloated bureaucracy. There probably are areas of fat in every agency they can be trimmed; whether it's a contract with Boeing, or national intelligence agencies. I think, Trump's concern that they've become over politicized and also, there aren't -- there are too many agents behind desks and not out in the field doing good intelligence work.
HOLMES: What do -- what do you think?
DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think, Donald Trump thrives off of internal chaos and dysfunction and competing interests. We saw that throughout his campaign. That's kind of the style that he's embraced. The question is, look, I think every Commander-in-Chief, should have an ability to go ahead and formulate the structure of their team, whether it comes to the military, the White House, you know, there's certain elements that the Commander-in-Chief ought to sort of bring forward in terms of I got new ideas -- I get all of that. The question is, does this create a dynamic where you've got competing interests and then it implodes. And, that's the real danger.
[01:05:02] HOLMES: And this whole debate over his attitude towards the intelligence services and the quality of the intelligence, has become a real issue. Let's just put up the tweet that he put out, a little bit earlier today about what happened -- this conversation with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, that was on Fox News last night. He said, Julian Assange said, a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta, why was DNC so careless? Also, said Russian's, did not give him the info. It's almost like he's saying that I'm listening to Julian Assange. Then you go back to 2010, I want to play this for you guys as well. Listen to what he had to say about WikiLeaks back in 2010.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to talk about WikiLeaks. You had nothing do with the leaking on one of those documents.
TRUMP: No, but I think it's disgraceful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do think it's disgraceful?
TRUMP: Yeah, there should be like death penalty or something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: So, I guess the point that's being made there, is in 2010, he thought that WikiLeaks leaking, you know, national secrets -- was worthy of the death penalty. Now, he's looking at Julian Assange and using him as a tool of saying, well, look, Julian Assange said it wasn't the Russians as well, backing up his own position. What are the -- what are the dangers in backing someone like Julian Assange as well?
THOMAS: I mean, it's a delicate line to walk here. I see what Trump is doing; on the one hand, he's saying, we don't know for 100 percent certainty that it was the Russian government. In fact, Assange said that the password for John Podesta's e-mail was "password". A 2-year- old could have hacked it. So, I think he just doesn't want to jump to conclusions. He's starting out as a skeptic -- just like he was a skeptic going into Iraq, whether or not we have weapons of mass destruction, you know, that information came from our intelligence agency. So, I think he just wants to be cautious as he moves forward.
JACOBSON: But I think, at the end of the day, though, when you've got like, trusted republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham. Going out there, you know, underling the message that Julian Assange is a fugitive -- he's a criminal. He's put American troops over the years at risk. And today, Lindsey Graham called Donald Trump's tweet, quote, "disturbing". So, I think like, that raises red flags: number one. Number two, look, I have no doubt in my mind, hypothetically, that back in 2001 had President George Bush, the day before 9/11, gotten a tip from the Intelligence Community that perhaps, there was going to be this imminent threat against America. He would have done something about it. But Donald Trump tends to side with Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin over Intelligence Community. And it really raises significant questions, about how he's going to act as Commander-in-Chief and whether he's actually going to keep America safe.
HOLMES: Yeah, the one thing that Julian Assange said was -- that was interesting, too, was it -- our source was not the Russians. Which, you know, your first reaction to that is, well of course, it wasn't. I mean, no -- the Kremlin is not going to send somebody over with a FedEx envelope, and a name tags that says, Kremlin.
HOLMES: They're going to go through multiple layers of separation.
THOMAS: Didn't fully answer the question. Yeah.
HOLMES: So, of course, the Russians aren't hand delivering the information. I suppose the disturbing thing is this -- this sort of undermining in -- even the public's trust in their own intelligence services. And is -- if the intelligence service comes to him one day and says, North Korea is going to do this, is he going to believe them? Do you see that as being an issue?
THOMAS: I do. And that's why the President-elect should be wise to tread very lightly. And until -- if he is a skeptic, that's fine. Remains a skeptic privately until we know all the information. I think what the interesting thing is fault lines have been drawn on this issue. If it turns out that the Intelligence Agencies got it wrong. That this information didn't come from Russia and it didn't come from a fat guy in his basement or something like that. The public's trust in our National Intelligence could be shattered.
HOLMES: Yeah, what do you think, Dave?
JACOBSON: Fine, but look, I think if Donald Trump continues to fan the flames and create this rift between himself and the intelligence community. And then in the future, let's say, a year from now, he gets a tip that there is some terrorist attack that, perhaps, could come to the homeland and he doesn't act, the blood will be on his hands, and the American people will hold him accountable for it.
THOMAS: Yeah, you know, here's the thing. The White House has been hacked before; China is constantly hacking America. Obama knew that was happening and he did nothing. So, it's not as if Donald Trump -- you know, Barack Obama was any different. He had information, he chose not to act.
JACOBSON: But I think the difference was like, this hacking was an attempt to undermine the fabric that holds our democracy together, which is a beacon for democracy and represented of government all across the globe. And I think that's the impact, and that's why you've got this reaction for the Obama administration.
HOLMES: I wanted to talk a little bit about Obamacare, too, before we leave at. The republicans have basically, you know, put everything in the basket of we're repealing this. We're going to get rid of what Donald Trump says; we're going the replace it with something great, but they don't have anything to replace it with. What is going to happen once they repeal?
[01:09:58] THOMAS: That's the -- that's the big question. The question is, you know, what they're trying to figure out is; number one, politically, they have to ditch it. They have to. They promised it to their constituents. And remember, they won in the mid-term elections. Largely on the repeal of Obamacare platform, so, they need to get rid of it, but they have to tread lightly. And so, do they get rid of it all at once without a firm plan to replace it, or do you keep select provisions and try to keep the best of Obamacare, but turn it into something new, buying insurance across state lines, giving insurance company more flexibility in rate payer form? Paul Ryan has got a lot of responsibility down his shoulders to offer up and work with President-elect Trump, to come up with something better.
HOLMES: Yeah. And Dave, you've seen the democrats have obviously taking a tactic here of let's call it Trumpcare once it's in place, and give him ownership of whatever it is that does come along and replace it.
JACOBSON: I think it's a brilliant strategy. Look., at the end of the day, if republicans go forward and sort of dismantle Obamacare and 10, 20, 30 million Americans, lose access to their healthcare. Two years from now, you may see a, quote, "shellacking", like the democrats saw two years after President Obama was elected. Where, scores of our House Members and Senators lost their seats. I think the American people are going to hold republicans accountable, if they dismantle Obamacare. But they don't necessarily have a plan to address some of these major issues to ensure that Americans have healthcare.
HOLMES: Democratic Strategist Dave Jacobson, and Republican Consultant John Thomas, thanks for being here tonight.
THOMAS: Thanks, Michael.
JACOBSON: Thank you.
HOLMES: Always plenty to talk about. And South Korea, meanwhile, planning to set up special brigade this year specifically to target North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un and his military in the event of war. Andrew Stevens joining us now from Seoul, South Korea with more on this. So, tell us about the announcement and what it really means.
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA-PACIFIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was made by the Korean Defense Minister to selected media here in South Korea, Michael. And really, it's ratcheting up the pressure from the southern side towards the north, making clear their intentions that anything that Kim Jong-un does in the event of war will be met with this sort of counter action. And what they are now talking about, and they had announced a plan which was aimed at Kim Jong-un back in September of last year, but they're fletching this out a bit more. And also, bringing the date forward as to when this new brigade will be ready to act.
They want to have it up and running by the end of the year. It will be a brigade, it would infiltrate North Korea, it would seek out and eliminate the top-level command of the North Koreans, which includes the leader himself, Kim Jong-un. And it would then be able to get back into South Korea, at least that's what the plan is. And to do that, they are going to be investing a lot of money in it. There's nothing specific here, Michael, but talking about upgrading to the very best military technology that money can buy; most likely coming from the U.S. So, that's what were at the moment. They said, they want this in place by the end of this year, which will be two years earlier than they were talking back in September.
HOLMES: And just quickly, I mean, just strategically, why now say it? And why say it at all?
STEVENS: Why now, is an interesting question. Nothing official of course, they haven't said why they're releasing this information now. But look, look at what's happened just in recent weeks on New Year's Day, Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, announced that they were in the final preparations of test launching an ICBM, an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. A missile, which if it had a nuclear payload, would be capable of reaching North America. So, that was Kim Jong-un saying that.
In a few weeks before that, there had been in North Korea -- footage shown on local television, of an attack on a mock up Blue House. Now, the Blue House is the President's sort of official office, if you like, here in Seoul. So, it was blasted across the local media in North Korea. There were troopers coming out of the sky; helicopters, artillery, all aimed at this mock up Blue House. So, that was clearly aimed at -- the North showing the South what it was capable of.
And perhaps, one other thing to consider, Michael, and this is coming from critics of the President here -- beleaguered President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye. Maybe, the government is putting this out really to deflect the tension away from this corruption scandal, that's been engulfing the President so she was supposed to face a constitutional court hearing, yesterday. She didn't turn up, but she's being engulfed in this corruption scandal so, anything to push the public attention away from her problems to wards -- back towards the North. That is being mentioned by critics, certainly, that can't be confirmed at this stage, Michael.
[01:14:49] HOLMES: Yeah, fascinating. All right. There, thank so much Andrew Stevens there, in Seoul.
Meanwhile, Turkish police say they know who attacked an Istanbul nightclub over New Year's. Killing 39 people but police not releasing his identity to the public. Meanwhile, they have been carrying out raids since the shooting; a lot of them, dozens of people, now in custody. A group of 20 people with ties to ISIS, where the latest arrests, and some of them I thought to have actually lived with a gunman.
Our Ian Lee has been tracking all of this from Istanbul for us and joins us now live. First of all, Ian, they know who it is, why would they not say who it is and do they fear they've lost his trail?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, they say they know who he is. The reason why they haven't released that information is really anyone's guest. Possibly not to tip off the suspect that they know -- or to give him more information that they know. But really, it's anyone's guess at this point. They did have that big break though yesterday when they caught those 20 alleged ISIS members down in Izmir -- this is the third largest city in Turkey. There was four raids taking place at that time. They were able to round them up, not only getting these 20 people but also getting weapons-or getting military equipment, night vision goggles, scopes, ammunition belts and other equipment they were able to seize in this raid.
Hopefully, that these people can give them more information about this gunman especially, as you pointed out, the Turkish authorities believed that they lived with the gunman in the Central Anatolian City of Konya. So they're hoping they can get a break from that. 36 people so far have been detained and they're being questioned but he is on the run. And if he is an ISIS member, there is a chance that he could try to slip away to Syria.
HOLMES: All right, Ian, thanks so much. Ian Lee there in Istanbul. We'll take a short break and next up on CNN L.A., the manslaughter conviction of a soldier that has deeply divided Israel.
Also, Donald Trump planning some big changes that don't sit well with California's progressive values. What state leaders are planning to do about it? We'll have an interview for you.
HOLMES: Welcome back. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he supports a pardon for an Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter. The soldier, facing up to 20 years in prison for shooting a Palestinian man who lay wounded after he allegedly tried to stab another Israeli soldier. As CNN's Oren Liebermann reports, the case has deeply divided Israelis.
[01:29:58] OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the heavily guarded Ministry of Defense chanting "Death to terrorists" and "Our soldier, our hero." Inside, that soldier, Elor Azaria, was found guilty of manslaughter and improper conduct. The verdict, unanimous, from a three member panel of military judges.
This case started back in March when Azaria was a soldier in Tel Rumeida, an Israeli enclave in the city of Hebron -- largely Palestinian City in the Southern West bank. The Israeli military say, two Palestinians attempted to stab soldiers at a checkpoint there. One Palestinian assailant was shot and killed, the other, Abdel-Fattah al-Sharif was shot and subdued, lying on the ground.
The military says, 11 minutes later, Azaria walked up and shot one bullet into the forehead of the wounded Palestinian suspect, killing him. At issue is whether Azaria acted out of self-defense or vengeance? Azaria claimed he was afraid for his life, but the judges systematically rejected nearly every point in Azaria's defense. Military prosecutors making it clear this wasn't an easy day for them or for Israel.
NADAV VAISMAN, PROSECUTOR (through translator): This is not a happy day for us. We preferred if this act would not have been done and Azaria would not have to stand trial, but the act was carried out and the offense is serious. Therefore, it was necessary to charge and Azaria was convicted according to the law.
LIEBERMANN: This case divided Israeli society. The military here is supposed to be the great unifier, transcending differences, beliefs, cultures and backgrounds. But this case truly split people between those who sided with the soldier and those who sided with military leadership, who said, no soldier is above the military code of ethics. At the time, Israel is facing increased criticism for its soldiers being too quick to pull the trigger, using too much force against a wave of Palestinian stabbing, and ramming attacks. Azaria became the lightning rod for that criticism. Right-wing politicians have demanded Azaria be pardoned. His lawyers promised an appeal and accused the military court of bias.
VAISMAN (through translator): This is a harsh verdict that rejected all of the defense's arguments. We claim from the beginning that the military court was in favor of the prosecution and we brought evidence for it.
LIEBERMANN: At times, it seemed it wasn't the soldier on trial, but the very values of the Israeli military, a dangerous prospect in a country where nearly every Jewish teenager serves in the armed forces. It pitted the military versus the soldier here in a trial whose controversy will continue long after the appeals are finished. Oren Liebermann, CNN Tel Aviv.
HOLMES: CNN Global Affairs Analyst Aaron David Miller is with us to discuss this more. Always good to see you. It's pretty unusual for an Israeli soldier to even go on trial like this and it has really caused massive public and political division, hasn't it?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, I think there are moments and incidents in the life of a nation. I guess, I don't want to compare Israel and the United States. But perhaps the O.J. Simpson trial was a sort of Rorschach test which more or less reflected where you were on any number of issues depending on whether you thought the verdict was fair or not. I think here, this is sort of a Rorschach test, an ink blot test just to -- as to where Israelis are on a variety of issues, rule of law, the benefits or absence thereof of the Israeli occupation of the west bank. Rules of engagement for the IDF and morale and integrity of the IDF and yes, as we approach the 50th anniversary in June of the 1967 war in the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the west bank, clearly, I think incidents like this and there may not be another quite like it, reflect how deeply polarized and partisan this debate has become, yes.
HOLMES: Yeah, you're absolutely right. You have people watching exactly the same video and drawing such starkly different conclusions. You've got the Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu, already calling for a pardon. And in your mind, what sort of message does that send when you've got a military court deciding he was guilty of this crime?
MILLER: Yeah, and it's a 97-paged verdict. It took quite a number of months. It's a very detailed ruling and extremely thorough. I think the military prosecutor proved the case beyond any sort of reasonable doubt. Look, the Prime Minister initially sided with the IBF's reaction which was to raise serious questions about the actions of this particular soldier. And then, as public opinion began to move and it clearly has moved, given the fact that so many Israeli families have sons and daughters, brothers, husbands, in the military that I think the Prime Minister saw the political currents and which way the stream was running.
[01:25:06] Again, deep divisions and likely to grow, I think more intense as the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 war and the occupation comes closer.
HOLMES: Incredibly divided and then a real political shift to the right over recent times. I wanted to ask you something else. News out of Washington that Senator Ted Cruz, two fellow Republicans also are going to be pushing the State Department to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This is something that Donald Trump has also supported. You wrote a piece in the New York Times, a week or so back on this issue. You're not in favor of it and for more than one reason.
MILLER: Well, having advised half dozen Republicans and Democratic Secretaries of State on the Middle East, and on this issue, my advice was always the same. Don't move the Embassy. And frankly, I understand the logic and the rationale of the Israelis having a capital in west Jerusalem- that's where their parliament is, where the Supreme Court is, where the seat of government is. It's just that, if in fact you extend your administrative law over the entirety of the city, both east and west, and you lay claim to it, then, in fact, an American decision to move the embassy from tell Tel Aviv where it's been since 1949, when we actually upgraded it from a consulate to an Embassy to Jerusalem, sends the direct message that in fact, the United States is recognizing Israeli control over the entire city.
And it does pre-judge, not only the claims, but religious identification of Muslims and Christians to the city. So my problem here, Michael, is I could not and still cannot identify one singular American national interest that would justify the potential risks -- possible risks of moving the embassy. So that's basically where I am. We've been dancing around this issue for half a century. The Israeli- Palestinian peace process is more abundant at the moment but I see no reason to strip any hope, even if it is an illusion at the moment of progress. Strip that hope away by taking an act that's going to commit the United States. I think to a course that will make its own role as a viable mediator really, really problematic. HOLMES: Right. And indeed, the reaction of the Arab world also factoring into that. We'll leave it there. Aaron David Miller, as always. Our thanks for your expertise, appreciate it.
MILLER: Thank you Michael and have a Happy New Year.
HOLMES: You too. Next up on NEWSROOM L.A., a gruesome attack streamed live on social media. Why it could end up being called a hate crime. Also, why some people say this heart-stopping nanny cam video might have been a stunt.
[01:31:29] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Michael Holmes.
Let's update you on the headlines now.
HOLMES: Chicago police arrested four people connected to an attack on a man that was live-streamed on Facebook. We want to warn you the video is disturbing. It shows a man tied up. His mouth is covered with tape. And his attackers are beating him and cursing at him.
Here's Rosa Flores with more.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, Chicago police telling us they believe this victim was targeted because of his mental health challenges. And they also believe that the victim knew at least one offenders and, at least initially, the victim was with the offenders willingly. But that changed and you'll see in that video why that changed.
Take a look. But I should warn you this video is very disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grabbing that (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cut (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whole patch out of that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) boy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why you do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED). (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't! Oh, my brother. (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He represent Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all see this right here? We put this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) -- in the trunk. We put a brick on the gas and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You understand?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: In that video, you see that the victim is white, that the offenders are black. There's a lot of anti-Trump language going back and forth. So, the obvious question is, is this racially motivated. Is this a hate crime? The answer is we don't know at this particular time. The police don't know. But they do tell us that they're investigating a motive but they say they don't know a lot of the details. They're putting all of those pieces together right now. They don't even know how much time the offenders spent with the victim. They say it could be anywhere between 24 to 48 hours.
But they reiterate that they believe that this disturbing video shows that this victim was targeted because he was mentally challenged. Take a listen.
EDDIE JOHNSON, CHIEF, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: -- that we saw is sickening. It's sickening. It makes you wonder what would make individuals treat somebody like that.
[01:34:57] FLORES: Again, four offenders are in custody. We're expecting charges to drop in the next 24 hours.
As for the victim, police are not going into the details of his condition but they do tell us that he is highly traumatized -- Michael?
HOLMES: Not surprisingly.
Our thanks to Rosa Flores.
And criminal defense attorney, Darren Kavinoky, joins me to talk more about this.
It is hard to know where to begin. It is obviously sickening and the mentality of doing it and the mentality of live streaming it on social media. What is your thought?
DARREN KAVINOKY, ATTORNEY: My first thought, candidly, is that the definition of felony stupid.
KAVINOKY: I think we are going the see more and more of this. This is not the first time that crimes have been resolved thanks to social media.
HOLMES: And people being frankly dumb enough to put it on like that.
HOLMES: But the crime itself --
HOLMES: -- as a criminal defense attorney, what are your thoughts about the culpability and mitigation and what makes it a worse crime? You were saying to me that this man is apparently a special needs person.
KAVINOKY: Yes, when we are talking about hate crimes, they can be motivated by race. But hate crimes are those that are motivated by things that are more than race or ethnic group. It could be motivated by somebody's disability status. If this was a crime motivated in whole or in part by this young man's special needs that can be used to enhance whatever sentence a judge is inclined to hand down.
HOLMES: Most people think of hate crimes and not disability but the fact this is a person with disabilities could make those face more jail time?
KAVINOKY: In the United States criminal justice system, it is routine that a judge or a prosecutor are going to look at factors offing an aggravation or things of mitigation. And somebody's being a special needs person is a factor in aggravation because here we have people that are exploiting the unique vulnerability of this young man and kudos to the Chicago law enforcement for connecting the dots to help this young man and find him and save him from that situation. This is a much-maligned police force in an area that has -- well, they've faced a lot of political heat these days for their law enforcement tactics.
HOLMES: And it would appear, too, that maybe one of those at least, involved, knew this kid from high school and that's why he got in the car with them and ended up back there. When it comes to a group of people who are in the room when this happens, are they equally culpable under the law?
KAVINOKY: It can be. But under a conspiracy theory where people agree in general they're going to act in concert and carry out this crime and each individual's responsible for the act as any of the c co-conspirators. If anyone was acting in an especially offensive way, that could affect the other people as well.
HOLMES: It is just incredible that this happens, isn't it?
KAVINOKY: That it happens and that it happens in a public way that specifically identifies the wrong doers and I will say this as a criminal defense attorney people often think I'm opposed to the videotape evidence because more and more we're seeing from citizen journalists or officer dash cam or body cams. Videotape evidence is becoming more frequent. But it does one of two things, I have seen several examples where the videotape contradicts what the officer wrote in a narrative report, which is great for me as a defense lawyer, or it allows me to have a frank, realistic conversation with my clients and say, hey, this is a crime captured on videotape, so let's talk about a graceful, elegant exit to this case and how we can settle it in the most favorable way.
We'll leave it there.
Kevin Kavinoky, good to see you.
KAVINOKY: Pleasure, Michael.
HOLMES: Appreciate you coming in.
California getting ready to challenge Donald Trump in court. Just ahead, the high-profile attorney they've hired and the causes they want to protect.
We'll be right back.
[01:42:52] HOLMES: California Democrats are getting ready to fight the incoming Trump administration in the courtroom. They've hired President Obama's former attorney general, Eric Holder, as legal counsel. They expect a number of challenges to the state's progressive policies, among them climate change. California has some of the country's strictest environmental regulations. Also, health care. Trump promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. And also, immigration. State legislators are expected to pass sweeping new measures to help undocumented immigrants.
And joining me now is the leader of the California State Senate, Senator Kevin De Leon.
Senator, thanks for your time.
The issues you're mostly worried about, climate change, health care, immigration, and so on was it the composition of the cabinet that worried you and what do you plan on doing about it?
STATE SEN. KEVIN DE LEON, (D), CALIFORNIA: I think that we're confronting a dichotomy of democracy, something unique in our history of the United States, where the most overt threats to the state of our state appears to be the incoming head of state, that's Donald J. Trump. A controversial political campaign, perhaps many thought it was just empty rhetoric. But the election of his cabinet, secretaries and administrators confirmed our worst fears. Individuals who are highly partisan, who would dismantle health care for 6.5 million Californians, who would roll back environmental protections in California and elsewhere, and who would separate children from their mothers with massive deportations. This is not the United States I know and certainly not California.
What we have done as a legislative body in California is we retained the services of the former United States attorney general Eric Holder to provide us the legal and tactical council necessary -- we believe necessary to defend the values and people of California. It's a proactive step in the event they move against California.
[01:45:12] HOLMES: I suppose the risk is that Trump has said if states don't play ball they'll lose funding. And we have seen him take action on companies that export jobs and so on do. You fear a political retribution if you stand up on climate change, immigration, and so on?
DE LEON: It's a very interesting question but a serious and excellent question. The reality is this. What we are doing is defending the values and people of California, the progressive policies that have made us the fifth-largest economy in the entire world. Any attempt to undermine our policies are a threat to the economic prosperity of the state of California.
The incoming head of state should never threaten a city, region or state with retribution, you would only hurt senior citizens or children. And if you attempt to hurt the state of California, which is 13 percent of the GDP of America as the whole, you are hurting the economy of America. To cut your nose to spite yourself wouldn't help California or the rest of the nation.
HOLMES: What if the federal government comes in and starts raiding sanctuary cities and you don't cooperate with federal authorities. If they started to actually act and round up people, what do you do?
DE LEON: Well, I can tell you this, Michael, every nation has a right to protect its own sovereignty and federal immigration laws are federal jurisdiction. If Donald J. Trump moves forward with this deportation, there's not much that states can do. But they don't have to collaborate or cooperate with the federal authorities. We don't have to let them commandeer the system. If you are a violent felon, we don't want you on our streets. But breaking families up is not what America's all about, and truly not what California is all about. The reality is this, our local police officers are paid out of local tax dollars to protect and serve our communities. They are not here to enforce federal laws. If he tries to commandeer local law enforcement, we will meet in a court of law.
HOLMES: Let me play devil's advocate. California is part of the United States, or at least at the moment. Some may say, why are you so special and why should you fight what the elected president lays out, his agenda. The democracy has spoken, play ball.
DE LEON: I can tell you this, California, by a large margin, a margin of two to one, rejected the politics fueled by misogyny and by exclusion and racism. He lost California by more than four million votes. We are a creative, innovative state that has led the area in many regions, economic growth, technology, climate change policies. We are a leader and we will secure and hold that position nationally and globally. That's why what we are doing is protecting our policies as a state and a people. We know the nation and the rest of the world will be watching closely.
HOLMES: But, again, the point is, you're right, Donald Trump was thrashed in California, but he won the election.
DE LEON: He won the election, Michael, but he didn't -- one election doesn't change the values of a state, the fifth-largest economy in the world with 40 million citizens. One election will not undermine the values and progressive policies that have made us one of the most creative states in the world. He will be the president for the next four years. We want to find common space to move this nation together as a nation. But we will never appease anyone who seeks to undermine our economic prosperity or threatens the fundamental human rights of the citizens of the state of California.
HOLMES: Senator Kevin De Leon, thanks for being with us.
DE LEON: Michael, thank you very much.
[01:49:51] HOLMES: After the break, the viral video that showed a toddler rescuing his twin brother after getting trapped under a dresser, why some people believe it might have been a hoax.
HOLMES: You knew it was coming. The Internet putting a Utah mother under the microscope, her viral video showing her toddler rescuing his twin brother from under a fallen dresser. Now some people are saying it looked like a stunt.
Randi Kaye takes a look.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is it a hoax or brotherly heroism? It started in the bedroom of these 2-year-old brothers. Browdy and Brock, twin brothers from Utah, had climbed into the drawers of their bedroom dresser. Then this happened. Brock, trapped under it. Unsure what to do, Browdy steps back to assess the situation and climbs on top of the dresser, likely adding more pressure. But suddenly, his plan becomes clear. After one more failed attempt to lift the dresser, he firmly puts his feet down and uses what some are calling super human strength to give the dresser a shove. With that, Brock is freed after a harrowing two minutes and not even a scratch.
By now, it's about 8:20 a.m. Their mom wakes up and checks the feed from the Nanny Cam in the boy's room.
KAYLI SHOFF, MOTHER OT TWINS: And I just saw the dresser had fallen down and no kids to be seen. So, I jump out of bed, run downstairs, fling open the door.
SHOFF: Kayli Shoff said she found her boys playing as if nothing had happened.
She and her husband turned to the Nanny Cam video for answers.
RICKY SHOFF, FATHER OF TWINS: I'm like, how did this happen? And I'm watching it unfold while he's under it. But --
KAYLI SHOFF: He is a strong kid but we think there was a bit of extra help in there.
KAYE: On his Facebook page, the boys' father wrote, "We are grateful for the bond these twin brothers share. We know Browdy was not alone in moving the dresser off of Brock and feel blessed that he is OK."
But now, some Internet sleuths are suggesting that this rescue is nothing more than a hoax. And they are asking, why was the Nanny Cam pointed directly at the dresser? How did the parents not hear the dresser fall? And why was it empty?
The Shoffs say they had emptied the dresser because the boys throw their clothes everywhere.
Critics also find the father's connection to the company that sells the Nanny Cam -- he works for Vivint Smart Home -- very curious.
Ricky Shoff told CNN it's simply a coincidence.
[01:55:10] RICKY SHOFF: It's ironic it worked at my house, that we caught something like that.
KAYE: Both insisting they would never risk their boys' safety for a stunt.
KAYLI SHOFF: Why would we put our child in harm's way.
RICKY SHOFF: And it's --
KAYE: Despite all the doubt, the family says their goal is just to raise awareness.
KAYLI SHOFF: A lot of people are like, I've bolted my dresser now.
RICKY SHOFF: Thank heavens, like, it didn't turn out worse than it did.
KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Florida.
HOLMES: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Michael Holmes. And I will be back with more news after this.
[02:00:04] HOLMES: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.
And ahead this hour -- (HEADLINES)