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Trump's Chief of Staff Shortlist Shrinks by the Hour; U.S. Joins Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait to Malign Global Climate Response; Disturbing Documents Detail Sandy Hook Shooter's Anger, Isolation; Video Shows Police Yanking 1-Year-Old from Mom's Arms. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 10, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:31:27] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: An accused Russian spy appears to be striking a plea deal with the Justice Department. Maria Butina faces charges of illegally acting as a foreign agent from Russia. She is accused of trying to infiltrate Republican political circles and party leaders during the 2016 campaign in an attempt to advance Russian interests. Up to this point, she's maintained her innocence, saying she was just a foreign student studying in America. Now a change-of-plea hearing could be held as soon as tomorrow.
That help-wanted sign on the White House front door is not garnering all of the interest that it normally would. Vice President Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, appeared to be President Trump's top choice to take over for retired General John Kelly, but Trump and Ayers apparently were not able to work out terms on a time line and Ayers said, no, thanks. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, their names are also being floated but neither appear to be interested.
Joining me now, "Washington Post" congressional reporter, Karoun Demirjian, and Jake Sherman, congressional reporter for "Politico" and co-author of the "Politico Playbook" newsletter.
We have some reporting that -- CNN does -- that in a private conversation, Meadows said, according to sources, absolutely not, when it came up in conversation. I understand you know it's possible that this is a situation where you play your cards close to the vest. You are hearing something different publicly.
JAKE SHERMAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO & CO-AUTHOR, POLITICO PLAYBOOK: Yes. Meadows told us on the record he would be honored to be chief of staff, which is quite the statement to make as the president is looking for a chief of staff quite clearly. Meadows is incredibly close with the president and has been for the last two years. The president sees people like Meadows and Jim Jordan as the keepers of his creed, kind of, on Capitol Hill. And the president struck out with the last two chiefs of staff. Maybe there's some case that he could be making internally, that's the president, taking someone from Capitol Hill that has been in lock step with his agenda is a good choice. KEILAR: Honored or he wants this thing?
SHERMAN: I think saying on the record that he would be honored to take it would be -- would indicate he wants it. I want to say also, he's in the House minority. He was the head of the Freedom Caucus, which was a powerful group, when in the House majority. The dynamics changed the majority.
KEILAR: Karoun, what do you think?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I was going to say, if he had ended up becoming the ranking member of the top Republican of the Oversight Committee, there would be reason for him to stay in the House. But he's leaving his term as head of the Freedom Caucus. He does not have -- his best friend in Congress will be in that position, but he doesn't have an official role to play in Congress as the blocker for the president. The president does listen to him. They are in constant touch and do seem to coordinate well when they appear from opposite sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. Maybe he'll listen to Mark Meadows in ways more than he has with other chiefs of staff because they're coming with a different mindset. Meadows's strength also, just generally, he is pretty much in line with the president when it comes to most of his positions, but he is also good at working people. He is very, very good at getting people to like him and getting things that seem like they are off the beaten path to work even when his own party doesn't agree with him. He is a die-hard when it comes to this very conservative, very Trump allied position. So the president is inclined to give him more respect, I suppose you could say, than he has to other people employed in that position.
KEILAR: Do you believe that, Karoun, when you look at how some of these chiefs of staff have been treated?
DEMIRJIAN: I don't think it's safe for anybody.
DEMIRJIAN: It's not safe for anybody to enter that space knowing they will not come out unscathed. Everybody goes in to maybe working in Trump's cabinet, working in Trump's inner circle in the White House has to know they are taking an element of risk because the president is very impulsive about whether you are in or out based on how things go from one day to the next. It's not like he and Meadows agree on every last thing. There will be points at which they clash. If those clashes lead to a falling out, yes, Meadows will go the way of the predecessors. You'd start off on a positive foot, and compared to the other people on the short list with whom Trump has inside the White House --
DEMIRJIAN: -- that's at least different.
[13:35:28] KEILAR: You look at the short list, and the reporting is that so many people don't want the job. It's extraordinary, Jake. SHERMAN: Well, you are walking into a dark time in Trump's
presidency. The Mueller investigation will come to a close at some point. He is facing what will be a tough challenge in 2020, Hill investigations. And that's why people are making the case that Meadows will be good. The Hill investigations is something he can manage. He is somebody who sat -- who fancies himself a deal maker of sorts and someone who can manage the oversight process. Trump doesn't have anyone in the White House who can do that at this point. That's the most important role someone can serve in the White House at this point.
KEILAR: That's a good point.
Thank you so much, Jake Sherman, Karoun Demirjian. Really appreciate both of you.
The U.S. teaming up with Russia and the Saudis as part of an effort to weaken the global response to a dire climate change report. We have details on the major scientific set back.
Plus, shocking video from New York shows police officers trying to tear a baby away from his mother. What sparked this disturbing scene?
[13:41:08] KEILAR: The United States is teaming up with three other countries to reject a landmark climate report that warns against disastrous levels of global warming. But the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are refusing to endorse the findings.
CNN's senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is joining us now from Poland where the summit is being held.
What more you can tell us, Nick?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, a startling set back this weekend. The report they refused to endorse about having key temperatures to 1.5 degrees by 2030 to stave off catastrophe, that's not a debate, it's science. That's basically the same principles that mean we know when the sun will rise the next morning or your Smartphone will work. It's simply a fact. Yet, the U.S. chose strange bedfellows to be alongside, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait. To say that they want to welcome the report like the rest of 200 countries are about to get into a vote. Instead, they chose to take note of it. That set a strange tone. And also, too -- you will see video shortly -- there's a side event held by U.S. delegates here with the U.S. State Department delegates essentially promoting fossil fuels, trying to suggest they have better, cleaner technologies. That was swiftly interrupted by youth protests. But it's strange after the Obama administration leading the world to get the Paris agreements in check to see this vital meeting where they are working out the rules and the mechanisms to put the Paris agreements and the ideas into effect to stave off the planet. That's how serious it is to see the Trump administration coming here with something of a disruptor. To see the selling the fossil fuel technology and refusing to recognize basic bits of science. That set a complicated tone here. This is all about symbolism. Yes, they can get agreements on paper here but unless people around the world get the message from summits like this, the daily habits have to change to stave off serious changes to our planet, then nothing gets done. Many people are worried. And there's a lot of heavy lifting to do certainly in terms of sending a message in the days ahead -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Worried, and we see the anger there, too.
Thank you for bringing us those pictures, Nick Paton Walsh, in Poland.
Stunning revelations in the writings of a gunman. How documents released from the investigation into the Sandy Hook massacre are shedding light on Adam Lanza's anger isolation in the years leading up to the shooting.
[13:47:54] KEILAR: It is a window into the mind of a mass murder. More than 1,000 pages of documents from the investigation into the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut are giving us a dark gruesome picture of Adam Lanza. The material includes some of Lanza's own writings and psychiatrist reports spanning about 15 years of his life, notes from his mother describing her son's developmental problems. It provides some insight into the years leading up to the day that Lanza killed 20 first graders, six educators and his mother.
David Altimari is an investigative reporter for the "Hartford Courant," the that obtained the documents exclusively from the Connecticut State Police.
David, thanks for joining me.
It's worth noting, it has been just days shy of five years here. This took a long time. This is a personal mission of you and a number of your colleagues. Why did it take so long?
DAVID ALTIMARI, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, HARTFORD COURANT: Initially, we put in in a Freedom of Information Request in January of 2013. The state police fought us every step of the way, all the way to the State Supreme Court. The court ruled about a month or so ago that they had to turn the documents over to us. That was a long battle. No question.
KEILAR: When something like this happened -- and Newtown is something that touched the nation in a way that other shootings did not because of the youth of the people who were killed -- they want answers and they don't understand. When you look at the documents, did you gain new understanding that you didn't have previously?
ALTIMARI: I think we learned more about Adam Lanza. Just the fact alone that he kept a spreadsheet of 400 names of mass murders on it and 17 categories and had kept that spreadsheet probably for three to four years, I think that tells you an awful lot about the person that we're dealing with here, that we were dealing with. There's also a lot of stuff that he wrote that was never -- that I don't think anybody ever saw. Stuff that was found on his computer. One document in particular about pedophilia, about a screenplay about a pedophile. So we definitely learned some things about him, you know, that there wasn't much out there about before this.
[13:50:18] KEILAR: He -- and speak to that. That was a screenplay called "Lovebound," and this theme of pedophilia came up multiple times, right?
ALTIMARI: Yes, it was basically a four-page -- I guess we'd call it a screenplay, but it was mostly just like partial scenes. But the theme of it was, in effect -- the relationship between a 30-year-old man and a 10-year-old boy. And there has been some references previously about, you know, pedophilia, but nothing like this, where he's, you know, basically building a screenplay about it. He also mentioned suicide in that document and familicide in that document, two things that clearly played out on 12/14..
KEILAR: He had an obsession with violence that was so clear in these documents that you didn't need those to tell you that much. But something that was so striking was what we learned about his mother and his relationship with his mother. One thing that stood out to me was a psychiatrist who worried about his being home-schooled, which is something his mother wanted to do. She was worried about him being in school. The psychologist worried that bringing into the home would further reinforce the socialization difficulties that he was having. What all did you learn about his relationship with his mother?
ALTIMARI: She clearly had issues or problems with him in school, going to school. They were different psychiatrists who recommended different things. The one you're referring to, from Yale, raised some red flags about him not going to school.
One of the interesting things to me is the year -- the last year that he was homebound schooled was around the time that we believe he started doing research for this database, the mass shooting spreadsheet. So that kind of -- and he's 14, 15 years old at that time.
And it was clear that there was something that happened between when he was at Sandy Hook school and when he went to high school that completely changed him. He went from -- he became a complete -- almost a complete recluse by the end, and barely was even communicating with his mother, mostly just by e-mail, frankly.
KEILAR: And he lived in the same house as her, which is important to note. That's why these documents are so helpful, that he was communicating in that way with her.
Dave Altimari, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.
ALTIMARI: Thank you.
KEILAR: We have more on our big news. The president of the United States now officially implicated in two crimes during his campaign. But Robert Mueller's investigation is getting clearer and it's focusing on much more than that.
Plus, shocking video from New York. It shows police officers trying to tear a baby away from his mother's arms. What sparked this disturbing scene?
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[13:57:44] KEILAR: Video has emerged of a disturbing scene inside a government office in New York that shows police officers struggling to tear an infant away from his mother's arms.
And a word of caution, some viewers will find this video disturbing.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god! Oh, my god!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look what they're doing to her! Look what they're doing to her!
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KEILAR: Police say they were called to that government office when the woman refused to leave.
CNN's Jean Casarez following the story for us.
What do we know, Jean, about why police took this action?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are very divergent facts here. Let's look first at the NYPD. They issued a statement this morning, talking about that it was Friday, a little before 1:00 that the peace officers at this social services agency had noted disorderly conduct with this young woman, that they had asked her to leave, that she did not, that she then was impeding a hallway for people that were walking back and forth. So at some point, within the social services agency, 911 was called. The NYPD came. They asked her to leave. According to the NYPD, she did not, so because she didn't effectuate their orders that they were asking, they then tried to arrest her. Thus, you see that video.
Her defense counsel has just spoken out for the first time. The executive director of the Brooklyn Defenders Service says in one part that when someone goes to a social services agency, they are in crisis and law enforcement needs to know that. Listen to the rest of the story, as they tell it.
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LISA SCHREIBERSDORF, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BROOKLYN DEFENDER SERVICES: She had to take a day off to do that and she got here at 9:00 in the morning and there was not enough seats. Now, as you just heard, there's been quite a bit of overcrowding in many of these facilities. In part due to, I think, some closures. But there was not enough seating. I think a lot of people had no place to sit. And she was sitting on the floor. She was asked to move multiple times. There was no place to go. And the security, I guess, decided to call 911. Now, I agree, of course, that that was the worst option that they could have used.
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[12:00:01] CASAREZ: This young woman, 23-year-old Yasmin Headley, is still in custody at Rikers Island in New York. And, Brianna, it's because of a warrant out of New Jersey for credit card fraud.
KEILAR: All right, Jean Casarez, thank you so much.