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Horrific Attacks On People Of Faith; Cancer Diagnosis For Rep. John Lewis; Canes For Veterans; 2020 Presidential Race; Severe Weather; U.S. Strikes Iranian-Backed Militias; Firefighter Killed Battling Raging Fire In Australia; Stellar Year For Stocks; No Vaccinations, No School; Texas Veteran Turns Christmas Tree Into Canes; Trump Vent About Impeachment Limbo; Landmark Law To Protect Personal Information; Russians Say Trump Speaks To Putin; 24 States To Raise Minimum Wage In 2020; New York Times, Tessa Majors Investigation Turns To DNA; 60-Year-Old Man Beaten And Robbed Of $1 Dies; Woman Survives 200 Foot Fall From Cliff In California; Elon Musk, Vegas Tunnel Fully Operational In 2020. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 30, 2019 - 04:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Horrific attacks on people of faith. Two people shot to death at a Texas church. Jews targeted against stabbed at a Hanukkah Party. Larger massacres were narrowly averted in both cases.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN ANCHOR: A civil rights icon faces the battle of a lifetime. Congressman John Lewis has pancreatic cancer.

ROMANS: And before you throw away your Christmas trees. We'll tell you what one Texas man is doing with leftover trees to help needy veterans. Welcome back to early start, everyone. I'm Christine Romans. Good morning to you. Nice to see you.

SANTIAGO: Good morning, thanks for having me. I'm Leyla Santiago. It is 4:30 in the morning here in New York. A vitriolic rise in Anti- Semitism coming to a violent climax during Hanukkah. Five members of the Jewish communities stabbed at a holiday celebration in the New York suburb of Muncie. Witnesses there saying that the attacker struck at the rabbi's home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw him walking in by the door. I asked who is coming in in the middle of the night with an umbrella. While I was saying that, he pulled it out from the thing. And he started to run into the big room, which is on the left side. And I throw him tables and chairs that he should get out of here. I ran into the other room because I tried to save my life. I saw him running down this way. So, I ran out. And two came along with me. They're still hysterical.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANTIAGO: The stabbings capped off weeks of recent violence against

Jews in and around New York City, including an attack at a Jersey City kosher market earlier this month. New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo says there had been 13 anti-Semitic attacks in New York alone this month alone.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We have to change the laws to call this what it is. This is terrorism. It is domestic terrorism.

There is an American cancer, it's a spreading of hate, but what is terrorism? It is a hate-motivated act to instill fear, based on race, color, creed, with the intent to murder. And that's what this was.


ROMANS: The suspect seen running away after the attack was found in New York City. Grafton Thomas, he's car tag was captured by a license plate reader on the George Washington Bridge about an hour after that attack. Two officers blocked the car and arrested Thomas. He pleaded not guilty yesterday. His attorney and his pastor say that he has a long history of mental illness.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Grafton is not a terrorist. He is a man who has mental illness in America. And the systems that be, have not serve him well.


SANTIAGO: And less than 24 hours after the stabbings, Hanukkah celebrations were under way where it took place. The Consul General of Israel in New York, made a worrisome observation during the eight-day holiday.


DANI DAYAN, CONSUL GENERAL OF ISRAEL: In this Hanukkah, we suffered more anti-Semitic incidents in the countries that we live, and that it's impossible to bear. What we saw now, has to be the last time.


ROMANS: So, how do make it the last time? New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined new steps to protect New York City's Jewish community. They include a greater police presence in heavily Jewish areas of Brooklyn and new education programs in schools.


BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR, 2020 U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to reach our young people more effectively. This is the crux of some of what we're seeing right now. Young people, who somehow, have come to assume that bias is acceptable. We will not let that happen in New York City.


ROMANS: Two of the victims stabbed in Muncie have now been released from the hospital. The anti-defamation league reports anti-Semitic incidents nearly doubled between 2015 and 2018.

Officials in Israel also condemning the rise of anti-Semitism following that attack in Muncie. We turn to Oren Liebermann, live in Jerusalem for the latest for us. Good morning, Oren.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. It feels like all too often Israelis have woken up or kind of come out of a holiday to hear of another attack in the United States. San Diego and Pittsburgh were both on the Sabbath.


And then of course, this attack in Muncie, New York, coming on the seventh night of Hanukkah. And it definitely changed the tenor of the final night of Hanukkah here in Jerusalem and across Israel, as the chairman of the Jewish agency put it, it went from a festival of lights to dark days.

Israel's president Reuven Rivlin weighed in with a statement shortly after the attack happened. He said, the rise of anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem and certainly not just the state of Israel's problem. We must work together to confront this evil, which is raising its head again, and is a genuine threat around the world.

To that end, next month, Israel will host a conference on anti- Semitism. Yad Vashem, holocaust museum. It was planned before this attack. But certainly takes on an added significance in light of this attack and the other anti-Semitic incidents. World leaders, head of state will be here at an event that coincides with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The question, what ideas, what tools, what will they come up with that Yad Vashem has said, part of it is education, both about anti-Semitism and about the holocaust. But, Christine, you get the sense that can't be the only part of the solution if anti-Semitism is to be truly dealt with.

ROMANS: Right. All right, Oren Liebermann for us in Jerusalem. Thanks, Oren.

SANTIAGO: To Texas, now a man shot and killed two worshipers at a church service in a Fort Worth suburb, Sunday, before two members of the church security team shot and killed the gunman. The FBI describes the shooter as relatively transient with roots in the area. Says, he had been arrested multiple times but was not on any kind of watch list.

The attack was caught on the livestream broadcast by the West Freeway Church of Christ. Now, what you are about to see, we've blurred some parts, but we want to warn you, the video is very disturbing. And as you see, near the top of the screen, the whole attack unfolded in six seconds.




ROMANS: The gunman and one of the victims died on the way to the hospital. The second victim flat lined was revive but then later died. Despite the loss of life, officials praised heroic church members.


JEOFF WILLIAMS, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: It cannot be overstated how important it is that everyone recognized what took place here today. The citizens who are inside that church, undoubtedly, saved 242 other parishioners.

BRITT FARMER, SENIOR MINISTER, WEST FREEWAY CHURCH OF CHRIST: We lost two great men today. But it could have been a lot worse.


SANTIAGO: The senior minister says the church will meet tonight to continue the service that was interrupted by the shooting. Texas recently changed its gun laws in response to the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting that left 26 people dead. The state now permits licensed handgun owners to legally carry weapons into places of worship.

ROMANS: Civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis has been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The 79-year-old Democrats said in a statement that the cancer was found during a routine medical visit. And he writes, I have been in some kind of fight for freedom, equality, basic human rights, for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.

He says, he's clear-eyed about the prognosis but that recent advances have made this type of cancer treatable. Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. The 17-term Congressman vows to continue his work while undergoing treatment in Washington.

SANTIAGO: Well, we are inching closer to those caucuses Iowa, now, only 35 days away. Joe Biden's focus is split between the campaign and President Trump's impeachment. He was forced to clarify a remark saying that he would not testify in a Senate impeachment trial. Now, he said, while there's no legal basis for him to be subpoenaed, he would comply.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 2020 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would, in fact, abide by whatever was legally required of me. I always have. This is a trial that relates to Donald Trump's behavior. Did he violate the constitution? Pure and simple. And I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that stays the focus. Not any else.


ROMANS: Senator Bernie Sanders, has been quietly climbing in the polls. He was confronted twice this weekend by people who worked in the health care industry. They are worried about losing their jobs under Medicare for all, which would eliminate private insurance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work for an insurance company. I have in my whole life. That's what I know. I'm 58 years-old. Help me. You're going to take away my job. I believe in you. I think this is --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to take away your job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need a new job.

SANDERS: Yes. And we will get you.


SANTIAGO: Let's go to Mayor Pete Buttigieg now, knocked Joe Biden for voting in favor of the Iraq war in 2002. Biden later became a vocal critic of the conflict and admits that his vote was bad judgment. But Buttigieg, who was a veteran, remains troubled.



MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND-IN) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I certainly respect the vice president. But this is an example of why years in Washington is not always the same thing as judgment. He supported the worst foreign policy decision made by the United States in my lifetime, which was the decision to invade Iraq.


ROMANS: And Senator Elizabeth Warren trying to stop a slide in the polls. In an e-mail to supporters, the campaign said it raised $17 million so far in the fourth quarter. Not a bad number face value, but it is down 30 percent from last quarter's big haul.

SANTIAGO: Well, there's signs President Trump's growing frustration with the uncertainty of over his Senate impeachment trial is wearing on him. But Senate majority Leader, Mitch McConnell keeps saying that he is not eager to move forward. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is traveling with the president in Florida and has more from West Palm Beach.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning, Christine and Leyla. The president is beginning his second week of his holiday vacation. But it appears that his time in Florida certainly has not led to those frustrations with the impeachment process subsiding. Instead, it appears that the president is becoming increasingly frustrating and in fact he's not hiding it.

He in fact, we've seen him tweet dozens of times, tweeting, retweeting criticisms of these impeachment process, criticizing the Democrats who have made him only the third president in American history to be impeached, including this latest tweet from the president on Sunday, going after the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Now, while the president has been at his Mar-a-Lago estate, he's also been quizzing many of his aids and allies about his impeachment strategy and who should be on that defense team. But much of this still remains to be determined. And that is because we still have not seen the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, transmit those articles of impeachment to the Senate. And we also haven't heard yet from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, as to what those rules in an eventual Senate trial will indeed be. Christine? Leyla?

ROMANS: All right. Jeremy in Florida for us, thanks for that.

An ugly end in store for the weather in 2019. More than 25 million people under winter weather alerts across the northern plains, the Midwest, the northeast. The weather service, warning of severe travel disruptions. Foul weather causing major problems over the weekend. A dense fog leading to a multivehicle pileup in Texas, including that dramatic video there of an 18-wheeler smashing right through the scene.

SANTIAGO: And then there was this school bus I want to show you here, sliding down an icy road in Minnesota. Looks kind a like its slow- motion. Yes. It is not. Chaos on the roads in North Dakota, as well as with Interstate 29 closed from the South Dakota state line all the way up to Canada. And I-94 shut down from Fargo to Bismarck. Parts of the Midwest and northeast, especially near the Great Lakes, could see up to a foot of additional snow. And the northeast could also see more freezing rain, ice and sleet. Meteorologist, Ivan Cabrera has the latest.


IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. We have a mess on our hands. We have the ice storm across the northeast that is developing into a huge event. And then we have a blizzard warning for parts of Dakota. But there, along with the winter storm warnings it's all snow because it's all cold, right. It will be accumulating snowfall. But that we can handle.

This is a whole different problem. See the purple area in eastern New York and parts of central and western Massachusetts, northwestern Connecticut, all under an ice storm warning, for the potential, half an inch, three-quarters of an inch of ice. That is the kind of weight that you are going to be bring down power lines all over the place here. And any untreated surfaces are going to be a mess and basically impossible to travel through, as we head through the next several hours and really through the remainder of today. Further north, it is snow. But we do have this color you see here,

that purple, the radar picking up on, well, it's falling as rain. The surface temperatures are below freezing. And so everything that falls is going to be caking on, on contact here. There's a storm that continues moving east. And even by early Tuesday morning, we still deal with snow, heavy rain and also gusty winds, as well. Guys?


ROMANS: All right. Ivan, thanks for that.

A landmark law in the effort to protect your personal information. Starting January 1st, the California consumer privacy act gives residents the right to know what data companies collect about them and to opt out of having their information sold.

Businesses are also restricted in selling the personal information of children under the age of 16. This is the biggest effort yet to tackle so called surveillance capitalism. That's for business making money of data Americans give up, but it faces challenges. Residents have to take the initiative to opt out of data sales. They have to request their own information and file for damages in the case of data breaches.

And The New York Times notes tech companies have different interpretations of this law, especially over what it means to stop selling or sharing consumer's personal details. The Times say, the California Attorney General's office plans to publish the final rules in mid-2020, spelling out exactly how companies will have to comply with the law.

I have a young son who started getting a magazine, a business title magazine. And I called to try to find out who signed him up. Who was giving him this free sample?



ROMANS: And no one could get back to me and tell me how. But to think that, you know, an 11-year-old, a 12-year-old, 13-year-old -- their information is out there and being used for marketing. That's pretty troubling.

SANTIAGO: Incredible and scary. All at the same time. All right. President Trump and Vladimir Putin speaking for the first time since the Ukraine mess began. Naturally, we only learned about it from the Russians. CNN is live in Moscow.


ROMANS: For the first time since President Trump's Ukraine call and the impeachment battle, he and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have spoken by phone. We are only learning about it, because the Kremlin provided a summary. None from the White House yet. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live for us in Moscow. So the two men have spoken, they talked about terrorism and other areas of mutual interest, what do we know?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. One of the things we don't know is what exactly those other areas of mutual interest are. Because as you rightly mentioned, we only know about this phone call from the Russian side. And the Russians are saying this phone call happened at the initiative of the Russian federation. So, not at the initiation of the White House.

One of the interesting things that's been going on since the whole Ukraine issue broke, is that Vladimir Putin has been an ardent defender of President Trump, despite the fact the two men haven't spoken until last night. Vladimir Putin saying that he believes that impeachment was happening for no reason, for made-up reasons, as Vladimir Putin put it.


However, this phone call seemed to one of great importance. Vladimir Putin apparently thanked President Trump for a tip-off that the FBI gave to Russian intelligence services which led to the arrest of two people in the St. Petersburg area. Apparently those two people were planning terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg on New Year's Eve.

So, the Russians saying they are very grateful for that tip-off. A little bit of news I got for you guys this morning. Those two men, as the Russians say, have pleaded guilty, this morning. They were just in court. So, certainly that seems to be moving on.

In other news also, of course, we still have the whole conflict around Ukraine that's been going on, that's also, of course, been part of the impeachment proceedings, as well. There was a little bit of movement apparently there. There was a prisoner swap that happened yesterday and late last night, where several dozen pro-Russian fighters were exchanged for several dozen Ukrainian fighters there in Ukraine.

So, certainly, maybe a bit of good news very certainly, much too early to tell. But it does seems to be a little bit of movement. But again, that phone call, the first phone call between the two men in a very long time. And you're absolutely right, Christine. The only side has been talking about it has been the Russians so far.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us in Moscow this morning. Thanks, Fred.

SANTIAGO: Fire conditions are deteriorating in the Australian state of New South Wales. A volunteer firefighter died overnight and two others were burned, battling those raging fires. New South Wales includes Sydney, the area around the city has been hit very hard. It is so hot, a cycle gave water to a thirsty koala during the severe heatwave.

Now, Australian officials are pushing ahead with Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks display, despite a petition that's calling for the event to just be completely scrapped. The quarter million people who signed, want the money put towards firefighting efforts instead. Australia's capital Canberra, has canceled it's fireworks over fire fears. ROMANS: All right, the heat there and the -- just even -- the fog,

the smog and pollution there up from those wildfires has been incredible for people in Sydney.

All right, workers rejoice. The minimum wage set to go up in half the country. CNN Business has the details, next.



SANTIAGO: Investigators in the murder case of a college student Tessa Majors are hoping to link DNA detected on her clothes to all three of the minors suspected in her attack. That's what an official with knowledge of the investigation tells The New York Times. Now this comes after detectives detained and released the third suspect wanted for questioning last night. Sources say that the 14-year-old could still face some charges.

ROMANS: A 60-year-old man who was critically injured after being punched and kicked during a mugging on Christmas Eve has died. Police released the surveillance video of Juan Fresnada and his friend being beaten and robbed. I want to warn you this -- this video is pretty graphic. The thieves got away with just one dollar. Police are asking for help locating the attackers. None of them have been identified. And there had been no arrests.

SANTIAGO: A woman fell 200 feet off of a cliff in southern California and somehow, she survived. Police say, she was walking along a foot path in Rancho Pales Verdes, Friday. They say, people started calling that morning to report a woman was screaming and it's still unclear how she fell or how much time passed before someone heard cries for help. Deputies pull a helicopter to the shoreline and they managed to rescue her. She suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital.

ROMANS: Seattle public schools will be sending students home if they have not been vaccinated by January 8th. The district says more than 2,000 students don't have up-to-date proof of vaccination. And any absences by unvaccinated students will be recorded as unexcused. The system is offering free immunization clinics today and Friday. Washington State lawmakers recently ended exceptions for families with personal or philosophical objections to vaccinations.

SANTIAGO: A Texas man is turning hundreds of Christmas trees into canes for fellow disabled veterans. Jamie Lewis is his name and he started a Central Texas branch of the group Canes for Veterans in 2016. He says, it keeps him from sitting home all day and feeling sorry for himself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole process, it's just done off donations. I make the canes myself. Everything is done out of pocket.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANTIAGO: Willis has made and shipped about 200 canes so far. And

he's asking the community for donations of Christmas trees stripped of their limbs. He says he also needs sandpaper and woodworking tools.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get a check of CNN business this morning. Taking a look at markets around the world to start this holiday week. You can see pretty much a mixed performance. European shares have opened slightly lower here. Japan's benchmark index has closed the year as one of the region's best performers. Easing U.S./China trade tensions have helped lift sentiment.

On Wall Street futures are looking a little bit higher, barely so. Stocks are ending the year strong. The DOW closed up 24 points, Friday. That's a record high. The S&P 500 just barely ended in positive territory. Enough for it to reach a record. The NASDAQ finished lower, snapping an 11-day winning streak.

New Year, higher wages. A record 72 jurisdictions, that's 24 states, 48 cities and counties, will raise their minimum wages in 2020. Most will kick-in about January 1st. New York's pay raise is set to begin December 31st. The federal minimum has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Earlier this year, the House passed the raise the wage act, to make a $15 minimum wage, a national standard. But that bill didn't make it past the Senate.

What started as a joke looks like it's becoming a reality. Elon Musk says Las Vegas is hopefully getting a fully operational underground tunnel in 2020. Musk tweeted the Boring Company is completing the tunnel from Las Vegas Convention Center to the strip before it works on other projects. When completed, the Las Vegas project will consist of two tunnels, each about a mile long. The Boring Company did not respond to our request for comment. But Elon Musk and his big ideas. He says that one will happen next year.

SANTIAGO: Well, thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. And for our U.S. viewers, Early Start continues right now.

Horrific attacks on people of faith. Two people shot to death at a Texas church. Jews targeted against stabbed at a Hanukkah Party. Larger massacres were nearly averted in both cases.

ROMANS: A civil rights icon faces the battle of a lifetime. Congressman John Lewis has pancreatic cancer.