Return to Transcripts main page


Five Stabbed At New York Hanukkah Celebration; Gunman Kills Two In Texas Church; Iran Warns U.S. Of Consequences Following Air Strikes. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 30, 2019 - 05:30   ET



LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN ANCHOR: Stabbed at a Hanukkah party.

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

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone, this holiday week. I'm Christine Romans.

SANTIAGO: I'm Leyla Santiago.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

SANTIAGO: Nice to see you, too, on this last Monday of the year.

ROMANS: I know, that's right.

SANTIAGO: The time now is 5:30 here in New York.

We begin with a vitriolic rise in anti-Semitism coming to a violent climax during Hanukkah. Five members of the Jewish community stabbed at a holiday celebration in the New York suburb of Monsey. Witnesses say that the attacker struck at the rabbi's home


ARON KOHN, WITNESSES SHOOTING AT HANUKKAH CELEBRATION: I saw him walking in by the door. I asked who is coming 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 was on the left side.

And I threw 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 ladies came along with me. They were hysterical.


SANTIAGO: The stabbings capped off weeks of recent violence against Jews in and around New York City, including an attack on a New Jersey City kosher market earlier this month. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that there have been 13 anti-Semitic attacks in New York this month alone.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: 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' car tag was captured by a license plate reader on the George Washington Bridge about an hour after the attack. Two officers block the car and arrested Thomas.

He pleaded not guilty yesterday. His attorney and his pastor say he has a long history of mental illness.


REV. WENDY PAIGE, HUDSON HIGHLANDS COOPERATIVE PARISH: Grafton is not a terrorist. He is a man who has mental illness in America and the systems that be have not served him well.


SANTIAGO: Less than 24 hours after the stabbings, Hanukkah celebrations were underway where it took place.

The consul general of Israel in New York made a worrisome observation about the number of candles lit during the eight-day holiday.


DANI DAYAN, CONSUL GENERAL OF ISRAEL: In this Hanukkah, we suffered more anti-Semitic incidents than the candles that we lit and that is impossible to bear. What we saw now has to be the last time.


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


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (R), NEW YORK CITY: We have to reach our young people more effectively. This is the crux of so much 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Two of the stabbing victims in Monsey have now been released from the hospital.

The anti-Defamation League reports anti-Semitic incidents nearly doubled between 2015 and 2018.

SANTIAGO: A man shot and killed two worshipers at a church service in a Fort Worth suburb Sunday before two members of that church security shot and killed the gunman. The attack was caught on the livestream broadcast by the West Freeway Church of Christ. More than 200 people were inside.

Now, let me walk you through what you're about to see. We've actually blurred some parts but we warn you the video is very disturbing. As you'll see near the top of your screen, the whole attack unfolded in six seconds.


Two men begin shooting inside West Freeway Church of Christ.

(Gunshots, screams)


ROMANS: The FBI describes the shooter as relatively transient with roots in the area. The gunman and one of the victims died on the way to the hospital. The second victim flatlined and was revived, but later died.

Despite the loss of life, officials praised heroic church members.


JEOFF WILLIAMS, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: And it cannot be overstated how important it is that everyone recognize what took place here today. The citizens who were 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 that the church will meet tonight to continue that service that was interrupted by the shooting.

Texas recently actually changed its gun laws in response to the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting that left 26 people dead. Licensed handgun owners can now legally carry weapons into places of worship.

ROMANS: All right, 35 minutes past the hour. The Iowa caucuses five short weeks away. What remark Joe Biden is walking back and what promise Bernie Sanders is making on health care.


ROMANS: All right, we are inching closer to the Iowa causes, 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 he would not testify in a Senate impeachment trial. Now he says while there is no legal basis for him to be subpoenaed, he would comply.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would, in fact, abide by the -- 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 anything else.



SANTIAGO: And, Sen. Bernie Sanders has been quietly climbing in the polls, but then this. He was confronted twice this weekend by people in the health care industry. They're worried about losing their jobs under his Medicare for All plan, which would eliminate private insurance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work for a health insurance company. I have for 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 the way to go.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to take away your job. Let me tell you what we're going to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need a new job.

SANDERS: Yes, and we will get you one.


ROMANS: Mayor Pete Buttigieg knocked Joe Biden for voting in favor of the Iraq War back in 2002. Biden later became a critic of the conflict -- a vocal critic -- and admits his vote, at the time, was bad judgment. But, Buttigieg, who is also a veteran, remains troubled.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, 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.


SANTIAGO: And now, to Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She did something she typically doesn't do. In an e-mail to supporters, the campaign announced early that it raised $17 -- or it has raised, rather, $17 million, so far, in the fourth quarter. Perspective here -- that's definitely not a bad number but it is down 30 percent from last quarter's big haul.

ROMANS: All right. Let's bring in "Washington Post" congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian, a CNN political analyst. Good morning. Happy pre-pre-New Year. A holiday week, but we're all still here working.

Look, if you live in Iowa you cannot go to the grocery store without seeing a campaign bus. You can't turn on the T.V. without seeing Mike Bloomberg or Tom Steyer or many of the other candidates as well.

Where are we here in terms of impeachment discussion and the campaigns trying to really focus clearly on the issues here? I mean, because when I talk to Iowans, they're talking about health care, they're talking about the economy, they're talking about jobs. They're not necessarily talking impeachment.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Either talking past each other or on a bit of a collision course, honestly, because we're heading into the last month and change of days before the Iowa caucuses, which is also going to be the last -- the month in which we probably address impeachment in a Senate trial form, assuming that eventually, the articles of impeachment are passed from the House to the Senate.

And so, either Washington and Iowa and the other early primary states are going to be trying to tune each other out, which is going to put all of those senators who are running to -- for the Democratic nomination in a strange and awkward spot of having to kind of split their brains --


DEMIRJIAN: -- and split their time between D.C. and Iowa. Or it's going to just drown out the messaging that people are going to try to do because the focus is going to be on impeachment in Washington --

ROMANS: Right.

DEMIRJIAN: -- and the candidates will be trying to make -- trying to drum up some support for their ideas in more intimate environments on the campaign trail, but will be kind of losing the megaphone in terms of the national conversation leading into the primaries and caucuses.

SANTIAGO: One of those senators, Karoun, is Sen. Bernie Sanders. And I want to go back to that moment we just showed because I think it's very important -- where he had someone at his town hall saying look, I like you, I am with you. But she had concerns over Medicare of All and says I need a job.

Having been on the campaign trail, I know health care is such a big issue. Are these candidates doing enough in messaging on their stance on health care given what we just saw out of Newport, New Hampshire?

DEMIRJIAN: Well look, they're messaging on the big ideas of health care in a way that I think is grabbing a lot of people, and that's why you hear a constituent whose personal concerns about it, still saying I believe in you, in certain ways because these are big ideas they're putting out there.

But the problem is that even though many of the candidates have put out detailed plans of how they implement these proposals, drilling down to the nitty-gritty is going to, when you're talking about something that's a Medicare for All shifts, be a bit of a shock to the system.

And nobody can completely control how that plays out. And if you're talking about a total restructuring of the 20 percent of the economy basically --

ROMANS: Right.

DEMIRJIAN: -- that focuses on the health care industry, that's going to mean some serious changes for a lot of people's lives.

And I don't think that most of the candidates have kind of gotten away from the whole here's my big idea about what my vision is for the endgame of the -- you know, after we make this change -- into how I'm going to handle the in-between --


DEMIRJIAN: -- and make sure that it doesn't lose parts of the economy, lose people's livelihoods, and everything else like that.

It's why you're hearing pushback from some of the more moderate candidates of you cannot do this -- it would be too much of a shift, too much of a change --


DEMIRJIAN: -- you can't make it happen that way.

But really, nobody has kind of gotten into well, here's exactly how I picture it working out for you in your house at your kitchen table. And that's the split basically between trying to talk about these kitchen table issues and yet reassuring people that you can do these big ideas and not completely upend their lives in a way that puts them out of the change and the benefits of that down the line. ROMANS: Yes, 373,000 new health care jobs created just this year. I mean, this is a huge driver --


ROMANS: -- of the economy -- you know, remaking it again --


ROMANS: -- after remaking it 10 years ago is a real hard sell on the campaign trail when people just want to fix their health care right now.


Let's talk about the impeachment trial and what the president -- our reporting is that the president is showing some increasing frustration. You can read that by what he's retweeting and what he's clearly --


ROMANS: -- been reading online. And it seems as though maybe he is frustrated with Mitch McConnell, who -- I mean, you tell me. I mean, where is the president here with the impeachment process?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, I think the president is stewing and I think you're seeing the results of that boiling over onto his Twitter account.

And I think, in a way -- I mean, this is the best-case scenario for what Nancy Pelosi was doing by holding back those articles, right? She was trying to create some leverage out of a situation in which she almost had none left except for her talk about the impeachment managers.

And yet, there is this wild card when every time you're talking about something with President Trump, the president isn't good at remaining disciplined and keeping his own counsel, and waiting patiently during what would have been a two-week gap in time, anyway, even if she had sent those articles over immediately.

And so this, potentially, could be creating some pressure on Mitch McConnell. Not every last GOP senator actually agrees with McConnell that there shouldn't be any witnesses.

Some of them feel like the president should be able to call whoever he wants to in his defense. And if the president is going to be able to call people like the Bidens and like the whistleblower, he's probably never going to be able to convince -- there are probably not enough GOP senators in the Senate that will say OK, you can have just those witnesses. And then that creates a dealmaking situation --


DEMIRJIAN: -- for the Democrats where they can pull in some of the people -- like Mick Mulvaney, like John Bolton, maybe even Mike Pompeo -- who resisted the subpoenas and the summons from the House process.

So this -- the president, frankly, could be creating more leverage for Nancy Pelosi and for the Democrats by popping off on Twitter and expressing his frustrations. I mean, it was a whole week ago at this point, I think, that he said OK, Mitch is going to handle it and he can run the show in the Senate. The president has not kept quiet since then and there's still a good solid week to go before the Senate gets back into town and starts even thinking about doing this from D.C.

SANTIAGO: Karoun, let's talk about one of the big headlines from this weekend -- that stabbing at the Hanukkah celebration in Monsey. We've seen local and state officials -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as Gov. Cuomo responding to this.

But what should we expect or how should we expect that to play out on the campaign trail from these candidates that really, just about every single one of the front runners -- well, yes, every single one of them spent some time tweeting about anti-Semitic views and the role of hate.

What do you think these candidates will need to do to address that? And do you think this will come out from the many voters that are going to be going to ask questions of these candidates in town halls in the next 35 days before the Iowa caucuses?

DEMIRJIAN: Well look, these sorts of attacks and the spate of them in the last week -- which is just a microcosm of what's been going on for a few years now where the anti-Defamation League has tracked the numbers just ticking way up in terms of the targeted anti-Semitic attacks -- I think that this is part of a national conversation.

I mean, we're focusing on New York right now because the most recent and horrific attack happened in New York, because the governor came out, because the mayor came out and they're making very strong statements about we need to change the laws to actually address this so that we can actually target this.

There has been a kind of fizzled away -- it was discussed for a while but we haven't been focused on it because there's so much else to focus on in D.C. -- a conversation about how we were looking at issues of terrorism -- foreign terrorism versus domestic terrorism.

I think it's striking that Cuomo has been using the phrase "domestic terrorism" and that was something that we were talking about with all kinds of hate-motivated attacks against Jews, against Muslims --


DEMIRJIAN: -- against other communities of faith, against other racial communities.

And this has been something that there's been a real debate because the Trump administration shifted focus away from that sort of domestic terrorism --


DEMIRJIAN: -- since they started.

And so, does New York, which has a very loud megaphone -- when New York talks the country does listen. Even if the country doesn't look exactly like New York -- it does in every single place -- New York has a big megaphone.

And so when that happens in places like that and the governor starts speaking out in that way, it could influence the national conversation. It could fuel a discussion among at least the Democratic candidates if not the current administration as well of we have to something, we have to implement --


DEMIRJIAN: -- policies when we look at homeland security and everything, that actually addresses what's going on in the country and tries to heal what is going on here so that these attacks don't continue.

ROMANS: The suspect in this case -- his attorney said that this is someone who has suffered for a long time with significant mental illness. Both conversations can be true -- that there can be a climate of anti-Semitism --


ROMANS: -- that rises and then is ceased upon --

DEMIRJIAN: It confused --


ROMANS: -- by people.

DEMIRJIAN: With the mental health debate, with the gun control debate, these are all issues that have been put together -- all discussed but not gone anywhere in the last few years, even though these attacks continue.

ROMANS: All right, Karoun Demirjian. So nice to see you. Thank you for coming by this morning.

DEMIRJIAN: You, too.

ROMANS: Forty-nine minutes past the hour. We'll be right back.



ROMANS: All right, breaking this hour, Iran warning the U.S. of consequences after the U.S. launched attacks on Shiite militia in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. blames Iran for a series of attacks on military facilities housing American forces. Defense Sec. Mark Esper says more action is possible. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Iran forced the U.S. military's hand.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: This has been going on now for weeks and weeks and weeks. This wasn't the first set of attacks against this particular Iraqi facility and others where there were American lives at risk. And today, what we did was take a decisive response. We will not stand for the Islamic Republican of Iran to take actions to put American men and women in jeopardy.


ROMANS: CNN's Arwa Damon is live for us in Istanbul. And, Arwa, lay this all out for us.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, these strikes -- three of them in Iraq, two of them inside Syria -- against an Iranian-backed militia group known as Kata'ib Hezbollah. The strikes, according to the Pentagon, were targeting their weapons depots as well as command and control centers. Kata'ib Hezbollah, itself, has said that 25 people were killed, another 50 or so wounded.

And these strikes received strong condemnation though from Iraq's own leadership. The U.S. had informed the Iraqi caretaker prime minister that these strikes would be taking place about half an hour before they were launched. And the prime minister asked the U.S. not to go ahead, fearing that this would only cause further escalation. The prime minister has then come out to say that these were a violation of Iraq's sovereignty.

Kata'ib Hezbollah, itself, issuing a statement calling on its forces to prepare themselves for yet another battle with the American enemy, as they said.

Now, Iraq, for some time, has been warning both Washington and Tehran to cease using Iraq as a proxy battlefield. The country can barely manage its own stability and it is quite unstable at this stage already prior to all of this. And has history has taught us, instability in Iraq, Christine, does not stay confined to that country's borders.


ROMANS: All right. Arwa Damon for us in Istanbul this morning. Thank you for that, Arwa.

SANTIAGO: Civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis has been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The 79-year-old Democrat said in a statement that the cancer was found during a routine medical visit.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more -- Elizabeth.


The president -- the congressman, rather -- the congressman saying he has never faced a fight like this one. That is very meaningful coming from someone who has fought so many battles.

About 57,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every year and about 46,000 die from pancreatic cancer every year.

The congressman, unfortunately, has stage four pancreatic cancer, the most advanced. Unfortunately, that's often when people are diagnosed because there are often no symptoms and so it's caught quite late. Five years after someone is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at this stage, only three percent of patients are still alive -- Layla.

SANTIAGO: Well, Elizabeth, the congressman mentioned something I want to take note of. He talked about recent medical advances that have made this type of cancer treatable.

Walk me through that. I mean, what does that mean? What can you tell me about those advances?

COHEN: Right. So, Layla, there have been advances. They've refined the surgery so that there are fewer complications. They've refined the chemotherapy so they're choosing the best agents alone or in combination.

But still, treatment for pancreatic cancer is not as good as we wish it could be. It is very difficult to endure. But as the congressman said, by the grace of God, he will be back on the frontline soon.

SANTIAGO: And he -- we know he is a fighter.

All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right, 57 minutes past the hour.

An ugly end in store for the weather in 2019. More than 25 million people under winter weather alerts across the Northern Plains, Midwest, and northeast. Foul weather causing major problems over the weekend.

Dense fog -- wow -- leading to a multi-vehicle pile-up in Texas, including this dramatic video of an 18-wheeler smashing through the scene.

SANTIAGO: And then there was this. Take a look -- nope, your eyes are not fooling you. This is sliding -- this is a school bus sliding down an icy road in Minnesota. And I know -- I know that it looks like it's slow-motion but no, no, it's not. That's actually how it happened.

And in North Dakota, 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 the northeast, especially near the Great Lakes, could see up to a foot of additional snow. The northeast could also see more freezing rain and ice, as well as sleet. ROMANS: All right, it's Monday morning. Let's get a check on "CNN Business" to start the week.

Taking a look at markets around the world, pretty much a mixed performance here. European shares look like they've opened slightly lower.

On Wall Street, futures leaning a tad higher here. Look, stocks are ending the year strongly. The Dow closed up 24 points Friday. That's a record high.

The S&P 500 just barely ended up. That was enough for a record high. The Nasdaq finished lower, snapping an 11-day winning streak.

A new year, higher wages. A record 72 jurisdictions, 24 states, 48 cities and counties -- they will raise their minimum wages in 2020. Most will kick in about January first. 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 raised -- passed the Raise the Wage Act to make $15.00 the national standard. However, the bill didn't make it past the Senate.

All right, thanks for joining us this morning. I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you.

SANTIAGO: And thanks for having me. I am Leyla Santiago and "NEW DAY" starts right now.


SANTIAGO: Breaking news out of Texas after a gunman opened fire during a Sunday morning church service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two parishioners returned fire and within six seconds the suspect is taken down.

WILLIAMS: The citizens who were inside that church undoubtedly saved 242 other parishioners.

FARMER: To men, today, left a legacy and the congregation is going to build on that legacy.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: It was during the moment that the rabbi was lighting the Menorah, Thomas allegedly began his stabbing spree.

CUOMO: I consider this an act of domestic terrorism.

SANDERS: If there was ever a time where we say no to religious bigotry, this is the time.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, December 30th. It's 6:00 here in New York.

Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow here with me this morning.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be with you.

BERMAN: Happy almost New Year.

HARLOW: Happy almost New Year. I wish we had better news today.

BERMAN: I know. It is really a grim morning here.