Return to Transcripts main page


Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) On Violent Attacks On People Of Faith Across America; Top Five Legal Cases To Watch In 2020; Chicago Mayor On Double-Digit Drop In Violent Crime. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 30, 2019 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: How much of a tie-in did you see and where did it occur?

MARK MAZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the tie-in -- we saw that some of the key players involved in the aid freed, notably Mick Mulvaney, did, in fact, have some knowledge about what we call the other track here, which is the pressure campaign on President Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the Biden family -- Hunter Biden, specifically.

So, some of the same players were involved in the same -- in both tracks, right? And so, that does tie together both parts of this whole story, which is the -- both sides of the quid pro quo, right, holding up the aid and investigating the president's domestic political rivals.

And so, whether, of course, there are going to be witnesses to this, of course, determined -- will be determined by what the Senate trial looks like. We have seen -- you know, the House has done its work. The big question, of course, now is who, if anyone, will testify in a -- in the Senate impeachment trial.

BERMAN: Who knows? But there are people who do have the answers to some of these nagging questions.


BERMAN: That is becoming more and more clear. Thanks for reporting like yours, Mark. Thanks so much for being with us.

HARLOW: Thank you, Mark.

MAZZETTI: Thanks, both of you.

HARLOW: Great job.

BERMAN: All right. Violence targeting people at worship across the country. What can be done to stop it? We're going to speak to a senator, next.



BERMAN: Five people stabbed at a rabbi's home in New York while celebrating Hanukkah. Two people shot and killed at a church in Texas. What's going on in this country?

Joining me now is Democratic Sen. Gary Peters. He serves on the Armed Services Committee and is a ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee. Sen. Peters, thanks so much for being with us.

I just had a chance to speak with Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh which, of course, dealt with the mass killing one year ago. I was asking him about this spate of attacks on Jews in America the last week and he had a chilling response. I want you to listen.


RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE, PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA: It made me sort of wonder -- I don't recall them selling licenses to have open hunting season on Jews, but it sure can make Jews feel that way.

BERMAN: Do you feel that way now? That's quite a statement.

MYERS: It sure makes you pause and wonder what's going on in our society that people feel that they have a God-given right to attack any human being for whatever reason they choose to. It makes you pause and wonder what's going on, indeed.


BERMAN: So, Senator, what is going on? And more importantly, from where you sit in the U.S. Senate, what can be done?

REP. GARY PETERS (D-MI): Well, yes, those are chilling statements and I've heard similar statements here in Michigan. Recently, I convened a group of faith leaders from the Jewish community, Christian community, as well as the Muslim community to talk about legislation that I've worked on in past to increase security grants for places of worship. And I heard that directly from individuals that are very concerned that when they gather to worship that they could be a target.

It's incomprehensible to think that's where we are in this country where when you go to a place where you should feel the most secure -- in a place of worship -- people are fearing -- are fearing that gathering of folks.

And so, we are taking this up in the Homeland Security Committee. We've held hearings on what we're seeing as increased domestic terrorism. This is terrorism often related to the insidious ideology of white supremacy.

You're seeing anti-Semitic rhetoric continue to ratchet up around the country. We've got to condemn that and condemn it as aggressively as we can. But we can also help some of these institutions protect themselves and enhance their security.

The legislation that passed would authorize up to $75 million in grants and that's been now increased with the recent appropriation to $90 million.

The Department of Homeland Security will also work with places of worship to do a threat assessment for those organizations to make sure that they're taking every precaution possible.

And we're also working on how we can better coordinate information that the Department of Homeland Security may have on potential threats and then share that with local law enforcement. It's going to be -- ultimately, it's local law enforcement working with local places of worship that will be able to hopefully stem the kind of violent acts that we're seeing all too often.

BERMAN: New legislation you sponsored, that has been passed and is awaiting presidential signature?

PETERS: It is. The authorization has passed -- it passed unanimously -- waiting for the president. Again, we were able to appropriate $90 million in the most recent bill that -- these grants are available now and places of worship should reach out to see whether or not they qualify.

BERMAN: Would you support a federal domestic terror law? It's something that Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, just proposed at the state level. Do you think there needs to be a federal domestic terror law?

PETERS: I think we do have to recognize it. I think we have to look at what the parameters of that will be. But certainly, we have to recognize that domestic terrorism is the number one threat that we face here in terms of terrorist actions.

You know, ever since 9/11, most all of the attacks that we've seen in this country have been domestic terror. And I mentioned at the opening, it's been the insidious ideology of white supremacy that is driving a lot of this.

And we need to make sure that our Homeland Security folks are collecting the data to understand exactly what we're dealing with. We know that from the data that is out there -- a lot of them from independent groups -- show a significant rise in these kinds of attacks. We have to make sure we're dedicating resources to where the real threat is, and that's where the threat is right -- it's in domestic terrorism.


BERMAN: It is. I just want to make clear that some of these anti- Semitic attacks were not incidents of white terror. That anti- Semitism is not confined nearly to white supremacy. Unfortunately --

PETERS: Right.

BERMAN: -- it's a lot broader than that.

I do want to ask you about your role --

PETERS: Right.

BERMAN: -- in what could be a Senate impeachment trial. We just don't know when it's going to start. When should it start, in your mind?

PETERS: Well, I think that we want to make sure that this is a fair trial. This process is a very serious process and we want to make sure that we have all of the facts so we can make a decision on it. And when I take that oath, which we all take, that we will dispense with fair justice, that we have the facts. And part of that, I think we're going to need some witnesses.

I know in the segment prior to this, you talked to folks from "The New York Times" in a very elaborate article talking about what was happening in the White House. There are clearly witnesses that have very important information that should come forward in the trial and I certainly hope that will be what we will be able to do going forward.

And in the meantime, while we're discussing all of that, we've got to continue to do the work for the American people and make sure we're focused on issues of dealing with high drug prices and career training -- all of the issues that the American people want us to be working on.

But we have to make sure that we do have a fair trial that goes before the Senate.

BERMAN: Sen. Gary Peters, I hope you have a wonderful new year. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

PETERS: Great -- thank you so much.

BERMAN: Poppy.

HARLOW: All right.

The president's impeachment trial -- it's only one of the major legal showdowns in store for the new year. We'll tell you the top five to watch, ahead.



BERMAN: To 2020. It's already shaping up to be a big year for legal cases, including the impeachment trial of President Trump. That's sort of a quasi-legal proceeding, correct?

Here to break down the top five cases to watch in the near year, Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst. This is like the biggest year ever --


BERMAN: -- if you're a legal --

HARLOW: For lawyers.

HONIG: I mean, 2019 was incredible in terms of legal stories but there's even more in store for 2020. So, here is the top five that our viewers should be watching very carefully.

First of all, the college admissions case. Remember, over 50 defendants have been charged in this case with bribery and fraud in relation to college admissions.

Now, about half of those defendants have already pled guilty, including the actress Felicity Huffman. Now, Felicity Huffman pled guilty early on. She was sentenced to two weeks; she served all of 11 days. But she pled quickly -- she's done.

We still have over two dozen defendants left in this case, including the actress Lori Loughlin. She has pled not guilty.

She's looking at a max sentence of 45 years. She's not getting 45 years. No one's getting anything near 45 years here, but she is looking at real jail time.

We don't have a trial date yet. This trial will happen in federal court up in Massachusetts -- in Boston -- but it will happen in 2020.

We got a sense of her defense just recently when her lawyer said in a court filing that she'll be arguing that she believed these were legitimate donations, not bribes. Count me a little bit skeptical.


HONIG: We'll see what the jury does.

HARLOW: Well, given those e-mails that are obviously going to be a key part of the prosecution --

HONIG: Yes, the evidence is really strong.

BERMAN: Do you think she fights to the bitter end, by the way, or do you think --

HARLOW: It looks like it.

HONIG: I think -- I think she's dug in here. It's too late.


HONIG: Yes. I think she's doing to trial.

HARLOW: So, you -- we have Harvey Weinstein on trial. HONIG: Yes. One week from today, January sixth, that trial starts just a couple of miles away from here in Manhattan state court.

Now, for all the allegations and accusers who've come forward, let's keep in mind though, there's only two specific acts of sexual assault that are being tried against Harvey Weinstein -- one from 2006, one from 2013. We will hear from those victims and a few others because prosecutors need to establish a pattern.

If he is convicted, Harvey Weinstein faces a potential life sentence.

BERMAN: Hard to convict for cases that far back?

HONIG: Sexual assault cases are really difficult. And yes, there's an extra element of difficulty when you're talking about things that happened six or 13 years ago.

But that said, I've found -- I've done sexual assault cases. Victim testimony can be very powerful. I expect it to be so here.

HARLOW: OK. So the Southern District of New York -- Rudy Giuliani and these two associates.

HONIG: Not seen here.

HARLOW: Not seen here -- Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman.

HONIG: Rudy and friends, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, already have been indicted by the Southern District of New York for funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars of foreign money into United States elections.

What will happen with them? Will they plead, will they cooperate? That would be big trouble for Rudy and others if they do. Will they go to trial?

Now, of course, what will the Southern District do with Rudy Giuliani? He's under criminal investigation. If he gets charged that will really be remarkable to see the man who once led the Southern District indicted.

HARLOW: I was just going to say -- you know, it's just -- yes, the fact that he led the division.

HONIG: Yes. I worked -- I worked there. It's hard to imagine but it could happen.

BERMAN: It's an incredible picture. Just stare at this picture for a moment.

All right, Supreme Court. This could be a 10-minute segment in and of itself.

HONIG: Yes. The Supreme Court -- so much going on.

The big to know about the alignment now is Chief Justice Roberts has now become the swing vote. He's staunchly conservative but he's become more unpredictable. He's been siding with the liberals.

The docket that we have in 2020 is going to be historic. Huge cases about discrimination -- federal discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people. The DACA -- the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Almost 800,000 Dreamers are going to be impacted by this decision.

We're going to have the first major Second Amendment gun rights case, the first major abortion rights case that we've seen in many years, and of course, the Supreme Court just recently took on the Trump tax returns case.

As if this all wasn't already enough, number one. Any guess?


BERMAN: Number one -- the number one quasi-deal?

HONIG: What could it be?


HONIG: Yes, Donald Trump. I mean, let's just pause for a second. The President of the United States will be tried in the Senate to decide whether he gets to stay in office. Only the third time in our history -- Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump.

And as Sen. Peters just pointed out, there are still so many open questions.

Who will prosecute the case, essentially; his impeachment managers for the House? What will the procedures be? And most importantly, will we have any witnesses, any real evidence?

Call me old-fashioned but it's a trial. I think we should have that but that will be a political fight.

HARLOW: There you go. Thank you, Elie.

HONIG: Thank you. So much to watch.

HARLOW: Quite a year ahead -- buckle up.

HONIG: Yes, I'm ready. Let's go.

HARLOW: Thanks, Elie. We appreciate it.

As stories of the disturbing violence top this morning's headlines, there is hope coming out of Chicago. Some good headlines out of that great city. We will be joined by the mayor of Chicago about winning the battle against violent crime there, next.



HARLOW: Well, some good news for you this morning. For the third consecutive year, Chicago is on track to end the year with a double- digit decline in shootings and homicide.

Let's talk about why this is happening and how the city plans to continue that upward trend. With me now, Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot. It's nice to have you, especially with such good news. Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: Why is it working? What has changed and what do you credit for this?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, we abandoned the kind of law enforcement first and only strategy and really focused on not only aligning all city departments in the fight for public safety but also embracing our partners in the community. And I think that all of those things working together -- being on the ground, supporting vulnerable victims, supporting vulnerable communities, led to the declines that we saw this year and particularly over the course of the summer.

HARLOW: You know, Mayor, one thing that struck me about the solutions that your city has found that have worked, is reading the "Chicago Tribune" about technology.


HARLOW: That there is specific technology that has been crucial in getting the numbers of shootings down and homicides down. What is that technology and why has it been, in your words, such a game changer?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I think the Chicago Police Department probably has some of the most sophisticated technology of any police department in the country and it's an integrated system. Shots fired, which gives us an immediate alert when there is gunfire, ties into a camera feed.

We've got strategic decision centers in various districts that are troubled by violence. So we have people that are manning those centers 24 hours a day and can really then push information out to the field and help us track cars or victims or shooters in locations when we know that there's something going on.

HARLOW: I do want to get your read on the South Side of Chicago because as I understand it, and correct me if I have this wrong, but there is still an issue there because there has been a 30 percent increase in shootings on Chicago's South Side when you're looking at the year-end totality.

I know that you have announced plans to reopen two detective bureaus there --


HARLOW: -- that were closed a few years ago for cost-saving. Is that going to be enough?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, it's not enough. But what we are also doing is investing in people in those neighborhoods.


LIGHTFOOT: We've also announced a $750 million investment in key commercial cores across the South Side and the West Side. What we know is that when you build healthy, safe communities, the violence goes down.


LIGHTFOOT: So the investments that we're making, both in law enforcement -- we've got a 700 percent increase in investments in community interrupters -- people that are on the ground going door-to- door really helping prevent the next shooting.

But also, economic investments. Improving the quality of our schools, our investments in mental health and trauma-informed work. All of those things together are part of the same ecosystem and we believe that they will yield significant dividends.

HARLOW: Before you were mayor, you were the chair of the Police Accountability Task Force. It was created --


HARLOW: -- after the tragic police shooting death of Laquan McDonald in 2014. And since then --


HARLOW: Recently, Chicago, for the last few months, has been under this court-ordered consent decree. This is since March.


HARLOW: And the federal -- that was from the Department of Justice.

The federal monitor report that came our recently found that the Chicago Police Department and city officials have failed, they say, to meet many of the initial reform deadlines. Is that concerning to you and, I guess, what are -- what is the city doing about that?

LIGHTFOOT: Well look, my commitment to the monitors is that we're going to do everything that we can to make sure that we meet the specific milestones that have been set. It's not surprising that we didn't meet the initial ones.

But we can't continue down that path. We've got to make significant improvements in training, accountability, and all the other things that are part of a consent decree. The consent decree gives us a real opportunity to transform the culture and the infrastructure within the police department and I'm committed to making sure that we meet that challenge.

HARLOW: As you know, I'm a huge Chicago fan. I go to the city many times a year -- LIGHTFOOT: Yes.

HARLOW: -- and I'm so glad to be able to bring this good news to everyone about your great city. And I appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you, Mayor.

LIGHTFOOT: Thank you.

BERMAN: Some good news this morning.


BERMAN: So, thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning, and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, December 30th. It's 8:00 in the east.

Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow is with me this morning. Exciting to have you here all week.

HARLOW: Yes, thrilled to be here.

BERMAN: We'll ring in the new year.

First, we've got to deal with some unsettling --


BERMAN: -- news this morning.

Two horrifying attacks on people worshiping across this country. The latest in Texas where a gunman opened fire inside a church during Sunday services. He killed two people before being shot and killed by parishioners.

The church's livestream captured the attack, which was over in just six seconds. Keep an eye now on the top part of your screen with this warning the video you are about to see.