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Anti-Semitic Violent Attacks Rising Across U.S.; Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop Is Interviewed On Anti-Semitic Attack In His City; NYT Reports Bolton, Pompeo, Esper Tried To Convince Trump To Release Aid To Ukraine; U.S. Airstrikes Hit Iran-Backed Militia In Iraq and Syria. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 30, 2019 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: 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're about to see is disturbing.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. That comes after a stabbing spree here in New York inside of a Rabbi's home where nearly 100 Jews were celebrating Hanukkah. Five people were wounded by the attacker. Police say the suspect was covered in blood when he was apprehended two hours later. Overnight the suspect's lawyer released a statement saying his client has a history of mental illness.

BERMAN: That attack is just the latest in a string of violent anti- Semitic incidents across the area. Moments ago, I spoke to the rabbi from the Pittsburgh synagogue where a gunman killed 11 Jews last year. This was his sobering assessment.


RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: 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.


HARLOW: It certainly does. Also, moments ago I spoke with Joseph Gluck, an orthodox Jew who survived the stabbing attack at the rabbi's home, and he spoke about how he fought back to stop the attacker.


JOSEPH GLUCK, SURVIVED STABBING ATTACK IN RABBI'S HOME: I was sitting in the rabbi's dining room just when the rabbi finished the candle lighting ceremony, when the attacker came in. He first stood in the entry room, started hitting people right and left with his big machete knife, I don't know what it was.

And then that's when I started to run out together with the people in the dining room. We ran out through the back of the house, through the back door outside. I ran back to the front door to see if I could help anyone from the other side.

That's when I came back the other guy who had the fracture, was still standing there and bleeding, I said come out, come out, the guy is still in the kitchen, the attacker is still in the kitchen, let's go out. He said I can't. I'm bleeding, I can't. That's when I saw him coming back towards me.

I ran out and I saw that he went to the old guy. I came back in, grabbed the coffee table that was on the floor hit him in his face and that's when he came back outside after me. He told me hey, you, I'll get you. He started walking towards me, and I was running, I was going before him like a few feet, screaming he's coming, he's coming so everybody in the synagogue should run away.

He went almost to the door of the synagogue, he reached for the door, it was locked, he went to the next door, it was locked too. That's when he walked down a side street towards his car. I didn't know where he was walking to. And I walked with him slowly. I looked at his plate number, called 911. I came back up the street. The police officers were already there.

HARLOW: I wonder what your message is to the governor of New York who has called this clearly an act of domestic terrorism. What is your message to him? What do you believe authorities, lawmakers should do in response?

GLUCK: Condemn acts of violence always in the hardest way possible, and our local officials should also condemn every time there is an act of violence, and we shouldn't be calling out differences between races and to try to ignite hate between races and communities with one another. Do God's work.

HARLOW: As a Hasidic Jew, do you feel that you specifically are being targeted because of the fact that faith is so much a part of your life and part of how you dress, your appearance? Do you feel unsafe daily now as a result, and like you are even more of a target now?

GLUCK: No, I don't feel like I am the target. There might be some here and there, but I don't feel like a target. Yes, of course, somebody who wants to attack a Jew, he is not going around to look for a liberal Jew who doesn't look like a Jew. How is he going to identify him as a Jew?

He will first go around to find the first one dressed to the nines, as they call it, and try to attack him. But it doesn't mean that I'm not safe here, less safe now than I was last month, last year, that I'm going to be next month. I believe we are all in God's hands. Nothing we can do will change it, besides prayers and doing good deeds. That's the only thing that's going to change anything from evil to good.


HARLOW: Do you feel like a hero this morning? Because that is certainly how it appears to all of us.

GLUCK: I don't feel like a hero. I feel God is the hero. He sent me in the right place and the right time and he gave me the right set of mind. I don't know if I would have done it tomorrow or yesterday. In that exact moment, that's what God gave me, and that's how I reacted.

HARLOW: Before you go, could you tell us a bit more about the children in the home and their reaction? Obviously, there were infants, but I assume also toddlers, some younger children. What was it like going through this and seeing their faces in the middle of it?

GLUCK: I'll tell you that my kids didn't sleep Saturday night. They came into my bed to try to -- they couldn't fall asleep until yesterday late afternoon. This night they were all in my bed. They couldn't fall asleep until 2:00 a.m. They were not even there.

They hear about it for me, and they were there two hours later, they were traumatized. There were a lot of kids there that I saw shaking and vomiting blood a few hours later from fear. There was one kid hiding in the entry room behinds the coats, he just threw a pile of coats on his head to hide. I believe he didn't come out from his home until now. And there's a lot of adults traumatized.


BERMAN: Kids, adults, traumatized, feeling like they're under attack because the evidence is, lately, they are. Monsey is not alone. Just 20 days ago three Orthodox Jews were killed in Jersey City, New Jersey, when two people armed with guns targeted a kosher supermarket. Joining me is the Mayor of Jersey City, Seven Fulop. He immediately called that attach in his city an act of domestic terrorism. Mayor, thank you for being with us.

MAYOR STEVEN FULOP (D), JERSEY CITY: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: I'm going to ask you the same question we asked you not just two weeks ago when you were here.


BERMAN: What's going on?

FULOP: Well, I think there's an undercurrent of anti-Semitism that existed for some time, and for whatever reason you're seeing it more and more prevalent and more out in the open. And it's scary and it's obviously very sad.

BERMAN: Is it in some way the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism?

FULOP: I think that you have to have an honest conversation about anti-Semitism still existing today, and where people used to think of anti-Semites as maybe the neo-Nazi skinhead, today it seems like it's very, very different, and it's percolating in a lot of different communities, and we need to understand a little bit better why.

BERMAN: It's not limited to one place. It seems to be pretty widespread.


BERMAN: And you hear things from public officials sometimes that sound like anti-Semitism, that's one thing. You see these attacks, that's another thing. But it's all under the broad umbrella.

FULOP: Yes, yes. So I think that language certainly plays a part into it, and then I think once you see one attack, likely you see more and more following. Unfortunately, you see that happening. I do think that there's always a relationship when you see some close together, like Monsey and Jersey City, and the media coverage that is, and you see mental illness, and one thing leads to another.

BERMAN: Mental illness may have existed in the case in Monsey or not, but that in and of itself doesn't necessarily separate it from anti- Semitism, because sometimes hate is something that can be susceptible to those.

FULOP: Yes. So I think that mental illness is not an excuse for it, but I think that mental illness can also certainly lead more likely to the type of violence that we're seeing in some of these communities.

BERMAN: So what can you do?

FULOP: I think there's certainly education components in schools and children. You need to be aggressive around calling out hate crimes early. And I think that you need to work on bringing communities together. In the last three weeks that's what we've been working on in Jersey City. We've been trying our best to bring communities together that maybe didn't get together as frequently as they should have.

I just want to point out that we didn't see any of the indicators in Jersey City that you would likely see prior to an anti-Semitic attack. We didn't see swastikas. We didn't see fights with children. We didn't see any of those instances. So it's been challenging for us to get arms around it.

BERMAN: How is it going, when you're putting these communities together?

FULOP: At the leadership level there's conversations that are productive and people talk about differences. I think that we need to get that more into the community because you can still see on social media some language around hate and divisiveness, which is coming that we want to get at in the core community.

BERMAN: I just want to put up on the screen so people can see, that between 2015 and 2018, the ADL, Anti-Defamation League, says attacks on Jews incidents have gone up 99 percent in that time. If we have that graphic that would be great. But you can see this is a national problem.

FULOP: For sure.

BERMAN: It's happening around the country. Do you think that a federal domestic terror law would be helpful here?

FULOP: Yes, I think we definitely have to think about how we classify that and how we look at those for sure. I think, like I said, it's not the typical neo-Nazi white skinhead anti-Semite that people think of when they think of racism or anti-Semitic actions.


Today it's in every different community and we're calling out frequently and as aggressively as we can, but I think looking at the laws would be helpful.

BERMAN: Having gone through what you went through just weeks ago, what was it like when you heard the news Saturday night?

FULOP: Look, it's personal for me. I'm a grandson of holocaust survivors who immigrated to this country because it was a place of tolerance. So I'm sad to see it. And it just makes us work harder on pushing down on it and being aggressive and calling it out.

BERMAN: Mayor Steve Fulop, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Good luck on the work you're doing in your city.

FULOP: Appreciate it.

BERMAN: It is. It's tough to see, but it has to be dealt with, and you have to have the discussions out in the open for sure. Bringing the communities together like the mayor was talking about there is one way of doing it.

HARLOW: And we'll talk to Governor Cuomo ahead about his push for a statewide domestic terrorism law, but you're bringing up, importantly, on a federal level, lawmakers are going to have to address this.

BERMAN: It's just -- I think people don't realize it doesn't exist.

HARLOW: I agree.

BERMAN: If it's something they want to exist, it's something that Congress will have to deal with.

HARLOW: That's true.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.


HARLOW: All right, welcome back. "The New York Times" with a really important piece of reporting on the 84 days of the Ukraine saga, if you will, reporting that former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo all around the president's desk tried to convince him in August to reverse course on freezing that aid to Ukraine -- a lot to digest.


CNN Political Commentator, Scott Jennings is here. He is a contributing columnist for "The LA Times." Bakari Sellers also joins us, former Democratic South Carolina House Member.

Good morning, one and all, Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. I hope you guys had a good one.

The fact that, Bakari, we have this now, newly undisclosed now disclosed meeting because of "The New York Times" reporting with those three key people so high up in this administration pleading with the President in August to stop, stop holding this funding from Ukraine, people who could testify to this, people in the room. How significant is that?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think what it shows is that this investigation still has some hallways and some doors to go through. There's no reason that John Bolton doesn't come testify. There's nobody reason that Pompeo doesn't have to at least answer written questions.

Mick Mulvaney of course, if you read the piece, he seems to be a central -- a central figure in this and it was dual tracks. And I think that people are forgetting that sometimes.

It wasn't just Rudy Giuliani and his campaign to solicit information against Joe Biden, but it was also this track of withholding the information.

I mean, I read the piece and I could just think about, this is an amazing Tom Clancy novel. I mean, it just goes and meanders from one side to another. But the fact is that the person at the center of this, the person at the center of all of this who is the puppeteer for both of these tracks is Donald Trump.

And you know, it's behavior that's impeachable, and it's the behavior that got him impeached.

BERMAN: Scott, what did you find compelling in this story?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Couple of things. Number one, I did think it was interesting that several senior officials in the U.S. government tried to talk the President out of it.

You know, the President -- another issue that I thought was interesting -- has a longstanding distrust for all U.S. foreign aid. And I suspect that's going to become part of their defense when they get over to the Senate.

But you can see that senior officials around the U.S. government were trying to convince the President that hey, this foreign aid is a good thing. We get good results from it.

And I disagree with the President on that. I agree with the senior officials that, you know, foreign aid has been appropriated by Congress and it should be released. So that was interesting to me.

The other thing that I think is interesting is that as Bakari said, there's a lot of things that have yet to be discovered, which makes me wonder, why didn't the House of Representatives wait and continue its discovery and continue to bring people in?

You mention John Bolton, they never even subpoenaed John Bolton, but now they're asking the Senate to do all that homework for them. So those are the things that stood out to me in the piece.

HARLOW: Scott, if I could just ask you if we could turn to the Senate trial, if we're going to have one, you have worked closely with McConnell over the years. You've advised him. What's he going to do here?

JENNINGS: Well, what he has said he wants to do is pretty simple. He'd like to have the rules package that they used during the Clinton impeachment of 1998, in which the Senate heard presentations from both sides, and then the senators decided that they needed to hear from some witnesses at that point.

So what he has said here is, let's hear presentations, and then we'll let the senators decide if they need more information. It seems like a pretty reasonable way to do it given that that's how we did the last one.

And given that the Democratic leader of the Senate today, Chuck Schumer, supported that rules package last time around. So he doesn't know, I don't think when Nancy Pelosi is going to stop the shenanigans and send the Articles of Impeachment over, but his preference would be to do this like they handled the Clinton situation.

BERMAN: I want to play -- John Kennedy was on with Jake yesterday, Senator Kennedy from Louisiana, and had this assessment -- in Senator Kennedy's view, he is just trying to be fair to the Democrats here by not calling witnesses. Listen to Senator Kennedy.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): If we tomorrow agreed with Senator Schumer, who I think is speaking for Speaker Pelosi to a call all of the witnesses that he wants, I fully expect the President to do two things: Claim executive privilege, which is his right. And number two, demand his own list witness.


KENNEDY: Now, if the President does that, we could end up with a scenario where Chuck called the car. The President's witnesses don't testify if the Senate doesn't want pursue it in court. But that Senator Schumer's witnesses don't testify, but the President's witnesses do. I don't think Senator Schumer would think that's fair.


BERMAN: Just looking out Bakari for Senator Chuck Schumer there, but bigger picture, you know, if you have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in this high stakes legislative face off, who wins? How does this end, Bakari?

SELLERS: Well, the American people don't win because what Mitch McConnell said and what Senator Kennedy just said is that I mean they're reading the game. I mean, this is patently and patently unfair.

You talk about Mitch McConnell saying that he is working hand-in-glove with the White House, there'll be no daylight in between.


SELLERS: That's fine. That's his prerogative. Because you know what? There are no rules. Then you see what Senator Kennedy said, look, they know the President's going to claim executive privilege. He is going to claim that executive privilege and what he told Jake yesterday was that they're not going to go to court to force his hand, meaning that there will be no witnesses for anybody other than the President of the United States.

If you are Nancy Pelosi or anybody who believes in any sort of fairness, why would you -- why would you allow them or enable the United States Senate and those two senators who have simply said that they don't have any intentions of making this fair and just, why would you allow it to go forward?

And until you get some concessions that it will go forward, I mean, that that is the most absurd thing I've ever heard in my life for Senator Kennedy to say that and Mitch McConnell, that's his own prerogative what he wants to do, but there's no way that I'm going to allow them if I was Nancy Pelosi just to trample on the Constitution and trample on every notion of fairness.

HARLOW: Before you guys go, Bakari, if you could just weigh in on the very sad news that we learned overnight and that is the fact that Civil Rights icon, Congressman John Lewis has been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer and he talked about fighting his whole life for freedom, for equality, for basic human rights, but called this Bakari, the biggest fight of his life. What has he meant for this country?

SELLERS: Well, he's a lion. He is someone who comes from the generation of my father, the generation of King, many of those freedom fighters and we don't truly understand the struggle, the courage that they had to display when they were on Freedom Rides down in Mississippi and Alabama, when they were registering voters, when people like Emmett Till and others would go missing and their bodies would be thrown and lynched in the Mississippi.

These men and women gave up so much and so while he is sick, and while this sickness is ravaging his body, his mind is still extremely clear and because his mind is still extremely clear, we need to make sure that we give him his flowers while he is living and let everyone know and let John Lewis know how much we love them and how much we, as we go through impeachment and everything else, we try to believe in the better angels of our nature.

And Congressman Lewis, just know from the Sellers family, we love you, we lift you up in prayer.

BERMAN: Bakari Sellers, thanks so much for being with us. Scott Jennings, a pleasure to see you as well. Merry Christmas to both of you. Happy New Year.

Developing overnight, Iranian backed-militia in Iraq, calling for U.S. forces to be pushed out of that country. This comes after a series of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that have targeted the militias there.

CNN's Ryan Browne is live at the Pentagon with the very latest and what is the latest here, Ryan? What does the U.S. anticipate the next move to be?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, John, that's the key question right now, you know, the U.S. taking this action to strike these five targets, three of which were in Iraq, two in Syria. They included a headquarters, an operations center, a weapons storage facility, U.S. dispatching F-15 fighters to strike all five targets as part of a retaliation against a deadly attack that the U.S. blames this Iranian-backed militia for.

That attack left one American contractor dead, wounded several other U.S. service members. There have been a series of militia -- Iranian- backed militia attacks against U.S.-Iraqi military facilities. They have not resulted in American casualties, but Friday's attack did.

The U.S. taking a retaliatory response. We're seeing -- we just got new video showing one of these strikes in Western Iraq. You see that here. Department of Defense just released this video showing that strike and the U.S. hoping that this stops these Iranian-backed provocation, stops these militias from acting.

But again, unclear if they're going to stop. They may escalate their actions as well, something the U.S. military will be keeping a very close eye on.

Another thing you'll be keeping an eye on is America's relationship with Iraq. These militias technically are part of the Iraqi Security Force. The Iraqi Prime Minister has already criticized the American air strikes, saying that they were a violation of sovereignty -- all key things the U.S. will be looking for in the days ahead -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. We heard the words of the Defense, actually, very clearly on that yesterday. Please keep us posted. Thanks so much, Ryan.

So Joe Biden, shifting his stance on whether he would testify in a Senate impeachment trial. You'll hear from the former Vice President, next.



BERMAN: Former Vice President Joe Biden is changing course on whether he would testify in President Trump's Senate impeachment trial.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would in fact abide by whatever was legally required of me, 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.


BERMAN: So just two days before that, Biden told the "Des Moines Register" that he would not comply, if subpoenaed to testify.

Joining me now CNN Political Commentators, Ana Navarro and Aisha Moodie-Mills, and the reason he had to clean it up is because is not only did he say it to the "Des Moines Register," but he reiterated in a subsequent interview that he would not testify.

He was asked, "Do you stand by your earlier statements that you wouldn't comply if you are subpoenaed to testify in an impeachment trial before the Senate?" Biden said, "Correct, and the reason I wouldn't, is because it's all designed to deal with Trump doing what he's done his whole life, trying to take the focus off him."

And Ana, what the Vice President is saying is, look, what this isn't about me. The President of the United States is on trial in the Senate. That's where the focus should be where I got hung up on, is if he would comply with a legal subpoena.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, and look, I think -- I think if he does get it, he should comply, because he would draw a stark contrast with Donald Trump and all of his accolades and associates, who he is trying to stop from going into Congress and testifying and being part of this and having to answer questions under oath.

So, you know, Joe Biden should show that he has got nothing to hide. He should go make the argument. Nothing was illegal that was done.