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China Trade Deal; Buttigieg Continues Attacks on Biden; Interview With Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 31, 2019 - 16:30   ET




LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: To come up with some legislative fixes and some solutions to address what we have been witnessing throughout the state of New York.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meantime, the witnesses, victims and Orthodox community at large say they are now forced to overcome fear in their daily lives like never before.

RABBI YISROEL KAHAN, COMMUNITY LIAISON: It's shock. It's terror. Kids were afraid to go to sleep. People were calling me frantic, crying on the phone.


SIDNER: We spoke with Rabbi Shmuel Gancz, who had gone to visit two of the victims in the hospital after they were injured.

He told us that the rabbi's son actually had a huge gash on his head. It had to be stapled. But he says it's a miracle of miracles that he is OK and only has minor injuries -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Sara Sidner, thank you so much.

Today, in a "New York Times" op-ed, the congresswoman who represents the New York district where the stabbing took place is asking two glaring questions. One, why are these anti-Semitic attacks, which she calls an epidemic, happening now? And, two, what can be done to stop them?

She writes: "Anti-Semitism is not found in one party or group" and there are -- quote -- "multiple ideological sources feeding this paroxysm of hate. It is not a result of a single political outlook. There is no one-size-fits-all profile for the perpetrators of these attacks."

Joining me now is the co-author of that op-ed, New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey. She's also the chair of the Appropriations Committee in the House.

Congresswoman, Madam Chair, thanks so much for joining us. Anti-Semitic attacks in New York and the region are up. Police say they're not largely being carried out by white supremacists or the alt-right. Are these attacks all connected in any way and what's going on?

REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY): I think what's most important is that we all speak out forcefully, as I did at this event in Rockland County.

I have represented all the good people, a diverse group of people, in Rockland for almost 10 years, and they work together, they live together. I am so disturbed that these attacks are increasing, not just here in New York, but all throughout the country.

And it's important that we speak out forcefully and take action. I organize with my colleagues. There are about 100 of us who are part of a coalition to address the challenges that we have, both here and throughout the country.

In fact, this is an epidemic throughout the world. So we each have to do our part in understanding this is real, and addressing it. I have organized in Washington an effort to fortify the synagogues, to fortify homes that could be attacked by vicious people who don't understand the great benefits of living together in a society.

And for those of us who are in Congress or those of us in positions of authority must speak out forcefully. This epidemic has got to stop.

TAPPER: Let me ask you. And it's not related, in the sense that you can't compare words to acts of violence.

But there was a push earlier this year in the House to condemn anti- Semitic tropes that two of your colleagues had engaged in, ones that you condemned. Then that resolution was changed. And critics say that it was watered down.

And, again, one can obviously not compare words that offend people with acts of violence. But did Democrats fail to take on this issue directly, the way that you're calling for it to be right now?

LOWEY: Several years ago, I was an organizer of the caucus to deal with anti-Semitic incidents, to deal with those who are perpetrating these kinds of incidents.

And I think it's essential now that we all work together from this point on to increase our oversight. I have funded certainly at synagogues and churches, all places of worship protective methods, so those within the buildings can be protected.

And I intend to continue to do that.

TAPPER: Before you go -- I only have another minute with you. I do want to ask you about impeachment.

You're a close colleague and friend of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Is she close to sending over the articles of impeachment to the Senate? And, if not, is there a chance, if she cannot reach an agreement with Leader McConnell, that she will not send the articles of impeachment to the Senate at all?

LOWEY: I think Nancy Pelosi, our speaker, has acted appropriately and fairly. Thoughtful people, such as Adam Schiff, have conducted a very in-depth investigation.

Impeachment was voted on by the House. And I think the speaker is absolutely correct and wanting to make sure there will be an appropriate process in the Senate to deal with these serious charges.


TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is going after former Vice President Joe Biden again -- the new criticism about Biden's son.

That's next.


TAPPER: In our 2020 lead today, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is taking direct aim at former Vice President Joe Biden, saying that he wouldn't have wanted a son to serve on a company's board in Ukraine if he had been working on anti-corruption efforts in the country.

But Buttigieg also suggested that Republicans attacking the Bidens are only trying to deflect from the issues at the center of President Trump's impeachment.


Let's discuss.

Paul, what is the right answer -- quote, unquote -- "the right answer" for Democrats when it comes to Hunter Biden being on this board, which I think a lot of people behind closed doors would acknowledge was swampy and stinks, like...

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The right answer is, Hunter Biden said it was mistake. Hunter Biden was right.

And then shut up, Mayor Pete, with all due respect. He says, oh, it's just a diversion. That's why the Republicans are doing it. Then why is he doing it?

And I don't have a favorite in the race. I really don't have a candidate. But I know this. Iowa Democrats, they're not like me. They're really nice. I love negative campaigning. I love, love, love it. And they don't.

And they get -- Pete has to be really careful. This is a multi- candidate race. Democrats believe they have lots of good options. And so when someone attacked -- I thought Kamala Harris clocked Joe Biden on busing in the first debate, and she is out of the race. It didn't help her. So, this is a much less, I think, honorable attack, frankly, than what Kamala was talking about. And so I just don't think it's going to work for Pete. I don't think it's wise.

TAPPER: Although do you think maybe it's a decent message when it comes to a general election potential, I mean, assuming that Biden does not get the nomination?

Like, we shouldn't have this kind of thing. We shouldn't have family members of politicians cashing in on these connections, whether it's Biden or Trump?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the better way to do that, then, is to have it be all on Trump. Then you're having a general election message, which, by the way, Democratic voters, if you want to interpret as also being critical of Joe Biden, you can go that way.

I think one of the challenges that Mayor Pete has right now is, he's got a bit of a Whac-A-Mole strategy, which is wherever he sees a mole that might be in his sights. It's Warren day, it's Bernie the next day, it's Biden the day after that.

He has to really focus down on a specific and consistent message here, which he's just not doing right now.

TAPPER: And let's talk about Senator Elizabeth Warren, because she marked one year of being a presidential candidate with a speech today. She's trying to re-jolt the momentum of her campaign.

Politico had an interesting article, noting that she's trying to avoid the same fate as Howard Dean in 2004. He had the momentum in late 2003. He looked like he might win Iowa. He finished third. He never was able to mount to comeback.

With just over one month until Iowa votes, is she following that bad track of Howard Dean?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there are definitely some similarities.

Right now, Warren isn't in the lead in Iowa. She is about three or four behind there, as well as New Hampshire. So it is about whether, in this last month, she can reclaim that momentum.

But also her candidacy has been way ahead of the others when it comes to having a lot of people on the ground in early states, not just there, but also California and Texas. She has a huge amount of boots on the ground compared to other campaigns.

And so there's this question of whether or not, if you still lose Iowa, New Hampshire, can you make it up with delegates, which is where it actually counts? And that's what people like also Biden are betting on, is that they can make it up in Super Tuesday states with delegates.

TAPPER: And, Abby, that Politico article also detailed some of the ways that Warren has to tried to change her campaign since her momentum seems to have stalled a bit.

They wrote that she changed her stump speech. She's now taking many more audience questions. She's drawing sharper contrasts with opponents, after months of trying to stay above the fray. There are more big thematic campaign speeches, more off-the-record chats with reporters.

Good advice? And is there anything else you think she should do?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, I do think that that is an accurate description of how Warren started out this campaign really flying under the radar, a lot of people not really paying a whole lot of attention, and they worked really quietly.

Now they're in a position where they have been on the attack, and she has to be a lot more forceful about being on the offense, and not just on the defense, taking on some of her opponents, like Pete Buttigieg, in this sort of attack on the way that he fund-raisers and his ties to sort of corporate wealthy people.

TAPPER: The wine cave attack.

PHILLIP: The wine cave attack, which has actually become kind of quite a big thing on the Warren and Bernie left.

So Warren is starting to be a little bit more proactive and also taking her campaign a little bit bigger. Some of these big, thematic speeches are also about giving voters the perception that she's not duking it out kind of in the ring. She is trying to be a little bit more presidential. Her campaign is bigger than these small moments in the campaign trail.

TAPPER: We want to take a moment to acknowledge some sad news in the family today.

The influential historian and scholar Gertrude Himmelfarb has died at the age of 97. She wrote more than a dozen books. She helped shape the neoconservative movement. She was the mother of Bill Kristol, who often joins us here at the table.

Bill and your family, we're thinking about you. And may your mother's memory be a blessing.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Raging wildfires have forced residents to seek shelter on beaches and boats across the Australian state of Victoria. At times, the fire so powerful, it blocked out the sun and turned the sky red.

Kangaroos were seen fleeing another major fire in Australia. And this thirsty, adorable koala took a much needed drink of water from a cyclist. Australia is in the midst of one of the worst summer fire seasons. record heat, combined with strong winds and a major drought, have sparked fires across the country, with little to no break in sight.

In our money lead, President Trump tweeting today he will sign phase one of a trade deal with China at the White House on January 15. Trump has touted the deal as big news for farmers.

But it falls short of the sweeping deal that was promised, and lots of details still need to be ironed out.


Joining me now is CNN's global economics analyst, Rana Foroohar.

Rana, thanks so much for joining us.

What the president calls phase one will be signed in about two weeks. What do we know about what's in it and what's not in it?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: So what we know so far is that phase one would mean that the president would not impose any promised new tariffs on China.

He would also cut in half the tariffs that he slapped on China in September. So that's the U.S. side of this. On the Chinese side, the Chinese are promising to buy a lot more U.S. agricultural goods, up to $40 billion a year. That would be quite a lot more than the most they have ever bought, which is $26 billion in a year.

But, more importantly, they're promising to really crack down on intellectual property theft and transfer, which is something that big U.S. companies, of course, have been complaining about in China for years.

And that's really starting to get to the crux of the fight between the two countries, which are over the high-growth technologies of the future.

TAPPER: Rana, obviously, phase one implies that this is just the first part of it, but we should note it's less comprehensive than the original plan that Trump initially offered.


TAPPER: Do you think, as an analyst, an economic analyst, is it a step in the right direction?

FOROOHAR: It's a step in the right direction. But, Jake, it's a small step. And it's really a small deal for a lot of pain.

I mean, if you if you look at what's being agreed to -- and, again, this is just theory. This could still go awry in the coming year. These are things that the Chinese would have put on the table at the beginning of last year, and some of these things are basically walking back problems that the president created. So we have had to deal with a couple of years of real economic pain

for getting back to sort of the starting place. We haven't really moved the needle forward. And I think that you can see that in the markets. They're really sort of shrugging off the deal.


One of the main arguments Trump is making in his reelection is that he's overseeing this strong economy. What effect might this phase one have for American workers and farmers? And might they start feeling it before November 2020?

FOROOHAR: I don't think it's going to make a big deal for workers and farmers.

But I think what it may do is, if the markets feel we're not going to have any more trade trouble, if we're starting to move towards some kind of more permanent agreement, that's good for the president. I mean, I think that we're going to see 2 percent growth.

The big question is, is that going to be enough for him to run and say, hey, look, what a great economy we have? I think that it puts him in a better position certainly to have a trade deal inked.

TAPPER: All right, Rana Foroohar, thank you so much, and happy new year.

FOROOHAR: Happy new year.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the new way police are securing Times Square, as a million people get ready to celebrate the ball drop.



TAPPER: People around the world, they are beginning to say goodbye or in some cases good riddance to 2019.

Earlier this hour, fireworks burst over Istanbul, Turkey. Auckland, New Zealand, was the first major city to celebrate the new year with fireworks around the Sky Tower. And Bangkok, Thailand, also welcomed 2020 with a similar display.

In New York City, people are beginning to file into their pens and prepare to test the limits of their bladders for the granddaddy of all the New Year's celebrations in Times Square.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is there for us.

And, Miguel, the New York Police Department says it will be the safest place on Earth to ring in 2020. And they're using new security for the first time. Tell us about it.


And they already have tens of thousands of people here.

You guys ready for a great time?


MARQUEZ: The crowds here have been pouring in four hours now.

New York Police Department saying that they have everything from the skies to the water around Manhattan to the streets around Times Square completely blocked off and secured. They're going to use drone technology, weather permitting. They were meant to use them last year, but weren't able to.

And they even have an anti-drone unit that will watch for rogue drones in case they need to mitigate those. They also have radiation detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, thousands of police officers, both in uniform and in civilian gear.

So they have it covered. They are -- they have done this many, many times. They feel that this will be a great show tonight and people will just have a great time, bladders notwithstanding.


TAPPER: Miguel, who has the honor this year of the proverbial ball drop?

MARQUEZ: So, every year, Times Square Alliance honors someone.

This year, given what they say are the times, science teachers and science students from here in New York City, they will press the button on that main stage up there. And that will bring the bubble down at midnight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, stay warm, Miguel, Miguel Marquez in Times Square. Thank you so much.

If you would rather celebrate from the comfort of your own home, which, to be honest, is going to be safer than Times Square, tune in at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for "New Year's Eve Live" with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen, Anderson and Andy.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet show @THELEADCNN.

Happy new year. I hope 2020 is a great one for you. Thanks for being with us.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.