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Family of NY Stabbing Victim Says "Prognosis Is Not Good"; Rep, Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) Discusses Impeachment Stalemate, Trump Facing Challenges in Iran & North Korea, Castro Ending Presidential Campaign; State of Emergency Declared in Australia Amid Deadly Wildfires; U.S. Cities Grapple with Escalating Gun Violence. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 2, 2020 - 11:30   ET




RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: A sad development in the horrible stabbing attack during the Hanukkah celebration in New York. The family of one of the victims spoke to the media last hour to give an update on Josef Neumann and they say the prognosis is not good.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is joining me in Monsey, New York.

Brynn, give us the latest on the victim's condition.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, exactly like you said, the prognosis for Josef Neumann is not good. He's undergoing surgery right now. The family says doctors are trying to help him eat and breathe. He is in a coma, not a medically induced coma. He has never regained consciousness since the attack happened over the weekend.

The family released a picture - but I want to warn everyone this is a very graphic picture -- but they let us see exactly the extent of his injuries and you can see from this picture how horrific it is.

The family says he was stabbed in the throat. Of course, he has head injuries to his skull. And then we've learned also that he has a shattered arm that can't even be treated right now because of the other injuries.

And the family said it was a difficult decision to release this picture, as graphic as it is, but they said they had to because so many people were reaching out to them saying, oh, when is your dad going to be OK, how is he doing. And they started to realize people didn't understand the severity of how bad and how vicious this attack was. And so that's why they decided as a family to release this picture.

And today, at the news conference, they really wanted to send a message after all of this has happened over the weekend. Take a listen to what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NICKY KOHEN, DAUGHTER OF STABBING VICTIM JOSEF NEUMANN: We want our kids to go to school and feel safe, we want to go to our synagogues and feel safe. We want to go to groceries and malls and feel safe.

We hope he awakes to a changed world with peace, unity and love for all.


GINGRAS: You can just see the state that they're in at this point.

Her brother, always going to the rabbi's house every weekend. He said it's just by chance he did not go this Saturday for this celebration. He said, by the grace of God, because he's got young children as well.

But again, they are just staying hopeful at this point, but they don't think it's going to turn out good for them -- Ryan?

NOBLES: A sad development in that story.

Brynn Gingras, thank you for the update. We appreciate it.

Coming up, the Senate is back in session tomorrow and all eyes are on Nancy Pelosi and when she'll hand over the articles of impeachment. Exactly when might the trial get under way? We'll talk with a Democratic on the House Foreign Affairs Committee when we come back.



NOBLES: Congress is getting ready to return from its holiday recess and we still don't know when President Trump's impeachment trial will begin. We do know that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to speak about impeachment tomorrow on the Senate floor.

Sources are telling CNN that McConnell is fine waiting out Speaker Pelosi, who still hasn't sent the articles of impeachment over to the Senate.

So joining me now to talk about this, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat from New York. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

There's a lot of topics we're going to hit on, if that's already. Let's start with impeachment. We've got a staring contest right now between the speaker and majority leader. How long can this last?

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D-NY): I think it needs to go as far as it needs to go so the American people feel confident that the process is fair and honest and it's not a sham, it's not a kangaroo court, that it adheres to Article I, Section III of the Constitution, which gives Congress the sole power of the impeachment process and the Senate the exclusive power of the trial.

So this must be a fair and honest process. I think that's what the American people want.

I think both McConnell and Leader Schumer should sit down and work out of the rules of the game and they should be fair and equitable. I think that's what we're waiting for.

NOBLES: Witnesses seems to be one of the big holdups, at least from the Democratic side. We've seen some Republicans open to the idea, Susan Collins and some others.

I wonder if you would be comfortable if the agreement was made, we'll bring witnesses in but we'll do closed-door depositions, maybe release video-tape interviews with them, similar to what was done during the Clinton impeachment, or do you think a fair trial means they come and testify publicly in front of the United States --


ESPAILLAT: I believe in an open-windows approach. Let the oxygen, let the air come in so it's not toxic and it's transparent.

Look, we had a process, the first three committees, the Oversight, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committee, that I'm part of, that heard witnesses, close to 20 witnesses. It was sort of like closed door. But the Republicans were there and they were questioning and cross-examining the witnesses.


Then we had an open public hearing process with the Intelligence Committee, where many of those witnesses came back openly in front of the American people and testified once again.

And finally, the Judiciary Committee had its own process, which was fully open to the public, where they drafted the articles of impeachment.

So we had a very deliberate and very professional process that the American people I think -- some of those committees were working right through the weekends. We did a lot of work to ensure that it moved forward, that it was fair, honest and rapid. I think that the Senate should do the same thing.

NOBLES: Let's shift now to Iraq, the situation there. It's great to have you here because you're on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Obviously, you've seen these pictures of what's happening at the U.S. embassy, the lobby burned out. This still seems to be a volatile situation, even though the protesters have stepped back. The president has touted his hard line on Iran. Do you think his position here as actually made the situation more dangerous?

ESPAILLAT: I think the region is becoming more and more dangerous and that is happening because of a lack of a coherent strategy and policy.

What our allies -- I think we're doing this unilaterally. I think that's a mistake. We should go to the table with our allies who really have a broad and comprehensive strategy and policy for the region. And that's why we lost footing and control in Syria. And the Russians, of course, in Iran stepped in.

The same is happening right now in Iraq. Our lack of a policy for Iraq, a comprehensive plan, strategy for Iraq, has put us in a position where we struck back. But one strike is not a policy.

And so we're not in a good position and we're getting ready to lose Iraq after being there for years and years. And many of our men and women gave up their lives for that region to be safer. And it's not safer right now.

NOBLES: So if I'm understanding you correctly, you talk about the airstrike against the Iranian-backed militia that kind of led to the fallout in front of the embassy. Do you think the administration did that without the forethought of what the implications could be and they need to have more of a long-term strategy before taking action?

ESPAILLAT: Yes, they need to have more of a long-term strategy. They need to talk to our traditional allies in the region and Europe so we can do this as a coalition, not as the United States on its own, unilaterally taking these steps, that maybe yield some returns short- term, but long-term, I think it's a disaster. So we must come up with a comprehensive plan.

NOBLES: I imagine you feel the same way about North Korea. Initially, you saw President Trump offering the olive branch to Kim Jong-Un, summits were held. It seemed as though progress had been made. In your view, are we right back to where we were before the outreach happened?

ESPAILLAT: I think the president engaged in a confidence game with the Kim regime. It's almost like a Three-Card Monte game in the streets of New York City where the odds are set against you and you engage the confidence game not knowing that you're being set up. It's really theater. I think Kim got the very best of him.

NOBLES: We've got to go, but I just want to ask you about Julian Castro leaving the race for president, meaning that there isn't a Latino candidate in the race. Are you concerned about the Democratic field and the lack of diversity?

ESPAILLAT: I think that the Latino community for too long has felt somewhat abandoned and not heard. I think he filled that void. I think the candidates that are still in the race should be proactive in making sure they engage that community.

The last election was, I think, the year of the women. The next election, I think, will be the year of the Latinos.

And those candidates that do well for that community, then will obviously be decisive in places like Florida and like Pennsylvania, where you have pockets of Latino communities, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada. Those states are important for a win. They need to engage our community.

NOBLES: Congressman Espaillat, thank you so much for being here.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much.

Happy New Year to you.

ESPAILLAT: Same to you.


NOBLES: All right.

Still to come, catastrophic conditions grip parts of Australia as deadly wildfires rage on. Thousands are being forced to evacuate. Is there any relief in sight?


NOBLES: Right now, wildfires are devastating parts of Australia. The situation now so dire, a seven-day state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales. Meantime, Crews are having a tough time battling the flames and bracing for a dangerous weekend ahead.

CNN's Anna Coren spoke with families fleeing for safety.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is what a mass evacuation looks like. Thousands and thousands fleeing the areas worst hit by the deadly bush fires that have swept across the southeastern coast of Australia. A mandatory evacuation for tourists before catastrophic conditions return on Saturday.

But some want to head the opposite way.

TREVOR GALAN (ph), DAUGHTER STRANDED BY WILDFIRE: My daughter's stuck in (INAUDIBLE) some friends down there.

COREN: Trevor Galan's (ph) 16-year-old daughter, Haley (ph), is stranded in one of the hardest hit regions with some friends. She told him she's safe, but he's not taking any chances.

GALAN (ph): (INAUDIBLE) to see if I can get down there to get her out. I've only been (INAUDIBLE) because it's one road in, one road out.

COREN: It's dangerous, but Trevor is not alone.

ZANTHIA WALSH (ph), LOST HOUSE IN WILDFIRE: At the moment, we're just focused on trying to get family back together.


COREN: Zanthia Walsh (ph) and her family were away when fire struck the family home in Kenjola (ph), three hours south of Sydney. They all escaped unharmed, but their house was completely destroyed. WALSH (ph): It was a family (INAUDIBLE) house. So it's hit a lot of

people quite hard. It used to be a holiday house prior to us living in it. So all of our families stayed in there at some point or another.

COREN: Walsh and Galan are but two of the many stuck around and inside some of the areas hardest hit by bush fires across the states of Victoria and New South Wales.

Dozens of roads have been cut off and some communities remain isolated. Stranded residents dependent on the Australian military for the most basic of supplies.

It's part of the Australian government's efforts to deal with the crisis, but for some it's too little, too late.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, who has been heavily criticized for his lack of leadership during this crisis, and his government's inaction on climate change, was heckled by residents during a visit to Kabaga (ph).


COREN: A large part of the town was destroyed during the New Year's Eve bush fires and residents say the government has not done enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not fair. We are totally forgotten about down here.

COREN: The prime minister left without responding.

Conditions have improved slightly in the past few days, allowing the countless men and women who continue to battle the flames a temporary but very limited reprieve. And just enough time to say good-bye to one of their own.

Firefighter Jeffrey Keaton (ph) was honored for his bravery at his funeral. The medal given to his young son.

Just one of the many victims of a nightmare with no end in sight that is expected to worsen in the coming days.

Anna Coren, CNN, Maryborough (ph), Australia


NOBLES: Anna, thank you.

We'll be right back.



NOBLES: So 2020 is off to a deadly start. An uptick in gun violence is typical around New Year's Day due to a combination of alcohol use and celebratory gunfire. As police investigate the latest shootings, some shootings are reporting fewer gun deaths.

CNN's Omar Jimenez looks back at the year of progress and setbacks.



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): While mass shootings at times leave the country in disbelief, in places like Baltimore and Chicago, gun violence is a grim part of life.

CHARLIE BECK, INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: What people think of as traditional policing has to be much smarter, has to be much more focused.

JIMENEZ: Former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is now the interim police superintendent in Chicago, a city that ended 2019 with a more than 10 percent drop in murders for the third year in a row and down more than 30 percent since a spike in 2016 that saw more killings that New York and L.A. combined.

JIMENEZ (on camera): What are some of the questions that you get about the city of Chicago, about crime in Chicago, and how do you answer those questions?

BECK: To be brutally honest, you know, it's still not safe enough. Five hundred homicides is -- even though that's a nice milestone, that's way too many.

JIMENEZ (voice over): But it's not just policing. Even hospitals are trying to break this deadly cycle, taking the time to sit with shooting victims and evaluate the direction of their lives.

CAROL REESE, VIOLENCE PREVENTION COORDINATOR, STROGER HOSPITAL: We use this unique opportunity to really drill down with people on not only their risk factors, but their hopes, their dreams, their emotional experience of being injured.

JIMENEZ (on camera): The goal is not to see them again?

REESE: The goal is not to see them again ever.

JIMENEZ (voice over): They're among the tactics being used in cities across the country, trying to change what has become, in some places, an unshakeable narrative.

Often among the highest murder rates of big U.S. cities, New Orleans has made progress, seeing its third consecutive drop in homicides last year.

But St. Louis, which had the highest murder rate of big U.S. cities in recent years, saw an increase in homicides compared to 2018.

And Baltimore ended the year with the second most homicides they've had on record, just under 350.

Cities like New York and Los Angeles didn't even hit that mark and they have more than five times the people.

BERNARD C. "JACK" YOUNG, (D), BALTIMORE MAYOR: We can talk all day about what to do after someone is killed, but we must also have a hard conversation about why the perpetrators of violence have no regards for human life.

JIMENEZ: Baltimore is now one of seven cities within the Department of Justice's Operation Relentless Pursuit, an initiative aimed at combating violent crime.

And in Washington, Congress approved millions for federal research into gun violence for the first time ever over 20 years. Federal and city efforts meant to go hand in hand at the dawn of a new decade.

BECK: I know it seems difficult when you're -- when you're in the middle of this, but I have nothing but the most positive belief in the outcome of what we're doing here.


JIMENEZ: And city leadership here tell me they believe they have all the pieces in place to make Chicago the safest big city in the country, as they say.

And they're among the cities hoping to use the start of this New Year and new decade to reset what's become an all too violent reality -- Ryan?


NOBLES: Omar Jimenez, live in Chicago. Omar, thank you.

Thank you for joining me.