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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Audio: Trump Operatives Flew Fake Elector Ballots To D.C. In Final Push To Overturn 2020 Election; Haley Tries To Clarify Civil War Comments Amid Backlash; University Demolishes Idaho House Where Brutal Murders Took Place; TikTok Disputes Investigation Of War Videos It Lets Teens See; Netanyahu Tell Families Of Hostages Talks Are Ongoing; Detained American Paul Whelan Speaks With CNN. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 28, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm going with eggnog.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: I'm going with eggnog, too, especially if it's got some --

KEILAR: A little bit of rum.


KEILAR: Rum or --

SANCHEZ: Yeah. It's got to be rum, right?

KEILAR: Bourbon?

SANCHEZ: I'd go rum. I would actually with coquito on top of all of this. You've had coquitos. It's that Puerto Rican holiday drink. Yeah, I'd be dousing coquito any day.

KEILAR: That sounds better than Gatorade, let's put it that way.

SANCHEZ: I felt like there's got to be more eggnog on that guy. There's not enough.

KEILAR: I will say, the mayo sort of stayed where they put it.

SANCHEZ: Add a little bit of tuna, lettuce, bread, you got a sandwich.



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: Flying private to overturn the election?

THE LEAD starts right now.

We have a brand-new CNN report revealing how Trump operatives flew fake elector ballots to D.C. in a last-ditch effort to overturn the 2020 election. We'll bring you those details, and the audiotapes detailing their plot, next.

Plus, Nikki Haley under scrutiny over controversial comments she made on the campaign trail. An exchange she had with one man in New Hampshire and how her campaign is responding today. We'll take you on the road.

And the house where four University of Idaho students were brutally murdered was demolished just hours ago. Why some of the victims' families were pushing for it to be torn down after the suspect's trial.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in for Jake Tapper.

We start with breaking news in our law and justice lead. CNN has obtained these exclusive recordings that reveal a chaotic last-ditch effort by former President Trump's campaign to get fake elector ballots to D.C. They were trying to get the fake ballots to former Vice President Mike Pence in a final push to overturn the 2020 election. The plan involved a haphazard chain of messengers, staffers, for two sitting Republican members of Congress and talk of even chartering a private jet.

All of this to ensure the fake ballots for Michigan and Wisconsin got to the capitol in time for the Electoral College certification on January 6th, 2021. Emails and recording show new context in the dizzying scope of the unsuccessful fake electors plot, a major piece of special counsel Jack Smith's criminal indictment against Trump.

CNN's Marshall Cohen broke this story for us and he's joining me now.

So, Marshall, what are we learning from these new recordings?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Bianna, we've known bits and pieces of this story, but now we are getting the full picture, and it comes from Ken Chesebro, who, in many ways, was the architect of the fake electors plot. CNN has obtained recordings of his recent interview with Michigan investigators and hundreds of emails that he also turned over. They are revealing the last-minute scramble on the eve of January the 6th to get those fake certificates to Washington, D.C.

Listen to this. This is a clip of Ken Chesebro describing what happened when Trump campaign officials realized that those critical ballots for Michigan, Wisconsin, were stuck in the mail.


KENNETH CHESEBRO, PRO-TRUMP ATTORNEY: The general counsel of the Trump campaign is freaked out that Roman reported that the Michigan votes are still in the sorting facility of Michigan, which doesn't mean that they're going to get to Pence in time. So, the general counsel of the campaign was alarmed and was chartering -- they didn't have to charter a jet, but they did commercial. This is like -- yeah, so this is a high-level position to get the

Michigan and Wisconsin votes there. They had to enlist, you know, a senator to try to expedite it, to get it to Pence in time.


COHEN: Remember, they needed to get those ballots to the House floor because they wanted Mike Pence to throw out Biden's real electors and replace them with Trump's fake electors. So, in the end, the campaign didn't need to charter a jet. Staffers book last-minute tickets on commercial flights, but they ferried those ballots to Washington, D.C., on January 5th and once they got to D.C., there was a series of handoffs and couriers that even included some help from Senator Ron Johnson's office.

Those ballots eventually reached the U.S. Capitol in time. But Pence's team said they didn't want them. He refused to go along with the plan -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: That's a fascinating new detail.

Marshall, how does this all factor into Jack Smith's criminal case against Trump?

COHEN: Well, this episode is vaguely referenced in special counsel Smith's indictment against Trump. Sources tell CNN that some of the people who were involved in this, including the staffers who are on those flights, they've spoken to Smith's team. But it's not totally clear how many of these new details about the last-minute scramble will factor into President Trump's trial, which is scheduled for March.

GOLODRYGA: So, let's go back to Chesebro because that's how you're learning a lot of this information. That's what we heard from in the audiotapes. He's now blaming the Trump campaign for his legal problems.

What did he say about that?

COHEN: He's upset, you know?


He thinks he got burned and it is true that some Trump campaign lawyers told the January 6th committee that they basically wash their hands of the fake electors plot, but the emails that we've obtained show that at least some of them were involved in the 11th hour discussions about how to get the ballots to Pence.

Here's Chesebro again telling Michigan prosecutors, basically, that in his view, he was thrown under the bus.


CHESEBRO: To have the three top campaign lawyers get interviews with Congress, claim they pulled out of this, on December 11th and I ran off and Mayor Giuliani when in fact, they were day-by-day coordinating the efforts of more than a dozen people with the GOP and with the Trump campaign.

For them to basically say they had nothing to do with it and it's because me and Giuliani, that's what really rankles.

So, I could have avoided all of this. So, it's been -- it's been a real lesson and now working with people that you don't know and not sure you can trust because really went south on me.


COHEN: Bianna, he says he learned the hard way and that's probably why he's now cooperating with criminal prosecutors in Michigan, Wisconsin, and other key states where they tried to pull this off.

GOLODRYGA: Marshall Cohen, thank you so much for this new reporting. Joining us now to discuss is Elliot Williams, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Elliot, it's quite the paper and I guess audio trail, too. What part of this, in your view, is most legally damning?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, it's more evidence, Bianna. You know, to state the obvious, more evidence is always a good thing because of the fact for prosecutors, of course, because of the fact that not everything is going to get out of court. Now, Jack Smith is certainly building a case against former president based on other statements others have made, documents that he owes, whatever else.

But now you have more audio tapes that could be admitted under court. It's one thing for a jury to read a transcript, or even hear someone talk about things that they heard somebody else say. It's another thing to hear voices. They have sort of an evocative effect in a courtroom and that's where these could be valuable and powerful.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah and as you just heard, Chesebro told Michigan prosecutors that the decision to get the fake ballots to D.C. was, quote, high-level. What do you make of that term, high-level?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, everything comes down to intent in criminal prosecutions. We talked about this. Over the months or frankly years that these cases have been percolating and prosecutors have to establish not just an act happened, but that a defendant intended to commit the act, and with criminal intent.

Now, here, some of the things that are charged or conspiracy to obstruct in a congressional proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, like things like that, and they have to know that the acts they're engaging in are either unlawful or violations of federal statutes, you know, or whatever else.

Here, the furious attempts to move these ballots across state lines could be introduced as evidence showing the state of mind of not just the former president, whether or not it's him or people around him who knew what they were doing and attempting to take all efforts to get these fake or alternate, that's their argument, ballots to Washington, D.C.

So, it can cert -- this is evidence that it could certainly speak to intent if it gets there.

GOLODRYGA: And this new reporting for Marshall Cohen, it comes on the eve of what's going to be a very busy January for the former president. Let's walk through the calendar. He will need to appeal the Colorado decision taking him off the 2024 ballot by January 4th.

Then on January 9th, his legal team will argue the immunity claim in a D.C. appeals court. He's also got the civil fraud trial. Of course, the Iowa caucuses in New Hampshire primary, as well as that civil trial in New York, which begins on January 16th. So, let all of that sink in.

Let's focus right now on the immunity claim in D.C. What happens if the D.C. appeals court rules that Trump does not have immunity?

WILLIAMS: If he does not have immunity, he can certainly be prosecuted. Now, the question is, when with that ruling come?

Now, in court of appeals terms, they are moving at a breakneck pace. They will be hearing arguments on this case on January 9th, which is faster than most cases ever make it to argument. Now, regardless of what happens there, the Supreme Court will have an opportunity to review the case and maybe hear it, which could slow any prosecution down weeks, if not months.

This question of immunity is a very, very important one. And tying on this -- tied to this very question of fake ballots because the argument being made by the former president is that the crafting and solicitation of these alternate slates of electors was, itself, an official act of the presidency and therefore, he was allowed to do it.


So, it's a critical case that's being decided and being heard on January 9th, my dad's birthday.

GOLODRYGA: Happy birthday, dad.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. Happy birthday to my dad.

But needless to say, it -- whatever happens in that appeal could dramatically slow down the potential March trial date of this Jack Smith's prosecution of the former president for election interference.

GOLODRYGA: We will be watching closely as well as celebrating your father.

Elliot Williams, thank you.

Coming up, hear Nikki Haley's controversial response to a question about the civil war.

And the off-campus Idaho house, where four college students were murdered last year was torn down earlier today. Why there are still major questions about that decision. That's next.


GOLODRYGA: In our politics lead, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is working hard to walk back which she said and didn't say last night at a town hall in New Hampshire, after an attendee called her out for not mentioning slavery in her response to a question about the civil war.

CNN's Eva McKend is on the campaign trail.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course, the Civil War was about slavery.


We know that. That is unquestioned, always the case.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nikki Haley playing cleanup today after this exchange with a voter during a New Hampshire town hall Wednesday night.

NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: What was the cause of the United States civil war?

HALEY: Well, don't come with an easy question, right? I mean, I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how governments was going to run. The freedoms in what people could and couldn't do.

MCKEND: After not mentioning slavery in her unofficial response, Haley acknowledging in interviews, and campaign appearances this civil war was about slavery.

HALEY: You grew up in the South, it's a given that it's about slavery. To me, it was about the freedom. It is bigger than slavery. That was such a stain on our history. But, what do you take from it going forward?

MCKEND: The former South Carolina governor also claiming without evidence the questioner was a Democratic plant. The audience member who asked the question declined to share his full name or party affiliation when asked by reporters.

HALEY: It was definitely a Democrat plant. That's why I said, what does it mean to you? And if you noticed, he didn't answer anything.

MCKEND: The episode sparking swift blow back from Haley's primary rivals.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just think this shows that this is not a candidate that is ready for primetime.

MCKEND: And Vivek Ramaswamy saying: When you try to be everything to everyone, you're nothing to anyone. President Joe Biden also weighing in, saying: Clearly, it was about


Haley's handling of the question also drawing fresh attention to her complicated public posture towards the Confederacy.

HALEY: I see that as a Southern governor who removed the Confederate flag off the state house grounds and I say that as a proud American of how far we have come.

MCKEND: CNN's KFILE found in 2010, Haley said this about the Confederate flag.

HALEY: This is not something that was racist. This is something that is a tradition that people feel proud of.

MCKEND: But, in 2015, the shooting at a historically Black church in Charleston spurred then-Governor Haley to call for the flag removal from state house grounds.

HALEY: We heard about the true honor of heritage and tradition. We heard about the true pain that many had felt. The Confederate flag is coming off the grounds of the South Carolina state house.



MCKEND (on camera): And, Bianna, this really draws into focus how Haley has operated her campaign really in a play it safe mode with very carefully crafted responses to these questions. That did not work this time around. I should note, she is pulling second in the state. She is doing strong here, still, far behind former President Donald Trump but well ahead Chris Christie and Ron DeSantis. She continues to visually campaign here. She will be here in Grafton County later today and she was with Governor Sununu later this afternoon -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Eva McKend, thank you.

Let's bring in our panel, Scott Jennings and Alencia Johnson. Thank you both for being here.

So, let's start with Nikki Haley. We don't know the identity of the attendee from last night's town hall. He did not give his name to reporters what we heard from Eva's reporting.

But, I want to play how Nikki Haley characterized him and his questions in a real video interview from earlier this morning. Take a listen.


HALEY: Biden and the Democrats keep sending Democrat plants to do things like this to get the media to react. We know when they are there, we know what they are doing. Why is Biden doing that? Why isn't he doing it to any other candidate? (END AUDIO CLIP)

GOLODRYGA: Scott, I want to get your take. Does it even matter if this question was posed by a Republican or a Democrat? And do you think her comments could hurt her with voters in the primary?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Why is Joe Biden sending these people to trip me up with these six grade civics questions? How dare he do that? It doesn't matter if this is a plant. It doesn't matter who the person is, and it really does not matter, you know, where she did it or -- this is a simple question. All you have to do is answer it.

So, this immediate pivot to I am a victim of Joe Biden, not a great piece of the cleanup. Now, she could get around today to say the answer is slavery, then she added several hundred other words, but this was a rough news cycle for her because I think in New Hampshire, part of the strategy is they have a semi-open primary where independents can come in and vote in the Republican primary if they wish. I am guessing this is not what independent voters want to hear out of a Republican may be considering coming in for.

So, it's been -- it is been a rough cycle. I was not a huge fan of the way she immediately pivoted to this blaming Joe Biden. Joe Biden didn't cause you to mess up.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, it's really her first big stumble on the campaign trail. After Haley gave that's radio interview this morning, she held another town hall in North Conway, New Hampshire.


And here's part of what she said.


HALEY: By the grace of God, we did the right thing and slavery is no more. But, the lessons of what that bigger issue with the civil war is that let's not forget what came out of that, which is government's rule, individual liberties, freedom for every single person.


GOLODRYGA: So, Alencia, I want to get your reaction to how she is trying to clarify sort of clean up her remarks. Do you agree with Scott that all she had to do was come out and say that it was slavery or what she is doing now which is sort of defending her comments that she said yesterday, but also saying, yes, it was slavery?

ALENCIA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, she absolutely should have come out forcefully and said it was about slavery. But, let's be honest here, Nikki Haley would have to talk about the position that South Carolina took in Civil War is on par which he said later around freedom and individual liberties. The reality is, this Republican Party actually does not want to talk about descends in our history around race particularly. We know that from the book bans, the dismantling of affirmative action and DEI initiatives.

It's also ironic that she talks about how what came out of it were individual liberties and freedom when, again, the Republican Party has taken away so many of those, especially we saw around abortion. A lot of the Supreme Court decisions are coming about.

So, Nikki Haley is doing which she has been doing before talking out of both sides of her mouth to make it seem as though she is a moderate and unifying candidate, but we know as somebody running to be the nominee for the Republican Party what they stand for, and she is just as extreme as the rest of them, whether or not her rhetoric matches their tone.

GOLODRYGA: Scott, let me move on to Chris Christie who as you know is facing pressure to drop out of the race and consolidate support for a clear alternative to Donald Trump.

His campaign is pushing back in the new ad in New Hampshire. Take a listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people say I should drop out of this way race, really? I'm the only one saying Donald Trump is a liar. He pits Americans against each other. His Christmas message to anyone who disagree with him, rot in hell.


GOLODRYGA: So, Scott, he's making his case to voters in New Hampshire but we are just 18 days out from the Iowa caucuses. We know it's on a good sign when you have to defend why you're not dropping out of the race.

Do you think it's time for him to do just that?

JENNINGS: Well, it depends on what his motivations are. I mean, he's not really competitive in Iowa, but he may be competitive in New Hampshire for some of those independent voters we were talking about, some of those Republicans who have never really been huge fans of Donald Trump.

The trouble is, if his stated goal is to stop Donald Trump or to eliminate Donald Trump from this primary, you just look at the polling right now, the person that is most capable of doing that in New Hampshire is Haley and he is obviously digging into a little bit with the 9 or 10 percent he is pulling in some of these surveys.

So, you know, if your goal is to get rid of Trump and you're impeding the one person who might be able to do it, then you have to start questioning what my real motivation is, and might thinking strategically or am I thinking selfishly? Now, it is true, he's the only person running the pure anti-Trump campaign.

He is not wrong about that. I just wonder whether there is enough votes in that strategy to finish in the top two in that state. GOLODRYGA: Alencia, what do you think?

JOHNSON: Listen, I don't think there are enough of the anti-Trump voters in the Republican Party base to actually give Christie what he needs to perform well after Christmas, but Christmas miracle, that's what he is looking for. But, it will be interesting to see what happens in the New Year again as the election approaches and where will those voters go, especially with what is happening with Nikki Haley.

Again, what will Chris Christie do after New Hampshire and what will he do to stop Donald Trump if he doesn't become the nominee? That's the question I have for a lot of Republicans who constantly say, I want to stop Donald Trump. But, if it becomes the nominee, will you throw support publicly behind President Biden?

GOLODRYGA: Big questions. Alencia Johnson, Scott Jennings, thank you.

Well, coming up for us, the house where four University of Idaho students were viciously murdered was demolished earlier today. Why some families wanted to wait before tearing it down.



GOLODRYGA: In our national lead, an off-campus house where four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death last year was demolished earlier today. You can see how the entire structure has now been torn down. Some of the victims families had beg to lay the demolition until after the trial.

CNN's Veronica Miracle is on the scene in Moscow, Idaho, for us.

So, Veronica, why do these families want the demolition delayed and why did the school then decide to move forward with it?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, in the hours before the demolition, two of the victims' families, they were urging the university, as well as the Latah County prosecutor's office to reconsider tearing this down because they believe that this was a key piece of evidence that could have been used during the trial. They argued that a jury could've come and taking a look themselves, looked at the exterior, seen some of the different vantage points, maybe go inside to see the different entries and exits, and that could have weighed on their decision.

And so, that's why they were really urging the university to reconsider but neither the defense team nor the prosecution disagreed with this decision. The university has been in conversation with the Latah County prosecutor's office for months. Ever since they received this house, they have been wanting to tear down and so, they have been in conversation with them.

The prosecutors office actually told the university last week that's because the interior of the house is so altered from -- or was so altered rather from the time of the crime because there was hazmat crews that had to come in and clean up, they also removed all of the belongings of the victims, they would not have been able to bring a jury in by Idaho code.

So, when the university learned that, they decided this needed to come down. Now, the university, they are going to make sure that there is a memorial garden here. But, otherwise, this is going to be turned into an empty lot and that's the plan for the foreseeable future -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Veronica Miracle, thank you.

I want to bring in defense and trial attorney Misty Marris for more on this.

So, Misty, by not objecting to the demolition of the house, in your view, are prosecutors taking a risk here?

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE AND TRIAL ATTORNEY: It was actually very surprising to me that there was no objection from the prosecutors, Bianna. The reason is, whether or not the jury is going to have a site visit, actually go to the location where the crimes were committed. It's something that you want to leave until the trial is unfolding, and make that determination at that point. By demolishing the property, once it's gone, it's gone.

So, now, prosecutors have lost that opportunity to even have that be a potential factor to the jury when they're deliberating in this case. So I was quite surprised that there was no pushback on that front.

GOLODRYGA: For the bigger picture on the case, talk about what we can expect to see unfold over the next few months.

MARRIS: Yeah, over the next few months, right now, we're in the throes of evidentiary exchanges. Kohberger is right now challenging some of the DNA evidence. There's -- maybe the trial goes for this summer. We don't even have a trial date again, Bianna, a little surprising houses demolished before we even have that trial date.

But, I would expect obviously the defense that they are going to be laying out their arguments. We're going to see that as the trial unfold and really, I foreshadow that one of the defense argument is going to be, if not feasible for one individual to commit this crime with multiple deaths in this time span.

Again, bringing back the relevance of this house, the way the floor, the logistics, the staircases, what we would see hear from those perspectives in the home. And, so, that is really what we are going to see at this case unfolding this legal theories being extrapolated in the courtroom ultimately at trial.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, unsuccessfully, the defense tried to dismiss this case but it is going forward, you'll be following it for us.

Misty Marris, thank you.

MARRIS: Thank you. GOLODRYGA: Well, coming up, the disturbing questions about what children are seeing about the Israel-Hamas war on their phones that you may not know about.



GOLODRYGA: In our tech lead, we live in an era where more and more people get their news from social media, which raises disturbing questions about what our children and young teens are seeing about the Israel-Hamas War that you may not know about. "The Wall Street Journal" recently published an investigation of content about the Israel-Hamas war served up by TikTok.

The article headline is, how TikTok brings war home to your child. It concludes that the app, quote, can feed young users a stream of intense, polarized and hard to verify videos about the Israel-Hamas War.

Now, TikTok strongly disputed these findings were asked by CNN and the Wall Street Journal for comment.

Here to discuss both sides is Emerson Brooking. He's a resident senior fellow for the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab. He is also quoted in "The Wall Street Journal" article.

So, thank you so much for joining us.

"The Journal" says that it created TikTok accounts, set the account aged 13 years old and programmed a handful of automated bots to scroll through TikTok feeds only pausing on conflict related videos. The article goes on to say that within hours after signing up, TikTok began serving some accounts highly polarized content reflecting off an extreme pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel positions about the conflict. Many stoked fear.

"The Journal" cited one video urging viewers to arm themselves, others contained end of the world scenarios.

Now, here's TikTok's response: The experiment was designed by "The Wall Street Journal" to produce a pre-determined result to advance a false narrative and in no way reflects the behaviors or experiences of real teens on TikTok. It goes on to say that real people like, share and search for content, favorite videos, post comments, follow others, and enjoy a wide range of content on TikTok.

A big set up to you, but my question is, how do you view this?

EMERSON BROOKING, RESIDENT SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL DIGITLA FORENSIC RESEARCH LAB: Well, first, I think "The Wall Street Journal" researched just shows the accessibility and immediacy of this war online. The fact that your kid without your knowledge can be being served of this deeply disturbing content, and that this content isn't necessarily graphic, but it is often de-contextualized and it can be deeply distressing. I should add also that it generally is coming from influencers or

people who are trying to push a particular point of view, very rarely is it coming from journalists or any journalistic organization.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, and that's what's really problematic about it. You have even said that you don't have to doom-scroll, you can just sit and watch and let the platform do the rest.

Now, TikTok points to its content controls and says they should be factored into any reporting about this. But, we should note, TikTok's own website says that the time spent watching a specific video it generally weighed more heavily than other factors. Factors like device settings, general receive lower wait compared to other factors.


So, in plain English for us, the way the app works is that if you pause to watch a video or watch a video for a longer period of time, you are likely to see more of it. So, even if a user or parent sets these restrictions, do we even have a sense of how much these restrictions matter?

BROOKING: I think in some cases, these restrictions do matter. No restrictions were set in the case of "The Wall Street Journal's" research. But, yeah, when you're thinking about the TikTok algorithm, it is not just videos watched and shares, but it's comments, it's likes, sometimes dozens of different little signals. But I think the bigger problem here is that the TikTok algorithm is so much of a black box, even relative to other social media platforms. TikTok statement is correct, but "The Wall Street Journal" had to do the research this where, because there's very little other path to study the TikTok platform.

GOLODRYGA: Now, TikTok goes on to say that since October 7th, it has prevented teen accounts from viewing over 1 million videos containing violence or graphic content. What's missing here is the denominator. But we do know about 150 million Americans view TikTok per day.

In your view, is TikTok doing enough?

BROOKING: I think with regard to graphic content, TikTok has done better than other platforms. But, it doesn't have to be graphic to be disturbing, to present one side of the war and not the other, to be filled with disinformation and mislead people. TikTok has to do more here. But, then, this also just casts a light on how vulnerable we are, all are, just as users of the Internet when there is this online conflict taking place around us.

So, I hope this is going to be a wake-up call for parents to think more seriously, by the content or children are consuming and to try and have this conversation themselves instead of having it mediated through a kid's smart phone.

GOLODRYGA: So, what exactly can a parent do and what are the conversations that can be had with children -- when parents may not even know how to really navigate these new platforms? BROOKING: Well, TikTok does make it pretty easy to set certain

parental controls. These parental controls were not used in the case of the Wall Street Journal study, but, they can be. But, I think it's more -- it's just understanding that for most kids that are on TikTok, and most kids are seeing war content. So, it's not really a matter of if kids are seeing this, so, it is important to try to have those conversations, to try and engage a bit more of what your kid is seeing, to help bring context or help have a conversation about it.

I don't think that this content, this unfortunately reflects the reality we live in, it should not necessarily be removed from public view even for children. But, it has to be president in the right way.

GOLODRYGA: And we should expand this conversation later down the road beyond just TikTok to other social media platforms.

Emerson Brooking, thank you so much for your insights.

BROOKING: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, an American man wrongfully detained in Russia speaks exclusively to CNN on the five-year anniversary of his intention. We'll tell you what he says, next.



GOLODRYGA: In our world lead, today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told families with loved ones being held by Hamas that talks are currently underway to free them. Sadly, we also learned today that the last American Israeli woman believed to be held by Hamas is not alive.

Seventy-year-old Judy Weinstein Haggai is now said to have been killed by Hamas on October 70. The death of her husband, 73-year-old Gad Haggai, was reported last week, both of their bodies still being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Let's bring Elliott Gotkine who is live for us in Tel Aviv for more on this.

So, Elliott, what can you tell us about this death of this is really American hostage and where do negotiations stand as we heard from prime minister telling families that they are opened again?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Netanyahu says that those conversations are ongoing, we know the efforts are ongoing. We know their efforts are ongoing. Just yet the other day, President Biden spoke with the emir of Qatar, which has been a key mediator and was a key mediator in getting that first truce which ended on December the 1st in place which involved hostages being returned, hostages being up abducted by Hamas during its murderous rampage of October 7th in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails. We don't know if we are any closer to seeing another truce coming into

effect, but we do know the fighting has if anything intensified between Israel and Hamas, and as far as we are aware, there is no additional troops and hostage for prisoner swap on the horizon.

As far as Judy Weinstein is concerned, American Israeli and also Canadian citizens, 70 years old, mother of four, grandmother of seven, she also leaves behind her 95 year old mother. Now, when President Biden spoke with her daughter, one of her daughters a couple of weeks ago, he said he was praying for the well-being and safe return of Judy Weinstein.

Today, the president has put out another statement saying that I will never forget with their daughter and the family members of other Americans held hostage in Gaza has shared with me. They have been living through hell for weeks. No family should have to endorse such an ordeal and I reaffirmed the pledge we have made to all the families of those still held hostage. We will not stop working to bring them home.


Now, as you said, Bianna, Judy was the last living American woman hostage still being held in the Gaza Strip. There are still six American citizens, men, who are still being held and are believed to be alive inside the Gaza Strip by Hamas.

Clearly, President Biden wants them home and Israel and their families of those still being held in Gaza putting a lot of pressure on the government here to do everything it can to bring those hostages home and to bring them home now.

GOLODRYGA: And we won't stop our coverage until they are all home and release as well.

Elliott Gotkine, thank you.

We're continuing with our world lead. Today marks five years that American citizen and former marine Paul Whelan has been wrongfully detained in a Russian prison. He was imprisoned on espionage charges that he has consistently denied.

Joining me now is CNN reporter Jennifer Hansler who has gained unique access to Paul over the years and actually just spoke to him today.

Jennifer, what did he have to say?

JENNIFER HANSLER, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Well, Bianna, he really was pushing President Biden to do everything he can to bring him home after this five-year mark. He called on the president to take every resource available as if it was his own son who had been taken hostage. He also told me how much today has impacted as you describe it incredibly difficult for a number of reasons. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) PAUL WHELAN, DETAINED AMERICAN IN RUSSIA: It's difficult because most of the people in the camp realize that today is the five-year anniversary. Ad so they've been asking me questions about what the government is doing or not doing. You know, I have photographs of my dog and my family, friends, I took those out. I was looking at them and that, you know, is sometimes bittersweet. It is a typical day here in the slave labor factory.


HANSLER: And, of course, he has also expressed concerns, Bianna, that he will not make it home to see his parents who are in their 80s. He has already lost friends, his beloved pets that he references there. Today it's a very difficult day and he's described it as surreal, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Where does his case standard right now?

HANSLER: Well, there's been very little tangible progress on his case. We know the U.S. put forward a proposal to free both Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, the detained "Wall Street Journal" reporter to the Russians in recent months. The Russians rejected that proposal.

We know the U.S. is still working on the case to try and bring both of these men home. They say this is something they are working on day by day. Secretary Blinken said they will not rest until they see Whelan and other wrongfully detainees come home. But as of now, the Russians are not playing well on this.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, as you mentioned, there's a trend here of Russian detaining citizens from their adversaries. I mean, "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich, Alsu Kurmasheva, an American journalist from Radio Free Europe who also holds Russian citizenship is being wrongfully detained by Russian.

Talk about the stakes of this at this point.

HANSLER: Well, this is incredibly high stakes. And Russia seems to be taking these American somewhat as political process. We can see the U.S. seeing this trend as well in the way they have designated both Evan and Paul has wrongfully detainees which allows the hostage affairs special envoy to work on their cases, that allows them to have a lot more leverage in terms of trying to negotiate that are all journalists. They said they are still deliberating whether she was wrongfully detained, but it certainly seems to be the trend there.

They are just taking people who have that American passport to try to leverage some start the prisoner swap or other confidence building, something out of the U.S. to try and get the U.S. to bring these people home, Bianna. So, we will watch and see whether they can actually make a deal to bring Evan and Paul back.

GOLODRYG: Yeah, you have been doing such important reporting constantly being in touch with Paul. I know you also have a relationship with his family. How are they doing? HANSLER: Well, this is also obviously a very difficult day for them.

His sister, Elizabeth, said it as if they are standing on the ledge of a cliff looking across the grand canyon and trying to figure out a way to bring her brother home. She says this has taken a financial toll on their family as well. She has made a number of trips to D.C. to meet with officials over the past five years and they have been really strong advocate for their brother and they say they know their efforts underway by the administration to bring him home but it is very difficult to see such little progress to this point -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Again, thank you for all the work you've been doing on this case, Jennifer Hansler.

Up next, sometime flights canceled for a reason. See what happens when one plane tries landing in a swarm.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, stop it.


GOLODRYGA: I think that's exactly how I would react when seeing this. That's an American Airlines jet landing in London yesterday in some serious wind. And aviation fanatic caught the moment on camera. Heavy cross winds shook the plane just before it touched the ground, causing that wild wobbling you see there.

Now, fortunately, aside from a brief scare, maybe a little nausea, everyone was fine, the plane landed safely. Thank goodness.

Well, coming up right after the holidays, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate CNN's Republican presidential debate. That would be on January 10th, just five days before the Iowa caucuses. That debate is live from Des Moines, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

And this weekend, holiday weekend tradition continues right here on CNN. Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen will host their seventh New Year's Eve live. The coverage starts Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern, as they count down to midnight from Times Square.

And if you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to our show wherever you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now in "THE SITUATION ROOM".