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McConnell Rejects Calls for Russian Hacking Select Committee; Obama Works on Key Legacy Issues; Trump Dines with Mexico's Carlos Slim; More Officials Charged in Flint Water Crisis; Terror Victim Families Sue Facebook, Google, Twitter; Officials Release FBI Search Warrant for Weiner/Clinton. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired December 20, 2016 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I know Republicans are like, get over it, your woman lost, but at the same time, the Russia hacks are thrusting the whole thing into the spotlight.
Manu Raju, let's talk about Capitol Hill.
Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, rejecting calls for a select committee to investigate the alleged Russian hacking. What does that mean for the investigation?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well it means it's unlikely the special panel that John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer have been pushing for, it's unlikely the panel will be established and the reason why those Senators have been asking for this committee to come forward is they want something in a high- profile nature like the Watergate Committee, even like the House Republican committee that was established to investigate the Benghazi attack. Something in a visible forum and have different members involved.
But what Mitch McConnell wants to do is have that investigation happen through the Senate Intelligence Committee and they have access, of course, to all the intelligence but those hearings will happen behind closed doors so some critics say this is an effort to shield Donald Trump from a distraction in his opening days of Congress.
But, Brooke, there will still be a vote on the Senate floor to try to establish that select committee. In order to do that, though, you need 60 votes that means Democrats need to join with Republicans, 12 Republicans need to join hands with Democrats and having Mitch McConnell and other members like Susan Collins of Maine opposed to this idea will be difficult.
BALDWIN: As for the president of the United States, Julie, he's been busy granting clemency to a record number of people, working behind the scenes to transfer inmates out of Guantanamo Bay, and now he may use federal law to close more areas of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to drilling.
I've lost track on how many days he has left in office, but what is this about? Is this legacy building? Final moments? What do you think? JULIE PACE, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: He's
got about 31 or 32 days left in office before Trump's inauguration. What you're seeing him do is on the clemency piece, in particular, this is something he's taken personally and has really stepped up over the last year or so. So, you're seeing him $, try to get as many people pardoned as possible. On Gitmo, it doesn't appear as though Obama is going to be able to close Gitmo over the next month but he wants to draw down the population to a point where it's financially unfeasible to keep this whole facility up and running for 40 detainees. He wants to put the pressure on Trump, on Republicans to say how can we keep spending this money to keep the facility open.
BALDWIN: He's with his family in Hawaii. The president-elect is in Palm Beach with the family vacationing. "Vacationing," I say, quote/unquote. He did just have dinner with someone special.
But before we go there, Ryan Lizza, let's remember what he said about Carlos Slim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRSEIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Carlos Slim, as you know, comes from Mexico. He's given many millions of dollars to the Clintons and their initiative. So, Carlos Slim, largest donor of the paper from Mexico.
Reporters at "The New York Times," they're not journalists. They're corporate lobbyists for Carlos Slim and for Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Well, it turns out, apparently, according to reports, that Mr. Trump had dinner, right, with Carlos Slim, the Mexican gazillionaire. What does that tell us about relations with the U.S. and Mexico?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Frankly, every time he makes peace with someone he attacked it's a healthy sign. Jeff Bezos, the owner of the "Washington Post," he had him at this meeting at Trump tower and he lit into Jeff Bezos the same way he lit into Carlos Slim, the two most important financiers of the two most important newspapers in the country and frankly one of the major vindictive and always seeks retribution against people he doesn't like. So, the fact he's breaking bread, maybe making peace, I think that's a healthy sign. The same way that his relationship with Obama, the fact they're getting along, is a good sign for -- not to be too grandiose, but for our democracy.
On the flip side, it suggests maybe you can't take everything so seriously when he's on the campaign trail and he has a bright line between what you say and do to get elected and what you say and do once you're in office.
RAJU: And, Brooke, it also shows -
BALDWIN: Go ahead, Manu. RAJU: -- that what people say that there's a private side of Donald Trump and the public side of Donald Trump. That private Donald Trump known to be pragmatic, to listen to folks when he meets behind the scenes, much different than what he says publicly. The question is, what will he do as president when he starts pushing his agenda? How much will we see the public Donald Trump or how much will the private Donald Trump shine through when he starts to talk to members of Congress and get his agenda through into law.
[14:35:24] BALDWIN: That's a great point.
And what he said about "The New York Times" in that soundbite, then all the news he made, sitting at the table on Ninth Avenue with "The New York Times."
LIZZA: When he called it "The Jewel," right?
BALDWIN: With "The Jewel." Complimenting "The New York Times," so TBD.
Julie, Ryan, and Manu, if I don't see you again, happy holidays. Thank you all.
BALDWIN: Up next, more charges filed for four members of the Flint Michigan government as part of this ongoing water crisis. Could they end up behind bars?
Plus, suing Twitter and Facebook. Victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, they say the social networks are partly to blame for the massacre. Do they have a case?
BALDWIN: It has been more than a year since people in Michigan learned there was poison flowing through their pipes. Now the list of city officials and state officials charged in the crisis is growing longer. Today, Michigan's attorney general charged four more people with conspiring to operate Flint's water treatment plant even though the plant wasn't equipped to purge lead from water flowing to more than 30,000 households. Two of the officials are former emergency managers appointed by the state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL SCHUETTE, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Flint deserves better. The people of Flint are not expendable so to move on is unacceptable. People in positions of responsibility who broke the law must be held accountable.
[14:40:14] BALDWIN: CNN's Sara Ganim is on with me on these officials facing charges.
Walk me through this.
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is important. These are the two highest-ranking officials that have been charged so far of 13 people. These two directly reported to the governor. They were in charge of making all decisions for the city of Flint because it was in financial ruin.
BALDWIN: A huge deal.
GANIM: It is a huge deal. The investigation is continuing after this. So, you heard the attorney general say they're not done. They're going to keep going, keep following the facts.
He also talked about what happened today being something that goes to financial motive for why the water was switched to the city of Flint. We've always had as an open question, why do this? He talks about how this became more about balance sheets than people. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUETTE: All too prevalent and very evident during the course of this investigation has been a fixation on finances and balance sheets. This fixation has cost lives. This fixation came at the expense of protecting the health and safety of Flint. It's all about numbers over people, money over health.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANIM: The allegations are these four people conspired together and lied to the state Treasury Department to get millions of dollars in bonds to the city of Flint to pay for this pipeline that was going to bring in new water. That started the ball rolling down a very bad hill in which they had to then switch the water because the pipeline wasn't ready. And they didn't treat it properly, but they wanted to treat the water in Flint and not buy it anymore from the city of Detroit. They didn't treat it properly. It led to lead poisoning and Legionnaires' disease, which killed 10 people in Flint.
BALDWIN: If we're talking high-ranking officials, what has been the response to that from the city's mayor?
GANIM: They have said they want this investigation to go as far as it can go. They're called for the governor to be arrested since the beginning. Of course, the attorney general has always said nobody is a target but nobody is off the table. They're following the facts.
I have to say, this investigation has moved quickly. I mean, they began investigating the beginning of this year. They've already charged 13 people, and each and every time they tick up that ladder. And they've said they're treating it like a mob investigation. You don't start at the top, you start at the bottom, you work your way up.
GANIM: And the interesting thing watching this play out is everyone sort of has an excuse. I didn't know. I was given bad information. A lot of finger pointing.
BALDWIN: Not acceptable.
GANIM: And we're seeing they're holding these people to their actions and their words.
BALDWIN: Good. Stay on it.
Sara Ganim, thank you very much.
Three families who lost loved ones in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history are suing Facebook, Twitter and Google. They're in a civil suit involving the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The families of Javier Reyes (ph), Juan Ramon Guerrier (ph) and Tevin Crosby (ph) claim the companies help spread ISIS propaganda that ultimately helped radicalize the shooter, who ultimately died in a shootout with police after killing those 49 young people in that club.
Joining me is Keith Altman. He represents the families. And he also represents the family of an American student killed in the Paris terror attacks.
Keith, thank you for being with me.
KEITH ALTMAN, ATTORNEY: Good afternoon, Brooke. How are you today?
BALDWIN: I'm doing well.
I read through this story multiple times because -- as I have grasped this, the families are suing Facebook, Twitter and Google, not just because they believe that's what helped spread terrorist propaganda in Orlando, but that you're arguing that these social media, Google, pair content with advertising and are profiting. And you say that's not OK. Is that correct?
ALTMAN: That's true. At my firm, 1-800-lawfirm, we've been looking at this for some time. The reality is these social media sites provide a platform to ISIS to conduct terrorist operations, recruitment, operational commands, et cetera, things like that. In addition, they profit by placing ads on terrorist postings.
Now what is different about this lawsuit is that we have alleged that not only do they just place an ad, but the ad is particularly selected for the viewer based upon what it is you're looking bat.
BALDWIN: These are the algorithms. So, when I'm on my Facebook page searching for X, when I'm on Facebook, I see X on the right side of the screen. This is all part of what you're saying?
[11:45:10] ALTMAN: Exactly. So, when they take the ad and the posting and they put it together for you, they're creating new content. That isn't simply passing through particular content. It's like if you have two individuals who write statements, you take a sentence from one, take the difference the other and put them together. You can give a message that's completely different than what either one said and you didn't write one word of it. That's what's going on here.
BALDWIN: So, then, Keith, what is the goal here for these families, other than perhaps money or damages? What do they want Facebook, Twitter, or Google to stop doing?
ALTMAN: They want these companies to act responsibly and reasonably just like what is expected of every one of us.
BALDWIN: Define "act responsibly" because that's nebulous.
ALTMAN: Sure. Well act responsibly in doing what you can reasonably do to prevent ISIS from using your tools. There is no question that these companies are aware that ISIS is using these tools. There are many things that these companies could be doing to help mitigate or limit the ability of is to use the tools and they choose not to do them.
BALDWIN: And I know they say -- just to jump in with -- Twitter is saying they delete thousands and thousands of accounts but that same person who has nefarious intentions jumps back on and creates a new profile. That's part of the problem.
ALTMAN: They don't just create a new profile. As you'll see in our plate. There's a guy, Dreadform 146, he touts that's the 146th version of his account. They've taken him down 145 times. You mean to tell me you couldn't figure out he's psyching the name? But more importantly the first thing he does when he creates his new account is he sends out friend cans to the people he was connected to. So, it's like weed whacking, if you don't cut the roots out, the next day you have dandelions. You have to take the roots out.
BALDWIN: I was thinking "Whack a Mole," but it's challenging, social media has changed everything.
Keith Altman, thank you so much.
ALTMAN: Thank you for having me.
BALDWIN: Coming up next, it was one of the October surprises, the director of the FBI announcing he was investigating newly discovered Hillary Clinton e-mails of her campaign days before the election. She says it's partly to blame for her loss. Today, we learned what the FBI was actually looking for and how it involves disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Plus, they have been looking in the wrong place all along. An update on the search for missing jet MH-370. If they're looking in the wrong place, where should they be looking? We'll talk to Richard Quest coming up.
[14:50:59] BALDWIN: We have breaking news in the deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. I can tell you now that ISIS is claiming it inspired the driver who plowed the truck through the streets packed with holiday revelers. And ISIS-affiliated media cites a security source's statement saying the attack was carried out by a, quote/unquote, "soldier of the Islamic State." This is according to a U.S. organization tracking jihadi websites. We'll much more on this hunt for a suspect. They released the person they thought could have been behind the wheel because of a lack of forensic matching. We'll have that at the top of the hour.
Let's move on. We have new details in the case of Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server. Federal prosecutors today released a search warrant the FBI used to gain access to Anthony Weiner's laptop. You remember this. The now-estranged husband of top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, the former congressman. This was because of the investigation into his sexting scandal. The issue of Hillary Clinton's private e- mail server was back in the national spotlight 11 days before the presidential election.
So, let's discuss these details with our justice correspondent, Evan Perez.
Evan Perez, what did you find?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPODNENT: Brooke, we have more information from the documents that were released by the federal court, by a judge in the southern district of New York. We know that the FBI said it was trying to do a search of a silver Dell laptop, which was owned by Anthony Weiner. And we know one of the things they told the judge they were looking for, they were looking to see whether or not they might find any persons who might have tried to classified information that was contained on this laptop.
And secondly, we're trying to see if there was hackers, that might have committed an intrusion according to these documents. That's what they said they were looking for. And what they said is there was reasonable us suspicion, probable cause to believe there was information contained on this laptop. We don't know we found anything that was new.
We know from talking to sources it appears mostly what they found was stuff they reviewed before. There were 30,000 e-mails that the FBI had gone through so it appears to be mostly that.
The document does have a lot of redactions. You can see a bunch of stuff blacked out, so we don't know what's contained in those paragraphs. But what it does do, Brooke, is it reminds us that there's still these unanswered questions about why the FBI did this. On October 28, the director a letter to Congress telling everybody in essence that the FBI was taking a new look at these newly discovered e-mails. That was 11 days before the election. Then, we know two days before the election, on the Sunday, he sent another letter to Congress saying, never mind, we didn't find anything here we hadn't seen before.
So, again, those questions remain unanswered and we still don't know, Brooke, how these e-mails ended up on Anthony Weiner's computer -- Brooke?
BALDWIN: I can still remember the day that I was doing the show live from Florida when you broke the news and that it had to do with the sexting scandal and I almost didn't believe you.
Evan Perez, thank you very much.
[14:54:16] BALDWIN: Coming up next, it has been nearly three years since MH-370 disappeared. Investigators have deduced that, in fact, they've been looking in the wrong place. We'll tell you where they're looking now with Richard Quest.
BALDWIN: Here's a problem in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines jet. A new report from the Australian government suggest teams looking for MH-370 have almost certainly been looking in the wrong place. The flight vanished nearly three years ago. It was a routine flight from Malaysia to China. Nearly 20 pieces of debris have been found on African islands. It's the more recently discovered debris that's leading experts to recommend an entirely new search area.
I want to bring if Richard Quest, "CNN Money" editor-at-large, CNN aviation correspondent, wrote an entire book on this plane.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIAGTION CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS & AUTHOR: So what this report basically says is that, yes, they've been looking in the wrong area of this particular part of the ocean. They had a box -- well, we can see.
BALDWIN: There we go.
QUEST: Here we are. This is where the indicative area where they've been searching so far. Now, they -- they're now saying if you look at three important things, firstly, the satellite data, secondly, the drift models from the debris they found and, thirdly, the searches they've already done, it suggests it's more likely to be up here.
BALDWIN: That's not too far away.
QUEST: So, yes, they're in the wrong area but the right part of the world and the reality -- I can hear the critics say, well, we always knew they were in the wrong place. No, they're only able to say it's up here with the hindsight --
QUEST: -- of having searched and two-years-worth of research.
BALDWIN: Will they keep searching?
QUEST: That's the question. The research is clear. Absolutely, the research says they need to search these 25,000-square kilometers further to the north. It will be up to governments of China, Australia and Malaysia to see if they will pay for that search. My own view, having read this report, it's going to be impossible for
them to say quit today. They'll have to search the further area and they should.
BALDWIN: They should. All those families.
BALDWIN: Richard Quest, thank you.
QUEST: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Let's continue.
Top of the hour. We begin with breaking news here. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.
Let's begin with the fact, it was an act straight out of the ISIS play book, this truck plowing through a crowd of people. Now the terror group has just released a statement saying it inspired the attack. Talking about what happened in Berlin a little over 24 hours ago. Calling the driver a, quote, "soldier of the Islamic State." This is according to a U.S. group that tracks jihadi websites.