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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Target Sued Over Hacking; Judging Diversity; Target at Center of Legal Bulls-Eye; Civil Rights Leaders Upset Over Obama Nominees

Aired December 23, 2013 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: All they want is Christmas with their little girl.

I'm Dana Bash. And this is THE LEAD.

The national lead, a family hoping for a Christmas miracle will now get a second opinion after a young teen goes in for routine surgery and comes out brain-dead. But is it already sadly too late? We're talking to the girl's devastated mother.

Also in national news, civil rights leaders call out President Obama, saying his picks for the Georgia bench could set back voting rights for years. Civil rights icon the Reverend Joseph Lowery joins us.

And the world lead. Pope Francis tells the Holy See that this isn't an episode of "The View." Stop talking and start serving this Christmas.

I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper.

We begin with the national lead and something any parent can identify with, a relentless fight to keep your child alive.

Just hours ago, a California family won the latest in a series of legal battles to keep a 13-year-old girl on life support. Even though doctors have said Jahi McMath is brain-dead with no chance of recovery, a court agreed to let an independent medical expert examine the girl and determine whether she can still pull through.

And according to the family's attorney, the court also ruled Jahi can stay on life support at least through Christmas. Two weeks ago, Jahi underwent one of the most common procedures for kids, a tonsillectomy at Children's Hospital in Oakland. But something went terribly wrong. After the surgery, she went into cardiac arrest. Doctors declared her brain-dead, and pushed to take her off life support.

But on Friday, a judge granted a temporary restraining order to keep her alive. McMath's mother says she hasn't given up on Jahi and doctors shouldn't either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAILAH WINKFIELD, MOTHER OF JAHI: The doctors think they know everything, but if they knew everything, then my daughter wouldn't be brain-dead right now. So that's why I just lean on God and say whatever you want to do with her, I will let you do it, but I won't let Children's Hospital do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Today, one of the -- actually, the chief of pediatrics for the hospital released a statement in support of the court's ruling to allow an independent examination of Jahi.

The statement also reads -- quote -- "We have the deepest sympathy for Jahi's mother, who wishes her daughter was alive, but the ventilator cannot reverse the brain death that has occurred and it would be wrong to give false hope that Jahi will ever come back to life."

Joining me now is Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, and uncle Omari Sealey.

Thank you both for joining us at this extremely difficult time.

And, Nailah, I want to start with you. As a mother, I can't even imagine what you're going through. You bring your child into the hospital for something that is supposed to be so routine. So many kids go through tonsillectomies. And this is what happened. She's brain-dead. Can you answer the question that so many of us are asking? How could this happen?

WINKFIELD: I honestly don't know how it could happen, because I never pictured that it would happen because she was supposed to come home the next day.

But just from what I have seen, the way my daughter bled after her surgery, I really believe that had a lot to do with it. And it happened in front of my face, which is what hurts so bad because I feel like there was not enough urgency with her bleeding.

It's very hard to even just think about, because the picture of it that I see in my head, I will see that picture of her bleeding like that forever.

BASH: When you say bleeding, I mean, obviously the hospital had to give you some reason they think that your daughter went into cardiac arrest just having a tonsillectomy. What reason are they giving you?

WINKFIELD: They have not given me a reason yet why she went into cardiac arrest.

They haven't even given me a reason for her bleeding. They haven't given me a reason that they couldn't stop the bleeding. Only thing that they keep pushing for me is to get her off of the ventilator. But they have not yet given me a reason for those things and why did they happen.

BASH: Now, today, you did win hope in court at least to keep your daughter on life support through Christmas. And, of course, you also got the ability to have an independent doctor come in, because, so far, she's just been looked at by the doctors at Children's Hospital in Oakland. Are you able to choose this doctor? And, frankly, are you genuinely expecting to have a different answer from this outside doctor than you have gotten from people inside the hospital where she is?

WINKFIELD: No, I was not able to choose the doctor.

I guess the judge chose who the doctor would be. As long as the doctor was not affiliated with Children's Hospital -- and the first five doctors they gave us were affiliated with Children's Hospital -- so the judge looked at that and was gracious enough to give us one that's not affiliated with them.

I don't know what the outcome will be when this next doctor looks at her. Like I said, I'm not God. I don't know. But, hopefully, she will have some type of brain activity, because I'm starting to see signs of improvement for her.

BASH: What signs are you seeing?

WINKFIELD: Well, there's -- we look on her respirator, and there's this line that shows the machine breathing for her, and it's green. And it usually stays at 15 all the time. But we were told by the nurses if it goes above 15 or if the line starts to turn pink, that means she's taking her own breaths.

And for the past few days, we have been seeing the lines turning pink and we have been seeing the numbers going up. And I always ask the nurse just to be sure, like, is this signs of my daughter taking trying to take her own breath? And they come in and they take a look and they all told me yes. But that's it. They never want to give you any type of hope, but this is some of the first times I have seen this so I actually even pulled out my phone and started to record it.

And they say what they're looking for is a consistency in the numbers going up and in the line staying pink. But I'm thinking that's an improvement just showing her taking her own breath, because they told me, without a brain, you can't take your own breath. Well, she's trying, so there's something in there that's working.

BASH: Now, Omari, you have been very critical of the hospital in the way that they dealt with your family and have been trying to explain to you from their perspective that they don't want to give you false hope, and that it is time to take your niece off of life support. Describe some of that.

OMARI SEALEY, UNCLE OF JAHI: I mean, it's a lack of faith, it's a lack of compassion.

I mean, they see how hard we're fighting for this little girl, and to keep her on life support. And it's not even about giving false hope. They didn't even want to give us any type of alternative opportunities or options. And that was one of the things we were so upset about, is the fact that before we could even explore any other opportunities or options to us, they were already trying to get us out the door and unplug her. BASH: Now, Nailah, now that you have gotten agreement from a judge to allow an independent medical expert to come in, if that expert has the same conclusion that the doctors at Children's have, that she is brain-dead and she will not come out of her coma, what will you do? Will you then make the very, very difficult decision to take your daughter off of life support?

WINKFIELD: No. I won't. I will not -- I will not stop fighting for Jahi, because, like I said, I see signs of improvement. I really feel that my child needs time to heal. Any time somebody gets injured in some type of way, even if it's minor, they need some time to heal. And I feel like that's what she needs.

And it was like as soon as they determined her to be brain-dead, they wanted her off immediately. I'm like how can she heal if you're trying to hurry up and take her off? I just feel like she needs time to heal. I'm her mother. I'm going to support her. It's my job to do it. Any mother would do it.

I just want her to have more time. There are so many stories of people waking up in her situation and waking up fully functional, and even if it's not fully functional, they still woke up and are still able to be loved and looked after by their family members. So what makes my daughter so different? What makes her the one that just won't wake up? So I keep praying for her and I have faith.

BASH: Well, we all are praying for her. Again, as a mother, I hear where you're coming from and I wish you all the luck in the world. And I understand that you are all going to gather with her on Christmas Day and celebrate with her in her hospital room on Christmas Day. So she will hopefully feel the love and the warmth around from all of you, the way you're fighting for her.

Thank you both. Nailah Winkfield and Omari Sealey, thank you for joining us.

Now back to another national story. The rest of the country is dealing with ice and snow and monsoon-like rains and tornadoes. While they're dealing with that, some of us East Coasters are walking around in shorts and T-shirts. Looks kind of like maybe they're in a Corona commercial.

But these record high weather temperatures are not going to last very long. We should say bye-bye to those. A cold blast of winter weather is taking its grip, and that could mean near freezing temperatures as early as tonight.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BASH: Coming up next on THE LEAD: looking for compensation after being exposed. Several customers sue Target for failing to protect their information, but will the thieves ever be caught?

Plus, you have an extra day to shop. No, don't get excited. It's not for Christmas. The White House just issued a last-minute extension for signing up for Obamacare just hours before the deadline. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In our money lead, stock markets closed today on another record high. Is it all about holiday cheer, or is there something more to it?

Let's bring CNN business correspondent Jane -- Zain Asher, rather.

And, Zain, let me just guess. It's because Congress is gone for the year and the stock market is thrilled?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at least all that uncertainty is out of the way.

BASH: Exactly.

ASHER: But this is traditionally what Wall Street likes to call a Santa Claus rally. December is traditionally a very good month for stocks, the 48th record close for the year.

And, by the way, I have been speaking to analysts who say that we now have the perfect ingredients for a sustained rally on Wall Street. As I mentioned, budget negotiations firmly in the rear-view mirror, all the uncertainty regarding Fed tapering, that is out of the way, strong jobs figures, GDP -- we also did get consumer sentiment today coming in, best reading since July.

The better people feel about the economy, the more it is they are to go out and spend. Obviously, that's crucial for GDP. In terms of company news, Apple shares rising 4 percent on the back of a deal with China Mobile, giving the company potentially access to 700 million new customers in China. So, great news for Apple -- Dana.

BASH: Zain Asher, thank you very much.

ASHER: Of course.

BASH: Well, apparently, a 10 percent discount on pillows isn't enough to smooth over things with millions of Target consumers who had their credit cards and debit cards, all the information on it stolen.

The retail giant is now at the center of a legal bulls-eye after customers filed at least three lawsuits seeking class action status against the chain. One suit claims target failed, quote, "to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature and scope of the information compromised in the data breach."

Now, last week, Target sent a notice to millions of customers who had sensitive information like credit card security codes and expiration dates compromised between November 27th and December 15th.

To make up for it, target offered victims of the breach a 10 percent discount and free credit monitoring. But for some consumers, that just doesn't cut it. Joining me now to talk about this is Shawn Henry.

Shawn Henry, you're an expert on all things security, particularly online security.

In layman's terms, for people out there who use credit and debit cards all the time, how did this happen?

SHAWN HENRY, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI: It's unclear specifically how it may have happened in this particular case. Typically what happens is adversaries are looking at data stored in bulk on servers, and they're looking for any way they can get on to the network and then to suck that data out, which they can quickly turn into financial gain for themselves.

BASH: Now, target learned about this breach weeks before they notified consumers. Why do you think they waited so long?

HENRY: I don't know exactly when they found out about it, but what I can tell you is sometimes when a law enforcement agency is involved, in this particular case, the Secret Service is involved, they may ask the agency to stand by rather than reporting it out because of -- so it doesn't impact the actual lawful investigation.

BASH: Now, I want to hold this up and I will be careful not to show my numbers, but this is what most debit cards in the U.S. look like, right? It has a magnetic strip.

HENRY: That's right.

BASH: My understanding is that, you correct me if I'm wrong, is that this is like 1960s technology, that this is very, very easy to hack into, to copy, and that other countries have more sophisticated technology, chips that are harder to hack into.

HENRY: That's right.

So, many times when we see these types of breaches, it is the magnetic strip data that is taken off and these adversaries, these organized crimes group can take the data and use it to make plastic cards to withdraw money out of ATMs or use it at credit card point of sale devices.

In Europe and other places around the world, the chip device provides a much higher level of security and provides to consumers --

BASH: Why don't we have them? Why do I have this credit card?

HENRY: There's a significant cost to that. It's certainly something that needs to be weighed, what the risk is, what the cost is.

I think now with a breach like this, consumers are going to start to demand that there'd be higher levels of security.

BASH: OK. So I have to admit that I'm a target shopper like so many people out there are, and I get their e-mails, saying, you know, however many hours left before Christmas, and I think twice before I click on the Target Web site now. Is that appropriate? Should I be concerned? Or do you think because they had this breach it's even more secure?

HENRY: You know, this really isn't about target. All retailers are potentially susceptible. There are adversaries, organized crime groups, that are breaching data bases every single day. They are stealing terabytes of data, hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars out of the economy every single day.

I've heard congressional representatives calling for a congressional inquiry of Target. It's not about Target. Congress has known about this problem for years and it's been more than a decade since Congress has provided a substantive bill for the president to sign.

I personally briefed on the Hill many, many times. They know about this.

BASH: So, what do they need to do?

HENRY: They need to actually sit down, recognize what the risk is to this country, to our economy, to our national security, and they need to work out the challenges here. This is a very, very complex issue, but it's something that's got to be done.

Congress knows what the problems are. They've got to sit down and work this out.

BASH: But I guess the point is that, for consumers out there, should they know -- is this really fixable or at least can problems like this be mitigated with some new laws that Congress can pass?

HENRY: Again, this is a very complex issue. There are things that can be done -- information sharing, breach reporting, better collaboration between the private sector and the government. There are a lot of efforts that can be taken that will make the economy much safer. I think consumers need to push their congressional representatives. I think they need to stand up and say enough is enough. We need to do something about this.

BASH: I think 10 percent on pillows is probably not going to help that. So, thank you very much for helping us understand the technology. Appreciate it. Shawn Henry of CrowdStrike joining us.

Now, coming up next on THE LEAD, they fought for equal rights, standing shoulder to shoulder with Martin Luther King, Jr. And now, they're saying the civil rights leader would be disappointed in President Obama.

Plus, Dennis Rodman leaves North Korea and the trip didn't exactly go as planned. Why didn't he meet with his bestie, Kim Jong-un? We'll tell you after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Dana Bash, filling in for Jake Tapper.

Some of the most iconic civil rights leaders are speaking out today against an unlikely opponent, President Obama. The reason: they worry some of his nominees for the federal bench in Georgia will not be supportive enough of the rights they fought so hard to secure, like voting rights. They say some of the president's nominees got through with backroom deals and supported the Georgia voter ID law which many argue suppress minorities from voting in elections.

We're talking big iconic names here like Congressman John Lewis, along with another Medal of Freedom recipients and community leaders. They chose a symbolic place, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, for the news conference in Atlanta and they hit the president where it could hurt him the most, suggesting one of the civil rights icons, the greatest icons, could be disappointed in him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: Martin Luther King, Jr., if he were here this day, he would tell the president not to make these appointments.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Mr. President, the lives of the people of this state are hanging in the balance. We question whether this is the kind of legacy you want to leave in the state of Georgia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And joining me now is another one of the Medal of Freedom recipients who was there at that press conference today, Reverend Joseph Lowery.

Thank you so much for being here.

For people who may not know -- you and Martin Luther King Jr. came up together in the civil rights movement, helped create it. Today, you called the selection of judicial nominees from the first black president insulting. Why?

REP. JOSEPH LOWERY, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Well, for instance, only one of the appointments is African-American. You consider since 1978 when we got the first African-American, Harris Worth (ph), that's all we've had, the three -- total number of three appointments.

That's not fair. That's not judicial. That's not democratic.

So, we're asking the president and we recognize that somebody in his administration has done him a disservice in giving him these names, and he made a mistake in accepting them.

We're asking him to reconsider his appointments and give us a slate of people who are representative of Georgia, particularly the northern district, where we stand, where most African-Americans are located. They only gave us one and for a long, long time, we had none. And we're asking that this group be diverse, they be fair and they be judicial. BASH: Now, you're not just some stranger to the president. You were given the honor of delivering the benediction at his first inauguration.

I want our viewers to listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOWERY: We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, you are essentially blaming shoddy staff work on this. But correct me if I'm wrong, you spoke with the attorney general, Eric Holder, who happens to also be the first black attorney general, you spoke to him directly about your opposition to these nominees. What happened in that conversation?

LOWERY: Yes, I drove to Birmingham in September, when we remembered the four little girls who were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church, and expressed to the attorney general our concern about the lack of diversity and the fact that some of these nominees have questionable records in regard to race and justice in our system. So, we talked to the attorney general, we talked to the senior advisor to the president about this issue, who was going to relay my concern to the president.

So, we were very disappointed when these nominees came forth and we are urging the president to remember that these nominees will be there long after he's retired and we need to make sure that they represent the Georgia that they do represent. And we are asking him to reconsider these appointments.

BASH: You're talking about the federal bench in Georgia, but the White House is pointing out a few important statistics. First of all, that 18 percent of the confirmed judges under President Obama have been African-American compared to 8 percent under President Bush, and 16 percent for Clinton. They also point out that his nominees are much higher, about 50 percent, than President Bush to this date nationally when they're talking about African-Americans.

Isn't that progress?

LOWERY: Well, that's not true in Georgia. We have only had one appointment since he's been president and it hasn't been his fault.

Our senators have held back their support of the president's nominees and that's been the problem, and it's only recently that they agreed to these nominees and we now see why. Some of them have very questionable records in regard to diversity and race in our judicial system, and we want to remind the president that fairness has been a key to his administration and we hope that he will not let his advisors keep him from being fair in these appointments, who will be there long after he has retired. BASH: Now, Reverend Lowery, it's no secret that the president's relationship with the black community has been rocky at times. Is part of what's driving this that expectations are really high, maybe too high, for the president because of the color of his skin?

LOWERY: Well, we think the president has done an excellent job as president. He's been a great president. But on this issue, he is off the mark. And he's allowed his advisors to mislead him.

And we were asking him to get in there and reconsider, to fight hard for justice and fairness. These appointments in these areas are critical. They impact our lives in so many ways. For example, recently the federal judiciary overturned the Voting Rights Act, and we are now facing a challenge to restore the voting guarantees that are listed in the Constitution.

So, that it's very important and we urge the president to reconsider these appointments for fairness and diversity.

BASH: Reverend Joseph Lowery, thank you very much for joining us. We'll keep on this story.

LOWERY: Thank you.

BASH: Now, coming up on THE LEAD: Dennis Rodman, he's out of North Korea. Did he bring a message from Kim Jong-un?

And it's the pope's first Christmas. What can we expect from a man who celebrated his birthday with the homeless? Our world lead is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)