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Giuliani Removes Name from Consideration in Trump Admin; Russia: Aleppo Bombing Continues Until Rebels Leave; CDC: Heroin Deaths Surpassed Gun Homicides in 2015; Obama To Sign "21st Century Cures Act"; Lawsuits Accuse 4 Stores Of Pricing Scheme; Feds May Soon Allow In-Flight Calls; Airman's Remains Returned 10 Years Later. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 9, 2016 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, let's talk about the fact that "The Washington Post" is reporting Trump has picked the president and COO of Goldman Sachs as his national economic counsel director.

His pick for treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, worked at Goldman for almost two decades. Obviously, senior strategist Steve Bannon also worked at Goldman Sachs.

Listen to then candidate Trump talking about Ted Cruz vowing that he would still take on Goldman Sachs even after taking a loan from them.


DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, the nice part about me is that I don't have any of that stuff. I don't have it. I'm putting up my own. I'm not into Goldman Sachs. I don't care about Goldman Sachs.


TAPPER: There was a lot of stuff about Goldman Sachs, having to do with Ted Cruz and later on Hillary Clinton.

Salena, you really know Trump supporters well. You have been covering them very well for months and months and months. Do they care? Can Donald Trump flip flop on the Goldman Sachs issue and upset them?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There's very little he can flip flop on. You can to get inside their minds. It wasn't always what he said but how he said it and it was because he was not a politician. And they trust him at this moment.

I mean, there's this sort of, you know, honeymoon period to be able to -- you know, to pick whoever he wants because they trust his decision- making at this point.

TAPPER: He was so anti-Goldman Sachs in his last commercial, he actually had an image of Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs as an international cabal, boogie man.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: All roads lead back to Goldman Sachs and none of us are surprised. If you think about the voters who would be bothered by that or went to Bernie Sanders rallies and somehow brought themselves around to support Donald Trump, they're going to be disappointed in a continuum. What will happen with Trump is, he'll get an excuse here and there, and he'll flip flop here and there.

And if it looks real swampy in a year, including his own business arrangements, then it could suddenly turn on him and people can say this is the system we always had, a new face pretending to have a new system. But this could pile up and become an obvious criticism later on that you always in the end are supporting people from Goldman Sachs and giving them good jobs and influence at the highest levels of government.

TAPPER: We have been talking about Trump's cabinet. Tom Steyer was critical of a couple potential picks there. Do you sense any confirmation problems for any of his picks so far Susan?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: Yes. I think some of them will have problems because there is a vetting process. You don't just name someone to the cabinet. There is an investigative process that goes on that includes Democrats in the Senate as well as Republicans. And some of these figures have never served in public office before. They've never gone through this process before.

I think always we find with a new administration somebody that has a problem we didn't expect and it's very -- turns out to be very daunting. Just think about Tom Daschle. Who would have guessed that Tom Daschle would not have been able to take a job he wanted to take at the beginning of the Obama administration because of something that came out through vetting. But that happened.

TAPPER: I broke that story. And I'll just tell you -- one of the things is he was in trouble was because he had not paid the taxes from this free driver that he got from a rich friend. This is a whole cabinet full of rich guys and gals who I'm sure have lots of favors in there.

ZITO: There's a potential of something like that happening very easily. And I don't -- this is one of those instances where those kinds of things come out, Trump voters are not going to like that. They don't want someone that way. If this person can be someone that can lead the government or can lead the Treasury and help create jobs -- that's fine. But if they are someone who has this sort of entitlement or skirts the law just the way they perceived the Clintons did, then Trump has a problem with his picks.

TAPPER: All right. We'll see what happens. To be continued.

A.B., Susan, Salena, thank you very much. Have a great weekend to all of you.

Russia claims there is a ceasefire under way in Syria. But the scene on the ground, that tells a much different story. We're going to be live in Aleppo, next.


[16:38:19] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We turn now to our World Lead: a death trap in eastern Aleppo, Syria. The United Nations says 100,000 civilians are trapped in the ever shrinking rebel-held enclave as regime forces are making their final push to rest control of the embattled city with relentless bombardment and heavy shelling. Even for those who have managed to escape, their hardships are far from over. Tens of thousands of civilians, many children, many elderly, are now homeless.

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has been in Aleppo for eight days and has this report.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): This is what the Syrian armies alleged halt in fighting looks like in Aleppo. The call to prayer pierced by explosions and gunfire as Bashar al-Assad's forces continue to pound the rebels.

Aid groups like the Red Crescent working around the clock to try to provide help for the growing tide of displaced.

(on camera): Of course the volunteers from the Red Crescent are doing their best to try and keep up with the massive demand for aid here in this district, after it was taken back by the Syrian military. But there are so many people lining up that it's impossible to meet all the needs.

(voice-over): Tens of thousands have already fled eastern Aleppo. Many with only a few belongings they were able to grab trying to get out of the crossfire, now left with almost nothing.

"These are the blankets they gave us," this woman says. "But we're ten people. Do you really think that one blanket per person will be enough?"

These could be the rebels' final days in Aleppo as the Syrian army continues to hit them hard, bringing more weapons like tanks and artillery into position.

[16:40:05] A senior general telling CNN he believes his forces could take the entire city soon. "It won't be long until we get it back", he says. "It might be a matter of weeks but not more than that."

As the international community continues to try to broker a truce for Aleppo, the reality on the ground shows an escalation in the fighting. The Syrian army so close to achieving their goal seemingly unwilling to back down.


TAPPER: Joining us by phone from Aleppo is Fred Pleitgen.

Fred, thanks for joining us. Russia yesterday claimed that the Syrian military was halting all military actions. You're on the ground there. Is that true?

PLEITGEN (via telephone): Well, I don't think that it is ever true, Jake, because we were actually on the ground when that announcement was made and we were still hearing mortars going off right after that announcement was made. And then it was more quiet for a couple of hours, three to four hours, but then overnight, things really started to heating up again. And I have to say, if anything, it has escalated over the course of the day.

You know, we're monitoring the situation for a long time today and we saw a lot of artillery strike, one of mortar fire, going both directions by the way. But then also the use of aircraft and some pretty heavy munitions as well. So, it certainly didn't look as though the fighting is being halted completely at any point in time.

TAPPER: Fred, are there any indications how much longer the rebels will be able to hold out?

PLEITGEN: No. I mean, at this point, it looks like it will be very, very difficult. The influence that they have shrunk dramatically. They're losing ground every day.

The Syrian military right now, they're a little bit slower than they were over the past week. However, they are still making gain. You know, they're also using more and more fire power. So, it becomes difficult for the rebels to hold out.

And, of course, at the same time, you have this mass exodus -- all these people that are fleeing there as well. At some point, it's hard to see how many civilians are actually going to be.

So, right now, the situation for the rebels are becoming more dire and I would say by the hour.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. Please stay safe.

Coming up, a grim milestone, heroin in the United States is now deadlier than gun homicide. That story next.

Plus, can you hear me now? Why your next flight could be a lot more annoying.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: We're back now with our "HEALTH LEAD". The chilling milestone in the growing opioid epidemic across the U.S. For the first time in recent history, opioids killed more Americans than gun homicides. This shocking video shows a Pennsylvania man injecting himself with heroin then overdosing on a bus full of passengers. He turns out to have been one of the lucky ones, he survived but more than 33,000 Americans were not so lucky in 2015.





TAPPER: This heartbreaking video shows the grim reality of this nation's opioid epidemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have a hug?

TAPPER: And new numbers show this grieving family is far from alone.

Raw data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this week, shows opioid deaths were even more common than gun-related homicides in the U.S. in 2015. The number of victims now surpassing 30,000 for the first time in known history.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're seeing some of these synthetic drugs that are 50 to 100 times more powerful than we've seen even in the recent past, in addition to giving this sort of euphoric effect that people feel. It can also suppress your drive to breathe, your respiratory system, and that's where it becomes so deadly.

TAPPER: And that's not including this year when just one American town rushed to save 26 overdosed victims in a single afternoon in August, and 27th died.

GUPTA: You're seeing people from all different parts of the country, different socioeconomic classes, and I think a large part of that has to do again with the fact that so many of these at least new heroin addicts start off with what may be a legitimate pain pill prescription.

TAPPER: And the problem is far reaching, effecting young and old. In Ohio, police released these images of a grandmother and her friend passed out after allegedly using heroin in their van, as their grandson looked on. That grandmother was recently sentenced to 180 days in jail. Shocking video shared on social media may have helped bring attention to the growing problem.

RONALD HIERS, RECOVERING ADDICT: We went to catch the bus. And it caught up with us.

TAPPER: Ronald Heirs and his wife overdosed on a Memphis sidewalk in October. Bystanders capturing the scene on their cell phones.

HIERS: I found myself unable to put the heroin back. It's devastation, it's pain, it's anguish.

TAPPER: Heirs is now in treatment, but for him and so many others, captured collapsing on buses or passed out next to their children in a store aisle, the path to recovery is long and sometimes seemingly impossible. GUPTA: When you start thinking about the fact that this is an

addiction, it sort of leads to this conclusion, certainly, among many of the medical community that the treatment of the root cause here, the brain disease, is going to be one of the more effective ways to try and treat this.

TAPPER: This month, congress passed legislation that gives $1 billion to the nation's drug treatment efforts.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's called the 21st Century Cures Act. It will make real investments this year to combat the heroin and prescription drug epidemic that's plaguing so many of our communities.

TAPPER: President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law next week, but for the foreseeable future, families affected by drug addiction will hope that these hard to watch videos might make a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe in the future when somebody tries to offer him something, maybe my son will think about this, and see what it did to his family, see what it did to his mother.

TAPPER: Today's "MONEY LEAD" now, and it may have you questioning items on your holiday shopping list. A series of new lawsuits claimed that four of the biggest U.S. retailers are using deceptive pricing to advertise their sales.

The Los Angeles City attorney filed cases against Macy's, J.C. Penney, Sears and Kohl's. The lawsuits allege that the stores are falsely claiming markdowns to make customers feel as if they're getting great deals.

One example called out of Sterling silver pendants, necklace at Macy's. Original price $120, Sale price $30. It turns out, of course, that according to prosecutors, the store never sold that item for $120.

We went searching for the necklace online today. It's still listed as originally offered at 120 bucks. It's now been marked down to $22.50. CNN reached out to all four retailers for comment. J.C. Penney, Sears, and Kohl's said they would not comment pending the litigation. We have yet to hear from Macy's.

Imagine being stuck on a cross-country flight next to someone talking on his or her cell phone, the entire time. Well, that soon could become a reality. Federal regulators are proposing allowing inflight calls using Wi-Fi, but the individual airlines could still ban the calls and would have to inform customers if it's a gabbing or non- gabbing flight. The Department of Transportation still plans to weighs public opinion before moving forward.

Some frequent flyers are concerned that phone calls will be disruptive, and the president of the Association of Flight Attendants says voice calls are reckless and a threat to aviation security. Others might find them incredibly annoying. 10 years ago, Major Troy Gilbert was killed in Iraq. Why the remains of this American hero are just now returning home? That story next.


TAPPER: Welcome back. Also, in the "NATIONAL LEAD" today, today a salute to an American hero. Major Troy Gilbert and his family after 10 years, they finally have their hero home.

Gilbert was an Air Force fighter pilot in Iraq. He was killed in a 2006 crash while protecting American troops on the ground in Iraq. CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr now tells us about a family that finally after 10 years has some closure.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Ginger Gilbert Ravella, mother of five, has been an Air Force widow for a decade. Now, 10 long years after her husband, Major Troy Gilbert, died in combat in Iraq, his body has come home.

GINGER GILBERT RAVELLA, : I've been waiting for that homecoming for 10 years, and I got it.

STARR: A heartbreaking 10 years during which Troy's body was used in propaganda videos, then a call to Ginger last August.

RAVELLA: And he said Troy's - Troy has been found. And I was -- I was blown away.

STARR: This summer, an Iraqi tribal leader approached U.S. Forces in Iraq. His tribe had the flight gear and body of Troy, and they wanted to give it back.

His F-16 crashed on November 27th, 2006. At the time, U.S. Special Operations Forces on the ground were in imminent danger.

RAVELLA: He was singlehandedly taking out the enemy and saving our guys.

STARR: General David Goldfein, currently head of the Air Force headed the investigation into Gilbert's death 10 years ago.

DAVID GOLDFEIN, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE GENERAL AND CHIEF OF STAFF: He was so intensely focused on taking that target out, saving American lives that he didn't give himself enough room for recovery.

STARR: Ginger received this photo. It's an image taken from a drone watching the battle just 30 seconds before he crashed.

RAVELLA: You can see him in this, right here.

STARR: The investigation found Gilbert was flying low using his guns to make sure he didn't inadvertently bomb the U.S. personnel on the ground. RAVELLA: He took out the first truck. And on the second pass flying,

you know, maybe 500, 600 miles per hour, 250 feet above the ground crashed.

STARR: Among Gilbert's personal items returned, knee pads with dirt from Iraq still on them. A barely recognizable digital camera with a prestine memory card. On it, this final photo taken long before anyone heard of selfies.

RAVELLA: I do believe that he knew he was risking his life, and I believe he wasn't thinking about his own life at that point. I believe he was solely focused on saving theirs.

TROY GILBERT, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE MAJOR: I love you guys. Sorry I can't be there -

STARR: This video recorded just before he died.

GILBERT: I can't wait to get home. I know it's going to be just a couple more weeks before I'm there. So, I will stay safe and I will stay healthy and I want you, guys, to do the same.

STARR: There have been two funerals already. One in 2006, one in 2013 when Gilbert's small portions of remains were returned. Now, a chance finally to lay him to rest properly. Some of the special operators Troy saved are expected to attend a final funeral. So will his five children, including twin girls who were six-months old when he died.

RAVELLA: What greater gift could we be given this Christmas than to have their dad home. That's all - that's all we needed.

STARR: Barbara Starr, CNN, Washington.


TAPPER: Major Troy Gilbert's third and final funeral is set for December 19th at Arlington National Cemetery. Rest in peace, hero. Tune in tonight for an hour-long special, "CNN'S SUPERHERO: ABOVE AND BEYOND. It all starts at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. And then, this Sunday, 10 everyday heroes come together for "THE 10TH ANNUAL CNN HEROES: ALL- STAR TRIBUTE". Watch the live event Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Be sure to tune in this Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION". I'll sit down exclusively with Vice President Joe Biden for an exit interview. It's only on CNN at 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon Eastern. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. Have a great weekend. I turn you now over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Happening now, "BREAKING NEWS", out of the running, Rudy Giuliani no longer being considered by Donald -