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Sources: Trump Picking Tillerson As Secy. Of State; Trump Supporters On Campus Wants 'Safe Spaces'; White Nationalist Back on Twitter; Trump Dismisses U.S. Intelligence on Russian Hacking; JonBenet Ramsey Murder Case. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired December 12, 2016 - 23:00   ET



[23:01:04] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news to start at the top of the hour. Donald Trump is picking Exxon Mobil CEO, Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. That's his nominee.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Trump's choice is unconventional but isn't that what we all come to expect from the president-elect? Plus, Trump firing off Twitter tirades against his critics. Will it have a chilling effect on those who disagree with him? And Trump voters on one college campus calling for safe spaces to allow them to express their views as it come to this is free speech under fire. Also the, the murder of Jonbenet Ramsey. What the people closest to the investigation think really happened?

We'll get to all of that but I want to start with CNN's Phil Mattingly live for us at Trump Tower this evening. There is some big news, Phil, good evening by the way, on the transition tonight. Donald Trump is picking Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. What more can you tell us?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Don. Tomorrow morning, the president-elect will announce who his top diplomat will be and it will be as you know, Rex Tillerson, the Exxon CEO.

Now, here's how this all happened. The president-elect and Rex Tillerson didn't actually didn't actually have a relationship prior to this process according to Trump transition officials. This was actually driven in large part by three people, the recommendations of Robert Gates, of James Baker and Condoleezza Rice. All people obviously with very, very well-regarded in the foreign policy community, who people who recommended the president-elect should sit down and have a conversation with Rex Tillerson.

From that point, I'm told the two men hit it off. They had similar world views. They had similar business backgrounds, deal making backgrounds. And in those conversations, it was where the president- elect kind of reached a level of comfort with Rex Tillerson than he simply hadn't with anybody else. And because of that, he's now reached a point where he's going to name the CEO of the oil giant, Exxon, to the Secretary of State position tomorrow.

Now what does that mean for the other candidates besides the fact that obviously they want be selected. Mitt Romney taking to Facebook this evening to say it was an honor to have been considered for the Secretary of State position and saying he had very high hopes for this administration.

Now, his willingness to even be involved in the process in the first place, Don, as we all know was a shock based on what we saw during the primary process. During the general election process, it was a shock that the president-elect who values loyalty so highly was willing to bring Mitt Romney in at all. The two did have a phone conversation this evening where the president-elect expressed his sincere thanks for Mitt Romney participating in this process. He said he hope to have his council going forward. Clearly the two coming out of this process thinking much highly -- much higher of one another perhaps than they had did throughout the entire process but Rex Tillerson will be the selection.

The big question now is, what is the plan for the Trump transition operation going forward to secure this nomination's eventual confirmation? There are obviously Democrats who are wary of Rex Tillerson's business backgrounds but there are also have been Republicans very wary of his connections to Russia, in particular his business connections to Vladimir Putin. Because of his role in Exxon, he has those connections. Already, senators like John McCain, like Marco Rubio have expressed concern about those connections. Those connections will need to be addressed not just nor that confirmation, but just to even get through the committee process, Don.

LEMON: And, well, Donald Trump is postponing his scheduled press conference announcing his plans to unwind his business interest. Why this delay?

MATTINGLY: They're not ready is kind of the short and sweet answer to it. The reality is the president-elect has been focused, if you talk to his advisers on his cabinet picks, on his personnel picks. And certainly, that's been evidenced by these constant stream of people who have been going in and out of Trump Tower behind me over the last couple of weeks. But this is an extremely important process. This is a crucial process to what his presidency will actually look like, how he's going to separate the very real conflicts of interest that his business brings to the table every single day.

[23:05:01] Now, it was the president-elect who announced this news conference, the president-elect who made a very big deal about this December 15th announcement with specifics about how he was going to separate himself from his business. That will no longer be happening. Adviser say, "Look, they simply weren't ready. This is a very complicated process. We have never seen a president-elect, Don, come to office with this many potential conflicts, with this kind of wide array of business interest and they simply haven't finalized the structure yet to remove the president-elect operationally and also to pass down the business to his children.

Of course, the big question is, even if he takes himself out of the operational duties, even if he hands it to his children, will the conflicts of interest disappear? The short answer is most likely no. And because of that fact, there are actually some concerns inside the Trump operation about if the president-elect is willing to go as far as he should. Those concerns coupled with the fact that the lawyers aren't there yet mean this will be postponed until January. No news conference and there hasn't been one since July 27th and no announcement about those business dealings, business dealings that have raised major concerns about conflicts of interests not just from Democrats but for Republicans as well, Don.

LEMON: Phil, you're a pro, I don't know who was talking loudly around you, but I would have surely have lost my concentration and you kept right on going. Thank you for that. I appreciate it.

Now I want to bring in Todd Gitlin, Columbia University Professor and author of " The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage." Also, CNN Political Commentator, Carl Bernstein, and Nationally Syndicated Talk Show Host, Dennis Prager.

Good evening. Thank you all for joining us.

Carl, you first, Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson, getting the nod for Secretary of State. He's very close to Vladimir Putin. Is that a good idea?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It depends on how he performs and what he tells the Senate at his confirmation hearings. There's going to be a lot of problems raised because of the role of the oil companies in terms of carbon emissions, in terms of EPA policies, and then there's also this whole question of the Russians.

The Russians are looming large and larger over the Trump presidency and there are basic questions that need to be answered, especially about perhaps Donald Trump's conflicts of interest in Russia. Does Donald Trump have a lot of loans through his various businesses in Russian hands? His son, Donald Trump Jr. has been kind of Trump's personal ambassador to Russia. This needs to be looked at.

I think one of the things that we're really learning here is Trump is controlling this process of forming his new administration brilliantly with no interest whatsoever in showing us a really open, truthful picture of what he is up to. And that's really our job in the press to develop a story. That has to do with the real truth of what's going on here.

LEMON: Dennis Prager, what do you think of that?

DENNIS PRAGER, NATIONALLY SYNDICATED TALK SHOW HOST: I didn't quite understand the last comment but I understood the previous ones. I don't understand what a truthful open process of appointing your cabinet means. He has told the country who he's considering.

LEMON: I think he's talking about transparency. Yeah.

PRAGER: Well, transparency, what does that -- what does that -- I don't understand what that means. When you pick your cabinet, you pick your cabinet. You -- he has told the people who he's considered. We know everybody or just about everyone I assume that he's met with so I don't see that as an issue.

As for Russia, I would just ask Professor Gitlin. And I mean this quite openly, did it disturb you when the Obama administration did essentially nothing when the Russia annex invaded and annexed part of Ukraine called Crimea. The damage that Russia has done already is significant and the left has been utterly silent. Now when there's no damage done that we can show, we can only anticipate, the left is almost hysterical about Russia's influence on Donald Trump.

TODD GITLIN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: If you're asking me, I'm not the left myself.

LEMON: Yeah. But Professor Gitlin, before you respond to that, let's -- I want to get your assessment, what do you make of Rex Tillerson and to Carl's response as well?

GITLIN: I think this is a man who has one value that he's demonstrated in public life which is the acquisition of reserves to pump more fossil fuel remnants into the atmosphere, to make life increasingly uninhabitable, to make the Earth increasingly uninhabitable. I see him as yet another pick by Trump who likes people like himself, big talkers, powerful, no other values that distract from anything but power. That's who he's comfortable with. They're replicas of himself. And I hope that the media instead of just covering the news, meaning just reporting what his people are saying, I'd like to know how anybody knows that he had a sincere conversation with Mitt Romney.

[23:10:02] But I would like to see some excavation here, and I don't mean of oil, I mean of a very -- of an enormous corporation of which Tillerson has been chief which has immense conflicts, business dealings not only with Russia but with dozens of other countries. It's a private government of its own. And will we actually see some information about Tillerson's practices, about how he is? He's obviously not a diplomat. He's obviously not anything but a deal maker toward the end of increasing the payoff to Exxon Mobil stockholders. Are we going to get a serious look at the man?

LEMON: Yeah.

BERNSTEIN: There's too much talk here about left and right. It seems to me that both in terms of what happened in Crimea and the horrible rape of the Ukraine by Russia, there are plenty of people on the left and right who condemned it. To look at this new presidency just in terms of right and left is a great mistake, that what we really need here I think is a kind of unified attempt particularly by the press, the mainstream press, the left press, the right conservative press to try and learn as much as we can about these people, about Donald Trump, and what this new presidency is. How is this new Secretary of State going to deal with somebody like Mike Flynn who clearly is not qualified to be the National Security Adviser to the President of the United States?

LEMON: Yeah. Well, that's why I moved on because we're sticking with this administration. The other administration is over now pretty soon. So Dennis ...


LEMON: Dennis, I do want to move on to talk about Trump cancelling the press conference scheduled this week, for this week, the first one since July. Is he dodging the press because he doesn't want to answer many of these questions especially about conflicts of interest in his business?

PRAGER: I don't know why he's cancelled it. Unlike my colleagues on this panel, I can't tell the future as well as they can. They know how these people will interrelate what they will do much better than I do. All I can say is he cancelled it. I don't know why he cancelled it. Maybe he feels he has nothing to gain, just as Hillary Clinton felt she had nothing to gain by having a press conference.

BERNSTEIN: I also have no idea why he cancelled it. I'm not terribly worried about the cancellation of a press conference. I think we can make too much of that. What we need to know is what are the conflicts of interest and is there any reason whatsoever that he should not divest himself? Totally, the whole idea that his family is going to continue to control these interests while he's President of the United States. I don't think that the country had this idea that he was going to be the President of the United States and the Trump Enterprises was going to continue to go on.

PRAGER: Right. Let me just say, in this regard, there was an extremely thoughtful article today which really wasn't left/right in this instance so you would appreciate it. The Wall Street Journal has ...


PRAGER: ... some prominent lawyer describe how there is no perfect solution to the problem of Trump Enterprises because if he needs to divest it all in some IPO, let's say, then you have the Security and Exchange Commission where you have his -- Trump that is, being the person who appoints the commissioners. So there's literally nothing that could be done that -- except an honest administration which I anticipate in this regard. I don't think he is going to wake up every day and worry about what has happened to Trump Enterprise.


BERNSTEIN: If you weren't into the future.

LEMON: Yeah. Go ahead, Todd.


PRAGER: I will only say there's no way to know.

LEMON: Just let him speak. Let him speak.

GITLIN: It would have been nice if our journalism had explored the problem of Trump as administrator of a vast business empire, at the same time he was running for President of the United States. Why did we have to wait?


LEMON: I'm going to tell you this, Todd, we did that a number of times on this show, and got called partisan and Carl Bernstein was part of that conversation. But go ahead, Todd.

GITLIN: If I had a hat, I'd tip it. But it was not very prominent, certainly it was not very prominent, in the hometown newspaper, "The New York Times" I have to say.

PRAGER: The "Washington Post" did an awful lot of terrific reporting on this subject. But the whole question of Trump's children, Trump's children are an extension of Donald Trump and the idea that they are going to sort of impartially conduct his business without regard to the profits that can be generated by the policies of their father's government is absurd.


BERNSTEIN: So well, what do you suggest? Seriously, I'm curious, what do you suggest?

PRAGER: Well, I read that Wall Street Journal piece and I thought it was a first rate piece.


PRAGER: It seems to me some kind of total divestiture of his holdings and out of the family. Cash out. Cash out.

[23:15:03] GITLIN: We know that Mr. Trump has not been generous as a contributor, as a philanthropist. So perhaps this is the time for him to pivot and give it all away.

LEMON: Hey, Todd, let me ask you this.


LEMON: Todd, you haven't had as ...

GITLIN: Get your work.

LEMON: Todd, you haven't had much time to speak, sorry to that, I got to get on other things. So Todd, Donald Trump already got a lot of good press when he tweeted almost two weeks ago that he was going to leave his "great business" in total to focus on running the country. Is the perception more important than the reality here? Is he going to have -- you know, instead of having that press conference, he said, you know what, I just tweeted it out. I can give the information instead of having the press conference where it may seem real?

GITLIN: I think it's evident that Trump thinks he can speak over the heads of the mob, the adoring mob, and go directly to his people. And his people don't care what's on CNN. His people don't care what's in the "New York Times" and "Washington Post". He believes that he can lock in, kind of mind meld, and that any institution that presumes to count that is not in his field of magnetism can be discarded. It's part of the waste of America that is to be dismantled because it's in the way of his project, which has to do with wealth and power, period.

LEMON: Stay with me, everyone. When we come right back, the voters on one college campus calling for safe spaces, but it's not liberals, it's Trump voters.


LEMON: Voters on one college campus calling for safe spaces in the wake of the election but it's not the voters you might think.

[23:20:03] back with now is Todd Gitlin, Carl Bernstein and Dennis Prager.

And Todd, I want to start with you speaking your freedom of speech, students who voted for Trump at the University of Michigan had written a letter asking for campus wide safe spaces. One write, "It is shameful to live in a nation where individuals are afraid to voice their beliefs for fear of being shamed. Nobody has died, the United States has not died, democracy is more alive than ever. Simply put, the American people voted and Trump won." So why do you say safe spaces would be a bad development?

PRAGER: Oh, you're asking me? Safe spaces was invented by students of the left, whenever there's a conservative speaker on the campus like Christina Hoff Sommers who can't get more gentle than that woman who came to speak at various campuses and deny that there is a rape culture for example. At the campus, the kids, and I would say children retreat to places with stuffed animals, play dough and other -- and literally toys to play with to comfort them.

So this was created only by students on the left who feel that they should never be exposed to someone from the right. There are -- there is, however, a legitimate factor here that kids who did vote for Trump are ostracized and feel quite -- not microaggressed against but loathed and hated on the campus. I'm still against the safe space even for conservative students because the university should be a safe space for everybody. There shouldn't be any play dough stuffed animal safe places.

LEMON: So, and Todd, you're a professor. Initially that question was meant for you but what do you make -- the same question, what do you think?

GITLIN: Well, I think safe spaces are highly overrated. I agree that the universities should be safe for conversation and disagreement. If there are Trump supporters at the University of Michigan where I spent a couple of years who are dismayed because other students don't agree with them, I say, stick up for what you believe. Don't go whining to the administration. That's supposed to be what soft pussy left people do.

PRAGER: I agree.

GITLIN: Come on.

PRAGER: That's right.


LEMON: Whoa, whoa, whoa, one at a time, that's something that everybody on this panel agrees on.

PRAGER: That's right


PRAGER: Only for the left.

BERNSTEIN: The safest space is a free debate and respect for real debate. And this is nonsense and it's been going on on campuses and all those who have engendered it.

LEMON: What has happened though to college campuses where kids or students need safe spaces now because when I was growing up, there were a lot of people who hated me not because of my ideology or politics, just because of who I was, the color of my skin. But, you know, all of that built up my armor.

GITLIN: I think campuses should be free places where people who feel abused or in need of support can talk with their peers. They shouldn't interfere with the public life of the campus. They shouldn't occupy the center of the campus. But they have a perfect right to meet and do what they like. If they want to play with toys, it's OK to play with toys. What they don't have a right to do is to demand. And I'm here speaking with anybody regardless of color or ideology or anything of religion, what have you. They don't have a right to be insulate from everyday life which the university is a place where people should be talking and arguing.


LEMON: Hold on, hold on ...

GITLIN: But I just want to add -- I'm going to add one thing.

LEMON: Go ahead.

GITLIN: We live in a world in which black students have been abused. It's not the Trump people who've had swastikas painted on their environment.

PRAGER: They don't know who they should ...

GITLIN: It's not them who are being threatened cast ...

PRAGER: It is not fair. It's not fair.

GITLIN: It's not them who are being threatened with rape. So I think ...

PRAGER: Who is threatened with rape?

GITLIN: You know, I'm not somebody who thinks that students don't have right for self-protection, and I think that the university at large is -- must be deeply committed to sustaining the dignity and the safety of every student. It's an assault on all students when one student is singled out and discriminated.

LEMON: But where do you draw the line? Do you draw the line with someone Richard Spencer, you know, the right nationalist who spoke at Texas A&M? Where -- do you draw the line with that or?

GITLIN: Look, when I was at the University of Michigan, George Lincoln Rockwell came to speak. He was the head of the American Nazi Party. You know, he did not convert a sole to my knowledge. And he was part of a series of, OK, they were into controversy. You know, the Earth kept on spinning on its axis. So I say, yeah, let's keep ...

PRAGER: When are you fed, Nazis ...

GITLIN: Let people see how hateful, loathsome and insufferable Richard Spencer is, how vile his ideas are and, you know, they'll be grown up enough to repel them.

BERNSTEIN: Free speech is the most important ...


[23:25:01] LEMON: Hang on, Carl, let's Dennis get in and then -- and I'll let you get in. Dennis first.

PRAGER: Nazis got more freedom of speech when I was a kid than regular anti-Nazi conservatives get today. As to the larger question, I place 100 percent of the blame on the cowards known as college presidents and professors and deans. The University of California has issued an official list of microaggressions of things that are considered racist at the University of California. Here is one example, anyone who says that there is only one race, the human race is now considered a racist officially at the University of California. They ferment (ph) this hatred.

LEMON: Go ahead, Carl.

BERNSTEIN: Free speech is absolutely sacrosanct. And the idea that we have interference into free speech on campuses is outrageous on its face. And indeed, everyone needs protection and there ought to be protective places if there is a real threat to retreat to. But that's something that's very different than coddling people and saying, "Wait a minute, we are going to circumscribe free speech with the idea that people's speech and ideas can hurt us." Let them express themselves.

LEMON: Gentlemen, thank you. Best (ph) in the conversation, we'll see you soon.

When we come right back, what about free speech on social media? A white nationalist who was suspended from twitter last month is back tweeting again. Should he be?


[23:30:003] LEMON: A white nationalist who was suspended from Twitter last month is back spreading his message on social media. Let's discuss now with CNN Political Commentator, Matt Lewis, Senior Contributor to the Daily Caller. So I prefer that we have you here since you started talking about the alt-right. First, I believe on national media, at least on television.

So listen, I want to get your take on the conversation that we just had. You say Trump supporters in college campuses are intentionally aping their language about safe spaces. Explain that.

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. So look, I think that it used to be that conservatives and republicans were repelled by talk of things like the politics of victimhood and identity politics. And sort of took -- conservatives tried to take the high ground. And now, I think that's out of style and the Donald Trump era, the model is to copy the left.

So, if they want to talk about safe spaces, we're going to have to have space spaces too. We're going to be victims as well. And I think that's the new right wing strategy.

LEMON: Richard Spencer, the leader of the so-called alt-right, which is a French movement that embraces white nationalism, raised a controversy after he spoke unwelcomed at Texas A&M University last week. This weekend, his Twitter account was restored after being suspended last month. What questions do you have about this if any?

LEWIS: Well, I think it's really interesting and I think that this is a question as much about Twitter as it is about Richard Spencer. It's unclear why they suspended him.

To begin with, they say it's because he had too many Twitter accounts, nothing to do with him being a white nationalist. But at the same time that they suspended him, they suspended him, they suspended other white nationalist alt-right Twitter feeds, including a person going by the name of Ricky Vaughn.

So, that's a big question. Why did they suspend him? Why did they reinstate him? Why that they give him this verified blue checkmark back? And, you know, what responsibility does Twitter have? They're a private business, they should be able to have anybody on they want or ban anybody they want.

Richard Spencer argues that they're actually more like a utility that in the modern world it's not just government, they can censor you, it's - If you're kicked off of Twitter, they're effectively silencing you.

So, this raises a lot of issues. I think for Twitter, how are they going to handle groups like this? And if you're going to ban someone like Richard Spencer, then can you ban anybody? What if it's just a conservative you disagree with, but not a white nationalist? LEMON: I want to ask you this because Twitter says that Spencer was suspended on a technicality, because he had too many accounts as you said. But let me read their user conduct policy. OK. Here's what it says, "You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of their categories."

Have they ever reads my Twitter feed? I mean 90 percent of the people who post now since election would be banned. I mean, this is -- does that applied to Spencer?

LEWIS: I thought you were talking about your tweets. We're talking about people who are tweeting to you, OK.

LEMON: To me, yes.

LEWIS: Well, look, here's the interesting question. So now, there have been -- This becomes a really great area. There's a guy named Milo Yiannopoulos who is an alt-right kind of guy. I don't think he would describe himself that way. But he's a prominent writer at and he was, I think, permanently banned from Twitter, not for anything he did himself, but because he kind of led or inspired his Twitter followers to start harassing a comedian from the movie "Ghostbusters". So he is gone.

Now Richard Spencer, the person in question, he doesn't -- he never used Twitter to harass anybody or attack anybody, except I think you could argue that his entire political philosophy constitutes hate. But you know, I hate -- whatever.

So, you know, Twitter, I think, needs to sort of figure out what their standards are, because I don't think -- you know, you read that entire paragraph there. It's still not clear to me why he was banned and why he was reinstated.

LEMON: But they own the platform, Twitter does, just like, you know, who you work for owns the platform, just like who I work for owns' platform. My question is, by allowing Spencer and others like him to have a social platform, fight the spread of disinformation by shedding a light on it. Does it give them a platform to do it when they don't have to? Or does it provide more ways to disseminate it?

LEWIS: I think this is a huge debate. So you know, I defended Spencer's right to go to Texas A&M.

[23:35:01] I don't like what he has to say. I don't like his message, but basically Sunshine is the best disinfectant, the way to fight this speech is with, you know, with more speech and sort of expose him. Let him talk about what he believes. And I think that, you know, I think it's a losing argument in the long run.

But you can make an argument that he's using Twitter and that they're using Twitter to advance these pernicious ideas and to harass other people, other really -- you know, customers of Twitter, people that Twitter might want (ph) on that social media platform are going to be less likely to be in there if they're being attacked and trolled and harassed.

So you know, again, Twitter is a private company. They can ban anybody they want. But we run into some problems. So, you know, again, Spencer's argument is, and I don't buy this, but he says they're basically a utility that, you know, that at some point, the government has to say that the power to ban somebody from Twitter is the power to destroy that that's how important they are to getting your message out and it's effectively censoring them.

Here's how I feel about it, it's a weird sort of way. But I kind of feel about this the way I feel about smoking bans in restaurants, like philosophically speaking I'm against them, but I actually kind of like them. You know, as a consumer, I don't really want to go into a restaurant and smell like smoke. And so that's where I'm at with this, like philosophically I probably think he should be able to stay on there, but you know, with him gone, it was kind of a nice place to be on Twitter.

LEMON: You know, I'm wondering if there's a lot of people now that say that they just don't want to even go on Twitter any more. They can't read their timeline. I wonder if it's good business for Twitter when there are people on -- when there are trolls on it, when there are people espouse, you know, white nationalism or hatred or any sort of ism that is sort of antithetical to American culture.

LEWIS: Yes, I mean I can politically agree. I remember a time, not that long ago, when it was actually more fun to be on Twitter and you can engage with people. So, people that were just sort of ...

LEMON: You can't do that any more.

LEWIS: Yes, civilians out there, they might tweet me and I would get to tweet them back and we can develop kind of a relationship. I tend not to do that as much any more, because, you know, you get sort of caught up in that stuff.

So, yes, I think that from a business standpoint -- but they just need to be consistent. And here's the other problem again, as somebody who's a center-right journalist, I think they need to -- you know, we're always cautious about censorship, because like at what point do they decide that I'm preaching hate speech. You know what I mean? Like, you know, it's a slippery slope argument, but if you can ban Spencer, then what about, you know, Erick Erickson? You know my friend Erick Erickson is a conservative blogger. He has probably -- I'm sure he said some things that are controversial like should we ban him? And that becomes real, you know, free speech problem. And, you know, (inaudible) Dennis Prager, who's just done talking about in college campuses, you know.

The Twitter shouldn't be like a safe space. We need to challenge each other with ideas and sometimes unpopular speech and, you know, you can't shut it down. This is really tough.


LEWIS: I think Twitter is going to have this -- maybe have like a serious "Come to Jesus" meeting and decide, what they want this to be.

LEMON: I agree. Good conversation. Thank you, Matt, see you soon.

LEWIS: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come right back, the Op-Ed writer who charges Donald Trump is blinding us and making us argue among ourselves. Is she right or are we in a whole new reality here?


[23:42:12] LEMON: Joining me now, the Op-Ed writer behind a hard- hitting editorial saying that Donald Trump is gaslighting America. And you might be surprised to hear where that editorial appears. It appears in

Here to discuss, award-winning journalist, Lauren Duca, weekend editor for Teen Vogue.

Thank you so much. I'm so glad you're on. I found this fascinating. You wrote an op-ed for that went so viral that it had legendary journalists, Dan Leger (ph) tweeting about it. It's called "Donald Trump is Gaslighting America." Can you explain what that is and why your op-ed struck such a nerve?

LAUREN DUCA, FREELANCE WRITER AND REPORTER: Sure. So gaslighting, it sounds like it's a term that a lot of people didn't know, which -- So gaslighting is to -- It's a form of psychological abuse where the victim is manipulated to doubt their own sanity. It's kind of a complex concept, but a good example comes from the play, gaslight.

LEMON: Hey, Lauren.

DUCA: Yeah?

LEMON: Let me put -- because you write this. I hate to answer your question.

DUCA: Sure.

LEMON: So, let me put this up and you can answer.


LEMON: As you said -- Here's what you write, you said, "To gaslight is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity. And that's precisely what Donald Trump is doing to this country. He gained traction in the election by swearing off the lies of politicians, while constantly contradicting himself often without bothering to conceal the conflicts within his own sound bites. He lied to us over and over again, then took all accusations of his falsehoods and spun them into evidence of bias. At the hands of Trump, facts have become interchangeable with opinions, blinding us into arguing against ourselves as, our very reality is called into question."

Some people say this is, you know, this is just the new way, we're going to have to get used to Donald Trump doing things this way. It's a new era. I think that you disagree with that.

DUCA: Yeah, I think that that's very scary to think of this as the new way. I think that people are not empowered enough with information. I think that that means on several levels. I think that the media is, you know, the media -- but we need to focus more on original reporting. On painting portraits of events that are objective and that aren't just sort of streaming Donald Trump's dissemination of falsehoods directly into American homes without checking them in any way.

On an individual level, I think that people need to realize that it is not only their right to have access to information, but it's in this state, that we're in currently hits their obligation to find trustworthy sources and to fact-check everything, especially everything on Donald Trump's Twitter.

You know, facts are the only place we can work from for any kind of resistance. And there's a lot of talk now about fighting for human rights and social justice, and that's absolutely the side I want to be on. But we can't do any of that unless we're moving from the place of truth.

[23:45:09] LEMON: I want to look at one another example here, which is -- which are sort of -- which you write about, on Friday night, the Trump transition team released this statement about President Obama ordering an investigation to Russian interference in the U.S. elections, "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It's now time to move on and 'Make America Great Again.'"

Well, today, Trump tweeted this, "Unless you catch 'hackers' in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before the election?" Come on, both the statement and the tweet are inaccurate.

As you point out in your article, Trump didn't win in one of the biggest Electoral College victories. It wasn't landslide. Cyber experts say you can determine who is doing the hacking after the fact and concerns about hacking were brought up long before the election. So explain what you think he is doing here.

DUCA: Well, I think he's trying to turn facts into a partisan issue which is, you know, I'm a very liberal, very progressive person, and that's how I identify as a writer. But I was trying to come from a place where I was able to speak to everyone. And I think that the victims here is the American public and I think that a lot of the reason why Donald Trump won is because he divided this country.

And he is able to capitalize that and forced us to be arguing over what counts as facts. You know, the CIA works for the American people. To have the CIA challenged as if there are some silly blogger that can be bullied and, you know, thrown to the deplorables is absurd. It's -- The President of the United States should want to know if Russia is interfering in our election, right?

And also just -- There's so many sort of red hearings to take aim at there, like talking about Russia for the first time now. No, we talked about Russia in the first debate. The third debate was the no puppet, no puppet sort of short circuiting. In his last press conference, he was egging Russia on to hack Hillary's e mails, so we're not talking about that for the first time.

And then also, of course, this isn't the biggest Electoral College victory in history. It takes a simple Google search to figure that out. But it's almost like these sort of distractions to divert our attention from the fact that the most powerful man, the soon to be most powerful man in the United States is dismissing the evidence demonstrated by the CIA, which is an incredible, incredible danger to American freedom.

And we're sort of getting lost in semantics and we're getting lost in these disputes about what is true, which is absurd, because we should all be able to agree about what's true, and the from there, have ideological arguments.

LEMON: Lauren Duca, it's fascinating. It's fascinating that's in Teen Vogue. But anyway, you got a lot of people talking. Your article went viral. Thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us here on CNN.

DUCA: Thank you for having me on.

LEMON: Thank you.

When we come right back, the true crime story that became an American obsession, the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.


[23:51:55] LEMON: It is a murder case that became an obsession across the country and around the world, the death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. No one has ever been charged in the case and the investigation is still open.

Here with me now with details, CNN's Jean Casarez. She got a brand new CNN "SPECIAL REPORT: THE MURDER OF JONBENET," which airs tomorrow night.

Jean, thank you so much for joining. It has been almost 20 years when JonBenet Ramsey was killed. What's so fascinates everyone about this case?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think because it's a mystery. And you look at one theory, and then you look at the next theory, and in this we lay out the facts, and I travel to a remote location to talk with John Ramsey, the father of JonBenet who actually found her body.

He doesn't do many interviews, but I spoke to him for hours. His thoughts, reflections, I had the tough questions and it's really interesting to see his insights sort of 20 years later.

LEMON: Let's watch a clip from the documentary.


CASAREZ: Police were desperate to talk to their prime suspects. After four months of refusing to cooperate, the Ramsey's finally sat down with police in April 1997. Two more formal interrogations followed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm talking about scientific evidence.

PATSY RAMSEY, JONBENET'S MOTHER: I don't give a flying flip how scientific it is. Go back to the damn drawing board. I didn't do it.

CASAREZ: Despite countless days of heated interrogation, there was no confession and no charges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about the theory that this was an accident? Somebody was upset over bed wetting (ph)?

RAMSEY: We're going down the wrong path, buddy.

This $100,000 reward ...

CASAREZ: Then the Ramsey's took their case to the public.

RAMSEY: You maybe eluding the authorities for a time, but God knows who you are, and we will find you.

CASAREZ: The police never did.


LEMON: My goodness, it brings back so many memories for those of us who were around, Jean. JonBenet's mother, Patsy, died in 2000. There's another run disease (ph) lived under a cloud of suspicion for a very long time. Were they ever indicted?

CASAREZ: The grand jury actually did vote unanimously to indict John and Patsy Ramsey, both of them on child abuse resulting in death and accessory after the fact, meaning they helped somebody to first degree murder. But the district attorney in history making for Boulder, Colorado did not bring charges.

John Ramsey told me he definitely thought that he was going to be indicted along with his wife. They had even given custody of Burke to someone else because they believed that this was it for them. But the prosecutor did not believe it could be proven beyond the reasonable doubt.

We go into forensic evidence, DNA evidence, which the grand jury never had. I spoke to the forensic scientists that did DNA testing. So it's not somebody just looking at the numbers. She did the testing and the results that she explains them are remarkable.

LEMON: Burke was their other child, correct?

CASAREZ: Yes, Burke.

LEMON: Yeah.

CASAREZ: And Burke has come out for the first time, a lot of scrutiny with Burke, because of a smile that he had, and John Ramsey is very upset about that.

[23:55:09] And he talks to me about that saying that that is Burke's natural gaze, that he's a fine young man. He was 9 years old when this happened. It was a horrendous, brutal crime, and you'll hear the details to exactly what happened to her, and that Burke could not and did not do it, of course, other theorist believe otherwise.

LEMON: Yeah. You spent a lot of time with JonBenet's father, John Ramsey. How as he lived with the unknown for 20 years now?

CASAREZ: It changed his life. He said that he lost his reputation. He lost all of his money. He lost his privacy. That's why he lives and he doesn't want people to know where he lives, and it took quite a while for us to get to where he is, but he's remarried. He's moved on.

I met his new wife, and it took a long time for him to find his new wife. But, she reminds me of what I think Patsy would be like, exuberant, full of life, and he's got his children which he adores and a picture of JonBenet on his television. He said that reminds him daily. He wants to track down the killer to restore the reputation of his family.

LEMON: And speaking of which, our law enforcement officials still hopeful that they will solve this crime?

CASAREZ: Open investigation, open case. The district attorney who I sat down with in Boulder told me I just need the evidence. I need to believe I can prove it beyond the reasonable doubt. I will charge anyone who I believe has committed this crime.

LEMON: Jean Casarez, it's fascinating. I can't wait to see it. Thank you very much.

CASAREZ: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: All right, don't miss our CNN's "SPECIAL REPORT: THE MURDER OF JONBENET", tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

And that is it for us tonight. Thank you so much for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.