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New Ceasefire Set As Civilians Face Slaughter in Aleppo; New Questions About Role of Trump Children; Trump's Son-In-Law Will Have West Wing Office; How the DNC Got Hacked; Remembering Sandy Hook Massacre 4 Years Later. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 14, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:09] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

We begin tonight with the dying cries from a city once as large as Houston, Texas, as old as human civilization, and sadly as familiar with civilization's capacity for inhumanity as any place on earth. They're the sounds these days of Aleppo, Syria, dying cries and pleas for help.

The cease-fire that was supposed to give the civilians there a safe way out has collapsed. The new one is set to take hold. But past experience does not offer much hope it will last and the carnage directed at civilians -- well, that goes on. In the face of it all, America's U.N. ambassador is speaking out against Syria, against Russia and their allies, Iran.


SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: When one day there is a full accounting of the horrors committed in this assault of Aleppo, and that day will come sooner or later, you will not be able to say you did not know what was happening, you will not be able to say you are not involved. We all know what was happening and we all know you're involved.

Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that defined modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later. Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and now, Aleppo.

Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin that just creeps you out a little bit?


ANDERSON: Well, her words were powerful, but bear in mind, they came against the backdrop of the U.N.'s top humanitarian official accusing countries, including the United States, of collectively wringing their hands in the face of what he calls the crushing of Aleppo.

Now, as we'll discuss, this is current administration's responsibility and the next one's as well.

We begin, though, with the voices of Aleppo and CNN's Frederik Pleitgen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know really what to say. Words can't go out now. I hope you can -- something -- some unexpected (ph) massacres. Just yesterday, like the next door exactly, all the buildings collapsed, many people are being killed. Many people now are being killed and just kept in the street and their buildings. No one can help them.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIROR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Countless stories from within the rebel-held territory in Aleppo, Syria. It is by all accounts an unmitigated humanitarian disaster.

BILAL ABDUL KAREEM, JOURNALIST: You may be thinking this is an old video, but it's not. It's a new one and it's taking place right here, right now, on the day when there was supposed to be an agreement.

LINA SHAMY, ALEPPO RESIDENT: To everyone who can hear me, we are here exposed to a genocide in the besieged city of Aleppo. This may be my last video. More than 50,000 of civilians who rebelled against the dictator, al-Assad, is threatened with field executions or dying under bombing.

PLEITGEN: Bana, a 7-year-old living in east Aleppo, with the help of her mother, has been tweeting. Her most recent message a cry for help. Her mother following up with a message of her own. Today from a rooftop, sounds of conflict can still be heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): This could be my final appeal. I am hoping it will find listening ears of the people making decisions around the world. Everybody who can, please speak to your government, to his country to put pressure to stop the aggression. To stop the killing, to stop the war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least we know that -- we were free people. We wanted the freedom. We didn't want anything else but freedom.


COOPER: Fred Pleitgen joins us now. He's reporting from inside Aleppo throughout the Syrian civil war. Joins us from Beirut, Lebanon.

So, the cease-fire, it seems to be back on. What happens next and can it actually succeed this time?

PLEITGEN: Yes, you know, that's going to be the big question, Anderson. We're going to see that in the next couple of hours because about three hours from now is when buses are supposed to pull out to that rebel enclave that still exists in Aleppo and they're supposed to bring the first people out of there and bring them to safety to other rebel-held areas in Syria. The first people who are supposed to get evacuated are the most vulnerable. The sick, the (AUDIO GAP) the ones who have been wounded.

The question is, is that going to happen or is it going to fall apart? Because we have to keep in mind, Anderson, it's fallen apart once before.

[20:05:03] And also, you're dealing with a very fragile situation, where there's a lot of people on both sides who are very trigger happy, who have been fighting each other for a long period of time, especially on the rebel side, there's a lot of people who are very scared to board buses and put their faith in those government soldiers, go through that territory to try to get to safety.

But the next hours are going to be absolutely decisive, Anderson.

COOPER: Fred, there have already been reports of Syrian government forces and others coming into Aleppo and executing civilians, correct?

PLEITGEN: Yes, there certainly have been. The U.N. says they have reports of about 82 civilians who have allegedly been executed. They say they got those reports from people who have been credible in the past who have given them information in the past that was true.

They haven't, however, been able to independently verify that. However, there is a grave concern as pro-government forces, and it's not just the Syrian military, Shiite militias as well as Iranians, the Russians also as they move through that atrocities could be committed and that's why the U.N. and U.S. say it's on the Syrian government but especially also on the Russians to make sure that no other atrocities are committed as the Syrian government will most probably take over all of Aleppo very soon.

COOPER: Fred Pleitgen, appreciate the reporting.

As we said, this will soon be the Trump administration's crisis.

Here to talk about it, CNN political commentator and "Daily Caller" senior contributor Matt Lewis, CNN political analyst and "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers, CNN political commentator and senior writer for "The Federalist", Mary Katharine Ham, and CNN political director, David Chalian.

David, I mean, obviously, it is a horror what's happening in Syria right now in Aleppo. For the Donald Trump administration, do we know how a President Trump is going to handle this?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We really don't. It's been really vague and it's astonishing when you look at Fred's piece there and you see what's going on and the cry for help that this wasn't more central in a U.S. presidential campaign, but it wasn't. And his policy has been pretty vague.

What we do know is this. He does not -- he, throughout the whole campaign, said Assad was really somebody else's problem. He just waned to focus on ISIS. He believed in creating some safe zones but he wanted other people to pay for them.

And that one moment, you remember in the debates because it happened in the debate you were moderating where he disagreed with Pence when his own vice presidential nominee said, well, with Russian provocation, we may have to use military force and Donald Trump shut that down.

So, it's very clear that he really sees this as other people's problem, not his and we don't at all have a clear strategy going forward.

COOPER: Mary Katharine, I mean, Assad gave an interview on Russian state television today he said that essentially he seems to think that Donald Trump is a more natural ally to the Syrian regime.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, so much of this is unknowable because he is Donald Trump. But if you look at the picks and rhetoric over the campaign and tried to form some idea where he might head, I think there's evidence he's a guy that wants to be more friendly about Russia, has a more sanguine view of Russia. But also a guy who's picked all these hardliners on Iran, who are very hard on -- the trick for him in Syria, they're working together.

COOPER: Right.

HAM: So, can he drive that wedge by working with Russia in a closer manner? I have no idea if that's the strategy or if he's thinking that far but that's what's --

COOPER: Right, a victory for Assad in Syria is a big victory for Iran, so it's contradictory.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what we do know about him is that he has a sort of affection for strong men, so he talks about in the Middle East, Mubarak, for example, I think he analogizes to Syria in a sense if you overthrow Assad, then you don't know what's going to happen and it could create a power vacuum and terrorists could take over.

But, you know, all authoritarians are not created equal. A Mubarak is very different than an Assad who's slaughtering his people and there's a genocide going on.

COOPER: And his father slaughtered people before him.

POWERS: Yes, it is a very different situation.

And the other thing for people hoping maybe he could potentially rethink the Russia stuff is if you look at Condoleezza Rice, one of the people who made the recommendation for his current secretary of state nomination, and other sort of, you know, mainstream thinkers in the Republican Party who really are not on board with his view of Russia and are saying, look, Russia is not trying to fight ISIS. They're just trying to protect their interests in Syria.

COOPER: Yes, one of the things, Matt, that Donald Trump has said about Syria, he said "Our current strategy of nation building and regime change is a proven absolute failure."

It's one thing, though, when somebody is running for president, it's another thing when you are actually the president and the pictures are on the evening news and people are talking about it and you hear the cries for help. We've seen it time and time again, whether Somalia, Rwanda, Sarajevo --

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This becomes a vicious cycle because what happens is we see horrific images and now, with technology, images immediately in our homes.

COOPER: More than ever before.

LEWIS: Tweets from victims. And then the American public, I think rightly out of moral indignation, begins to clamor for us to be involved and then we get involved. And then it goes bad, and then people, the same people, the same public that was clamoring for involvement then say why are we messing around over there? That's not our business.

COOPER: Right, the famine in Somalia led to humanitarian intervention, Black Hawk Down

LEWIS: So, we're isolating -- and you could look at George W. Bush as an example of the intervention gone wrong and I think you could look at Barack Obama and that red line and the failure to intervene. Possibly in this, the other end of it.

I think Donald Trump, we -- it's time for a coherent strategy and maybe the talk to the American public about this new world we live in where the media is really -- I mean --

COOPER: But it's interesting for --you know, President-elect Trump continues to say, look, America first, jobs, jobs, jobs. It is very easy to get sucked into foreign issues. I mean, every president often comes in saying, look, I'm not interested -- I'm focusing on America, you know, infrastructure, nation-building at home.

But then world events overtake presidents, we've seen it time and again.

HAM: Right. I do think this is where Matt is right, there's clamor, but there's not appetite for actually getting involved.

LEWIS: Or for any endurance. I mean --

HAM: Right.

LEWIS: So, when we actually get involved and something is going wrong.

COOPER: The world has been watching this for years and there hasn't been a clamoring --

HAM: What I'm saying is that a larger political landscape I think might be more forgiving to Donald Trump even though there is this huge moral problem. But many people think, yes, let's focus on jobs at home, and, no, it went badly when we've done this in the past.

CHALIAN: And he was really clear throughout the campaign that this getting drawn into this kind of event, it did not interest him at all. This -- he -- I thought he made that sort of a rallying cry. And I think his supporters give him that breathing space on this, despite the horrific images.

MOORE: I should point out the quote I read was not on Syria in particular from Donald Trump. It was on just sort of nation-building as an idea.

So, I don't want -- I think I said it was about Syria. I was talking just in more general.

But yet, at a certain point, the policy -- I mean, this is a policy which has not been made clear by President Obama which has bedeviled him. And, you know, he did an interview with Fareed saying, you know, he essentially missed a lot of this and that it haunts him to this day.

Does a President Trump have to say, look, we aren't getting involved or does he just let it kind of percolate along?

POWERS: Well, look, I think he's surrounded by people who are going to want him to do something. I mean, the Republican Party -- a lot of the Republican thinkers were the ones who were saying, let's arm the rebels. He met with Tulsi Gabbard also, who is a Democratic member of Congress from Hawaii, who has been very outspoken on this issue as well and I think, you know, I think that it's possible that he will get pressure from a Mike Pence or from other people around him to do something.

And it's also different when it's on your watch. It's one thing if you're sitting here talking in a campaign. It's another thing if you are watching a genocide unfolding and you're not doing anything.

COOPER: There's a lot more to talk about, including the continuing role of Donald Trump's grown sons are taking in government business even though they're supposed to be the ones running the president- elect's business empire instead. We've got a prime example of that tonight. When will that happen? When will they take over? We'll talk about it, next.

Also later, for the first time, the DNC hacking story, all of it, beat by beat, how Hillary Clinton's campaign manager ended up unknowingly giving Russian-connected cyber thieves the keys to the kingdom. A fascinating inside look.


[20:16:51] COOPER: New questions about the role Donald Trump's grown children are playing in the administration and will be playing. They will be fueled in part by a meeting today at Trump Tower. However, that's not all, as you'll see.

CNN's Sara Murray joins us now with the latest. So, a major meeting today with tech executives. Tim Cook from Apple,

Jeff Bezos and others from Amazon, from Google, and elsewhere. Donald Trump's grown children were in on this meeting. Explain what was going on.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, that's right. This was an important meeting for Donald Trump to sort of send the signal that he was will to take the opinions of people he has criticized in past and been critical of him. It's no secret that Donald Trump's relationship with Silicon Valley wasn't exactly stellar throughout the campaign.

But I'm told this was actually a pretty positive meeting. It was an opportunity for these tech executives to make a case for some of the priorities they're interested in. For instance, high-skilled visas and also sort of more spending on a digital infrastructure.

And Donald Trump made it clear in the meeting and we saw this from what we said in front of reporters that he wants to try to help them when he is president. So, we'll see if this sort of love fest continues beyond the confines. But it is interesting as you point out, Anderson, that it wasn't just Donald Trump but his senior advisors and his tech executives in the meeting.

It was also Donald Trump's grown children, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, Don Jr., all present for what could be a very important meeting for Trump.

COOPER: You know, the two grown men. Donald Trump's sons, Eric and Don Jr., they are supposed to be actually running his company when he's president. But right now it would seem they are deeply involved in the transition. And there's new information also tonight about what role Ivanka Trump is going to have in her father's administration.

MURRAY: That's right. There are lots of questions about whether there will ever be a clear bright line between how the kids interact with the business and how they interact with the Trump White House. For instance, while we're expecting at this point, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to take over the day to day operations of the Trump Organization, not only were they in this meeting but Don Jr. helped interview candidates for interior secretary. Eric Trump sat in on a meeting with Mitt Romney when they were considering him for a secretary of state.

And it does look like perhaps Ivanka Trump will have the clearest divide. It seems like she is likely to move over to Washington and also to have a more formalized role within the White House. We're being told by sources that what used to be the first lady's office will become the first family office. This will be an opportunity for Ivanka Trump to have an office in the East Wing and sort of act as a Washington hostess but also to help advise her father on policies that we may think of she could bring a more liberal perspective to. For instance, family leave, for instance, climate change.

Now, all of this is still up in the air until we see Donald Trump announce how he plans to divvy up his White House from his business. That was supposed to happen tomorrow, and now, they punted it to January. So not only are people on the hill waiting to hear this, there are plenty of ethics experts and lawyers waiting to see how and if Donald Trump can draw a clear divide between his business opportunities and his White House.

[20:20:00] COOPER: Sara Murray, thanks very much.

Digging deeper now to the question of how the incoming administration plans to disentangle the family from federal business if they do, specifically concerning Donald Jr., and the new interior secretary and the outdoor sport they have in common.

Randi Kaye tonight has more on that.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "The Washington Post" reports Congressman Ryan Zinke hit it off with Don Trump Jr. Both are enthusiastic hunters, before meeting in person with the elder Trump. And "Politico" says Trump's oldest son sat in on meetings and called prospective nominees. So much, critics say, for that clean break between the Trump administration and the Trump children.

Back in July, Don Jr. even joked he might run the Department of Interior.

DONALD TRUMP JR., EVP, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I don't know if I'd be the head of it or just informing them. But, you know, rest assured for all the hunters and shooters out there, they know that I had his ear.

KAYE: Zinke's Montana roots may have worked in his favor with Don Jr., whose passion for hunting and conservation heavily favored candidates from Western states. Don Jr. is a member of the Missoula, Montana-based Boone and Crockett Club, a hunting and wildlife conservation organization. The club's mission, "promote the conservation of big game and its habitat."

(on camera): Don Jr.'s love of hunting helped build relationships with other western lawmakers like Republican Senator Steve Danes of Montana. He's joined Don Jr. and his brother, Eric, on hunting trips and has conveyed to the oldest son a Westerner for Interior would be best to protect the land and their way of life.

Don Jr. calls himself a big conservationist, saying hunters give back by paying fees that go toward conservation efforts.

D. TRUMP, JR.: We try to be good stewards of that to make sure those kind of habitats, those kind of animals are, you know, just a great enjoyment we experience in the outdoors. Therefore, our kids, your kids and their kids behind them.

KAYE: But his love of big game hunting has also stirred controversy. Those photos which made the rounds on social media in 2015 showed Don Jr. and his brother Eric proudly posing with trophy kills during a 2012 Zimbabwe hunt, a leopard and a water buffalo. In another photo, Don Jr. is holding the tail of an elephant in one hand and a large knife in the other. In this photo, a massive crocodile hangs from a tree.

Animal activists sounded the alarm. But Don Jr. defended the hunt on Twitter, saying villagers were grateful for the meat.

D. TRUMP JR.: You know, listen, hunting is one of those things some people will understand and some people won't.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Back now with the panel. Also something extra, namely Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany, as well as Democrats Paul Begala and Angela Rye.

All right. So, a lot to discuss.

First of all, David, just -- have we ever seen the grown children of a president-elect sitting in on meetings like this who are also going to be running a corporation, in family business, also involved in the picking of cabinet secretaries?

CHALIAN: No, all of those. Absolutely not. That's unprecedented.

Let me say, Anderson, I don't begrudge Donald Trump wants to incorporate his family.

COOPER: Right. They're his top advisers.

CHALIAN: They're his top advisers. He's built an entire brand, the family is the brand, the name is the brand, the organization, he groomed them to take over. I don't begrudge him.

It is the fact that there's no delineation right now. If, indeed, Eric Trump and Don Jr. are going to run the business, then they clearly should not be part of building and forming the government. That, to me is -- there's no problem in taking counsel from your family. The problem is they haven't set up and set forth what are the guidelines here to make sure that the conflict of interest stay away.

COOPER: Mary Katharine, do you agree with it?

HAM: Look, I wish they would be clearer about it and perhaps clearer about it faster. But I do think that this is sort of a bit of a new creature and we're going to see how it plays out here.

But, you know, if Ivanka is the government Trump kid, and the other two are the business Trump kid, I don't have a problem with that, and it's going to be sort of a case by case basis. But I think it's best practices to make clear how you're going to do this and to make clear how you're going to do it quickly. I'm not sure we're going to get that as we saw with --

COOPER: Does it make sense to you, Kirsten, that they're sitting around with the tech executives today?

POWERS: No. I mean, the example I keep using, let's use Chelsea Clinton, going back to running the foundation, the Clinton Foundation. I think the Republicans would see the problem with that.

COOPER: If it was a Chelsea Clinton in a President-elect Hillary Clinton, people would --

POWERS: Exactly. Meeting with the same people, having the same kinds of meetings and officially work on a transition, going back and running the foundation. And they would be correct in criticizing that. I think that would be highly problematic.

I do think on the Ivanka being sort of the de facto first lady maybe, I don't have a problem with that. You know, Woodrow Wilson did that after his wife passed away, his daughter stepped in. And, look, there's nothing wrong with that if Melania doesn't want to be the first lady, and Ivanka wants to step into that role.

Seriously, I don't understand what the objection to it is honestly.


LEWIS: Look, I think that obviously what he should do is liquidate assets and put that in a blind trust.

[20:25:04] I think if you are rooting for Donald Trump's success, you think he should do that. So, this isn't something that like people who hate Donald Trump say, this is something people rooting for Trump say because this is the most obvious way you take him down. And maybe it's two, three years down the road when he's no longer quite as popular. If you wanted to have an impeachment, or some sort of -- you know, the conflict of interest, this is just waiting to be a scandal.

COOPER: Jeffrey, as a supporter, do you agree?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree it can be a distraction. I'm sure this press conference they canceled the other day -- I mean, they need to have exactly right when they come forward with this. So, I'm sure --

COOPER: It's a complex thing to figure out.

LORD: Very, very.

In terms of the family, I went back and look, and every president -- not every president, lot of presidents from John Adams who appointed, had George Washington appoint his son, John Quincy, as minister to the Netherlands, all the way up to Bill and Hillary Clinton, presidential family members, sons, nephews -- FDR took his sons to the Atlantic charter meeting with Winston Churchill as advisers.

I mean, this has been going on a very, very long time and I don't think there's anything unusual about it.

COOPER: Paul, is there anything -- PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Any president who has

children, adults this accomplished, should listen to it. Good for President-elect Trump. That's not a problem, Jeffrey. He should listen -- I don't know them personally, but I've seen them on TV. They're very impressive people.

The problem is the business side and Matt Lewis is exactly right. There's a very clear ethical imperative. He has to sell everything, liquidate those assets and put them into treasury bills, would be the safest thing, where there can be no conflict of interest.

He's trying to pretend that there's some separation because the kids are going to run the business. He still apparently could have an ownership interest. It's impossible conflicts.

The easiest one, most obvious one is the hotel. He just fixed up his hotel in Washington, the Trump International Hotel. He has a 60-year lease with the federal government which he runs which he will in a few weeks. The lease, itself, says, you -- no elected official of the government of the United States can be party to this lease.

So, if he has to get out of that deal, will he? I don't know. But he'll be in violation of the lease.

Here's the problem: who's going to enforce it? The head of the General Service Administration who's supposed to enforce that lease is going to be appointed by Donald Trump. The conflicts are innumerable and they will tie him in knots.

COOPER: Angela, you agree with that?

ANGELA RYE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I absolutely agree with that.

I think the other thing we continue to talk past is the fact that it may not -- the other issue may be that they're actually sitting in on meetings. If they continue to sit in on meetings after he's sworn in, that's also a problem, that violates potentially anti-nepotism laws. There's a reason for those.

It says any public official, any public official applies to the president of the United States, if any of them are paid or are performing work in which they should be paid by the federal government, that is a huge problem, it's not a conflict of interest, it's not just optics. It's a violence of it as well.

COOPER: Kayleighi?

MCENANY: But, look, but, Jared Kushner said, if I was given a role, if any role, I would not be paid. We know going back to the '90s with Clinton that Hillary Clinton took a role in the White House, it was litigated. There was litigation over it. The courts said that the nepotism laws do not apply to certain White House staffing positions.

So, that --

(CROSSTALK) MCENANY: No, no, no, she was on the health task force. She was a policy person --

RYE: As a first lady.

MCENANY: And it was litigated and the circuit court said, no, this does not apply to White House positions.

Look, Paul, I think you're right about the lease. I absolutely think you're about the lease. However, 18 USC Section 2 of 2, says the president is exempt from conflict of interest, Paul. Donald Trump is exactly correct when he says I don't even have to give up my business if I don't want -- he is doing that --


MCENANY: He is doing that because he wants to optically be in a position where he's ethical sound.

COOPER: Can Paul respond? Then we got to go.

BEGALA: It was actually 801 years ago that we had the Magna Carta. I think Jeffrey covered that story.


BEGALA: The Magna Carta asserts that no king is above the law, nor is he. There is certainly, as you point out, leases that he will be in violation of, but also the emoluments clause, right? The Founders, exactly this situation they were worried about. Foreign powers influencing our president.

MCENANY: That's a specific point, though. The emoluments clause, a specific point, you can't accept gifts from foreign leaders.


COOPER: Let's take a break. Kayleigh raised an interested point about the first son-in-law, Jared Kushner. We're getting new information right now actually on the role Jared Kushner may be playing. His new role in the administration. We'll have breaking news on that next.


[20:32:15] COOPER: Well there is more breaking news tonight on the role President-elect Trump's growing children will be playing his administration. This is latest item involving his son-in-law Jared Kushner, CNN's Phil Mattingly has the very latest, joins us now. So what are you learning Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, look it's no Jared Kushner is one of the closest advisers to the president-elect. His really been the constant by his side throughout his campaign. And the president-elect has been trying to figure out a way to get Jared Kushner down to Washington with him. Now, that's going to happen, we know that.

But what sources are telling us right now, is Jared Kushner will have a place in the West Wing, his likely to also have an office in the West Wing as well. They have not figured out a specific title. But, what this raises is potential issues is you guys are actually just discussing on anti-nepotism laws. So what Jared Kushner would actually do with his own holdings, but legal teams have been working on how to figure that out and they're starting to get closer to clearing a pathway forward.

Anderson, I think what worth pointing out here, is there's no question about it. Jared Kushner is one of the closest and most important advisors to the president elect. He will have an important role in the White House. The question, what specifically that role will be, still to be determine but they are getting closer to that point, but this does raise now though is something that we've all been talking about for the last couple of weeks and something I've heard from Trump advisors, over the last week or so.

More concerns about conflicts of interest, this is an area that they fear could plague the first couple months of the administration maybe even longer than that, this is another instance where those types of issues will come up, that said, legal team is working on this and they feel like they're getting closer to a resolution. Anderson?

COOPER: Phil Mattingly. Phil, thanks very much for the breaking news, appreciate that.

Back to the panel. Jeffrey, to the point that others made earlier, I mean it is the first question that may be raised, you know, once Donald Trump is president about any selection that was made or policy that's made is people are going to start to look at well wait a minute, how does this influence Trump business? This is not going to go away?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The thing they need to be careful of is the distraction aspect of it. He's got a lot of things on this agenda that he wants to accomplish. So they do need to resolve this in some fashion. As for Jared Kushner, I've already written about this for the "American Spectator", I think he would be absolutely perfect. He should be the -- my suggestion is deputy chief of staff to the White House. This is the person who plays the mike diva role of the Reagan troika. They have the chief of staff who's the Washington insider, the ideology guys who's Bannon or was Ed Meese and that the son figure Jared Kushner have might diver (ph) who can translate the, you know ,the president in terms of knowing him as the family member or almost a family member to the rest of White House staff.

COOPER: But even things like I mean to a -- the hotel that Donald Trump has now opened here in Washington. It's run by -- it is a lease. They are leasing it. The Interior Department actually owns -- or oversees the land.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I thin the lease now with National Parkland and therefore the National Park Service falls with the Department of Interior.

[20:35:03] COOPER: So Don Jr. is running the Trump organization, running that hotel. He's had a hand in who the interior secretary is and his department is running -- or oversees the land the hotel is on.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER THE FEDERALIST: I'm willing to listen to how they want to structure this and I wish they would say it quickly and be clear about it. And that what's going to be interesting too is you have these two CEOs who have been named as possible cabinet members and they are going to do the best practices stuff, right. And like Carlos Gutierrez when he went from Kellogg's to the Bush administration, immediately tenured his resignation to the board the day he was named.

And so these guys are going to go through a very open process I would imagine, because they don't have the celebrity bubble, but Trump has a sort of keeps him invisible. The contrast is going to be interesting, which might lead you do think Trump is going to do something different. But Pence released his taxes and Trump different and it did matter. So he may be very different.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There is this just for his part as indicated, he's going to do everything right. He said he would put all assets in a blind trust. He said I will not take out a government paycheck, so I don't run foul of anti-nepotism law. He is doing everything right.

Donald Trump likewise every indication we have so far. We've got to give him time, it's been only 30 days has indicated his doing everything right. Ivanka Trump looks like she's coming to D.C. She's having no role and the business. The boys will have a role in the business.

COOPER: But we don't know but Ivanka Trump has her own business. So -- and I don't know the answer to this. I don't know that if they know the answer to this yet. Does she now stop those businesses or does she continue to, you know, sell a dress that she's wearing in her White House office in her role as first lady. Oh that dress is available on line in her website I don't know.


LORD: The thing that bothers me about this is, because they're in the private sector in a business this is becoming a big deal. But how many lawyers do we have in Congress and how many lawyers have we had in the Obama administration that still have law firms back home with their name on there? I mean there are conflicts of interest galore, if we're going to go down that role for people doing other than ...

ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Name one. Name a lawyer that you know who had their name still on their law practice while they serve in the Obama administration ...

LORD: I look it up for you.

RYE: Just -- I promise you if they did, if they run and followed the law, I think the one thing that we have to really be careful of. Especially my friend Kayleigh who went to law school and knows this. It's not just violation of the letter of the law. It's violation of the spirit of the law for Jared Kushner to serve in any capacity in the White House ...


MCENANY: Were you upset ...


RYE: That's totally different Kayleigh, it is first lady. No. This ...

LORD: She's ...


RYE: It specifically says ...

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I have no business interests.

RYE: No, the best time -- that time ...


COOPER: One at a time. One at a time.

RYE: My point is simple. If he is in the White House, working for White House. And he is his son-in-law, which he is, unless he divorces Ivanka. It runs afoul of the anti-nepotism law.

MCENANY: Not true, not true ...

RYE: Absolutely.

MCENANY: Let me read you a quick sentence. This is from ...


MCENANY: D.C., a circuit judge, with regard to Hillary when she's on the Hillary task force. "We doubt that Congress intended to include the White House or the executive office of the president in the anti- nepotism law."


COOPER: Let's not go too far into the weeds on this one particular law.

RYE: It's important.

BEGALA: I too have had -- but I recovery. And we should use clear language, you use to phrase Kayleigh, blind trust. Which we throw around a lot. A trust is only blind if the beneficiary has no idea of its contents, that's why we called a blind. There's lots of trust that are up line, but if you say Mr. Kushner or I think President- elect Trump is required to have by ethics, by honesty, bu morality by the public interest to have the blind trust that means may must liquidate. And I know that ...

MCENANY: Kushner had said, he would.

BEGALA: Good for him. And that's the standard I'm looking for. And then you reinvest in treasures, Hank Paulson did this, he had a half a billion stake at in Goldman Sachs, he was President Bush's treasury secretary. There's a provision in the law by the way, which was extraordinarily generous tax breaks if you have to do that for public service. Some liberals have complained about that. I think it's great. So they will get huge tax breaks. Giant beautiful extraordinary gorgeous tax breaks. The classiest in the world but they got liquidate.


MCENANY: That's unfair of you to ask Donald Trump to do that, because he would be depriving his children -- he would depriving his children of their livelihood, of their business.

BEGALA: Children are just fine, no.

MCENANY: If you discouraging people ...


MCENANY: ... in the private sector from running for office.

COOPER: The Chairman Spicer of the RNC basically said that as long as the Trump team is transparent in this case about Donald Jr.'s involvement it's OK, When on say the conflict of interest arise only when people are sneaky.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, like when they don't release their tax returns for example. I mean I one day when I'm -- you keep bringing Kayleigh -- you keep bringing up Hillary Clinton, but isn't their analogy, Bobby Kennedy. I mean it's -- if Bobby Kennedy is the reason the nepotism law exists ...

HAM: That's right.

POWERS: ... hold on. That is the reason. So, it is to prevent you from hiring family members. It is really not the same as the first lady. So how is Jared Kushner different than Bobby Kennedy?

MCENANY: It's very different and the court actually deal ...


MCENANY: The court actually dealt with that very question. They said you couldn't appoint someone as A.G. let's say, that's why we created the law in the first place, and referred to Bobby Kennedy, I referred to JFK.

[20:40:09] You can however appoint people to be in the White House because they're not an executive agents ...

LORD: Right.

MCENANY: ... you know, and therefore subjects to the law.

COOPER: All right, we're going to take another quick break. Coming up the chilling back story of how the Democratic National Committee got hack. This is really fascinating detail. We're going to hear from "New York Times" reporter who's extraordinary investigation found a tail of cyber espionage intwined with presidential politics and just flat our bungling by an awful a lot of folks at the DNC and elsewhere. We're only just now beginning to understand it. We'll talk about the details ahead.


COOPER: It started with a phone call more than a year ago. An FBI agent call the DNC to let them know that you are computer system was compromised by hacker linked to the Russian government. A contractor in tech support thought it might be a prank call. The contractor wasn't even sure it actually was an FBI agent talking to him on the phone. That was it. That was how it all began, the beginning of what became an unprecedented saga involving cyber espionage, the only information in presidential politics. A saga that is still unfolding to this day.

The "New York Times" has published an extraordinary piece investigative journalism is on the front page today explaining how that phone call in September 2015 was the first a misopportunity to stop the Russian intrusion. One that allowed hackers to roam around the DNC's computer network for almost 7 months.

But it was only the first in a series of missteps and misunderstandings at around for more than a year, that includes decades of e-mails from Hillary Clinton's campaign Chairman John Podesta's personal e-mail being hacked, because of a phishing scam and a typo.

The "Times" article is a remarkable read in which the first time -- for the first time key players targeted and hacked agreed to tell their stories.

Joining me now is "New York Times" investigative reporter Eric Lipton. As I this, I read this just -- it boggles the mind. The fact that first of all and I still can't believe this. An FBI agent calls up the DNC, basically gets forwarded to tech support. Not even an employee but like a contractor and the contractor is talking to this FBI agent but isn't convinced the person is an actual FBI agent.

ERIC LIPTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER NEW YORK TIMES: It's extraordinary. And you realize that individual decisions have real consequences and mistakes have real consequences and history can change because of the tech guy that gets the call, that comes into the switch board, gets pass to the help desk, goes to the tech guy he doesn't believe it's an FBI agent. The FBI agent calls back, back, back. He leaves voice mail messages for this guy. [20:45:01] COOPER: And the guy doesn't call back because he said there was nothing new to tell the guy about.

LIPTON: Yes. And the DNC did not have sophisticated monitoring software to look for intrusions. And the guy did some checking but he didn't see anything. And because he didn't see anything he didn't return the calls in the FBI agent. So this went on for months, months.

COOPER: And he didn't go up the chain, it seems like at the DNC.


COOPER: This basically stay. I don't understand why the FBI. I mean as you point out in the article, the DNC office pretty close to the FBI. Why didn't the FBI show up at the DNC?

LIPTON: It's hard to explain. I mean on -- the only explanation is that the FBI gets lots of these reports of potential intrusions and it is charged with notifying businesses and other individuals. And it has some of these notifications that it just makes the call and it tends to tell people if they don't respond then that's the end of it.

In this case they should have known. The DNC presidential election previous presidential elections, you know, Obama and McCain were both subject cyber attacks. They should have escalated, and the Debbie Wasserman Schultz when I spoke to her was furious when she learned that this -- she wasn't even fully aware when I spoke with her, that this is going to back to September 2015, Donna Brazile was also furious. They questioned why didn't the FBI escalate this.

COOPER: And John Podesta gets a -- at one point a -- I guess months later a phishing e-mail basically telling him to change his security password allegedly from Google. It wasn't real. Somebody on the team sent who also received that e-mail sent it to like their IT guy. The IT guy knew it was not a real thing that they should not -- it was not a legitimate e-mail, but he sends back a note saying it is legitimate. But he meant to write it's illegitimate but he made a mistake.

LIPTON: Again.

COOPER: And so they change the password and that's how ...

LIPTON: It's incredible.

COOPER: ... 60,000 e-mails in John Podesta they got.

LIPTON: The consequences of what seems like a small error. And 60,000 e-mails a decade worth of John Podesta's e-mails. The Hillary Clinton speeches, the -- all kinds of snide remarks from individuals that then became public, criticizing her in public and it became two months where the stories that was undermining her effort to get her message. Enormous consequences and -- but the thing is most incredible is not the gossip, the content there. But this was all devised by the Russians to try to influence, you know, not necessarily the outcome of the election but at least to disrupt the election process. To undermine, you know, the confidence in American democracy. And that -- the fact that this was all a Russian plot, that's pretty incredible.

COOPER: And it seem like from your reporting perhaps two different groups of Russians most likely government actors or ultimately government actors who may not even have known the other group was -- because some of the e-mails and stuff they were getting were duplicates.

LIPTON: Yes, that's right, the company that was hired ultimately by the DNC to examine this, crowd strike. It's founded -- it concluded that they most likely were not aware that they both were in the system at the same time. Because they were actually going back to the same files and collecting both players. So there were two different, you know, subsidiaries, Russia intelligence services that were active in DNC's computers.

COOPER: So, I mean one hand you could say this was a very high-tech sort of espionage effort but a lot of it did just rely on human error and mistakes. I mean there was sort of generally a phishing expedition.

LIPTON: I think that ultimately if the Russians really wanted to get in to the DNC system, and they persistently tried, you know, unless they had really high level monitoring that they most likely would have gotten in. Now, I mean if you compare it for example. Hillary Clinton, for example, hired a private, you know, cyber security firm to protect her, you know, the e-mails of the Clinton campaign and in fact there's no evidence so far at least that they did successfully hack in to her campaign.

John Podesta's e-mails were his Gmail account, but out two step verification, there's a singe thing anyone should learn out this is, always have two step verification on your e-mail because that's why John Podesta's 60,000 e-mails are -- anyone could read them, is because you didn't have two step.

COOPER: Well, he also kept 60,000 e-mails.


COOPER: I mean e-mails going back ten years or something, he just had them all -- he never deleted them.

LIPTON: One of the things that a guy who made the mistake and is telling him that this was legitimate said to me which was not on the story it was the fact that they were not -- repeatedly trying to convince Podesta to get off of the Gmail. That it was a security threat and that -- well how could he not have learned from what Hillary went through that he should get off from this private e-mail? He should be handling all this campaign matters on his private e-mail. He continued to do it.

COOPER: And at one point he had actually written a paper on cyber security, correct or something?

LIPTON: Yes, on cyber issues.

COOPER: Cyber issues.


COOPER: Eric Lipton, its just again, it's fascinating reporting. It's at "New York Times" website. Appreciate what you have done.

LIPTON: Thank you so much.

COOPER: It's incredible read.

LIPTON: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Incredible read. Just ahead, gone but not forgotten. We're going to remember the 20 first graders and 6 adults gone down four years ago inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. We'll be right back.


[20:52:20] COOPER: Four years ago today a gunman opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School killing 20 first graders and 6 adults. For their families, December 14th, 2012, is the day their world shattered. But in the days that followed and the face of immeasurable grief, we saw extraordinary courage and bravery where it would seem impossible. I talked to Lynn and Chris McDonnell four days after their daughter Grace died, Grace was just 7 years old, talented artist, who also left behind a brother Jack. As fresh as their loss was, they wanted to share some of their memories of Grace.


COOPER: What do you want people to know about Grace?

LYNN MCDONNELL, GRACE'S MOTHER: Well, Grace had such a great spirit. She was a kind and gentle soul, and she was just the light and love of our family. She was just truly a special, special little girl that we loved. And she loved her brother so much. And she loved her school, Sandy Hook.

In fact, this week I was telling somebody, she had a stomachache one day. And I said to her, why don't you stay home with mom and she said, no way, I have too much fun there, and I don't want to miss anything. She would skip to get on the bus. It wasn't even a -- you know, every morning it was the backpack was packed the night before and ready to get on the bus in the morning and head off to school. We would blow kisses every morning to each other. And I remember that morning, putting her on the bus. She had a habit of blowing kisses, but then she would give me a big little liver lip like.

But the she -- I knew she was so happy to go off and get there. So, I'd like to say that she was at a place that she loved, and so we take comfort in that, that we know she was in a place that she really loved.

COOPER: And with friends. L. MCDONNELL: And with friends.

CHRIS MCDONNELL, GRACE'S FATHER: People that loved her, and that's, I think, the whole community and the school and the teachers. They're all raising your child. And it's -- it's a special place.

L. MCDONNELL: It is. I take some for that. She was with all her friends. And I just envision all of them holding hands. And they're all together up there.

COOPER: I was talking to you before we began and one of the things you were saying is you don't want to have hate or anger in your heart.

L. MCDONNELL: No. I said that to Jack, that it's OK to be angry because, sure, we have anger and we're upset, and we don't know why. But I told Jack that he could never live with hate. Grace didn't have an ounce of hate in her. And so we have to live through Grace and realize that hate is not -- not how our family is and not -- certainly not how gGace is.

[20:55:01] COOPER: It's a hard thing, though, isn't it, to not feel that?

C. MCDONNELL: We're going to go on, and we're going to use her positive energy to help guide us forward.

L. MCDONNELL: One of Grace's favorite things to paint or draw was a peace sign. The morning after I was in the bathroom, and I used to dry her hair next to the window, and the window would fog up and she would write notes in the window to me. And on Saturday morning I was standing at that window in the bathroom, and it had fogged up, and I looked and there was her peace sign in the window. And I was like, that's a sign from my Grace. And the paint above it said Grace/mom and she drew a heart. So she was all about peace and gentleness and kindness.


COOPER: Those are very early days in the grieving process. The past four years have frankly been unimaginable for these families, the pain never goes away. And on top of that, the Sandy Hook families have become targets of hoaxsters who claim that the shootings never happened. Just last week a woman in Florida was charged with making death threats against the father of Noah Pozner and kind of harassment has been going on for year. I talked to Len Pozner about it.


LEN POZNER, NOAH'S FATHER: As far as Sandy Hook, we've been calling them hoaxsters since, you know, since pretty much the beginning, because they -- first of all, they don't think anything bad ever happens. They don't think anyone ever gets hurt. So they think that, whenever they see something on the web or on television, that is a crime or a mass casualty event, it has to be a hoax.

And then, if there is debunking evidence that comes out that shows that they made mistakes, like researchers, like normal researchers, they won't correct their mistakes, and oftentimes they start to fabricate their evidence or fudge their evidence or photoshop their evidence. So really they're contributing to the hoax by falsifying the information that they are propagating.

So, they're hoaxsters by calling everything a hoax, and then everything that they do after the fact is sort of distributing false information to people.


COOPER: Len's son Noah and Grace McDonnell and the 18 other children killed at Sandy Hook would be fifth graders today. The six adults who die try to protecting comfort them would have touched the lives of dozens more children by now.

26 futures were stolen four years ago today. But the lives they lived will not be forgotten. We will remember them. Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel D'Avino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana Marquez- Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emily Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Roisseau, Mary Sherlock, Victoria Soto., Benjamin Wheeler and Alison Wyatt. We will remember them.

We'll be right back.