Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY SATURDAY

Reaction to US Sanctions Against Russia; Rockettes Don't Want to Perform for Inauguration; Preparations for NYE. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 31, 2016 - 07:00   ET

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


[00:07:00] He said "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart." Now, Senator John McCain and lawmakers from both parties are backing President Obama's sanctions against Russia, and McCain has scheduled a hearing next week on foreign cyber threats to the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCAIN, SENATOR, ARIZONA: When you attack a country, it's an act of war. And, so, we have to make sure that there is a price to pay so that we can, perhaps, persuade the Russians to stop this kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Putin's decision not to retaliate for the U.S. sanctions signals that he is waiting, at least, until Trump takes office for his next move. CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto has the details on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Russians vacating compounds shut down by the U.S. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, dismissing Washington's payback; instead, wishing President Obama and his family a happy new year, saying in a statement "We will not stoop to the level of irresponsible diplomacy. It is a pity that the President Obama administration finishes its work this way but, nevertheless, I congratulate him and his family a happy new year."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recommended Putin expel 35 American diplomats from Russia after the U.S. ordered 35 alleged Russian spies to leave the U.S. by this weekend.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, VIA TRANSLATOR: We cannot let such escapades happen without a response. The Russian Foreign Ministry, together with our colleagues from other departments, have made a proposal to declare 31 staff from the embassy of Moscow, and four diplomats from the General Consulate of St. Petersburg as persona non-grata.

SCIUTTO: President Putin, likely waiting for a far friendlier administration under Donald Trump, did not take that advice, saying, in his statement "We will not create problems for American diplomats. We will not send anyone away." With a stroke of drama, Putin even issued this invitation to American children: "In response to the new U.S. sanctions, I invite all children of the U.S. diplomats to the New Year and Christmas children's show at the Kremlin", signed "Yours sincerely, Vladimir Putin."

The U.S. shut down two Russian government-owned compounds; one in New York, where law enforcement was seen outside; and another in Maryland, a 45-acre property purchased by the Soviet government in 1972. Vehicles were seen leaving the Maryland estate and returning to the Russian embassy in Washington. The White House says the Russians working at the compounds were spying on the U.S.

LISA MONACO, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: What these individuals were doing were, basically, collecting intelligence. They were intelligence officers operating here and using these compounds, one in New York, one in Maryland, for intelligence collection purposes.

SCIUTTO: Russia, however, refutes that the estates were being used for espionage.

VITALY CHURKIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It's quite scandalous that they chose to go after our kids, you know? They know full well that those two facilities, which they mentioned in their notes -- they are vacation facilities for our kids and this is Christmas time.

SCIUTTO: Four of the Russians sanctioned by the U.S. are part of the Russian military intelligence unit known as the GRU. One of them is the unit's chief.

UNKNOWN MALE: It's assigning blame to Russia's military intelligence service, but the actual perpetrators of these hacks are contractors, if you like -- people who have been found by the Russian government to do their dirty work for them.

SCIUTTO: Keep in mind that election hacking is not the only issue of disagreement between the U.S. and Russia. You have the annexation of Crimea, the invasion of Ukraine, bombing of civilians in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria; those are issues that Donald Trump will have to face as president, as well.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PAUL: Jim, thank you so much. I want to bring in CNN's Matthew Chance from Moscow and Ryan Maness, cyber-conflict expert and author of "Russia's Coercive Diplomacy. Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with you (sic).

Matthew, I'm going to get to you in a moment, but I do want to start with what has happened in Vermont that we've been talking about today. We are just getting a reaction here from Governor Peter Shumlin there in Vermont, and he says this: "Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world's leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality of life, economy, health and safety. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling."

Ryan, when you heard about what was happening with Burlington Electric this morning, what was your first thought and how much danger was there in that malware being present?

RYAN MANESS, CYBER EXPERT AND AUTHOR: Well, this isn't the first time that Russia's done this. China has done it too and I'm -- and I'm pretty sure that we've done it to them, as well. When our grid is hacked, it's usually a probing -- it's usually a probing exercise to kind of show that we -- that they got in, but they wouldn't cross the line and knock our power out.

[00:07:03]

That's something that -- where a red line has been drawn, and if Russia went through and kinetically knocked out our power, then things would escalate and -- and we would retaliate in kind.

So, these types of things are kind of espionage probes -- kind of the great game of cyber politics. So I don't see anything happening beyond the malware getting in, but nothing's really going to happen after that.

PAUL: Since they found it. Matthew, I want to listen to something Congressman John Garamendi said yesterday -- he's a member of the House Armed Service Committee -- about President-Elect Trump and President Putin. Listen to this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN GARAMENDI, CONGRESSMAN, CALIFORNIA: I am scared. I am, frankly, very, very scared that our next President hasn't a clue about what Russia is actually up to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Matthew, does the U.S. have a gauge of what Russia is actually up to?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the intelligence services say that they've got a good gauge on that. I think -- I think the point that your -- your earliest guest -- the other guest on the show was making is a really good one. These hacking exercises -- these hacking attempts -- they take place all over the world. China does it; Britain does it; the United States does; and, definitely, the Russians do it, as well.

The scandal, remember, was the data dumping -- the dumping of the information acquired through that hacking in a -- in an alleged attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election. That's what the scandal was all about. In terms of, you know, whether United States has a gauge, or not; well, I mean, clearly, it's got -- it's got intelligence operatives that are working here, they've got assessments that they're making, and they've got digital evidence that have led them to the conclusion that it's Russia that's behind these -- these hacking attacks. And, you know, it's -- it's pretty incomprehensible that -- that Donald Trump, perhaps, isn't taking those assessments and those intelligence findings, which he would have been aware of, a bit more seriously.

PAUL: Is there a sense that President Putin may be holding back on these retaliations that they had -- that had been recommended to him yesterday morning because he thinks that Donald Trump may be easier to manage, so to speak -- easier to manipulate because he is not a regular politician?

CHANCE: I think that's -- that's one interpretation of -- of Putin's motivation for -- for not responding in kind to the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats. Another interpretation would be that, look, you know, he's already, you know, finished, basically, dealing with the Obama administration. There's -- there's no further progress he can make with -- with President Obama, who's in the last few weeks of his administration anyway. And, so, he uses this as an opportunity to reach across the Obama administration and appeal directly to -- to Donald Trump, who is going to be in the White House in the next three weeks.

Putin clearly believes that Donald Trump is someone that -- that he can negotiate with on a whole range of issues -- Syria, Ukraine, NATO expansion -- things like that. I mean, Donald Trump has -- has fueled this idea that he shares Russia's view of many problems in the world, like international terrorism, for instance. He wants to work with Russia to combat ISIS in Syria, for example. And -- and I expect that's -- that's what -- that's what Vladimir Putin was trying to do.

And, you know, what? It seems to have worked, in the sense that Donald Trump responded. He may be the -- he faces a lot of head winds in the Congress -- through his own Republican Party, as well -- but, he responded very positively, didn't he, to that -- to that decision by Putin not to respond, saying "Great move in the delay. I always knew Vladimir Putin was smart." You know, Putin would have been very happy with that tweet, I expect.

PAUL: Yes, no doubt. Ryan, I wanted to ask you again about this Vermont utility that's been hacked. Homeland security, as we understand it, according to CNN reporting, I.D.'d that hack -- the company didn't. They, then, alerted the company and they found the malware at that point. So, how confident are you in individual companies' abilities to spot these operations -- these hacks before any damage is done and what, specifically, can the U.S. do to prevent it?

MANESS: Well, the (inaudible) attacks on the DNC, as well as this Vermont facility, were socially engineered. Cyber security's weakest link is the human -- is the human link. What I mean by "socially engineered" is the -- the malware got in by a social engineered email that was sent to an employee that clicked on that email and then malware spread into the system. So, when it -- when it comes to attacks like these, we need to train our human beings a little better on being able to spot these malicious emails, not bringing USB ports into -- into work facilities, and to just be more conscious on -- on being on the networks in -- in their place of employment.

[07:10:07]

This happened both with the DNC and the Vermont facility, so I would -- I would say the private sector, as well as government, needs to start promoting better cyber hygiene practices that will -- it won't -- it won't eradicate all hacks like this, but it can definitely reduce the chance that these types of attacks get in. And I'd to the fact of the previous guest that Putin, when it comes to these sanctions -- what he's doing is playing chess. Obama thought he could bait him into responding to these sanctions, but Putin didn't bite. Putin knows Trump, and when Putin made this -- made this decision not to retaliate, it played right into his hands.

What Obama tried to do was to divide the GOP over the Russian issue before coming in --

PAUL: Okay. Okay. We've got to -- Matthew Chance and Ryan Maness, we appreciate both of you being here. Thank you so much for your insight.

CHANCE: Okay.

MANESS: No problem.

SAVIDGE: There is a massive manhunt underway in Pennsylvania this morning after a state trooper was shot and killed in the line of duty. Authorities are searching for this man, Jason Robison. He's considered to be armed and dangerous. State trooper, Landon Weaver, was responding to a domestic related incident when the suspect opened fire. Pennsylvania's governor issued a statement, saying, in part, "I have full confidence that the person who committed this senseless act of violence will be captured and brought to justice.

Two people were shot and killed this morning after rapper Meek Mill's concert in Connecticut. Two other people were injured. It happened in the parking lot outside the Toyota Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, Connecticut. Police are still investigating that. The victims have not yet been identified.

PAUL: Well, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is set to the Radio City Rockettes at Donald Trump's inauguration, but one member quit the choir. Why she's refusing to sing and who she's comparing Donald Trump to.

SAVIDGE: And, it is New Year's Eve around the world. Sydney, Australia getting ready to ring in 2017 at the top of the hour. We'll bring you the official countdown and celebration when all of that happens. Meanwhile, Auckland, New Zealand was the first to ring in the New Year a little over an hour ago, and what a beautiful sight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Five, four, three, two one. (CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:34]

PAUL: Fifteen minutes after the hour right now. Good to have you with us today. Another performer is refusing, now, to participate in Donald Trump's inauguration.

SAVIDGE: Yeah, this time it's a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They are slated to join the Radio City Rockettes on January 20th, along with 16-year-old America's Got Talent, Jackie Evancho -- she's a star, of course, of that program. But, now, a member of the Tabernacle Choir is quitting and comparing Trump to Hitler. Jan Chamberlain wrote in a Facebook post that to sing for Trump is an endorsement for tyranny and fascism. For more on what was said, we are joined by CNN Politics Reporter Eugene Scott.

Good morning, Eugene. There -- here's part of what Chamberlain said in her post -- let's show you that:

"I have tried to tell myself that it will be all right and that I can continue, in good conscience, before God and man. I only know I could never throw roses to Hitler, and I certainly could never sing for him."

This is coming, of course, after the Rockettes had to deal with dissension in the ranks there. I'm wondering, is this a growing problem for Trump?

EUGENE SCOTT, CNN REPORTER: Well, this certainly is another name and another member of an organization who is expected to perform at the inauguration who has had concerns with doing so. But, the reality is, that we haven't seen an overwhelming number of people from the Rockettes and from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir come out and express frustration with their company's decision. With that being said, we also have not seen a large number of groups sign on to participate in this event.

SAVIDGE: Yes. Well, Donald Trump says that, of course, he wants his inaugural ceremony to be focused on the people. Many presidents actually say that. You can see that the strategy in an early list of groups that has come out -- those, at least, who have accepted an invitation to join the inaugural parade -- could there be, I guess, bigger names coming?

SCOTT: Well, they certainly hope so. To be fair to the inauguration committee, they're still working on bringing names on-board. Granted, in previous inaugurations, there were bigger names announced by this time, but there's still quite a bit of time to attract some guests that the people would love to see participate in this national event.

SAVIDGE: Yes, I'm sure they would. And, you know, part of all of this is to see a nation coming together. Instead, now, we're hearing more and more headlines about performers who don't want to be a part. Eugene Scott, thank you very much.

SCOTT: Thank you.

PAUL: Dan -- I mean, we've heard, just mentioned, members of the renowned dance troop there, the Rockettes, threatening that boycott of Donald Trump's presidential address. And we've heard about this the last few weeks with different people.

SAVIDGE: We have. And we're going to get more on this from CNN's Brynn Gingras.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT-ELECT: Let's hear the bells. Okay.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump and the Radio City Rockettes, both New York City icons.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

But the Rockettes are kicking up controversy over the upcoming presidential inauguration; one dancer speaking out after feeling pressure to perform at the ceremony for a candidate she does not support.

"We do a lot of events, but there have been no events that could cause trauma, and doing this would cause trauma for some people." That said to journalist, Kaitlin Menza, in a Marie Claire exclusive report.

KAITLIN MENZA, JOURNALIST: The Rockette I spoke with said that, emotionally, people were crying on stage.

GINGRAS: According to Menza, some of the dancers who are full-time were initially told they had no choice but to perform in next month's event. Word of the scheduled performance created a firestorm within the Rockettes organization and on social media. Marie Claire reports the backlash is what changed the minds of the Rockettes' management. The dancers' union said it never required participation and that it would be voluntary. Madison Square Garden, who employs the dancers, added "We had more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available."

MENZA: A lot of artists haven't wanted to participate in the inauguration and she's upset that the Rockettes have. That's making it seems as if they stand by him and his policies.

GINGRAS: With dancers facing criticism from some Trump supporters, others favor the boycott, like this former Rockette, who appeared on Democracy Now.

AUTUMN WITHERS, FORMER RADIO CITY ROCKETTE: The Rockettes represent a legacy of strong, intelligent and classy women. And so, to associate this with Mr. Trump, who has a public history of degrading women, objectifying women, in my opinion, really tarnishes what the Rockettes embody and stand for.

[07:20:07]

UNKNOWN MALE: The Radio City Rockettes.

GINGRAS: The famous dancers were all on board for George W. Bush's celebration, both in 2001 and 2005. This year, they're not the only ones wanting to skip out. Sources tell CNN, President-Elect Trump's transition team is having a tough time booking talent.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PAUL: So, many people wondering, why are global leaders, who are known as strong men, already reaching out to President-Elect Trump before he even takes office? We'll talk about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAVIDGE: Donald Trump has made no secret of the fact that he admires Russian President Vladimir Putin and, after his election win, Putin and other leaders with strong men kind of images have sent him messages of praise.

PAUL: And so CNN Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson set out to find out why.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the aftermath of the election, messages of support come from Presidents with tough-guy personas who have had tense relations with the U.S.

The Russian president calls Trump a successful entrepreneur, a man who is "probably clever". Turkey's president jumped to the President- Elect's support, calling anti-Trump street protests "a disrespect to democracy". And then there's the president of the Philippines who, not long ago, told President Obama he could "go to hell".

RODRIGO DUTERTE, PRESIDENT, PHILIPPINES: I would like to congratulate President Trump.

(CHEERING)

DUTERTE (VIA ENGLISH CAPTIONS): Long live Mr. Trump. We both curse. With trivial matters, we curse. We are very similar in that way.

TRUMP: Really good.

WATSON: Why do these strong men seem to like Donald Trump?

UNKNOWN MALE: I would call it their capacity to provide simple answers to very complicated questions -- that what we're seeing at the moment in the world today is a lot of threats, and crises, and uncertainty. And what these leaders are providing is simplistic answers -- black and white; close the borders; no more foreigners.

[07:25:09]

WATSON: Vladimir Putin first came to power in 1999, delighting many Russians with his promise to hunt down and kill Chechen rebels in their toilets.

UNKNOWN MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WATSON: Turkey's fiery Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspires fervent pride among pious, working-class voters, while often demonizing and persecuting his critics. And, in Europe, several far-right politicians embraced Trump's tough talk on immigration and Islamist extremism, hoping for their own Trump-bump as the compete for the top job in Dutch and French elections scheduled next year.

But not everyone welcomes this new hunger for nationalist politicians. Here, in the tiny Eastern-European country of Latvia, U.S. soldiers are training alongside the Latvian military. It's part of an effort to better protect this NATO ally from its much bigger neighbor to the east, Latvia's former Soviet ruler, Russia.

With Trump so focused on making America great, people here fear the U.S. will no longer protect them. The rise of nationalist strongmen leaves some of the little guys clearly worried.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Riga.

PAUL: All right, 7:26 right now and there are two million people expected to watch the ball drop in New York. I'm going to give you a live shot at Times Square right now. You know the stages are set. And, you know, people are already trickling in, because you've got to get that spot, or you're going to lose it. We're going to take you there live, too. Authorities are doing a couple of things very differently this year to try to keep everybody safe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: 7:29 on a Saturday morning and I'm surprised you're up if you plan to be up late tonight to ring in the new year, yes?

SAVIDGE: Yes. No, if you're up this early, you really need to pace yourself here.

PAUL: (Inaudible) get a nap here. Yes, I'm Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: I'm Martin Savidge, in for Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: Let's talk about some recent terror attacks in Germany and France that have New York City on high-alert, of course, as we're heading into the New Year's Eve celebrations there.

SAVIDGE: This, as many as -- or, I should say, as many as two million people are expected to fill Times Square for the big countdown, and that's where we find correspondent, Jessica Schneider. Jessica, let's talk about, you know, what's been beefed-up security-wise, and what sort of things are you seeing there?

[07:30:02]

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Martin, you know, this is the place to be on New Year's Eve. And the NYPD also says that this is the safest place that you'll find in the city. That's because of all these enhanced security measures -- the security measures they take every year. But, this year, they've added a -- something a little bit different. Take a look at the numbers as I break it down for you.

There will be 65 sanitation trucks filled with sand. Those will line the perimeter of Times Square. That's all in precaution, of course, for what we've seen overseas in the recent months with the -- those truck crashes that have gone into crowded areas, the most recent being in Berlin, Germany in that Christmas market. So, the NYPD taking that precaution. In addition, they'll have 100 blocker vehicles all over. They range from police cruisers to larger trucks, as well. Seven- thousand NYPD officers will be stationed throughout the city; that includes 550 new graduates. And there will be 65 viewing pens all over Times Square, from 42nd Street all the way to 59th Street.

The amazing thing about those viewing pens is that the NYPD aims to fit about 3000 people inside each of those pens. So, it will be quite a gathering out here. You can see, just behind me, some of the pens out here. These are all the barricades that are put in place by the NYPD. They'll open up this area in a little bit. That when, actually, if you can believe it, the crowds will start gathering here, despite the fact that we're still about 16-and-a-half hours until that big ball drop, there.

But, this will be an extremely safe area. They'll have counter- terrorism teams out here. The heavy weapons teams will be very visible in this area. They'll be patrolling by air -- the helicopters will be out. And, also, there will be different members of different agencies down at One Police Plaza, the headquarters. They'll be monitoring all of the video feeds from around here. So, this will definitely be a safe spot. And, of course, the NYPD, this year, instituting some of those enhanced security measures as a precaution for some of those threats. There aren't any credible threats here in Times Square or in New York City; but, of course, taking every precaution after some of the attacks that we've seen overseas in Europe.

Martin and Christi?

SAVIDGE: Jessica, real quick, is this the first time those sand trucks have been deployed? I've not heard of that in other years.

SCHNEIDER: It's the first time, Martin, it's been deployed right here in Times Square, but they actually put out those sand trucks in the perimeter of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, just about a month or so ago. So, yes, the first time here in Times Square. And, of course, they're doing it as a precaution because of those truck attacks that we've seen overseas. So they are enhancing their security measures; but, you know, like always, we always see a lot of security right here in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

SAVIDGE: Yes, obviously, a wise precaution. Jessica Schneider, thank you very much. Happy New Year.

CNN's Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin -- they will co-host CNN's New Year's Eve coverage. That will be from 8:00 p.m. Eastern to 12:30 a.m. Don Lemon and Brooke Baldwin will also be counting down; the Central time zone rings in from the Spotted Cat Music Club in New Orleans. Lucky them. The party begins, again, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

PAUL: I don't know if you've heard about this but a Kennedy cousin could be headed back to prison for murder after a Connecticut judge overturned an earlier ruling that freed him. Now, in 2002, Michael Skakel, remember, was convicted of killing Martha Moxley, a 15-year- old neighbor, back in 1975. Skakel was the nephew of Ethel and Robert Kennedy. He was released in 2013, when a judge ordered a new trial. The ruling said Skakel's lawyer hadn't represented him -- represented him well.

Well, now, that decision has been overturned by a judge who disagreed. As for Skakel, he's always maintained his innocence and his current lawyer sent this statement to CNN -- I'm going to read it for you now.

It says "We haven't had time to full digest the opinion at this juncture; but, of course, it's a setback. We are going to be dealing with other legal procedures that are available to avail Michael of any and all of his Constitutional rights."

We are joined now by Yodit Tewolde, in Dallas. She's a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. Yodit, thank you so much for being with us. I want to talk to you about this -- this forensic evidence. There was an awful lot of it. None of it pointed to Michael Skakel. He was initially convicted, primarily, on witness statements. Where do you think this has the potential to go with no forensic evidence and this -- you know, we're 40-plus years after this case -- after the murder.

YODIT TEWOLDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, we've got to respect the jury's decision in convicting Michael Skakel during the three-week trial that he had. The appellate court said that "Look, you know what? The representation by Mickey Sherman was so inadequate that it denied Skakel of a fair trial." It went up all the way to the Supreme Court in Connecticut, and they said "No, no, no. This is decision is wrong.

[07:35:03]

In fact, the defense attorneys and Skakel failed to prove or demonstrate that Mickey's -- Mickey Sherman's representation was so deficient as to deny him a fair trial."

So, what they did is reinstate his conviction. And what that means is, that is going to re-establish Skakel's status as a convicted murderer. PAUL: So, where do they go from here, though? I mean, when you -- we just got that statement from the attorney. It says that they're going to be revisiting every aspect. What aspects are there? What -- what could avail him?

TEWOLDE: I mean, at this point, I think they've exhausted so many grounds for appeals, but there are so many other legal procedures they could look for. Right now, what the State is going to want to do is request that the trial court have Skakel remanded back to prison, and the defense attorneys, I would presume, would ask the court to let him remain out in the free (sic), because he's been out for three years and has, presumably, complied with all of the requirements that he was given on the condition of being released.

So, right now, it's the question of whether he's going to be remanded back to prison, and for how long.

PAUL: Well, there was a composite sketch that neighbors -- that was drafted after neighbors had given reports to police about a man that they saw in that area. And it was held up at one of the trials, and it does not look like -- I mean, most people would say it does not look like Skakel. The defense was trying to pinpoint it to somebody else. Does that tactic work -- trying to pull in -- trying to incriminate someone -- someone other than who is in question here, in terms of the defense?

TEWOLDE: Well, absolutely. That's what you want to do as a defense attorney (inaudible) at the trial court level. Did it work? No, it obviously didn't. The accusation of Skakel and his team was that Mickey Sherman didn't do enough to pinpoint someone else. Some would argue that he did enough and that he did try to, one, establish an alibi for Skakel, and to pinpoint another possible murderer at the time. It didn't, obviously, work. The jury still felt that the evidence was so overwhelming and pointed towards his guilt. And that's what they rendered and that's something that we have to respect.

Now, they raised that issue on an appeal and that still failed. They went all the way to the Supreme Court -- the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 and they denied to even review the case. So, as it stands right now, he is a convicted murderer.

PAUL: So, what do you think should happen at this point? Do you think he needs to go back to jail?

TEWONDE: As a former prosecutor, I would definitely ask the court to remand him back to jail. Now, remember, he's only completed half of the sentence. He was sentenced to 20 years to life. Before he was released, he only had completed 10 years. So, as a former prosecutor, I would want to defend the integrity of my -- my case and my victims -- my victim's family, and I would want him to have -- have him remanded and finish out that sentence, absolutely.

As a defense attorney, I would try and find some other avenue to appeal to try and get this reversed.

PAUL: All right, Yodit Tewolde, we appreciate you so much. Thank you.

TEWOLDE: Thank you so much.

SAVIDGE: Up next, the Trans-Atlantic war of words. Why the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is driving a wedge between America and one of its oldest allies, Great Britain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAVIDGE: The U.S. State Department was caught off guard by a rebuke from one of America's closest allies.

[07:41:40]

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May scolded Secretary of State John Kerry for his speech outlining the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Phil Black is in London. He's following developments there.

Phil, good morning to you. Why did the Prime Minister attack John Kerry for saying that these settlements are an obstacle to peace?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it pretty -- it's really an extraordinary development, Martin, because this is not the way their so-called special relationship is supposed to be conducted. Let's start by just looking at these statements, specifically. So, Theresa May's office has scolded, as you say, John Kerry for, in its view, going in too hard on this issue of Jewish settlements on the West Bank. But, more than that, his comments where he described the Israeli government as the most right-wing in the country's history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.

This is an excerpt from her statement, here, in which it says "We do not, therefore, believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, and we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. As you say, the State Department was caught off guard. In their own words, they were "surprised. This is their statement:

"We are surprised by the U.K. Prime Minister's Office statement, given that Secretary Kerry's remarks, which covered the full range of threats to a two-state solution, including terrorism, violence, incitement and settlement were in line with the U.K.'s own long- standing policy and it's vote at the United Nations last week."

What the State Department is saying there is "Hang on, where did this come from? We haven't said anything that you guys, yourselves, haven't said before and, in fact, have long believed in as long- standing p9olicy. The question as to why? Well, it's being interpreted here, perhaps, as an and eoffort by Prime Minister May to ingratiate herself with the incoming U.S. administration and President-Elect Trump. Perhaps an attempt to appease the Israeli government, as well, because Britain didn't just abstain from the vote on Israeli settlements as the U.S. did, it voted in favor of this very critical U.N. Security Council resolution. So, there's a view that, perhaps, Britain has some making up to do

with the Israeli government. But, perhaps also, Britain is attempting to maintain influence with both the U.S. administration -- the new, incoming one -- and, also, the Israeli government in the hope of guiding them all towards a two-state solution to the conflict, Martin.

SAVIDGE: And real quick, Phil, I would think that Brexit plays a role in this, in the sense that, you know, Great Britain doesn't want to feel completely cut off from everyone, thereby the overture to the incoming administration?

BLACK: I think that's very likely, yes. So, with Britain looking to leave the European Union -- to lose a lot of trade and business from that part of the world, it's looking to the U.S. That relationship has always been important and, in the Brexit context, you could say has never been more important -- certainly not in recent history, Martin.

SAVIDGE: Right. Phil Black, joining us from London. Thanks very much. Happy New Year to you.

PAUL: Anyone who is on life-saving medication needs to see this. There's an Ohio family fighting to change prescription laws across the country. How this family is hoping that the loss of their son is going to save somebody else. Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:47:27]

PAUL: Well, last hour, we introduced you to the Houdeshell family. They had no idea that they were spending their last Christmas with their son Kevin two years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. HOUDESHELL: He just said "Kevin died." I just screamed and couldn't believe it.

J. HOUDESHELL: When they said he died of Ketoacidosis, and I said "What?" He said, "I have no explanation for that, other than he was non-compliant -- that he wasn't taking his medication."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: His mother contends Kevin, who is a diabetic, was faithful about taking his insulin. And, it turns out, Kevin tried to get more when he ran out, but he was denied the medication. In the meantime, he thought he was just getting the flu. What was really happening -- his organs were shutting down. He was dying, essentially, and he didn't even know it. And he died alone in his apartment.

That's when the Houdeshells knew that they couldn't let any family go through what they were going through.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) D. HOUDESHELL: Kevin did not want to die. Kevin took care of himself.

PAUL: Kevin Houdeshell -- a son, a brother, a diabetic -- died because he ran out of insulin and, in the midst of the holiday season, couldn't get through to his doctor to fill his prescription one more time.

D. HOUDESHELL: And it's not just insulin. It affects other people with other diseases, also. So, we did some investigating and found Ohio law, as it was at the time, was -- in an emergency situation, pharmacists could give a 72-hour emergency prescription -- up to 72 hours. Problem being is that insulin is not packaged in that small quantity.

J. HOUDESHELL: How can this be? How can someone be on a life- sustaining drug and be turned away?

PAUL: And, with that question, their mission, dubbed "Howdy's Law", was born. It's a proposal to secure that anyone suffering from diabetes would be able to get an emergency supply of insulin from a pharmacy if their doctor couldn't be reached. The worked feverishly, got connected to Senator Dave Burke, a pharmacist who, ironically, already had this problem on his mind.

D. HOUDESHELL: This had to go broader.

PAUL: Their local TV station aired Kevin's story and, seemingly overnight, the bureaucratic started turning faster.

D. HOUDESHELL: The next day, we were getting phone calls from Columbus, mostly pharmacy lobbyists that wanted to do know more and the law got fast-tracked, we think, from -- from that point. It only took 14 months to get it passed.

[07:50:13]

PAUL: When they gave their personal testimony to the legislature in Columbus, they knew Kevin's story was going to save lives.

D. HOUDESHELL: The whole legislation was leaning forward listening on every word.

PAUL: The credit Senator Burke and then newly-elected Representative Nathan Manning with putting their urgency into physical motion.

D. HOUDESHELL: On this bill, he called every other representative personally to garner support to -- to get this passed.

J. HOUDESHELL: He was a tiger and he pushed.

PAUL: Judy says it was sign from heaven the day Governor John Kasich, who was on the campaign trail, took a moment to sign the bill into law.

J. HOUDESHELL. That was December 22nd. Kevin was born on 2/22. Kevin was the sacrificial lamb. And, yet, there's still so much more that needs to be done.

PAUL: Their new mission? To make sure a diabetes test is included in every child's well visit to the doctor. It's a simple blood test -- just a prick on the finger -- that could keep your child health and alive.

D. HOUDESHELL: Diabetes is -- is an epidemic. The numbers support it and it's not being treated as an epidemic, and it needs to be.

PAUL: This is what they hope will be Kevin's legacy. And they hope, somehow, he's proud of what they are doing.

What do you think he would say to you now?

J. HOUDESHELL: Keep making memories; keep living my life; and that he's always with me and he'll be my guardian angel until it's time to meet again.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

Howdy's Law is prompting other states to look at the issue and take action there. Florida passed their version of Howdy's Law last spring, Pennsylvania just submitted Senate Bill 1409, and at least a half-dozen other states are looking to enact similar legislation. For more information, you can go the family's Facebook page in memory of Kevin "Howdy" Houdeshell.

SAVIDGE: Well, it was supposed to be Rhonda Rousey's big comeback fight, but her dreams of winning back her UFC title were over very quickly -- less than a minute. Andy Scholes will have all of the highlights coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAVIDGE: Rhonda Rousey's UFC comeback did not even go one full minute.

[07:55:28]

PAUL: I guarantee you Andy Scholes will have more than a minute to talk to you about this morning's Bleacher Report.

SCHOLES: We'll talk about it more -- longer than it lasted.

PAUL: But, wow. Wow.

SCHOLES: Yes, it had been more than a year since she lost to Holly Holm. That was last November. She was in a dark place after that match. We -- we've talked about that before. And after this one, we might not ever see her fight again in the octagon. You know, leading up the fight, Rousey -- she didn't speak to the media at all. She said she was spending all of her time training for this comeback fight, but the comeback was short-lived.

Rousey got pummeled by Amanda Nunez from the start in this one, taking multiple shots right to the face. The ref had to jump in and stop the fight after just 48 seconds. Rousey was guaranteed $3 million for this fight, compared to just $200,000 for Nunez. So, for Rousey, that means she made about $63,000 a second to stand there and get punched in the face. Rousey once again, though, did not speak with the media after the fight. UFC President Dana White, though, said he doesn't know if Rousey will ever fight again in the UFC.

All right, the college football playoffs are finally here. The top four teams are going to square off later today -- 3:00 Eastern will have Alabama taking on Washington in the Peach Bowl. The undefeated Crimson Tide -- they've won four of the last seven title games. Bama a two-touchdown favorite over the Huskies, but, hey, Nick Saban not looking past the Pac-12 champs.

NICK SABAN, HEAD FOOTBALL COACH, ALABAMA UNIVERSITY: Well, I think that this is, by far, the best all-around team that we've played all year long. They score 44-and-half points a game on offense, they've got a really good quarterback, they've got really good, skilled players on offense at the receiver and running back positions. They've got lots of speed. They make a lot of explosive plays.

SCHOLES: In the other playoff game, we've got number two Clemson against third-ranked Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. This is one of the most anticipated bowl games of the entire season. Clemson's got that explosive offense with Deshaun Watson. They're facing off against Ohio State's ferocious defense and both sides hungry for a shot to play for the national title.

DESHAUN WATSON, QUARTERBACK, CLEMSON UNIVERSITY: The first game -- it's a bowl game. You say you want to have fun but, at the same time, it's a -- you know, it's a business trip because you want to, you know, get yourself to the national championship. And, you know, whenever it gets to that crunch time, you know, the details and the little things really come in handy.

PAT ELFLEIN, OFFENSIVE LINEMAN, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY: That's why you come to Ohio State, to win championships and to play for championships. So, it's just another great -- great honor to be a part of the playoff and it's going to be fun to take another swing at it with -- with my teammates.

SCHOLES: All right, so here's the playoff schedule. We've got the Peach Bowl kicking off at 3:00 Eastern, then the night cap -- you've got the Fiesta Bowl at 7:00. And if you need some football to watch later on this morning, you can check out Lamar Jackson -- Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson -- the Louisville Cardinals are taking on LSU in the Citrus Bowl. That one gets going at 11:00 Eastern.

PAUL: We know where he's going to be today.

SCHOLES: Watching football.

PAUL: Tough job. Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

PAUL: To cities across the globe -- they're getting ready, people. They're saying goodbye to 2016 and some people would say it's not soon enough.

SAVIDGE: Including, we should say, Sydney Australia, where the new year is just seconds away. You're taking a look, live, at Sydney Harbor -- a beautiful venue, by the way. The world's biggest fireworks show apparently getting ready to start.

PAUL: As we get ready for 2017, we're taking a look at some of the good news -- yes, there was good news that came out of last year (inaudible).

SAVIDGE: Researchers found new genes that may help cure ALS, and it's all thanks to money raised by the ice bucket challenge -- remember that? -- allowing for new research.

PAUL: Did you do the ice bucket challenge?

SAVIDGE: No. No, I didn't, but I saw a lot of people do it and --

PAUL: Yeah, I did it. All right.

Pandas are no longer an endangered species. After decades of conservation efforts, the giant panda population is finally on the rise.

SAVIDGE: And, you know, this one was a little bittersweet for me, but the Cubs finally won the World Series after 108 years, beating my Cleveland Indians. The city of Chicago threw a party with millions estimated at that championship parade.

PAUL: In other news, the high school graduation rate is at its highest; the teen birth rate keeps on falling; and Americans gave to charity more than ever before, and thank you so much for doing so. We've got a lot of news to tell you about this morning, as we ring in the new year in Australia.

SAVIDGE: The next hour of New Day starts right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

PAUL: Good morning, everybody. So grateful to see you here on the last day of 2016. I'm Christi Paul.

SAVIDGE: G'day. I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: Nice way to step up. Thank you, Mr. Martin. Okay, the countdown -- here it is -- Sydney, Australia ringing in the new year. There they go, folks. Live in Sydney Harbor.