Return to Transcripts main page


New Video: Moment of Gunman's Attack Captured on Cam; Four Killed as Truck Plows Through a Group of Soldiers; Gov't Ethics Office: Trump Nominees Not Properly Vetted; Trump to Hold First Press Conference This Week; Cabinet Nominee Hearings Begin This Week; Survivors Gives Firsthand Account of Airport Shooting; Survivor: My Seatmate On The Plane Was Shot In The Head; Sheriff Gives Update On Shooting Aftermath; Iran Media: Former Iranian President Dies; Top Trump Aide Deflects Russia Hacking Questions; Obama To Trump: Have Confidence In Intel Community. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 8, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:03] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with distressing new video from that Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting, shooting the moment that the gunman opens fire in the baggage claim area.

We do want to warn our viewers that this video is very difficult to watch but it is crucial in understanding the context of the shooting. This is a freeze frame of what appears to be security camera footage obtained by TMZ. The man in the blue shirt is believed to be the accused gunman, Esteban Santiago. We will play the video one time through this hour. It is silent security footage, again, it is disturbing. Pay attention to the left side of your screen when the man in a blue shirt enters the frame.


WHITFIELD: You saw those disturbing images of the man in the blue frame I believe to be Esteban Santiago there hold out that hand gun and then just so casually then open fire.

You see people running in fear, running for cover in any way they can. CNN's Boris Sanchez joining me now with more on this new video. Boris, what more can you add to those images?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. As you said, it is difficult to watch. Right now we don't know exactly where TMZ got this video.

It does collaborate a lot of what we heard from officials about how this attack played out. Some of the things that really standout are that you see people just casually walking, there's nothing really that stands out about Esteban Santiago specifically as he's moving around. He's very nondescript right up until the moment he reaches in his waistband.

One thing that stood out to me is that in the moments before you see him walk into the frame, there were children walking right in front of him. From one moment to the next, the expression on his face seemingly doesn't change. He then pulls out the weapon and start shooting the people nearest to him, again, with a blank stare on his face. At one point, he seemingly crouches and then starts running and you see people as you said Fred start to go to the ground. People start crouching behind baggage carts and finding anywhere they can to hide from this man.

We don't know specifically, again, how TMZ got this video. We've reached out to the public information officer here at Fort Lauderdale Airport for any kind of comment but we've yet to hear back. From what we understand he is due in court, Federal Court at 11:00am tomorrow facing very serious charges, all of them eligible for the death penalty. Again, this video just being released really showing us exactly what officials were telling us about what he told them. The fact that he came here specifically to carry out this attack. Apparently buying a one way ticket from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale, he picked up his bags from baggage claim, went into a restroom, that's where he took out the weapon or prepared the weapon into his waistband and we see in the video the striking moment where he takes it out and begins this attack, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then Boris, we know that still a lot of unanswered questions about this surveillance video. Are officials any closer to determining a motive? I know as you were looking through the video it didn't appears though he was saying anything in that clip but do we have any more information about what may have provoked this?

SANCHEZ: Yes. That's really the big question now, why Fort Lauderdale according to an affidavit released by officials yesterday, there's really no explanation at this point why he picked this airport or really why he carried this out?

They still have yet to rule out terrorism as a potential motive for this attack. Obviously, a lot of flags were raised when he went into that FBI office in November and told them that he was hearing voices that told him to watch ISIS videos. At that time, agents did not believe that he had become radicalized for a number of reasons but the door is still wide open for the potential that in that month or so from the time that he passed that mental evaluation and was given back the weapon that had been confiscated by officials back in November, the potential is there for him to have been radicalized. So they're not closing the door on the fact that it could be a terrorist act but right now, they're not releasing many details on that, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much Boris Sanchez. Keep us posted as you get more information. Let's talk more now about this new video with our panel. CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, Tom Fuentes, he's also the Former Assistant Director of the FBI. And Former Army Doctor and Psychiatrist, Harry Croft who is joining us on the phone.

So Harry, I wonder if I could go to you first. What does this kind of nonchalant composure is on that small portion that we saw?

[14:05:00] It didn't appear to be that he was saying anything but what do you surmise when you look at that imagery? HARRY CROFT, FORMRE ARMY DOCTOR & PSYCHIATRIST: It's hard to tell without knowing all the details but here's a man who has serious psychiatric problems who reported to the authority he was hearing voices telling him to watch ISIS videos, he spent according to records four days or so in a psychiatric hospital.

So what we don't know Fredrick is what was going on underneath. As I said yesterday, I don't think it was simply PTSD. People with PTSD may have unwanted thoughts and avoidance and negative thoughts and moods and hyper arousal symptoms but this tend a psychotic thinking which then results in this seemingly nonchalant just horrible murder of innocent people doesn't make any sense based upon simply PTSD. It's some other psychiatric illness.

WHITFIELD: It is very confusing because you think of the horrific act on the premeditation that comes with the horrific act and then, of course, his composure, a very controlled manner of trying to blend in looking very casual moving, walking as he opens fire. So it's those two actions say two different things, very conflicting provocations.

CROFT: Yes. And I'm sure the facts will come out. I assume this man had serious psychiatric problems that by the way does not excuse this behavior, I want to mention that. It's a serious psychiatric problem, I don't know what it is yet because we don't know all the facts.

WHITFIELD: And then Tom, as you look at this video, we're talking about this suspect, this gunman taking advantage of people's vulnerabilities, people feeling very protected in a controlled environment there just collecting their luggage and this is the moment that he decided to rattle everyone and kill five people.

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Oh, yes. And as the doctor mentioned, he's very cool, calm in his demeanor, no emotions, probably no remorse and we as normal people, theoretically normal are trying to evaluate his behavior or his mental condition based on what we think it should be for a rational person.

Well if he has psychiatric problems, he's not normal, he's not rational, he may be perfectly functional as we see in able to operate that weapon and kill people but he's not going to look at life but the life of other people in the same manner that you or I or most people would look at them.

WHITFIELD: So then Tom, I would imagine that law enforcement is looking at the evaluation in few different ways, evaluating this suspect, this gunman, what provoked him, why he decided to do this, what the mission was, and then evaluate this setting to make sure or to be aware of any other potential vulnerabilities moving forward.

So how in your view is law enforcement looking at this video to try to answer some of those questions that I just mentioned?

FUENTES: Well they may not be answerable strictly from a law enforcement perspective. When he went into the FBI office saying that he hears voices and having those type of delusions, after they have evaluated whether heard to actually be ISIS or inspired or radicalized by ISIS, they did what every FBI office or other federal agency would do, call the police because the police deal with people every day.

When I was a street cop for six years, we dealt with this way too often where you get notified that somebody needs to be taken to a mental health facility and that's what they did, they came to the FBI office, got him, discovered that his baby was in the car outside the office and that he had a firearm. So they took care of the baby, they recovered the firearm and transported him to a medical facility for mental health evaluation. Now at that point, there's no more the police can really do, it's up to the mental health professionals to declare whether he is going to require almost incarceration or at least hospitalization.

And once he goes back out the door four days later and he's not judged to be mentally ill and he has not been convicted of a felony, the police have no choice but to return his property. So when he shows up at the station and wants his gun back, they have to give it to him and that's the frustration for law enforcement is this happens all the time and there's nothing more they can do when they're following the law.

WHITFIELD: And then Harry, in about 30 seconds or less and I realized I'm asking you both a legal question as well as a mental health question but based on your expertise, do you see that he is a candidate who would try to plea insanity?

[14:10:10] I know you said you don't see this as PTSD instead some other kind of psychosis, do you see likely an argument to be made on his behalf?

CROFT: I think there will be an argument that he's severely mentally ill and psychotic but as most of us know that argument rarely prevails any court, it rarely gets people off from serious charges like this and I don't think it would work in this case for a variety of reasons.

WHITFIELD: Tom Fuentes, Harry Croft, thank you To both of you, appreciate it gentlemen.

CROFT: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, we're also learning new details about the victims in Friday's horrific attack at that Fort Lauderdale Airport tragically.

Most were on vacation. Michael Oehme of Council Bluff, Iowa was about to go on a cruise with his wife Karie. He was killed when the shots rung in the baggage claim area. And according to the Sun Sentinel, his wife Karie was shot in the shoulder but is expected to recover. Oehme leaves behind one daughter.

And Olga Woltering seen here on the left was also about to go on a cruise with her husband Ralph. According to CNN affiliate (inaudible) the couple from Marietta, Georgia had planned the trip to celebrate her husband's 90th birthday. He was not injured in the shooting, the Wolterings were married 64 years.

And Terry Andres was a Virginia shipyard employee who was in Fort Lauderdale on vacation with his wife Ann. The couple was celebrating Andre's upcoming 63rd birthday. A friend tells CNN Andres and his wife had been married for 40 years, he leaves behind two daughters.

Three other people injured in the shooting are in critical conditions. We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: And welcome back. A horrific scene in Jerusalem when a truck rams through a group of Israeli soldiers standing together after getting off a bus.

Three military cadets and one officer were killed and at least 10 others injured. Israel's prime minister saying the attacker may have been an ISIS sympathizer. The attack was caught on video. And a word of caution that the video is disturbing and we do strongly advice viewer discretion.

You can see the driver not only plowing into the group of soldiers there, he turned his truck around and appear to drive over some of the victims. Israeli official say the attack ended when the driver was shot and killed.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Inglot, Israel. So Oren, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited the scene, what exactly is he saying about any role ISIS may have played here?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well we have returned to Jerusalem and that is the scene just a couple of miles from where I'm sitting here talking to you right now.

This happened on a walkway, a boardwalk essentially, a busy area that would have been filled not only with soldiers and security forces but also with tourists and pedestrians as well. That perhaps why this area which would have been busy on this beautiful day was targeted here.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the scene a short time after the attack just a few hours ago at this point and he said they are aware who the attacker is and they believe he was an ISIS sympathizer, had links to ISIS. Police have also told us that as part of the investigation, they have arrested nine suspects, five are which are family members of the attacker in this case.

Now as the investigation continues, part of what they'll try to figure out is where did the driver get this truck, whose truck was it, had he planned this out or was it fairly impromptu, was it a spur of the moment decision to run into this soldiers and to create this horrible scene? You can see where the soldiers who respondent, two more cadets and a tour guide, in fact, who were standing there respondent opening fire at the truck moments after drove into the soldiers, moments after killed four soldiers, three females, one male and wounded some of the others. You can see where the soldiers shot into the truck to stop the attack and make sure it did not continue. A horrible scene as soldiers mourn their own realizing just how awful this attack was as it happened. Now the question continues as to what extent was ISIS involved in this, as the police spokesman has pointed out, there are no active ISIS selves in Israel or in the area today. So to one extent, was this an ISIS sympathizer, how much preplanning went into this attack? Those are all the questions at this point moving forward. The funerals for those victims will all be tomorrow.

WHITFIELD: So Oren you mentioned that there were family members arrested, are they arrested because of association or is it believed in some way they were complicit in this act?

LIEBERMANN: That's part of the investigation, we don't have answers to that question just yet but that would be part of what police figure out.

Had the attacker told anyone that he was going to carry this out? Had this been preplanned? Had this been thought out with any of those other family members? Was it somebody else's truck? That's all part of the police investigation as they try to figure out what led up to this or was it a lone wolf spur of the moment attack. As much as the attacks here that we saw, a year and a half ago have died down in terms of stabbing attacks and ramming attacks, most of which were in the West Bank. What Israeli police and security forces have not been able to stop is the lone wolf attacks that we've seen pop up sometimes in horrible ways like this one today.

And those are very difficult to stop because they're not a group planning an attack that would flag on to Israel's intelligence, it's one person or perhaps just a couple of people working together to plan this attack and carry it out fairly quickly and that makes it more difficult for intelligence to pick up on it. That's where Israeli security forces have focused on profiling who is likely to carry out these attacks, a lot of that effort has been on social media. In fact, Israel's education minister called this viral terrorism that spreads and has been sited on social media, so that has been a big effort of police.

WHITFIELD: All right. Oren Liebermann, Thank you so much in Jerusalem. Appreciate it.

All right. Straight ahead on, CNN, a warning from the government ethics office, Trump's cabinet nominees are still not properly vetted. What it could mean for this weeks' confirmation hearing.



WHITFIELD: All right. President-Elect Donald Trump is scheduled to hold his first news conference on Wednesday the same day confirmation hearings are scheduled to take place involving several of his cabinet picks.

But the government ethics office says many of Trump's nominees still have not been properly vetted. All of this as one of Trump's closest advisers is now coming under growing scrutiny for possible conflicts of interest. A New York Times article raises questions about Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner and his extensive business dealings with China and other countries.

CNN national correspondent, Ryan Nobles is with us now. So more immediately, oh Ryan, let's talk about these hearings that get underway this week, a number of these nominees have not filled out paperwork that those on the Hill are expecting. So is this starting off kind of rocky?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Trump transition is really pushing back on this idea that their nominees are not following the process correctly.

They said this is just a matter of filling out paperwork and it will all be done in a timely fashion but there are certainly some democrats that are concerned about it. Senator Chuck Schumer releasing a letter from the office of government ethics where the directors there says that he can't remember a time in four decades where a nominee went to a congressional hearing without having this paperwork complete.

But this morning, the senate majority leader or republican Mitch McConnell push back on that idea and said this is really just the democrats causing trouble, take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think at least five of the nominees have all of their papers in. What this is about John, democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election. I was in Senator Schumer's position eight years ago, I know how it feels when you're coming in to a new situation that the other guys won the election.

What did we do? We confirmed seven cabinet appointment the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn't like most of them either but he won the election.

[14:25:00] So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House but having lost the senate, I understand that but we need to sort of grow up here and get past that. We need to have the president's national security team in place on day one and papers are still coming in and so I'm optimistic that we'll be able up to seven nominees on day one just like we did eight years ago.


NOBLES: And the republicans are confident that they have the votes for all of the nominees that President-elect Trump is going to put forward of this hearings start on Tuesday, the first two nominees up are John Kelly who is his pick for the Department of Homeland Security and Jeff Sessions he's picked for Attorney General and republican say both of those two nominees do have their paperwork in order and will be ready to go on Tuesday, Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: All right. A pretty reverting week ahead. Ryan Nobles, Thank you so much.

All right. Still to come, what it would like to be in the baggage claim area in Florida when that airport shooter open fire. Up next, a firsthand account from one of the survivors.


All right. Hello again and thank you so much for joining me, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right. Let's get back to this new video from the Fort Lauderdale Airport showing the moment that gunman opens fire in the baggage claim area.

We do want to warn our viewers this image is very difficult to see but it is crucial in understanding the context of the shooting. This is a freeze frame of what appears to be security camera footage obtained by TMZ.

The man in the blue shirt is believed to be the accused gunman, Esteban Santiago and a survivor of the violent attack is now sharing her story. The woman seen in this amateur video right there was waiting for her luggage when the gunman open fire. As she walks among the wounded, it is obvious that she too was in distress.



WHITFIELD: All right. I'm quoting now. "I sat next to her on the plane," she says. That survivor spoke about what she saw with CNN affiliate, WSVN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the ladies that was killed was my seatmate on the plane. She was standing right next to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the baggage claim?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the baggage claim. I gave her a gift. She turned around. I turned around to zip mine and the pops started. I turned around and she was shot in the head and killed. Her husband was shot in the face. The guy next to him was shot in the cheek. The guy next to him was facedown. He was dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the man say anything when he was firing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't hear anything. People were yelling, get down. I have a strong belief in a higher power and I know someone was watching over us.


WHITFIELD: Earlier today, I spoke with the sheriff of Broward County, Scott Israel, to get his take on the future of airport security at baggage claim following this violent attack. And he began by giving us an update on the survivors in the hospital. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Two of the victims are still in the ICU unit over at Broward Health and from what I understand, the other four are either release or recovering in the hospital.

WHITFIELD: All right. Now, how might this impact airport security at the baggage claim area there at Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood airport or perhaps even nationwide, in your view?

ISRAEL: Yes, that's a great question. I mean, I directed one of our majors to complete an after-action report of the entire incident. And we'll look at everything from our response time to mitigation to staffing.

And we'll make changes or, perhaps, we'll uncover things that support the way we were doing things. But the answer isn't to beef up airports although that might be important, to beef up venues. We're a free society.

We as Americans, we go to airports and stadiums and venues, you know, every day of our lives. The answer is to have our lawmakers start to look at whether or not what they can do to ensure that convicted felons, people put on no-fly lists, certainly people that are suffering from mental health issues.

And I have compassion for people that -- you know, they're not problem people. They're people with very real problems. But why individuals are suffering for mental health issues, convicted felons and certainly people put on no-fly lists, they should not, in my mind, possess handguns.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, Florida is one of six states that bans guns in airport terminals. A Republican state senator introduced a bill just last week that would repeal that ban. Is that something that you would support after that attack?

ISRAEL: No, absolutely not. I think that we need to have guns in less places, not more places. We need to have guns not in airports. Not in schools. You know, the less places that we are allowed to have firearms, long guns, handguns, I think the safer we are.

WHITFIELD: At that Saturday news conference with the FBI, you said, quote, "When you have a lone wolf assassin who wants to conduct some cowardly heinous act, there's not much law enforcement or anybody else can do about it. Does that mean that there is nothing in your view that could have been done to prevent what happened?

ISRAEL: Well, many times, no. I mean, I do meant what I said. If you have a lone wolf assassin, a person that is committed to commit a cowardly heinous act of mass murder and they are going to come up from behind people and execute people, they're going to drive a vehicle into a large group of pedestrians, that might be standing at a corner, and that switch is flipped, there's not much you can do. That's why it's so important to limit people like this. Their ability to have weapons and carry weapons and just as importantly, you want to make sure that the people that have a propensity for violence or what have you, if the public notices these people, or they notice a change in behavior, they notice a person is behaving different and has a propensity to speak about violence, they need to call law enforcement.

If they remain anonymous, you see something you need to say something. It doesn't work all the time, but that doesn't mean we have to stop doing it. We need our citizens. We need our civilian partners to provide us with information that may help us, you know, stop these horrific acts.

[14:35:04]WHITFIELD: What kind of assurances can you offer to travelers, to people who feel particularly vulnerable especially after what just happened?

ISRAEL: Well, you can't give people assurances. But I can tell people this, law enforcement throughout this country, especially at courthouses, especially at airports, were vigilant, were prepared and all we can do is train and that's why we train so hard.

That's why in the Broward sheriff's office we do so many training scenarios throughout the year because what we can do is work on response times and mitigation and limiting the loss of life.

But at the end of the day, if somebody decides that they're going to take the lives of individuals, there's really not much you can do. You just have to train and be prepared.

WHITFIELD: Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, thanks so much.


WHITFIELD: All right, now, turning to national politics. After the break, Donald Trump's top aide maintains that no matter how Russia meddled in the election, it didn't change the outcome.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: If you read the full report, it makes very clear. Mr. Clapper in his testimony made clear on Thursday, under oath, that any attempt, any aspiration to influence our elections, failed.


WHITFIELD: So how will this cons and downplaying of the election hack impact Trump's relationship with the intel community once he takes office?



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A powerful former Iranian president has died. Hashemi Rafsanjani served two terms from 1989-1987 and although frequently defiant with the U.S., he was seen as a key figure in the country's moderate movement.

In recent years, he was part of a council that settled disputes between the highest levels of Iran's government. Iran's state media says Rafsanjani died today after suffering a heart attack.

And now back to U.S. politics and the road to the White House. Top Donald Trump aide, Kellyanne Conway, deflecting questions about Russia's hacking of Democratic operatives.

Appearing this morning on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, Conway insisted those attacks had nothing to do with the outcome of the presidential race.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now that President-elect Trump has been briefed, has he been persuaded that the Russians carried out a comprehensive cyber-campaign against Hillary Clinton? And what is he prepared to do about it?

CONWAY: Jake, if you read his entire statement, followed the briefing on Friday, he makes very clear that Russia, China and others, have attempted to attack different government institutions and businesses and individuals and organizations over a series of time.

He's specifically mentions the Democratic National Committee because that's why we're having this conversation. I don't want any of your viewers to be misled into thinking that somehow the kremlin and the Republican Party -- that they had -- the kremlin was dealing with any of the hackers and bringing that information back to Moscow.

And somehow that anybody who allegedly attempted to influence our elections actually did, if you read the full report, they make very clear. Mr. Clapper in his testimony made very clear on Thursday, under oath, that any attempt, any aspiration to influence our elections failed.

They were not successful in doing that. It is a very important point. We are talking about this because we had embarrassing leaks from the DNC e-mails. There were no fireworks because there was no firewall at the DNC.

RNC, there was an attempted hack on the RNC, I'm informed, but they had the sufficient cyber-security firewalls in place. Jake, CNN's own reporting showed that the FBI asked the DNC to have access to its information, to its server and to its information.

And the DNC refused to turn that over to the FBI, according to CNN's own report. So all of this amounts to a very simple fact, which is that alleged attacks, which is that alleged aspirations to interfere with our democracy failed. We know that because Donald Trump won --

TAPPER: What do you mean alleged attacks? CONWAY: If you look at CNN's own polling data for one year before the election, Hillary Clinton was viewed by a majority of Americans as unlikable and she was viewed by a higher number, over 60 percent, not honest or trustworthy. It had nothing to do with Moscow.


WHITFIELD: And President Obama is also revealing new details of his conversations with the President-elect Donald Trump. President Obama describing the talks as cordial and says Trump has been open to his advice. The president said he expressed to Trump the unique nature of the job and the importance of listening to those in the intelligence community.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There's a difference between governing and campaigning. As soon as you walk into this office after you've been sworn in, you're now in charge of the largest organization on earth. You can't manage it the way you would manage a family business.

You have to have respect for institutions and the process, to make good decisions because you are inherently reliant on other folks. So, when I talk to him about our intelligence agencies, what I've said to him is, that there's going to be times when you have raw intelligence that comes in.

And in my experience, over eight years, the intelligence community is pretty good about saying, we can't say for certain what this means. But there's going to be times that the only way you can make a good decision is if you have confidence that the process is working. And the people that you put in charge are giving you their best assessment.


WHITFIELD: Let's bring in CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, to discuss all of this and some of the other major issues facing President-elect Trump as he prepares to move into the White House in just 12 days before the inauguration.

So David, given the president-elect's skepticism and downplaying of the intel report, all of that has been very public on Russia's hacking of the election. Do you think Donald Trump will take Obama's advice to respect and listen to the intelligence community, once he takes office, knowing that will be information that will influence decision making?

[14:45:03]DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Fredricka, once he has his own people in place, in the intelligence community, I think he will show more respect toward them. But for the moment, we have never had a president-elect that had such a fight and been dismissive of the existing leadership, which enjoys widespread respect in Washington, on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere. This is -- and it's the way that Trump people have dismissed the importance of this hacking of the attempt by the Russians, to interfere with the election and to meddle and to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

I think it left a lot of people puzzled. Why are they taking this stance? Donald Trump argues that anybody -- he just put this out in a tweet here a few hours. Anybody who -- believes that we shouldn't have a better relationship with Russia, is stupid.

Well, the question becomes if someone look at the Russians and can't see they're up to no good and they are trying to hurt us, frankly they are blind. Because Putin now has a substantial record. He goes in and annexes Crimea and is trying to destabilize the Ukraine.

He's trying to destabilize all of Western Europe. He's goes into Aleppo and murdered brutally and helps the Assad regime succeed there. And now we learn that Putin himself -- Putin himself ordered this meddling in the U.S. election process.

I just don't see how Donald Trump sits down with Vladimir Putin and cuts a deal that is going to be respected back here in America very well.

WHITFIELD: So those in the intelligence community could be insulted by this kind of dismissal and even those on Capitol Hill who are dismayed, we saw that during hearings last week and those expressed sentiments.

Very few of them are willing to say, well, once he's in office, maybe things will get better because isn't this behavior, isn't this kind of dialogue, dismissal, already setting the stage for potentially tenuous relationship regardless of, you know, whether his nominees are confirmed, those who would eventually be in charge of the CIA and the FBI and intel community?

GERGEN: I think - well, as I say, I think that once he has his own people in, he's going to be more receptive to them and frankly a lot of them have a view toward Russia that is very similar to his own. It's very solicitist of Vladimir Putin.

So I think he's going to find, he's going to have his own people will be bringing him stuff that reinforces his biases in this regard. President Obama has a good point. When you walk into the White House.

I don't care if you're a staff person or administrative clerk, the janitor or the president of the United States, there's something about that place that just impresses you with enormous amount of responsibility that a president carries.

This is the most powerful office in the world and it determines the fate, not only more than 300 million Americans, but billions of people around the world. That burden rests on the shoulders of most people in a very responsible way.

I worked for Richard Nixon. We've seen people who not take it as seriously as they should in terms of the integrity of the office. I hope and trust that he's right.

What is confusing, Fredricka, is in the midst of all of these arguments about the tweets and how many tweets he should be doing, the tweets have become more numerous. Not less so. In recent days and they, frankly, have become a lot more argumentative and snide.

WHITFIELD: That's creating more confusion as opposed to more clarity?

GERGEN: Yes. And that's causing some confusion among people who keep thinking, as he nears 12 days away, that the weight of that office will begin to impress.

WHITFIELD: All right, David Gergen, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

All right, U.S./Russian relations, Obama's legacy and Trump's road ahead will all be the focus this week, as CNN hosts two separate town halls.

On deck tomorrow night, Chris Cuomo sitting down with Bernie Sanders at 9:00 Eastern Time. And on Thursday, Jake Tapper hosts a town hall with House Speaker Paul Ryan. That airs at 9:00 Eastern. Both right here on CNN. We'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: One million dollars was on the line at the Consumer Electronics Show. The exhibition where you can see all of the hot, new technology. Thirty competitors got behind the wheel for a virtual race for all of that cash. And Andy Scholes, was he lining up? At least we know he's there in Vegas.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: How is it going, Fredricka? That video game race, put on by Turner Sports E-League, it really was one of the highlights of the weekend here at the Consumer Electronics Show. And the "Bleacher Report" is brought to you by Ford, go further.

The race pitted 20 professional Formula E. drivers against ten video game pros. Now for those not familiar with Formula E, it's a class of auto racing that uses only electric cars.

And the competitors, they sit in simulators side-by-side and they race through a virtual Las Vegas course. And the fact that $1 million on the line, it goes to show how popular e-sports has become.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing. It's the first of its kind. Like it's the biggest one ever and competing against a real racing driver makes it even better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're on the racetrack, you work much more with the g forces. You have more physical input. You have to press the brake much harder and so on and so forth. Have also the risk of being at 200 miles per hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope this is just a start and we get to come to cool places like Vegas a lot more times because I'm always up for it.


SCHOLES: This week, I walked about CSE, looking for the cool, new tech products. One thing that caught my eye was this wearable air bag. I had to give it a try. I slipped on the vest and they deployed it. It was a little scary when they deployed it, but I can see how this would help someone if they were involved in a crash.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a device in your back that's measuring every millisecond your position. In case you are losing control, the chip will know you are in a situation you won't recover.

[14:55:10]Then, it sends information to deploy the air bag and a millisecond after that, you are inflated.


SCHOLES: The company that makes these vests is called Inmotion. The one for skiers is available. The one I tried on, Fredricka, that is made for motorcyclist. It will be available soon. But this company, they did win two innovation awards for their vests.

When it deployed, I was big and puffy, if I were to be involved in an accident, skiing or riding a motorcycle, it would protect you. It was definitely one of the coolest items we saw this week.

WHITFIELD: I was wondering, what are the circumstances? Do I put that on before I buckle in my car? As a skier, I get it. I'm not a motorcyclist, but I can appreciate it when I see the cyclists go by. All right, Andy Scholes, thank you so much. Appreciate that. Have fun out there.

All right, still ahead, repeal and replace Obamacare? At the top of the agenda for the GOP once Donald Trump takes office. But tough choices loom over how the Republicans can erase President Obama's signature legacy while not putting Americans coverage at risk. That's ahead when the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM continues, right after this.