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Trump Son-in-Law Named Senior Adviser; Trump Blasts Streep on Twitter After Award Show Attack; Disturbing Video Of Fort Lauderdale Shooting; Suspected Gunman Appears In Federal Court; Condoleezza Rice Endorses Sessions for Attorney General; Why The Blue Wall Crumbled In Detroit; What's Next For The Democrats? Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 9, 2017 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:06] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

A big night and a big week for President-elect Trump.

Just about an hour from now, a CNN special town hall with Vermont senator and former presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. "NEW DAY's" Chris Cuomo has the honors. The audience are just now arriving. The incoming Trump administration is certain to be a topic.

And there's a lot of news from those quarters tonight. The transition team late today making it official, naming Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to the president and seeking to deflect any questions of nepotism that come with the pick. Just first of many headlines to come this week, certainly not the only development. Today, the president-elect also called an actress with three Oscars and 19 nominations in total "overrated". More on all of that in the hour ahead.

We begin with CNN's Jim Acosta who joins us now from Trump Tower.

So, Jim, the president-elect's son-in-law, what are you learning about his plans to avoid conflicts of interest? And do we know, is he even legally allowed to take this position according to anti-nepotism laws that are in place?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Those are the big questions, Anderson. Donald Trump made a major announcement today, as you said, tapping his son-in-law Jared Kushner to be senior adviser to the president.

There was a lot of discussion about all of this inside the transition for several weeks. But earlier this afternoon, transition officials held a conference call with reporters and basically laid out the case that they believe, yes, Jared Kushner is legally able to serve as a senior adviser to Donald Trump despite the fact that he is the president-elect's son-in-law. They say he does not violate federal anti-nepotism laws. Those are the laws put in place in the 1960s after John F. Kennedy tapped his brother Bobby Kennedy to be attorney general.

Later, Congresses and lawmakers decided that that was no longer something that should be done in this country. And so, laws were changed.

But according to these transition officials, essentially, the president has broad discretion to appoint whomever he chooses to serve as an adviser. That is essentially the legal framework that they're going with here. But to satisfy some of the conflict of interest laws and so forth that Jared Kushner would be subject to, they are saying he's going to be selling off most of his assets. He's going to be resigning from positions that he has not only with his companies but also with "The New York Observer" newspaper here in the city.

It is all a part of a very big move and shakeup inside the transition today.

We also learned that Ivanka Trump, the president-elect's daughter, she will not be taking on a position in the administration right away, although she will also be selling off some of her assets and resigning from some of her positions to remove that appearance of a conflict of interest. But Democrats up on Capitol Hill, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, is saying, hold on, he's asking for the Justice Department under the Obama administration to take a look at whether any of this is legal.

And while the president-elect is taking these steps, he is at the same time avoiding some very big questions on Russia and his own potential conflicts of interest in the upcoming White House.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With inauguration Day closing in, Donald Trump is trying to change the conversation away from the cloud of questions hanging over his looming presidency.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We'll talk about that on Wednesday.

ACOSTA: Asked by reporters about Russia's attempts to meddle in the election, Trump punted to his news conference Wednesday.

REPORTER: Who do you trust more, Julian Assange or the NSA?

TRUMP: We'll be talking to you very soon.

ACOSTA: A key question for Trump is whether he believes the U.S. intelligence community's report that concludes Russia directed hackers to try to tilt the election his way. Trump transition advisers aren't offering much clarity, indicating Trump believes some of the findings.

PRIEBUS: He's not denying that entities in Russia were behind this particular hacking campaign.

ACOSTA: But suggesting it doesn't really matter. KELLYANNE CONWAY, INCOMING COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT: There's no smoking

gun when it comes to the nexus between these hacking activities and election results.

ACOSTA: Over the weekend, Trump tweeted, "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing, only stupid people or fools would think that is bad." Part of a softer tone toward Moscow that worries Democrats and Republicans.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If after having been briefed by our intelligence leaders, Donald Trump is still unsure as to what the Russians did, that would be incredibly unnerving to me because the evidence is overwhelming.

ACOSTA: Adding to the pre-inaugural drama, hearings for a slew of Trump's cabinet picks are getting under way, and Democrats are howling over delays in background materials coming into the committees.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is making his case by reprising a 2009 leader from then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to the majority leader at that time, Harry Reid, outlining a series of standards that should be met before Obama nominees were advanced by the Senate.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: They are almost exactly what Democrats requested. Mr. President, I don't bring this up to play gotcha. I'm doing it to show that our requests are eminently reasonable, and in fact, have been shared by leaders of both parties.

ACOSTA: Now, Senate majority leader McConnell insists there will be no holdup.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Everybody will be properly vetted as they have been in the past.

[20:05:03] And I'm hopeful that we'll get up to six or seven, particularly a national security team in place on day one.


ACOSTA: And we're now getting a sense of just how big this job will be for Jared Kushner serving as senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump. But just this evening, he is meeting in the Office of House Speaker Paul Ryan up on Capitol Hill to go over a tax reform package that they would like to roll out in the upcoming administration once Donald Trump is sworn in as president.

Also at that meeting tonight, Anderson, Steve Bannon, a top adviser to the president-elect, as well as the White House, incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Jared Kushner would not be at that meeting, Anderson, if this were not a very important job that he's about to take on at this upcoming White House -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, big developments. Thanks.

And as big as the week promises to be for Donald Trump, it is apparently not too big for the president-elect to respond with an early morning tweet storm to a personal slight. Last night at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep singled out a moment in the campaign that as she put it, "kind of broke my heart" because of what it said to her about Donald Trump.

Today, Donald Trump responded. More from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Golden Globe Awards, Meryl Streep tore into Donald Trump without saying his name.

MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most-respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It -- it kind of broke my heart when I saw it. And I still can't get it out of my head because it wasn't in a movie, it was real life.

ZELENY: Before sunrise, Trump responded on Twitter in three back-to- back messages. "Meryl Streep is one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes." "She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never mocked a disabled reporter, would never do that, but simply showed him groveling when he totally changed a 16-year-old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media."

For Trump, it may be good politics to spar with Hollywood liberals. He's right about Streep's support for Clinton as seen last summer at the Democratic Convention.

STREEP: Hillary Clinton will be our first woman president.

ZELENY: But his comments about the "New York Times" reporter Serge Kovaleski who has a disability are the subject of more dispute.

TRUMP: This guy, ah, I don't know what I said, ah, I don't remember!

ZELENY: It's the latest front in America's culture wars, playing out in elections and spilling over into the theater.

On Sunday, Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton receiving several standing ovations as they attended the final Broadway performance of "The Color Purple." A stark contrast from the reception Vice President-elect Mike Pence received at "Hamilton" where he was addressed by cast members from stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we truly hope that this show has inspired you --

ZELENY: A deeply divided country awaits Trump as he prepares to succeed President Obama.

REPORTER: Any message for the Obamas? ZELENY: Streep was among the celebrities invited to the White House

Friday night to say farewell. Back in Los Angeles, she used her Golden Globe platform to make a political plea.

STREEP: This instinct to humiliate when it's modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody's life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

ZELENY: What's different about this chapter of the country's long- running culture wars is Trump's own celebrity helped him win the White House.


ZELENY: From reality television --

TRUMP: You're fired.

ZELENY: -- to his own cameos.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Excuse me. Where's the lobby?

TRUMP: Down the hall and to the left.


ZELENY: Trump's fame preceded him in politics. Yet, he drew few celebrities to her side, while Clinton surrounds herself with A-list stars. Trump wore the disdain as a badge of honor.

TRUMP: And, by the way, I didn't have to bring J. Lo or Jay-Z. The only way she gets anybody. I'm here all by myself.

ZELENY: In just 11 days, Trump will have the last word. A script Hollywood cannot rewrite.


COOPER: And Jeff Zeleny joins us. It seems like Donald Trump may have a different relationship with Hollywood than certainly President Obama did.

ZELENY: Anderson, I think in every way. There were celebrities here over this past weekend until nearly sunrise on Saturday morning having one last farewell with the president. Do not expect that any time here soon in the next administration.

But there's one thing, Anderson: Donald Trump has a long-standing relationship with many celebrities, many stars. One friend of his told me today he wants to be respected, he wants to be liked. But it is simply good politics for him to be against Hollywood, against these liberals.

We'll see if that relationship ever heals -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, Jeff, thanks.

Let's bring in our totally underrated panel, "The Daily Caller's" Matt Lewis, Kayleigh McEnany, Trump's supporter and contributor to "The Hill", former Michigan Governor, Democrat, Jennifer Granholm, and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers.

[20:10:08] Kirsten, certainly, no one likes to be criticized, obviously, especially in a national broadcast.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Does it make any sense that the man who's about to be president of the United States is tweeting about this predawn, responding to Meryl Streep?

POWERS: Well, once you accept that he tweets all the time, then I think for him to tweet about this, it actually weirdly does make sense, because of what Jeff was just talking about. I think this sort of feeds his base. They like this fight with Hollywood. I think it works to his advantage to be attacked by somebody like Meryl Streep who is sort of an icon of the left in Hollywood, right?

And I think what she said was very fair, and I'm not surprised that Trump responded the way that he did.



GRANHOLM: You know, he spent 16 minutes tweeting about Meryl Streep and her speech was like six or seven minutes. But what she said in it was the same thing that moms in Ohio and in Michigan say to their kids, which is, pick on somebody your own size.

POWERS: Right, I agree.

GRANHOLM: So, I'm not sure how that -- my point is I'm not sure how that makes him look bigger or better or more presidential --

POWERS: Oh, no, no, no --

GRANHOLM: -- to his followers. I think she's a different kind of celebrity.

POWERS: I don't think it makes him bigger and presidential, I just think it reinforces this idea that he is under attack by the elites in this country and he's the person standing and pushing back. I think that what she said was, you know, one of the least-offensive things you could really say in terms of you want to be totally factual, you know --

COOPER: I mean, Kayleigh, during the election, as Jeff pointed out, he did use the fact that Hillary Clinton was surrounded by, you know, well-known celebrities who would show up and sing for her and stuff like that. He wore that as Jeff said as a badge of honor. That seems to be trying to -- what he's doing.

But it does seem like this hurts him. I mean, he pretends it doesn't, but if he's tweeting predawn?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what we've learned about Trump is if you attack him, he will attack back. That's what he showed throughout the entirety of the election. That's not stopping now.

But I think to Kirsten's point, she's exactly right. Listen to the words Meryl Streep used. She said Hollywood was vilified. She said that Hollywood's full of outsiders. And then she characterized Trump supporters as people showing their teeth, laughing at a disabled reporter being mocked, which wasn't the case, we don't need to relitigate that, there's dispute over that.

But that is the juxtaposition that Donald Trump won this election. Trump supporters are showing their teeth and laughing and they're uncouth, and we are the vilified outsiders in Hollywood.

COOPER: But there's really no dispute that he was mocking a disabled reporter.

MCENANY: Oh, there's a lot of dispute. You can see images of him doing the exact same hand motions when referring to Ted Cruz being disoriented when talking about waterboarding and big banks, and in general. And in 2005, he used the same hand motions on Larry King when he was describing himself. So, I do think that is a subject of debate.

GRANHOLM: Fact check disagrees with you.

COOPER: Right. And also --

MCENANY: Liberal fact checkers disagree. Yes.

GRANHOLM: We're not talking about his supporters. He's talking about him. He -- those were his words. He was the one who is humiliating somebody. When she said humiliation incites humiliation, she's not --

MCENANY: That was your interpretation. But lots of people saw that and didn't think it was mocking. They thought he was doing what he did --


MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Democrats -- here's where I think that there's a Rorschach test of what we see differently. If Democrats want to win again, this is the exact wrong way to do it. You know, there's a trope now that goes, this is why Donald Trump won.

That is why Donald Trump won. This is smug. It's pretentious. It is condescending.

If you were a liberal living on a coast and you hear Meryl Streep say that, you say, oh, she's so right. She's saying all the things that people really feel.

If you live in most of the country, if you were watching the Oakland Raiders play --

COOPER: Also, as someone who likes MMA, I was like, oh, I like MMA, that's not an art maybe but I like it.


LEWIS: This is not how you win the Rust Belt with apologies to someone who is from there. In my opinion, going to college in West Virginia, from western Maryland, most of the folks that I know do not identify with Meryl Streep. This is a turn-off to Middle America.

GRANHOLM: Well, she wouldn't be such a hugely popular actress if she didn't have a massive amount of following. And she is enormously well-liked. She's not your typical -- it's not like she's Rosie O'Donnell or something. She's somebody who's married almost 40 years. She's a bit of a different package than you might otherwise ascribe the liberal Hollywood --

COOPER: I mean, it is interesting. Whether you agree she should have made this speech, whether you like what she said or not, or thought it was just this liberal elite, whatever, it was certainly clearly a heartfelt, you know, thoughtful --

LEWIS: Why do you bring it up?


COOPER: My point is that his comeback is, she's overrated, is just kind of like, really? That's what the comeback is?

POWERS: It's adolescent, but I feel like we could say that about so many of his tweets, right? So I don't -- I think maybe to prove Matt's point, I found it to be a very eloquent speech, and so, I guess that makes me a coastal elite.

[20:15:03] But I -- why did she say it then? Well, where else is she going to say it?

COOPER: President-elect to be so -- such a raw nerve of emotion is amazing to me in this most powerful position. But that's where we are.

Everyone, stay with us. We're going to talk about the confirmation battle getting under way tomorrow, starting with the controversy over attorney general designate, Jeff Sessions.

Later, Van Jones goes back to the blue heart of a state, Michigan, that went red this election. We'll hear from voters there who could have kept it blue but stayed home instead.

And the story behind a new video at the Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting. See what authorities are learning about everything leading up to that horrible moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, the breaking news tonight, team Trump testing anti- nepotism laws, naming son-in-law Jared Kushner to a senior adviser position. Kushner's attorney is saying the statute will not be an obstacle and laying out steps he'll take to avoid conflicts of interest with his own family business.

Now, unlike a cabinet position, a White House adviser does not require Senate confirmation. Hearings for those jobs get under way tomorrow. But, first up, Mr. Trump's attorney general pick, Senator Jeff Sessions.

Back now with the panel.

I mean, Kirsten, clearly, the Trump team feels anti-nepotism laws do not apply in this case, that the White House is not an agency, which is what the laws are supposed to apply to.

POWERS: Sure, and they can make their case. Here's the problem.

[20:20:00] Part of the reason that -- there are many reasons nepotism laws exist. But one of them is I think would apply in this case, is it's very difficult for the other staff to interact with family members.

So, if you have somebody on the staff who is related to the boss, and that person isn't doing a good job or that person is giving bad advice, it's very hard to go and say, Mr. President, your son-in-law is completely screwing this up. And so, it actually affects other people. So, I think that's just something that they should consider.

And then, you know, they have to obviously pass, you know, muster with all the legalities and have -- and he has to divest probably from a lot of his businesses and all the conflicts of interest. But even if they get past that, I think they still need to consider these other assets.

COOPER: The flip side of that though, Kayleigh, is the president wants people who they trust implicitly and who they have a track record with, and Jared Kushner is certainly somebody who has had Donald Trump's ear all throughout the election and I imagine proved his worth.

MCENANY: That's right. I think arguably, he was the one who had the president-elect's ear the most. Not only that, I don't fear about him being approached by staff members. He is beloved, Jared Kushner, by the early Trump campaign, by the late Trump campaign, apparently people loved to work with him, and he had the president-elect's ear from the very beginning got him to this position.

And I think it's unfair for folks to try to say, now, you have to separate yourself from your most senior adviser. It is square with nepotism laws. There's a 1990s appeals court case that suggests that it only, as you said, applies to federal agencies, not White House staff. Conflict of interest will be the area, though, that has to be honed in on.

COOPER: Right.

MCENANY: Because that -- you know, his million-dollar brand, millions and millions of dollars in property holdings, and although conflict of interest doesn't apply to the president-elect, it certainly applies to senior adviser Jared Kushner. But he's with WilmerHale, a very good law firm and I'm sure they'll get all --

COOPER: To Democrats racing objections about this. I mean, the courts gave the green light for Hillary Clinton to run health care for then-President Clinton.

GRANHOLM: Yes. And to Kayleigh's point, I really do think the bigger issue -- I mean, I think your point about the people around him and feeling comfortable going and talking either about the president or to the president is really important point from a psychological point of view. From a legal point of view, I think this was resolved or at least somewhat resolved.

I think the biggest point is this question about conflicts. So, he says today that he is going to step down from the Kushner companies, that he will divest himself of some of his holdings. That is very, very interesting, because what is Donald Trump then going to say? Because even if conflicts of interest technically don't apply to the president, there is certainly an appearance and especially as it relates to the area of foreign policy where Jared Kushner apparently is going to be advising the president and is the foreign policy of the United States for sale? Meaning, will Jared Kushner and his holdings, the president and his holdings, benefit from decisions that the president is making?

COOPER: And that's because there's still -- because Donald Trump hasn't released his tax returns, a lot isn't known about foreign connections to his businesses. So, this is not going away for Donald Trump.

LEWIS: No. And I think that's the real concern. If you're rooting for Donald Trump, if you actually want Donald Trump to succeed, you would have to be worried about conflicts of interest, having to do with businesses, being -- maybe he could have a great -- he could actually get things done, and then be brought down by some scandal.

But I would say, I think that Jared Kushner, if you're rooting for Donald Trump, you should be rooting for him to have this adviser, because I think he's a force for good. You know, if bad people are whispering in Donald Trump's ear, if they're the last person to talk to him, then bad things might happen. I think Jared brings balance to the force.

You know, you've got the Steve Bannon, and you've got the establishment guy, Reince Priebus. This is a member of the family who's really trusted. It would be silly to say, well, because you're the son-in-law, you can't talk to him. That's ridiculous.

MCENANY: And he was kind of that bridge between the outsiders and the Steve Bannons of the world.

COOPER: During the campaign.

LEWIS: Yes, a lot of balance, actually. I think give Trump credit for actually in many ways balancing out these voices.


I want to thank everybody.

Coming up, new details about the alleged gunman in the deadly shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport on Friday. We're learning a lot more. The suspect was in court for the first time today. What we've learned about him and what happened, next.


[20:28:01] COOPER: There's breaking news in Orlando tonight where the search is on for a man suspected of killing a police officer. Dozens of schools were on lockdown, hundreds of officers searched door to door for a suspect Markeith Lloyd. Police say he shot and killed Sergeant Debra Clayton outside a Walmart, and later, a sheriff's deputy searching for Lloyd died when his motorcycle collided with another vehicle. A reward of up to $60,000 is being offered for information leading to Lloyd's arrest.

Elsewhere, in Florida today, the man charged with the deadly shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport was in court for the first time. The shooting Friday left five people dead, several others wounded after a man opened fire in a baggage claim area. Now, there is disturbing video of when the shooting started.

Boris Sanchez was in the courtroom today. He joins us now with the latest.

What do we learn, Boris?


Yes, the whole proceeding this morning lasted about 10 to 15 minutes. The shooter walked into the courtroom, looked around, and then immediately sat at the defense table and kept his head bowed for most of the hearing. Except to answer a few questions from the judge about whether or not he knew his rights, about whether or not he knew the seriousness of the charges, and about whether or not the court should appoint him an attorney.

He said, yes, and the judge asked questions about his finances in which he revealed that he was unemployed, that he hadn't been working since November when he was a security guard for a company in Anchorage, Alaska, for almost two years. He also revealed he had only $5 to $10 in his bank account. After that, the judge appointed him an attorney. He's due back in court next week.

All of this on the heels of the release of that gripping video from TMZ, a video we're about to show you, as you said, Anderson. And some viewers may find it disturbing.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): The man seen in this terrifying video obtained by TMZ pulling a pistol from his waistband and firing toward the crowded baggage claim at Ft. Lauderdale's airport is now charged with three federal crimes, two of which carry a possible death penalty.

Five people were killed in that violent attack Friday. His family told CNN that his personality changed dramatically after his last deployment to Iraq.

[20:30:02] All this as new questions emerge regarding the shooters mental health and just how he was able to gain access to the weapon used in Friday's deadly airport massacre. Investigators say he fired approximately 10 to 15 rounds, aiming at his victim's heads.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband was shot in the face. The guy next to him was shot in the cheek.

SANCHEZ: Police say this 9 millimeter handgun had been confiscated from the shooter in November after he walked into an FBI office in Alaska to tell them he was hearing voices and being influenced by ISIS. But after a mental health evaluation, the gun was returned.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: How is that possible? Well under existing law, mental illness can only be grounds to take away somebody's weapons if a court has ordered you involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. If you're merely surrendering voluntarily, that does not deprive you of the right to have weapons.

SANCHEZ: It's a loophole that baffles the shooter's own family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translation): How are you going to let someone leave a psychological center after four days when his saying that his hearing voices?

SANCHEZ: Court documents show the 26-year old shooter has confessed to planning the attack. He recently began selling his possessions, including his car. Friends and associates noticed more erratic behavior, investigators say, all leading up to Friday.

ANNIKA DEAN, FT. LAUDERDALE SHOOTING SURVIVOR: There was no escape. I just began to pray, pray that my children wouldn't lose their mother.

SANCHEZ: Families of the victims are now providing images of their loved ones killed in the attack, including mothers, fathers, and grandparents. Those left behind no doubt wondering how things could have been done differently.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And Boris, are authorities any closer to finding out the motive? SANCHEZ: They're not revealing if they are or not, Anderson. From what we understand, he told them that this was a planned attack. But we still don't know exactly why he chose to do this in Ft. Lauderdale. CNN actually spoke with a brother of his in Puerto Rico who told us that he has two half brothers and half sister here. Still, that doesn't explain exactly why he would come here to Florida to carry out this attack.

COOPER: Boris Sanchez, I appreciate the update.

Just ahead, more breaking news. A big endorsement for President-elect Trump's nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Plus, new details about the controversial case that sank his nomination for a federal court see 30 years ago.

Also coming up at the top of the hour, CNN special Town Hall with Vermont senator and former presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. CNN's Chris Cuomo is moderating that.


[20:36:37] COOPER: More breaking news tonight. Condoleezza Rice, the first African-American woman to serve as Secretary of State, has endorsed Senator Jeff Sessions to be President-elect Trump's attorney general. Rice and Sessions are from the same state Alabama, Sessions' confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin tomorrow. One of 8 Cabinet confirmation hearing to be held this week.

Secretary Rice's endorsement is especially noteworthy, because Sessions' controversial record on race from about 30 year ago has sparked intense opposition among civil rights and other groups.

Tonight, a closer look at a chapter his past that's almost certain to come up at his hearing. Drew Griffin, tonight reports.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: She is 80 years old, sharp as ever. Still not afraid to speak out against injustice anywhere. Evelyn Turner and her now deceased husband Albert lived the civil rights movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throughout the nation, even in Canada, there were marches through the streets of towns and cities.

EVELYN TURNER, MARION THREE DEFENDANT: My husband was the second in line, the guy with the white cap. You can see him on all the pictures. He was running, trying to help an old lady that had fallen down.

GRIFFIN: She stayed home that day, Albert Turner often told her if he got arrested or worst, he job was to take care of the kids. But the job of fighting for civil rights never ended. Albert Turner went on to form the Perry County Civil League, based on Marion, Alabama. Building political power in the black community.

E. TURNER: They didn't want us to be in charge. There's more black folks in Perry County than it is white.

GRIFFIN: In 1984, Evelyn's husband, Albert and fellow civil league member, named Spencer Hogue, began a new absentee ballot campaign that led straight to the confrontation of her lifetime. The confrontation that brought her face to face with the man now poised to become the next attorney general of the United States.

E. TURNER: Every time they mention that man's name, I can't stand him.

GRIFFIN: That man's name is Jeff Sessions. Alabama's U.S. senator. Who in 1984 was the U.S. attorney for southern Alabama. And the man who tried to put Evelyn, her husband, and Spencer Hogue in prison for decades. They were called the "Marion Three".

E. TURNER: We were just trying to help people. We had been helping people for over, I don't know how many years.

GRIFFIN: Jeff Sessions did not see it that way. Based on complaints he said came from black office holders along with black voters who said their absentee ballots had been tampered with. Sessions brought a vote fraud conspiracy case to a federal grant jury and indicted the "Marion Three" on 29 counts. The charges carried so much potential prison time, it still scares Evelyn Turner to this day.

E. TURNER: If anybody going to put you in jail for 250 years, how would you feel?

GRIFFIN: The defense attorney fact sheet said race was a factor. Our contention that this is a one-sided investigation designed to intimidate black voters. Civil rights leaders from across the country rallied behind the "Marion Three". To them it was a clear case of a U.S. attorney trying to prevent blacks in Alabama from gaining power. National figures came to their defense, witnesses for the prosecution began changing their stories.

Sessions would later explain his two-lawyer federal prosecution team was understaffed and unprepared to handle the defense. It took the jury just a few hours to return the verdict.

[20:40:02] The headline would say it all, the "Marion Three" acquitted on all charges. Evelyn Turner, the last living member of the "Marion Three", says to this day she believes the prosecution and the federal prosecutor were motivated by race.

E. TURNER: Sessions has not changed. Have you ever known a leopard to change his spots? I haven't. Every time I see one, his spots still there. Zebra, still striped. Sessions, still a racist.

GRIFFIN: There is another side to this story, and it comes from a most unexpected voice. Albert Turner, Jr. is Evelyn and Albert's son, now a Perry County commissioner himself, and he supports Jeff Sessions for the next U.S. attorney general.

ALBERT TURNER JR., EVELYN TURNER'S SON: I feel that he's qualified for the position, and I think that he has not shown any reason to me when it comes to the prosecution of my father and my mother and Mr. Hogue, that that should not be the reason he should not be confirmed.

GRIFFIN: Turner says the case against the "Marion Three" developed from local Perry County political infighting, not racism and not Jeff Sessions, he says. Blacks in power and a white district attorney just wanted his dad out of politics.

A. TURNER: In part, you had blacks who didn't like my father, who, you know, felt that he was too influential in this community when it came to politics and other aspects of Perry County's life, and they sought to make sure that he -- his influence was diminished by putting him in jail.

GRIFFIN: A spokesperson for Jeff Sessions says what happened in the failed federal prosecution of the "Marion Three" is simple.

SARAH ISGUR FLORES, SESSIONS' SPOKESWOMAN: Sessions again was bring thing case on behalf of officials in his state, who would thought that election wasn't fair. So he went forward. And a jury of their peers found them innocent. The system worked.

A. TURNER: No, I don't think Jeff Sessions did it because my father was black and he was trying to do anything to harm blacks.

GRIFFIN: But there was harm done and Albert Turner's 80-year-old mother can't bring herself to forgive what Jeff Sessions did, prosecuting the "Marion Three".

E. TURNER: He never said, I'm sorry that, I mean I put you through that, that it was my job. He ain't -- he hasn't told me that. And why should I forgive him? But I know in order for me to get to heaven, I'm going to have to forgive him, but I'll never forget as long as I stay black. I will not forget it.


COOPER: So Drew, the mom believes that Sessions is a racist who tried to destroy her family, yet her own son supports him.

GRIFFIN: Albert Turner, Jr. really does says Jeff Sessions back in 1984 was being pressured to bring these charges Anderson, based on political infighting in this county in Alabama. The FBI actually thought they had a case that really fell apart at trial. But since then, this county Commissioner Turner says he's gotten along with Sessions. The senator has always been there to listen to his concerns, he says.

So I think politically speaking, they have since worked together. But as you could see his mother bristles at the mere mention of Jeff Sessions' name.

COOPER: And how has it affected their relationship?

GRIFFIN: Clearly, it is strained, especially over this nomination. Albert Turner wants his mom to forgive Jeff Sessions, but also knows 30 years plus later, it really hurts her. It's hard on both of them.

COOPER: And Sessions, has he apologized ever?

GRIFFIN: Mrs. Turner says, Sessions tried actually to give her a hug in a ceremony honoring civil rights leaders in Washington once, it was a ceremony Sessions actually help set up. She rebuffed him. She told us, I'm not sure she would accept an apology, she certainly has not gotten one, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Drew Griffin. Drew thanks.

Well, just ahead on the eve of President Obama's farewell address, we asked Van Jones to go to downtown Detroit to ask voters there about what they think would be the president's legacy. It's nothing else on TV like this pieces Van's been doing for us. So stick around for that. We'll be right back.


[20:48:00] COOPER: In the weeks since the election, CNN political commentator Van Jones has been talking to voters in several crucial states, including Michigan, a Democratic stronghold that this year turned red, though not by much. On the eve of Predent Obama's farewell speech and his hometown Chicago, Van takes us to Detroit another city with affection from the president and the heart of Democrats so called Blue Wall.

It's also of course the soul of the auto industry, which President Obama helped save during the great recession. Here's what voters in motor city told Van.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Detroit, Michigan, with over 80 percent of its residents, African-American, it's the blackest big city in the country, and those voters usually come out big and strong for the Democrats. In fact, they helped make Michigan a blue state going all the way back to 1992 when Hillary Clinton's husband Bill Clinton first ran for president, but in 2016, that blue wall came crashing down, Hillary lost the state by just 10,000 votes. If she had gotten anywhere near Obama-like numbers, just in Detroit, she would have won Michigan.

So, what happened? I begin my search for answers here at church. All four of these mothers lost their sons to violence.

Why didn't Detroit, with all the pain and suffering here, with all Obama did for the auto industry, why didn't Detroit come out for Hillary Clinton?

ALDEANA GOODSPEED, HILLARY CLINTON VOTER: Maybe because people thought it would just be a landslide. You know, especially after watching the debate. It's like, Hillary, she, she won the debate, and it's like, well, why do it? You know, she's going to went anyway, so I think it was a little complacency.

KARA MOTLEY, CAST WRITE-IN VOTE FOR PRESIDENT: And I think Trump accomplished her credibility enough to make you even question it. Like, it questioned me. I wrote in a candidate.

[20:50:10] ANDREA CLARK, HILLARY CLINTON VOTER: I think the party failed us, period. I think that the Democratic Party failed us, because they were so sure that Trump could not become the president, that they didn't do, they didn't put in the work.

JONES: Do you think that the Clinton campaign saying over and over and over again he can't went, in, he can't win. Do you think that depressed turnout?


JONES: Because -- so many --


JONES: Obviously if Hillary Clinton had won, she would have been the first female president coming after the first black president, but all of you didn't support Hillary Clinton.

MORTLEY: I didn't per se support her on a personal level, just because she was a female. I am a female. I just don't think a female is ready to run the most powerful country in the world. You know, emotional, she can push it, you know, we got too much going on within our DNA.

CLARK: So now you got emotional Trump, who has fits on Twitter.

GOODSPEED: I think that it's not, definitely not a gender thing, you know, because equally, one can do it. The other one could do it as well. I think that Hillary was running the country when Clinton was in office.

CLARK: Thank you. Yes. She was.

GOODSPEED: And Obama, I think that Obama -- Michelle, you know, who does he go to consult -- went to consult him. Men are very emotional, but men are just as emotional. OK Jeff has emotion.

CLARK: I voted for Hillary, not because I wanted the first woman to be this, you know, president, like I thought a woman would see what we were going through and push our agenda, that would say, you know, I feel you.

VONES: You're talking about a situation where people are being killed every day. And yet you have a black president. You have President Obama who is there. What's disconnect there? Do you feel that he did all he could do to handle this situation?

CLARK: I think with the misconception of black president we had more expectation from President Obama than we should have. I think being the high chief that he did what he could do. Could he have done a little more? Absolutely. But he had a Republican legislature. He had, you know, a lot of fight against him.

JONES: Trump did come to Detroit, you know, he got many speeches where he stood up and said, I care about black people, after the all, what the hell do you have to lose. When he said that is correct how did that land with you?

MOTLEY: Arrogance.

GOODSPEED: Ignorance.

CLARK: No compassion.

MOTLEY: I clap.


MOTLEY: What do we have -- because it's true? And truth hurts. It's like a sore. What do we have to lose? We've been running a Democrat for 40 years. Has anything really changed? So what do we have to lose? Let's try something different, let's try some do, because what we're going with is not working. It's obvious, it's not working.

JONES: But you didn't vote for him.

MOTLEY: Right. I was related to his campaign.

JONES: When he said what the hell do you have to lose, did you feel insulted?

CLARK: I absolutely did.


CLARK: Because you got me down here. You have no thoughts about who we are as a people or I am as a person. When you say what do you have to lose, I mean you're saying I don't have anything to begin with --

MOTLEY: Right, that's right.

CLARK: And we have a lot. Our capacity is huge.

JONES: I tell you what, I've never got any date with somebody saying look at you, you got nothing, go out with me, what do you have to lose? That's not a way (inaudible). Most women don't feel like that.

Look at you. Your clothes are raggedy, your car is terrible. What have you got to lose? Go out with me! I don't think that's going to work.

GOODSPEED: Oh, my goodness.

PATRICE WILSON, MEMBER MOTHERS OD MURDERED CHILDREN: I think we had a better chance with Hillary continuing on with some of the things that Obama did, at least we had a chance of what we have to lose, we have a lot to lose. All the things that Obama put in place. We're losing all of those things.

JONES: So you have this group here in Detroit. And there are groups like this all across the country, this almost invisible army of mothers who are trying to stand up. And other groups, with other issues, trying to stand up. In this new era of Trump, what do you think is going to happen with all these different groups?

CLARK: The organizations will unify. Because we have this new president, and I don't think that his sights are on our issues. And all the community activists on the ground doing the work will come together. Then we'll be a force to reckon with.

JONES: What would you say to Donald Trump if you had a chance to?

WILSON: I feel that he needs to really search his soul and his heart. Take the blindfold off and tap into the world.

[20:55:07] Everything and everybody, not just his circle. Come out of the circle. He might tap into care. He might feel our love that we have for our loss that we had, and he might gain some compassion.


COOPER: And Van Jones joins me now, along with CNN senior political commentator, former Obama adviser David Axelrod.

Van, just -- I mean just great -- I mean I love these pieces that you're doing, just talking to people and listening most importantly. What -- and also I like hearing your dating advice, but in truth, the Democratic Party, where are the -- who are the leaders of the future for the Democratic Party. I mean we're talking to Bernie Sanders tonight, Elizabeth Warren obviously, but is there another crop of people?

JONES: There always is, you know, there always is, but I tell you what, you're going to have to listen. You know, those moms have gone through the worst things you can imagine, they lost a child, not to a police officer, to another African-American, and neither party speaking about in a way that they got to them. They said we wanted this treated like Ebola, like an emergency, where is the help from either party?

There are issues out there and ideas out there that don't show up in the polling data that you going to get out there and hear and when you hear, it moves you. And I've been moved to listen to these voters.

COOPER: David, I mean beyond who should lead the party, what do you think the party needs to do? The Democratic Party over the course of the next two or four years?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think in a sense, Van has given us a map here. The Democratic Party has to respond to the real problems of real people, with real solutions. It's not enough to be anti-Trump. There'll be plenty of battles with Donald Trump for sure, but the party also has to offer something different. I think part of the problem that the Clinton campaign faced, when she had many, many ideas, but it didn't add up to anything that people could digest or feel was real.

These folks have been hearing from politicians for years, but the problems haven't improved. And the party has to get down at the Grassroots level and really work through these problems with people and come up with viable solutions, real solutions to try and deal with these problems, and if the Democratic Party does that, the Democratic Party will come back.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting, President Obama, Van said in an interview, resume (ph) that he didn't spend as much time on the Democratic Party as he should have. He said basically, he was too busy between being president and commander in chief. Do you think that's true?

JONES: You know, look, I think that at the time, coming off that 2008 campaign, there was such a movement, and it was really a movement, don't forget, that had gone around the Democratic Party to elect Obama. So we've said don't give our movement to the Democratic Party. We want to stay independent.

So organizing for America was this independent force alongside the party. You look back now, and you think, maybe we should have put that inside the party, because the party waned and waned and waned. We lost the House. Nobody noticed. We lost the Senate, nobody noticed. We lost 6,000 Democratic seats and nobody noticed it until November that the Democrats were in trouble, because would we were so excited about Obama. So I think looking back yes, there should have been much more effort in building that party out.

COOPER: And David just in terms of President Obama's speech in Chicago tomorrow night which obviously we're going to be bringing to the viewers, what does Hillary Clinton's loss mean for his legacy? I mean he campaigned hard for her, so did Michelle Obama?

AXELROD: Yeah, and obviously, that's going to be a sad coda. But it doesn't reduce the impact of some of the things that he's accomplished. He's taken the country in a different place, I mean even on this health care debate. It's not going to back to where it was. He's changed the terms of the debate, and that's true on a lot of issues. So, you know, I don't think that all is lost because this election was lost, but it certainly was an unhappy end to the story.

COOPER: And David, what happened to all, you know, during the campaign, all the Democrats were talking about the vaunted data machine, all the operations about get out to vote. You know, they're going to nobody seen a machine like this. What happened?

AXELROD: Well, as it turns out, and as we always should have known, the machine only works as well as the product. And if people aren't enthused about the candidate then the machine isn't going to get you across the finish line, and I think there was, first of all, bad data. There was an assumption for example in Michigan that she was well ahead.

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: That turned out not to be true.

COOPER: Yeah. AXELROD: So there's going to be a lot of soul searching about that, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, David Axelrod, Van Jones, thank you very much.

Remember, on Wednesday, 9 eastern and pacific, "The Messy Truth" with Van Jones, returns to CNN. Van hosts another town hall, this time folks, seeing President Obama's legacy, and looking ahead at the Trump inauguration.

[21:00:00] That does it for us. Thanks for watching. The CNN Bernie Sanders Town Hall, starts now.