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Obama Surprises Biden With Presidential Medal of Freedom; Trump's Top 4 Unresolved Issues; Remembering Officer Who Worked To Unite Orlando; Justice Department To Release Report On Chicago Police Today. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired January 13, 2017 - 07:30   ET


[07:31:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Vice President Joe Biden fighting back tears at a farewell ceremony at the White House. President Obama had a little surprise for him. It was actually a huge surprise and a huge honor -- watch.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd like to ask the military aide to join us on stage. For the final time as president, I am pleased to award our nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. For the first and only time in my presidency I will bestow this medal with an additional level of veneration, an honor my three most recent successors reserved for only three others -- Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and Gen. Colin Powell. Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction to my brother, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.


CUOMO: Joining us now is Bruce Reed. He was Vice President Biden's chief of staff in 2011 and 2013. He was actually in attendance at yesterday's ceremony. You know, Bruce, in a business that is often so phony, people often don't know what to make of these obvious shows of emotion by Joe Biden, but what do you want people to know about who the man is?

BRUCE REED, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, as you can see, he didn't see this -- he didn't see the Medal of Freedom coming. You know, the only award the vice presidency ever wins is the Emmy for best sitcom, but --

CUOMO: (Laughing).

REED: He -- you know, with Joe Biden, what you see is what you get. You never have to wonder what he's thinking because he just said it. And he and the president are such a study in contrast of the president's view is never let them see you sweat, and Joe Biden lets you see him cry and laugh and frown. And that's all just in the -- when he's sitting behind the president at the State of the Union.

CUOMO: They got that fire and ice thing going. What did you learn about him in your time with him and knowing him that you didn't know going into it?

REED: Well, he always says what he thinks. I think that's what Barack Obama values in him the most. And he is fiercely loyal. For him, everyone who's there in the trenches with him is like family.

CUOMO: When you would have conversations with the vice president -- so, he would say something -- he'd get ahead of the messaging. He'd say something that was little too honest, created some blowback. When you would go to him and ask him why, what would he tell you about why he would say what he said?

REED: It's just how he's programmed. He can't help himself. He is -- he's the most uncalculating, honest, refreshing person I've ever seen in this business. And, you know, sometimes it gets him in a little bit of hot water but it always pays off in the end.

CUOMO: He has told, a couple of times, the story about the President of the United States, Barack Obama, offering to help him out with money in his own life. Why does this story mean so much to him and were you aware of the story?

REED: Well, these guys would do anything for each other. And, Chris, you know what a tough business this is. Politics can break your heart with the whole world watching and sometimes all you've got left to turn to is your family, and that's the way they are with one another. They, you know -- they can sense what the other needs and the president knows that if somebody picks on him, Joe Biden's ready to take them out back and give them a good whipping. So, it's the sort of thing that you don't see very often because usually people are looking out for themselves, their rivals.

[07:35:10] CUOMO: Right.

REED: But these guys are much more like brothers and true friends.

CUOMO: How do you square his unfiltered candor and kind of, you know, just default to saying what he feels with his ability to cut deals with the other side? Why would a Darrell Issa, you know, who's no friend of Democrats and has no reason to seed any ground right now, say I hope Joe Biden sticks around in the public square, we're going to need him to make deals?

REED: Yes, I think it's a secret of his success is that everybody knows where Joe Biden stands. He makes no pretense about it. And, you know, it turns out that when you're trying to get things done and both sides have to give a little, being brutally honest about what you need and what you believe is a great help.

CUOMO: So, you know when every reporter leaves a question for last, it's going to be the one that strains you the most. His decision not to run. Do you wish he had made a different decision? Do you think he made the wrong decision and do you think if he had run it would have been a different outcome?

REED: He made the right decision for him. He didn't have the gas in the tank to make that run. And I think, you know, Joe Biden is one of those players who always gives it everything he has and no one in modern public life has suffered through so much public tragedy as he has. And he has found a way to turn that to the good of others and to help the rest of us deal with our suffering, so --

CUOMO: And he's left the people around him to understand the situation but also to do a lot of what-iffing. Bruce Reed, thank you very much for being with us and giving us some perspective on this man who has mattered so much to the President of the United States.

REED: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, be well -- Alisyn

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Well, President-elect Trump has outstanding issues that will have to be addressed between now and Inauguration Day, next Friday. A Trump biographer identifies four big pieces of unresolved business, next.


[07:40:45] CAMEROTA: One week from today, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States -- or is it 45th or 46th -- but he'll do so with many unresolved issues. Here to break down the top four is Timothy O'Brien. He's the executive editor of "Bloomberg View" and author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald." I was told there'd be no math but that's right, 45th.

OK, let's talk about the four, as you see it, big unresolved issues. Let's put them up on the screen for everybody. There are pending lawsuits. There is The Trump Foundation investigation that continues. Continued questions about conflicts of interest, and key Executive Branch appointments that have yet to be made. Let's start with the pending lawsuits. What are we talking about? How many?

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "BLOOMBERG VIEW", AUTHOR, "TRUMP NATION: THE ART OF BEING THE DONALD": Well, right after Election Day there were 75, the most prominent being Trump University. He settled Trump University. He settled his dispute with his executive chef at his hotel in Washington. But there's dozens of suits involving non- payments to vendors, sexual discrimination at some of his businesses, and on down the line, and it's just very messy. No other president has come in trailing this kind of baggage of lawsuits all over the place.

CAMEROTA: And so, what does that mean? That these will have to be addressed during the next four years?

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes because he's not immune from any of it as a sitting president if the litigation began before he entered office.

CAMEROTA: OK, Trump Foundation investigation. The New York attorney general is still investigating The Trump Foundation and whether there was some money used that was supposed to be going to charitable causes but that somehow was being used by Mr. Trump?

O'BRIEN: Right, which is the big -- it's the big embarrassing and troubling fact of The Trump Foundation is that chunks of the money weren't being used for charitable causes. He settled lawsuits with money from the foundation, he used it to purchase vanity things, like giant portraits of himself, and he's being investigated for improper use of the foundation's fund.

CAMEROTA: So then what happens if the AG finds out that those things did happen?

O'BRIEN: Well, we know they happened. It's not an issue of whether they happened or not, they happened. The issue is whether or not the AG decides that there's grounds there for more serious action against the president-elect.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I mean if somebody uses -- misuses charitable funds they could go to jail.

O'BRIEN: I think the consequences could be severe. I don't know that they would involve going to jail and I would highly doubt in this case that that would happen. You've also got a New York State attorney general who's a Democratic so there's going to be highly partisan kind of chiming around this one.

CAMEROTA: OK, we'll look forward to that. The question -- the continued questions about conflicts of interest. As you know, Mr. Trump came out and said that he is resigning from The Trump Organization. He is not divesting from it but he's handing over control to his two adult sons. So what lingers here?

O'BRIEN: The conflicts linger and they're just as troubling as they were before he announced this fig leaf two days ago, which is he and his children and son-in-law have taken no meaningful steps to address the kinds of conflicts that potentially will corrupt public policymaking in the Trump White House for the next four years.

CAMEROTA: Of all the unfinished business, this is the one that concerns you the most?

O'BRIEN: The conflicts do because I think it's a nonpartisan issue. It's really about what we expect out of our political leadership regardless of what side of the aisle you come from, and what mechanics we want in the government or on ensuring that we get the best policy and that people with power aren't feathering their nests off the tax budget.

CAMEROTA: OK, then here's one that we don't talk about much and that are these Executive Branch appointments. There are 690 of them that need to be made. Only 27 out of the 690 have so far been nominated. As you know, none yet confirmed. So how is he going to do that before entering office?

O'BRIEN: Well, and he should get a break a little bit on this one. I'm not sure exactly of how his timing lines up against previous administrations. It's a big thing to take on. I don't know that he's any further behind anybody who preceded him in the Oval Office. But the issue is that something has to get addressed. He has the machinery of government landing in his lap and Donald Trump is someone who's never managed a large bureaucracy. He hasn't run a Fortune 500 company. It's a boutique business. The biggest thing he ever ran were his Atlantic City casinos and he put those into bankruptcy four times.

[07:45:05] CAMEROTA: But, I mean, to your point, this is something where he should get a pass because one of the things that voters liked about him was that he wasn't part of the big bureaucracy, so he doesn't have people sort of waiting in line, tapping him on the shoulder expecting to be plugged into this.

O'BRIEN: Right, right. I think the balance will be how can he keep it lean and efficient and not overstep it, but also manage it professionally and effectively.

CAMEROTA: Timothy O'Brien, thank you very much --

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: -- for working all of this through with us. All right. Meanwhile, the Justice Department set to reveal the results of its investigation of Chicago's police department. What can the city's officers do to regain the trust of the people there and bring down the violence? Our panel weighs in.


CAMEROTA: Family and friends remembering an Orlando police veteran. Master Sergeant Debra Wilson (sic), one of the first officers to arrive at last year's deadly massacre at the Pulse nightclub. She'll be laid to rest tomorrow after being gunned down in the line of duty this week. Her killer is still on the run this morning. CNN's Nick Valencia has more on her life and the legacy of Sgt. Wilson (sic), who is remembered for going beyond the call of duty.

[07:50:00] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first thing people usually noticed about Master Sgt. Debra Clayton was her smile.

JACK WILLIAMS, FRIEND OF DEBRA CLAYTON: I mean, she was beautiful.

VALENCIA: But against the frame of her freshly-pressed police uniform it was disarming.

WILLIAMS: This is a picture of little Johnny, her son.

VALENCIA: Jack Williams was one of her closest friends. For the last four years he and Clayton worked together on a program to stop violence in Orlando. They weren't technically family but she had a way of making him feel that way. Clayton called him Uncle Jack. It still hasn't fully hit him yet that she's gone.

WILLIAMS: Realistically, I have to accept that thing that she's gone. That she won't be pulling up to my house again and calling me Uncle Jack. She was a police officer but she was a community activist.

DEBRA CLAYTON: The police is here to help you. We're not here to hurt you, we're here to help you.

VALENCIA: Here she is last summer doing what she did so often, engaging the community. Bridging the gap, as she would say, between police and the public.

CLAYTON: We want to stop the violence in the community but we need the community to speak up.

VALENCIA: Speaking at a wreath laying ceremony for his fallen colleague, Orlando police chief John Mina said there was no officer more committed to uniting Orlando.

CHIEF JOHN MINA, ORLANDO POLICE DEPARTMENT: A great, great police officer. A great leader in our agency and really led by example with the things that she did in the community.

VALENCIA: Sergeant Clayton cared deeply about Orlando but especially about its youth, perhaps because the newlywed had a son of her own. At the candlelight vigil to celebrate her life, he spoke just a few feet from where his mom's life was ended.

JOHNNY BRINSON, SON OF DEBRA CLAYTON: She lived for it and she died for it. She was the prime example. Everything she worked for, she died for.

ASHLEY THOMAS, SISTER OF DEBRA CLAYTON: My sister was a beautiful person inside and out. Like, she would give you the shirt off her back.

VALENCIA: Clayton died on a Monday morning outside this Walmart. Shot and killed by a murder suspect fugitive, a man who robbed Orlando of a woman her friends called 'super cop'.

WILLIAMS: Just say goodbye. I'm going to miss her. I'm going to miss her.

VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN, Orlando, Florida.


CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, that is horrible. She does seem very special just from that -- those short clips. They have got to find her killer.

CUOMO: And, you know, we got to see some of that in action after the Pulse shooting down there. That community -- specifically the gay community -- was very rattled and the police did so much more than just investigate the crime. There was a lot of handholding, there was a lot of embracing and saying we will be OK as a community. And those officers went beyond the call of duty and here's one of their brightest lights that was snuffed out by someone who's still on the run.

CAMEROTA: They're going to find him, and if you know anything call your local police department. CUOMO: All right. We have another story -- a very different type of story about policing. The Justice Department plans to release a report today, the fruits of a 13-month investigation into the Chicago Police Department. They're expected to reveal in their report that Chicago police have a pattern of violating constitutional rights of citizens.

Here to discuss, former Chicago police officer, founder and president of SevenStar Consulting, Dimitri Roberts. And, CNN law enforcement analyst and retired NYPD detective, Harry Houck. Dimitri, what do you make of what's in the report and what will it matter?

DIMITRI ROBERTS, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, SEVENSTAR CONSULTING, FORMER CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER: Well first, you know, listening to the story and the legacy of Master Sgt. Clayton, I think we should all reflect that her story is similar to a lot of other police officers that go out every day and put their lives on the line and that are standing in the gap and helping to bridge that divide between our communities.

So as we turn and look at these issues in Chicago, understand that these issues are very complex. They are no different than the complex issues in Baltimore or other major cities. I think what can be done as a result of what this report says is really focus in on where the issues are, and I think that the leadership in place here -- Superintendent Eddie Johnson -- have the right perspective.

They're acknowledging that there are problems. They are acknowledging that there needs to be more accountability, more training, more mentorship for our officers that are going out on the street so they can be well-equipped to address these issues at the community level, but really more so partner with the community with the service person, itself.

CUOMO: All right, let's pick on that last point because, again, my reporting on this -- we've got to see the report itself but this report was spurred by the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald. People can Google that case and see what happened there.

But that what it has evolved into is a reckoning of why large swaths of the gang community have been left to police themselves in areas, and that that may be a booster ingredient to the homicide spike that they've seen there. And that this report is a window into how the police there don't have the relationship with the communities where there are high crime that it needs to have. What do you make of that criticism?

[07:55:08] ROBERTS: Well, solutions take resources and they take time. CPD ought to sit -- and the city of Chicago -- didn't get into this situation overnight and they're not going to get out of it overnight. But I do have confidence in the leadership here that they understand what's necessary to get the things done.

And then, as we look at these issues from a national level, we have a new administration coming in that has a real opportunity to make investments in the community, make investments in the police department, and really get these officers and the city the resources that they need to ensure that this doesn't continue.

CUOMO: What do you make of this notion that if you have a breakdown between the police and a community, things can take root that ordinarily would be kept in control because of that relationship and that maybe -- maybe part of the big spike in homicides in Chicago is attributable to that relationship?

HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, RETIRED NYPD DETECTIVE: Well, you know, I don't know. You know, Chicago's been a bad city for a long time, especially the south and western side of Chicago. You know, the fact is -- you know, the DOJ is going to come in and conducted this investigation and if it's anything like the investigation they did in Baltimore, I'm really not looking forward to this investigation --


HOUCK: -- and I'll tell you why, all right? When I read the investigation on Baltimore it's clear that it was biased against the police. There were certain statements in there and certain findings in that -- in that report that showed bias against a police officer and no knowledge at all on how police police a city. The DOJ is very good at what they do federally. They have no clue what it's like to patrol a city. So when they conduct an investigation like this they should have -- bring in a police officer -- somebody with 20-30 years' experience to be able to sit down and talk to them while they're conducting this investigation.

Now, let me tell you something, Chris. Vanita Gupta, she's in charge of the civil rights division. She's probably running this investigation. In the Baltimore report -- and I'm going to tell you, this would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic, all right? First of all, she was an attorney from NAACP legal defense fund when she was -- before she came to the DOJ, all right? She has no experience in any prosecutions, no experience in criminal investigations. She's an Obama appointee, all right?

She stated this. "Looting, mayhem and violence is based on a mistrust of police officers stemming from their predecessors' enforcement of slavery and Jim Crow laws." Really? This is the person that's investigating the police department to ascertain if they act correctly or incorrectly?

Now, as far as policies and procedures, I got no problem with the DOJ. They did bring out some facts in the Baltimore case that needed to be changed.

CUOMO: Right. You're cherry picking a little bit. What she was referring to there was that report's finding of what the community was saying was behind some of the looting and violence. So it's not as simple as that, but I take your criticism. Dimitri, back to you with it, which is --

ROBERTS: Thank you. Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: -- what is the value of this kind of report because it's done through a political vehicle?

ROBERTS: Absolutely. Well, thank you, Chris, for pointing that out, and I respect Harry but I have to disagree. First of all, there have been great things going on in the city of Chicago for many years on both the south and the west sides. However, those areas have been largely under-resourced and over-policed, and I think this report just points out those facts, but community members have known this for years. City officials have known this for years.

Now this is an opportunity, if we want to talk about this on a political level, where now political appointees or folks that care can actually do something about it by putting the right resources in place to ensure that these things don't continue. So I caution us not to make this a political issue. This is about people's lives. This is about how our police officers who stand in the gap just like Harry and I did, to go out and fight for the equality and the justice for all members of communities, regardless of their background and regardless of their skin color.

CUOMO: Well --

HOUCK: Well, it's a political --

ROBERTS: So I come back to my unification point.

HOUCK: It's a political issue now.

ROBERTS: Hold on a second. Hold on a second.

HOUCK: There's no doubt --

ROBERTS: I come back to my point -- Harry, hold on. I come back to my point, we have to unify behind these issues. Now, you and I both know when we put on our uniforms we didn't care about skin color, we didn't care about policy, we didn't care about politics. What we wanted to go out and do is fix the problems in the community and keep people safe with a 'service first' mentality. And I think here, as we talk about this on a national level, that's what we have an opportunity to do. And we can take the facts that come out of this report and use that to get the resources back to where they need to be.

HOUCK: Well, I'm going to tell you. I'm going to read this report very carefully, take a look at it, and make some comments on it if I get a chance. But I see the same thing coming out in this report by the same person that I did in the Baltimore report. Not once in that Baltimore report did they state anything about the lives of the police officers except for the obligatory 'it's a tough job'.

CUOMO: Harry, I hear you. Dimitri, thank you. Appreciate the competing ideas from two people who served their communities.

We're following a lot of news.

ROBERTS: Thank you.

CUOMO: Let's get to it.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: They said repeal and replace. Instead, what --