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VA House Tiebreaker Delayed By Legal Challenge; Rush To Prepay Property Taxes Before Deduction Is Capped; Israel To Name Train Station After President Trump; Top Seven Trending Stories Of 2017. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired December 28, 2017 - 07:30   ET



[07:30:09] BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: For 17 years, Republicans have held power in the local level in Virginia, but the balance of that power remains undecided this morning.

State leaders have postponed a tie-breaking draw after a legal challenge was filed by Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds. She wants the court to reconsider a decision to award her opponent this single vote that led to a tie in the drawings of lots.

And joining me now, Democrat Shelly Simonds. Good morning. Good to see you again.

SHELLY SIMONDS (D-VA), DELEGATE CANDIDATE: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

WEIR: All right. So indulge me on a bit of a history lesson as I catch people up how we got here. You're sort of a new politician. Been a teacher for a long time but been in the political game a couple of years.

It appears that David Yancey, your opponent, beat you by 10 votes on November seventh. That there was a recount which then put you over the top by a single vote, 11,609 to 11,608.

But then, they counted this one errant ballot, and we'll put it up again. It looks like this person filled in the bubbles for both you and Mr. Yancey, and then either checked your name to vote for you or was crossing you out. But somehow, they determined that that vote goes to your opponent, thus the drawing.

Am I right? Am I accurate so far?

SIMONDS: Yes, yes.


SIMONDS: That was the process. But we maintain in this motion that we filed before the court that that vote never should have been counted.

There are very clear rules for recounts in Virginia. All of those rules were followed when they did the recount. All of the officials -- the Democrats, the Republicans -- agreed on that day the vote should not be counted.

Why? Because that vote does not appear in the guidelines for votes that can be accepted, and if it's not there it either needs to be thrown out or maybe sent up to the state Board of Elections for their determination on that ballot.

WEIR: I see.

So what is unfair about this? They did it after the deadline. They did it after they had committed to you?

SIMONDS: Yes. So, any vote that is going to be challenged has to be challenged during the recount. The citizen-led process that included Democrats and Republicans, and they all signed off on the vote.

You can't say well, you know, we lost the next day and I'm so sad about it. Here, let's pull this ballot out of the ballot box and reassess it. Each vote can only be reassessed once. Those are the -- that's the rule in Virginia.

WEIR: Who made that decision and do you think there's partisan politics at play here?

SIMONDS: I mean, I think that it was a stunt by my opponent. That's what I have maintained the whole time.

They came in with a letter and then there were a series of problems. The court allowed the ballot to be reconsidered. They allowed someone to dip into the ballot box and take out the ballot and then they decided that it was a vote for my opponent.

When most experts who look at the ballot say because of so many confusing marks it really should have been an overvote or note counted for anyone.

WEIR: Right, yes. Someone could easily make the argument that that check mark is for you and that they intended to indicate that, but it should be thrown out.

Now, you have said -- let's look at the rules on this drawing, and this is what I think strikes people in such a strange way.

It all comes down -- well, essentially, a coin toss, but not really. It's -- you're going to have your names printed on separate pieces of paper, put in identical film canisters, and the first name drawn from a bowl is a winner. The loser could petition, I guess, another recount.

You have said you believe in the system -- you still have faith in the system. And what will you do if they draw David Yancey's name?

SIMONDS: Well, to be honest, I do have a lot of faith in the system. I thought the recount went really well. I mean, wow, winning by one vote. It seemed like only in America are you able to really win by one vote.

But, you know, I do have a problem with doing a game of chance now because I do feel like I did win fair and square during the recount. If the recount had shown that it was a tie, then I would be more open to this.

But because I feel that I am the rightful winner I'm very -- I'm very uncomfortable with the turn of the story. This was about how every vote counts and everybody needs to get out and vote. And now, I don't -- I don't want this to descend into a drawing a name out of a hat. It just seems like not the kind of ending that we wanted for this story.

WEIR: But do you have legal options should you lose this drawing?

[07:35:00] SIMONDS: We are still --

WEIR: Have you thought about it?

SIMONDS: Yes, we've been -- we've been thinking about it. We are still assessing all of our legal options.

You know, we -- I have a lot of faith in the judicial system and really, in these judges. The motion that we filed was just about trying to slow things down and give everybody a chance to reconsider.

The problem is this decision has repercussions. It sets a precedent for recounts in the state of Virginia and it's going to be hard now to allow the citizens during the recount process to agree on votes if everybody wants to toss every contested ballot back up to the judiciary.

WEIR: And it would create a real deadlock power-sharing arrangement in Virginia there, which has lots of ramifications as well.

I wish we had more time. We'd love to have you back and see where this all goes.

Shelly Simonds, Happy New Year to you.

SIMONDS: Thank you so much for following this really important story about state elections.

WEIR: We are on it. It's a civics lesson in real time. Thanks, again.

SIMONDS: Thank you. Thank you.

WEIR: Alisyn --


There's this new trend beginning in Israel. The American whose name will be popping up on buildings across the country, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:40:25] WEIR: Mass confusion is prompting people in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey, and California to rush to prepay their property taxes this morning before the new tax law goes into effect in a couple of days.

But the IRS has new guidance for those trying to pay early and CNN's Dave Briggs is live in Oyster Bay, New York with more. Good morning, Dave.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Good morning to you, Bill.

Yes, that guidance -- really, the IRS telling people to do your homework. Check with your local county because many of them are not prepared for this event. It can't hurt to check with a tax professional, either.

Here in Nassau County, New York where we are this morning, the average property tax bill is north of $11,000 a year and that explains why the Oyster Bay office here behind me has been jam-packed the last couple of days. Why they've extended hours from 4:45 p.m. to 7:00 tonight, tomorrow night. Why they've added Saturday hours in what's the final day to prepay your property taxes before 2018.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You here just to make a payment?

BRIGGS (voice-over): Hundreds of homeowners racing to prepay their 2018 property taxes, hoping to take advantage of a popular deduction that will be reduced when the new tax law goes into effect on January first.

STEPHANIE CHRISTENSEN, PREPAYING PROPERTY TAXES: I know it's -- we're going to get it in this year and we can write it off, but I'm not sure about next year.

BRIGGS: The last-minute rush coming amid confusion over one of the most controversial parts of the bill signed into law by President Trump last week. A $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes that will disproportionately impact homeowners in high-tax states like New York, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My concerns are that our new tax laws are unfairly targeting New York, and I want to avoid as much payment as possible by prepaying in advance.

BRIGGS: But the IRS is now saying not so fast, attempting to clarify who qualifies and cautioning that prepaying property taxes could work, but only under limited circumstances.

To avoid the cap, homeowners must pay taxes that have been assessed this year, meaning that those who prepaid based on estimates will likely be ineligible.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, officials already preparing to potentially have to issue refunds.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order last week suspending measures in state law that could have prevented some residents from prepaying.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: This is an economic civil war pitting red states against blue states.

BRIGGS: New Yorkers flooding local tax offices, leaving local tax collectors overwhelmed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to take advantage of it now and at least not get hurt as much now knowing going forward it will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He knows we're on a fixed budget. Thank you, President.


CAMEROTA: OK, Dave, first of all, fascinating.

I saw some -- I watched some of the video. The woman had cash in her hand. Paying her property tax in cash, that's a boss move right there, number one.

Number two, it doesn't --

BRIGGS: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- look terribly chaotic behind you, but we did have the town clerk --


CAMEROTA: -- from Clarkstown who said it has been overwhelming and chaos. Is that the same feeling?

BRIGGS: Well, first off, as for the paying cash, the woman I spoke to her shortly ago, she said our tax bill is way, way north of $11,000 a year. So yes, not many are paying cash.

As for why it's not packed down here yet, it feels like five degrees so no one is coming out until 9:00 a.m. But they did say they will let you in the building if a line does show up. But they open at 9:00. I'd recommend waiting until then.

WEIR: All right.

CAMEROTA: That is a deterrent. Very good point.

WEIR: Thanks for braving the cold for us, Dave.

And before you go out here and do that, see if you pay the alternative minimum tax because that would make all your property taxes moot.

CAMEROTA: That is an important detail to know. WEIR: All right.

CAMEROTA: All right. So the Trump administration is planning to tone down talks, they say, about military operations on the North Korean Peninsula to avoid antagonizing North Korea.

A senior administration official tells CNN that they plan to be more quiet and quote "discreet" about joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan. They're hoping this will help U.S. diplomats in ongoing talks to defuse the crisis.

WEIR: Israel is planning to name a train station for President Trump as a way of thanking him for declaring Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. But it's not the only public place that could bear the 45th president's name.

[07:45:00] CNN's Oren Liebermann is live in Jerusalem with details. Good morning.


And this isn't just any train station. This is one of the high-speed rail stops that will be inside the Old City of Jerusalem, the most sensitive point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It will be 50 to 60 meters underground -- the actual station, that is -- and passengers will get out right near the Western Wall, the place Trump visited back in May, making him the first U.S. sitting president to visit the Western Wall for which he was lauded by Israeli leaders.

But it's what he said in December, as you point out, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that has led the Minister of Transportation here to say we're going to name this high-speed rail stop after Donald Trump.

Of course, you get a sense of how happy that made Israelis and how happy they continue to be -- of course, angering Palestinians and many others in the region.

A senior Muslim cleric of Jerusalem saying naming the rail station -- the high-speed rail into the Old City doesn't change the facts. He says that East Jerusalem remains occupied territory and doesn't change the status of the holy Old City of Jerusalem.

Alisyn, this isn't the only project that's going to be named after Trump. There are plans both in Jerusalem and the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon to name streets after him. And there's a park in northern Israel that will begin construction next month that will be named "Donald Trump Park."

You get a sense of how happy Israelis are with the president and how angry Palestinians are.

CAMEROTA: And we can imagine how happy President Trump will be with this. I mean, this is legacy stuff.

So, Oren, thank you very much for bringing that to us.

All right. Listen, there's brutally cold temperatures gripping much of the United States and more snow could be headed to the east coast. Erie, Pennsylvania is already buried under a record-breaking 65 inches. More could be on the way.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast. Is it still cold out there, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think it's cold for tens of millions of people and probably 20 million pets out there. Everywhere that you see this temperature at zero or below, that's what we're feeling like now. So don't let the pets out too long. You know, the paws are cold.

But look at the numbers up here in New England. Montpelier -- it feels like 35 degrees below zero. And you know, when you get to minus 40, minus forty Celsius and minus 40 Fahrenheit are the same temperature, so that's truly how frigid it is out there.

Yes, we'll see some snow. Erie will pick up another six to maybe 10 inches of snow. But it's going to be what we're going to see over the next couple of days -- that prolonged cold where it doesn't truly warm up.

So, up in Rutland, Vermont at midnight on New Year's Eve it's going to be 25 degrees below zero for a feels like temperature. And where Bill Weir will be in Key West, it will feel 95 degrees warmer.

CAMEROTA: How dare you.

WEIR: Wow.

CAMEROTA: Wow. Thank you for the personalized forecast, Chad. That's very helpful.

That's it, I can't ski in that. I can't ski in 35-degree weather.

WEIR: As Chad Myers says, there's a cabin with a fire somewhere.

CAMEROTA: There's a hot toddy in my future.

WEIR: And there are stories that lit up social media this year, from tweets to viral videos. The top trending stories of 2017 when we come back.


[07:52:11] CAMEROTA: From President Trump's tweets to hashtag movements, social media exploded this year.

WEIR: Brooke Baldwin looks back at the top seven trending stories of 2017.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM WITH BROOKE BALDWIN": Whether it was out tweeter-in-chief redefining the way presidents communicate or online movements creating real-world change, social media dominated the news cycle in 2017.

Here are the top seven trending stories that blew up our social feeds.

BALDWIN: Number seven, kids crashed their dad's live BBC interview.

BBC PRESENTER: And I think one of your children's just walked in.

BALDWIN: This already adorable video gets even more hilarious in three, two, one.


BALDWIN: The interview that went viral and finished the year is the 10th most-viewed video on YouTube.

There was some controversy on social media after people mistook Kelly's wife for the children's nanny. Eventually, the family was able to laugh at the whole situation and their newfound celebrity.

Number six, the solar eclipse. Back on August 21st, people across the country went outside and slid on a pair of special sunglasses to witness the first total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century. For those lucky enough to be in the path of totality, it appeared as if night had suddenly fallen in the middle of the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone here looking at the same thing. All experiencing the same thing. It's amazing.

BALDWIN: Number five, man dragged off United flight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Oh my God, look at what you're doing to him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The federal government reviewing the incident of a man forcibly dragged off an airline. It's a disturbing moment.

BALDWIN: This cell phone footage of a passenger getting dragged off an overbooked United flight flew around the Internet this year.

The passenger, Dr. David Dao, and his wife had initially volunteered to give up their seats but the couple changed their minds once they learned that the next flight to their destination wouldn't leave Chicago O'Hare International Airport until the following day.

Dao was apparently chosen at random by the airline to give up his seat when not enough people volunteered. The doctor refused to leave his seat, saying he had patients he needed to see the next day.

DR. DAVID DAO, DRAGGED OFF UNITED FLIGHT: No, I am not going. I am not going. BALDWIN: That's when things got out of hand. Dao suffered a concussion, a broken nose, and lost two teeth when he hit his face on an armrest during the struggle.

United's CEO later apologized to Dao on "ABC NEWS."

Number four, the Women's March.

WOMEN'S MARCH PARTICIPANT: Tel me what democracy looks like.

WOMEN'S MARCH PARTICIPANTS: This is what democracy looks like.

BALDWIN: What started as a march on Washington turned into a worldwide movement as people around the globe took to the streets on Donald Trump's first day in office to advocate for women's rights.

WOMEN'S MARCH PARTICIPANTS: Women united will never be divided.

[07:55:00] BALDWIN: The movement spread on social media with the hashtag womensmarch. And on Facebook, more than a million people came together online and offline to participate in the march, making the Women's March the biggest Facebook event for an individual cause all year.

Number three, the violent protests in Charlottesville.

DEMONSTRATORS: It's time to go home. It's time to go home.

BALDWIN: People around the nation turned to Charlottesville, Virginia in August when white supremacists and members of the far-right descended on this quiet college town to take part in what they called a "Unite the Right" rally.

Brawls broke out between the demonstrators and those opposed to them, forcing Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency.

Later that day, a gray Dodge Challenger drove into a crowd of counter- protesters, injuring 19 people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Former President Obama weighed in, tweeting out this image with a Nelson Mandela quote as his caption. "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion." That tweet became the second-most retweeted post of 2017 and the most-liked tweet of all time.

Number two, hashtag MeToo. Twenty seventeen may very well be remembered as the year of the MeToo movement. Women and mean all around the world seized on the cultural moment and told their stories of sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault.

LAUREN SIVAN, HARVEY WEINSTEIN ACCUSER: He exposed himself and he just began masturbating in front of me, and I just stood there kind of frozen.

BALDWIN: And one after another high-profile men like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Al Franken, and others were accused of sexual misconduct.

Female activist Tarana Burke fist created the hashtag MeToo more than a decade ago, but a tweet from the actress and activist Alyssa Milano is credited with popularizing the hashtag in 2017.

In the days after it went viral, Twitter reported that more than 1.7 million had posted a hashtag MeToo message in 85 countries.

And number one, President Donald Trump. There were few, if any, major news stories in 2017 that did not include President Donald J. Trump and one of his tweets. The president was a walking, talking, trending story, which is fitting since he is the most tweeted about elected official in the world.

His Twitter feed drove news coverage, whether he was telling NFL players to stand during the National Anthem or coining nicknames for adversaries.

BALDWIN: Trump dominated the news cycle for 2017 and brought politics into the social media realm in a whole new way. And with no sign of curbing his Twitter use it seems likely that President Trump will remain a big part of all the trending stories in 2018 and beyond.


CAMEROTA: Wow, what a year.

WEIR: That's a safe bet --


WEIR: That's a safe bet that we'll be talking about the president's tweets.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it is.

WEIR: But here's how I'm going into 2018, like the little girl coming into the office. Here we go.

CAMEROTA: I like the optics. You'll be wearing your hair in pigtails.

WEIR: I will be wearing --


WEIR: -- my yellow jumper.

CAMEROTA: That is the best. Her move into the room, I could watch it -- and I have -- over and over again, with him trying to do this Skype interview so seriously.

WEIR: Here she comes. Here she comes.

CAMEROTA: Look at that.

WEIR: They want to hang with dad.

CAMEROTA: It's what's going on in here.

WEIR: And there's so many beats to this drama. Then mom comes rushing in. Oh, I can't get enough.

CAMEROTA: It's so great. All right.

WEIR: We've got some news to get to.

CAMEROTA: Yes, there is. Let us know what your favorite viral video of the year was. You can find me on Facebook or Twitter. For you?

WEIR: Yes, @BillWeirCNN.

CAMEROTA: There you go.

We're following a lot of news. Let's get right to it.


ROY MOORE (R), LOST ALABAMA SENATE RACE: When the vote is this close, it is not over.

CAMEROTA: Roy Moore contesting his loss in the Alabama Senate race, claiming voter fraud.

JOHN MERRILL, ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE: Judge Moore is not the victor in this campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have signed more legislation than anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He feels a compulsion to claim that his is the biggest and best, and it's easily refuted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he believes that if he repeats something people will start to believe it.

REP. KEVIN BRADY (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: We want people to keep more of what they earn regardless of wherever they live.

BRIGGS: Hundreds of homeowners racing to prepay their 2018 property taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my home state of New York people are definitely hurting.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: OK, good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Thursday, December 28th, 8:00 in the east.

We're just checking the latest news because a lot's happening this morning. Bill Weir is with me and we do begin with breaking news.

Republican Senate candidate and accused molester Roy Moore is fighting back. He is filing a lawsuit to try to stop Alabama from certifying just a few hours from now that Democrat Doug Jones is the winner of the state's special Senate election.