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Two U.S. Families Killed in Costa Rica Crash; Hatch Retirement Clears Path for Romney Senate Run. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 2, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: -- from her state department e-mail to her Yahoo account. And you can see there it listed the passwords to log into her government issued laptop. So, that was in 2009. So, about 4 years later, in 2013, all Yahoo e-mail accounts were hacked. That was disclosed just a few months ago. And investigators do believe that it was Russians linked to the Russian government.

And really that led to the possibility that that particular e-mail that you just saw was stolen with these passwords. However, it's important to note that Abedin at the time of the hack she was no longer at the State Department. And really any password information likely wouldn't work even if it was stolen because Huma Abedin had to go through a twostep verification process to get onto the government issued computer. So, a password alone really wouldn't suffice. But nevertheless, we saw today that Sarah Sanders reiterated the President's concern about these e-mails at this press briefing. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another question on one of this morning's tweets. Is the President requesting that the Department of Justice investigate Huma Abedin and how did he reach his conclusion that she should be in jail given that she hasn't been indicted or convicted of any crime?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, obviously the facts of that case are very disturbing. And I think the President wants to make clear that he doesn't feel that anyone should be above the law. In terms of any investigation, that would be something the Department of Justice would need to decide, and I would prefer you to them on whether or not they move forward.


SCHNEIDER: All right. So, I've talked to the Department of Justice, they are not commenting on any possible investigation. And they are not saying, Ana, whether or not government computers may have been compromised because of this password information that Abedin forwarded to her Yahoo account. But in addition, we already know that that the DOJ's Inspector General he is now conducting a review of the entire handling of the Clinton e-mail server investigation. Of course, Hillary Clinton in the end she was not prosecuted. And at the time former FBI Director, James Comey, he did call her actions extremely careless. But he said that there just wasn't a criminal case there. But, Ana, we've seen it with President Trump's tweets and with

Republicans in Congress. They have been hammering home their contention that the FBI is biased. And really this morning, just before 8:00 a.m. the President only gave more oxygen to these claims with that tweet. And in particular focusing in on Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton -- Ana.

CABRERA: Jessica Schneider, thank you for that thorough report. Let's discuss further with "New York Times" correspondent, Mark Mazzetti, and CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean. Mark, I'll start with you. The President once again ripping the Justice Department, going so far as to call on his DOJ to go after his political enemies. It comes a week after he told "The New York Times," your paper, that I have the absolute right to do what I want with the Justice Department. Mark, does the President see any separation between the White House and the DOJ?

MARK MAZZETTI, NEW YORK TIMES CORRESPONDENT: Well, one wouldn't think so in that tweet. It certainly would indicate that he would want to use the power of the Justice Department to go after his enemies. He's calling for the department to do as such. So, as we said, we are beginning the New Year kind of as we ended it, that the president sees clearly that he's got unfinished business with Hillary Clinton. The Huma Abedin e-mails, Anthony Wiener e-mails, Hillary Clinton e-mails are still on his mind, and it's something that Republicans have made a theme of their attacks and presumably will in the future.

CABRERA: John, how many lines has the President crossed in terms of separation that should be there?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well he's really not crossed any legal lines at this point. The norms that have been long established is that the Department of Justice is independent, makes independent decisions. Not that a president can't recommend things to a department. But the departments do not often take kindly to being told what to do by the President. He refers to the deep state. Well, I'm actually glad there is a deep state Justice Department, because they are professionals, they're career people. They don't start political prosecutions and I think they will do the right thing in the long run.

CABRERA: Mark, there is some new reporting in the "Washington Post" about Devin Nunes, the house intel chair who had to recuse himself while he was being investigated by the ethics committee. He was cleared in that investigation. But this WAPO report says Nunes is reasserting himself into the Russia probe and blocking subpoenas of AG Jeff Sessions, Trump's son Don junior among other things. Mark, there has been a lot of criticism of the house probe specifically being politically tainted. Are even all Republicans united on the approach to that investigation?

MAZZETTI: I don't think they are united. Congressional investigations, the three that are ongoing, this one is always been the most politically fraught. It has been clear from the get go that most Republicans in that committee don't want to be investigating in this topic. And Nunes certainly did. And he was trying to take the investigation into different directions. Even when he was recused, he was still able to sign off on subpoenas, or not sign off. And so, he still had an arm's length. But now he's back fully involved.

[15:35:00] So, you know, there does-- it is hard to see this investigation proceeding, certainly in a bipartisan way. The Democrats are very agitated to continue the investigation, to get at more Adam Schiff the top Democrat on the committee wants to continue. But it's hard to see the Republicans going along. So, I mean if there was one that was going to end quickly or just take totally separate paths with two so totally separate reports, it looks like it might be that one.

CABRERA: Mark, thanks to your new reporting at the "New York Times," we are getting a little bit of an inside light shined on the Mueller investigation and Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, you report had a conversation with an Australian diplomat in May 2016, and he revealed to this diplomat from Australia that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Explain why this revelation is so significant.

MAZZETTI: Well, what it does is it shows, what we are able to establish was that this was a significant piece of intelligence that led the FBI to open its investigation in July of 2016. One of the big questions of reporting the last year is what was the impetus, what was the predicate for the investigation? We now know that Papadopoulos over a night of drinks in London in May of 2016 told the top Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer, that the Russians had political dirt on Clinton. He, Papadopoulos, had been told that a couple weeks earlier. Downer, a couple months later then conveys that in a cable to his government, and that's been conveyed to the FBI. And this, again, in July of 2016 was the time e-mails were spilling out publicly. So, I think the FBI started to put things together and that's what helped launch the investigation.

CABRERA: So, John, it's interesting that Papadopoulos told this info to an Australian, the Australians eventually communicated this info to the FBI, and yet Trump campaign never communicated that info they had to U.S. authorities. What do you make of that?

DEAN: I think every signal the campaign and now the White House has ever thrown towards this Russia issue is to cover up or not reveal anything about what was actually going on. That's been the standard. That's why all the suspicion. I think if the President didn't have any problems, he would march everybody involved in this right down to a grand jury and have them say exactly what they know and what they don't know. That's why this mystery is still unraveling, if you will.

CABRERA: And we all want to know how it all ends. John Dean, Mark Mazzetti, thank you both. We really appreciate your time. And happy New Year to you both.

Back to our breaking news, President Trump reacting to go the news that Senator Orrin Hatch is retiring despite Trump urging him to run for re-election. Does this open the door for Mitt Romney?

Also, tragedy in Costa Rica as new details into the New Year's Eve plane crash that killed 10 Americans including two entire families continuing to emerge.


CABRERA: We are learning more about the ten Americans who died in a plane crash in Costa Rica on New Year's Eve. Among them a total of nine members from two different families. From Florida, from New York as well as a 33-year-old tour guide Amanda Geissler. CNN's Athena Jones has more on the victims of this tragic and the latest on the investigation.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A New Year's Eve tragedy. Ten Americans killed when their single engine plane crashed just ten minutes after taking off from airport on Costa Rica western coast. Also killed the plane's two coaster Rican pilots. Among them the victims the Weiss family from Clearwater, Florida. Mitchell and Leslie and their two children, Hannah and Ari. Mitchell was vascular and interventional radiologist. Leslie a pediatrician and neonatal specialist.

GREG SAVEL, PEDIATRICIAN: For an entire family, an entire generation of a family to be lost in one tragedy is something that I don't know that I'll ever able to wrap my head around.

JONES: The president of Radiology Associates of Clearwater calling Mitchell tremendously skilled. And the family's rabbi calling the crash a tragic event for their family, for our congregation and synagogue community.

The Steinberg family from the New York suburbs were also lost.

JOHN MARKS, SYNAGOGUE CONGREGANT: An accident like that at any time is a tragic thing and at the end of the year awful way to go into a new year.

JONES: Bruce and Irene Steinberg and their three children, Zachary, William, and Matthew. The children's long-time caretaker, Olga Villatoro, devastated.


JONES: Bruce's sister calling the Steinberg an exceptional family. The family's rabbi at Scarsdale's Westchester Reformed Temple saying of Facebook, this tragedy hits our community very hard.

The Steinberg's had been devoted members of the temple since 2001. The Facebook post said they were active in Jewish organizations and were cherished members of their country club.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so devastating. Because -- they are great people. And the kids are great. And I feel like they are the family you look to emulate.

JONES: Also killed in the crash 33-year-old travel Amanda Geissler. In a statement her family wrote of her love for the outdoors, setting goals and crushing them.

The Cessna 208 Caravan was part of Nature Air's fleet. Coaster Rican authorities launched an investigation into the crash on Monday and the National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that it is assisting with the probe.


[15:45:00] JONES: And so, while the cause of this crash is still being investigated, we do know that heavy winds earlier in the day had forced the plane's pilots who land at another airport delaying their arrival in Punta as late as where they picked up the passengers. But it's unclear at this point what led the plane to crash later in the day just a few minutes after taking off.

CABRERA: How sad, especially around the holidays. Athena Jones, thank you for that reporting.

Back to our breaking news. Senator Orrin Hatch now retiring despite President Trump urging had him to run for re-election. We'll get reaction from Utah native and former presidential candidate, Evan McMullin next.


CABRERA: We are following breaking news out of the state of Utah. Senator Orrin Hatch, the GOP's longest serving senator, is retiring. He announced these plans today in an online video. He plans to retire at the end of his term this year. So, this ends months of speculation about his future on capitol hill and creates yet another key vacancy and maybe an opening for former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Joining us now with his reaction is Utah native Evan McMullin who ran for president in 2016. Now that you have this open, will you run for the senate seat?

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good evening, Ana. I I'm hoping to support Mitt Romney. I hope that he will decide to enter the race. I think it is exactly the type of leader that the state and the country needs at this moment in the Republican Party. And so, I am hoping to support him.

CABRERA: Have you talked to him? Will he get in?

[15:50:00] MCMULLIN: We've had conversations but ultimately obviously this is a decision that he will now have to make. I expect that he will decide to enter the race. But we will see what he decides to do in the end. But I genuinely hope that he does. I think there -- this is a time when many people, you know, are having a hard time recognizing the Republican party, what it once was.

Mitt Romney is somebody who still has the confidence of many Republicans who are troubled by its current direction and its current leadership and I think he is somebody who could help lead the party, help lead the country and, again, I hope that he'll enter the race.

CABRERA: How much pressure is there for him to get in the race there in Utah? We know how popular he is there, given what a landslide he had there in the 2012 presidential election. Although he went on to lose the country's race, he went big there.

MCMULLIN: Yes, well, I think he has a lot of support there. I don't know if there is necessarily pressure that he run, more so that as you point out he still has a lot of support. I think Governor Romney is mainly driven by a love for this country, and it's very sincere, he's not a person who is sort of lost his way or lost his compass in this turbulent political time. He is somebody who is still grounded in traditional American principles who wants to have an accountable government, who wants to defend the integrity of our democracy.

This is a man who loves the Republican party, wants to see it succeed, wants the -- wants to see Utah do well. And so, I think he's driven by those things rather than pressure either way. I really do think that he's got the right motivation for wanting to pursue this. It's something that comes from within him.

CABRERA: You know Senator Hatch's career well. He's been serving since 1977. We know the president really wanted him to run again. Why do you think Hatch decided against running, despite having this coveted presidential endorsement?

MCMULLIN: Well, look, I think Senator Hatch has obviously been in the senate for quite some time. He has four decades of service. That's an awfully long time for anyone to be in congress. I applaud his service over that period, but there comes a time I think in a person's life where it's time to move on, and I think it's time for the state of Utah to have a new leader there in that seat and it's, as Senator Hatch has chosen, it's time for him to move on to other things. I support that decision. I am also very grateful for his decision to serve as he has in the senate, but I do think that it's time for us, especially in the Republican party, it's time for us to have a new batch of leaders, leaders who are prepared to help us meet the modern challenges of our day and the challenges of our future. Think that needs to be the framework by which we judge potential replacements for Senator Hatch.

CABRERA: Let's say Romney runs and wins, how would President Trump see him?

MCMULLIN: You know, I'll leave that to President Trump. Obviously that relationship has been one where there has been tension at times. Governor Romney has tried to repair that post Donald Trump's election, but I don't believe he's done so in a way that has required him to compromise his principles in any way. I would expect Governor Romney as Senator Romney to work with the president on policies that make sense for the state of Utah and for the country. But I would also expect a Senator Romney to do his job in the senate, to uphold the constitution, to defend article one of the constitution, which is the legislative powers that -- and the responsibilities that congress has to hold the executive branch accountable. I would expect Governor Romney to do both of those things, work with the president when it makes sense but also hold the executive and hold the president accountable when appropriate.

CABRERA: So, if Romney doesn't decide to run, will you?

MCMULLIN: I expect that he will. I really do expect that he will decide to run, and I hope to support him and continue on what I'm doing with my organization at Stand-Up Republic, defending Democratic ideals, norms and institutions and supporting candidates who are doing the same thing. You know, we were active in Alabama. We'll likely be active in other races in 2018. And I would hope to support Mitt Romney in this race.

[15:55:00] CABRERA: All right. Evan McMullin, thank you so much for your time. We're back in a moment.


CABRERA: An emotional candlelight vigil for a fallen Colorado's sheriff's deputy. Zachary Parrish was killed Sunday when a gunman opened fire on officers at an apartment complex. He was one of several struck. Parrish's widow appearing with her two young daughters at the memorial made this vow.


GRACE PARRISH, WIDOW OF SLAIN OFFICER: I am overwhelmed by the love and support of the community and of the nation. Never in my world would I have imagined this. But blessed be his name. Blessed be his name. And he will be glorified, and I will do everything in my power, Zach Parrish, to honor you. And I will raise these girls to love you. It means so much to hear your stories and to hear about Zach because that's what I'm clinging on to right now. So, I want to hear about him and I want to soak it in. So please share if you feel led. Because it means so much to us. Just your presence here means the world.


CABRERA: The deputy had been on the job for just seven months. Reports indicate the gunman had made threats to officers in the past. That is going to do it for me, thank you for joining. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.