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Biden Confirms Obama, VP Were Briefed On Unsubstantiated Claims Against Trump; DOJ: "Severely Deficient Training" At Chicago PD; Trump National Security Adviser Contacted Russian Ambassador Last Month. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2017 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- right now. This investigation was launched after the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, and a video of that shooting released. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will be there as will Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. Again, the results of this investigation released any moment now. We'll bring you the details as soon as we get them.

In the meantime, this is the final full Friday before President-elect Donald Trump becomes President Donald Trump. There is a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill, not to mention new developments about what Russia did during the U.S. election.

Moments ago, House lawmakers met with top intelligence officials in a closed door briefing on Russia. This after Vice President Joe Biden confirmed CNN's reporting that the intelligence community briefed him and President Obama on the unsubstantiated claims that Russia may have compromising information on President-elect Donald Trump, which is exactly what CNN reported all along. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their argument was that this is something that the press already had, not just here in the United States but other places, that it would be -- they would be -- they couldn't use the word "derelict," but it was their obligation to inform not only us but the president-elect that this was out there.


BERMAN: So he was briefed, the president was briefed, the president- elect was briefed. And CNN has new information on how Donald Trump was presented with this same intelligence. Let's start with CNN justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, live in Washington. Pamela, what have we learned?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've learned, John, that after this classified briefing to the president-elect last Friday, that FBI Director James Comey had to pull aside with the president-elect to brief him on this two-page synopsis of that 35-page memo with those unsubstantiated allegations.

We're told through our sources that this was a cordial conversation and that the intelligence chiefs felt that it would be best if Director Comey was the one to brief the president-elect and make him aware of these allegations that had been circulating among members of the media, as Vice President Joe Biden said, as well as lawmakers.

You heard Joe Biden reaffirm essentially what CNN had been reporting, that the president was also briefed on these allegations and was presented this two-page synopsis, and as his office confirmed, apparently the president's reaction to this was, what does this have to do with anything?

But the intelligence officials explained to the president that it was important for him to be briefed because the plan was to brief the president-elect as well that these allegations had been circulating --

BERMAN: Pamela, hang on, we're going to go to Chicago and listen to Attorney General Loretta Lynch talking about the civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department.

LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL: -- they're the indispensable members of the team that led to this announcement today. One of my highest priorities as attorney general has been to ensure that every American enjoys police protection that is lawful, that is responsive, and transparent.

But as the events of reasons years in Ferguson, in Baltimore, Cleveland, and many other cities have made clear, far too many Americans feel that they do not receive that kind of law enforcement. And far too many communities suffer because of painful divisions between police officers and citizens.

Divisions that make it significantly harder to reduce crime, to expand opportunity, and to ensure that every American, including our police officers, can be safe and secure in their neighborhoods.

Now, in December of 2015, as part of that work, I announced that the Department of Justice, after careful review and extensive consultation with state and local officials and community leaders, was opening an investigation into whether the Chicago Police Department had engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the constitution or federal statutory law.

And for the past 13 months, our investigators have worked tirelessly to obtain a full and an accurate and an impartial picture of policing in Chicago. They have conducted hundreds of interviews with citizens, with officials, with officers.

They have reviewed thousands of pages of documents. They have observed Chicago Police Department officers on the job. And on the basis of this exhaustive review, the Department of Justice has concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Chicago Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force in violation of the fourth amendment to the constitution.

Our investigation found that this pattern of practice is in no small part the result of severely deficient training procedures and accountability systems. Now, as my colleagues will explain in greater detail, CPT does not give its officers the training they need to do their jobs safely, effectively, and lawfully.

It fails to properly collect and analyze data, including data on misconduct complaints and training deficiencies.

[11:05:05]And it does not accurately review use of force incidents to determine whether force was appropriate or lawful or whether the use of force could have been avoided altogether.

All these issues are compounded by force of revision and oversight, leading to low officer morale and erosion of officer accountability. These are serious problems and they bear serious consequences for all Chicagoans.

As I said when announced this investigation, the systems and policies that fail ordinary citizens also fail the vast majority of Chicago Police Department officers who risk their lives every day to serve and protect the people of Chicago.

During the course of our investigation, the department heard from countless officers who were themselves disillusioned and discouraged by strained trust, by inadequate training, poor oversight, and inattention to officer wellness and safety.

Those officers are proud to wear the badge, but they recognize that they lack the support, both from the community and from the city, to properly do their jobs. And they understand that repairing trust with the immunities that they serve will require difficult and meaningful reforms.

Now to Chicago's credit, the city has not been standing still since we announced our investigation at the end of 2015. Under the leadership of Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent Johnson, the Chicago Police Department has taken a number of encouraging steps to improve oversight and to encourage community oriented policing.

But our report makes clear that there is still considerable work to be done, work that will require federal partnership and independent oversight. That is why I am pleased to announce today that the Department of Justice and the city of Chicago have agreed to begin negotiations on an independently-monitored, court-enforceable consent decree.

In the days ahead, we will continue speaking to local residents, local authorities, to officers, to ordinary citizens, to gather their perspectives on the challenges facing this city and the changes needed to address them.

Now, of course this announcement comes at a critical juncture for this proud city. Chicago is grappling with a deeply troubling rise in violent crime, one that has already claimed far too many lives. Now, fighting violent crime has long been a priority for the Justice Department as well.

And we at the Justice Department have brought our full resources to bear on this issue, from the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, and the DEA, who participated in joint task forces to combat violence, to the department's violence reduction network.

Now our efforts to work closely with local authorities to fight violence in a number of ways began long before we opened this investigation, and the will continue during and after this investigation.

And no one understands that better than Zack Harden. Under his outstanding leadership, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois has worked literally around the clock to tackle gun violence, gang cases, and other serious crimes afflicting this great city.

At the same time that Zack's office actively partnered with our civil rights division on this pattern and practice investigation, the prosecutors in his office in 2016 charged the highest number of illegal firearm cases in any year since 2004.

So the U.S. Attorney's Office here and federal investigative agencies have truly ramped up their efforts to help stem the recent rise in violence. But as I have seen firsthand from my community policing tour, that work is undermined if the community does not trust law enforcement.

And that's why in addition to increasing intelligence efforts and enhancing crime fighting operations, we're also working with the city on a range of other critical initiatives, from youth outreach to counseling for the victims of crime.

These efforts will continue and they will only be strengthened by the reforms that we are announcing today because successfully reducing and preventing violent crime requires a collaborative and trusting relationship between officers and residents.

And where that relationship is broken, as it is in far too many of Chicago's neighborhoods, it's much harder to solve crimes and reduce violence.

By making the changes necessary to bring constitutional community oriented policing to Chicago, the city and the police department will place itself in a much stronger position to combat the scourge of violence.

And finally, I want to commend the people of Chicago for their patience and for their resilience throughout this long process. Community/police relations is an especially difficult issue.

[11:10:04]It taps into long histories, deep beliefs, and strong opinions, and there's no lack of strong opinions here in Chicago. But it also forces us to honestly acknowledge the ways in which our society has fallen short in extending the protection of our laws to all Americans.

It does not yield to swift or simple solutions, but meaningful change is never easy. The task of realizing the promise of our country has always been hard. And here in Chicago, thanks to the determination and the commitment of countless public officials, police officers, advocates, and citizens, we've taken the first step towards meaningful change and a brighter future.

The people of this city have recognized that there is work to be done and they've committed themselves to seeing that work through to the end. And the Department of Justice will stand beside you along the way.

I'm confident that when we are finished, which this review is finished and the changes are set in place, Chicago will be a stronger, a safer, and a more united city for everyone who calls it home.

At this time, I'll turn things over to Benita Gupta, the head of the Civil Rights Division, who will say more about our findings. Thank you.

VANITA GUPTA, LEADER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT'S CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION: Good morning and thank you, Attorney General Lynch, and thank you to U.S. Attorney Zack Harden. I am deeply grateful for the extraordinary work of the DOJ team, and the U.S. Attorney's Office here in Chicago that has worked tirelessly over the past 13 months.

I also want to thank Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent Johnson for their cooperation during this investigation and for their commitment to reform.

And I want to thank the people of Chicago, including the city's police officers, for engaging with the Justice Department over the last many months, because you care about your city so much.

Since we launched this investigation in December of 2015, the Justice Department has deployed our largest team ever in a policing pattern or practice case, to conduct a thorough and fair investigation of the Chicago Police Department and independent police review authorities.

We reviewed thousands of documents and hundreds of force reports. We met with community members, city officials, and each of the police unions. We visited each of Chicago's 22 police districts, went on 60 ride-alongs, spoke to 340 members of the CPD from command staff to line officers.

We also met with over 90 community organizations and heard from more than a thousand Chicagoans, and 11 independent subject matter experts, most of them current and former law enforcement officials assisted with this investigation.

As the attorney general said, we found that the Chicago Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force including deadly force and non-deadly force. This pattern includes, for example, shooting at people who present no immediate threat and tasing people for not following verbal commands.

This conduct doesn't only harm residents. It endangers officers. It results in an avoidable deaths, injuries, and trauma. It erodes police community trust, trust that is the cornerstone of public safety.

We found that this pattern of unconstitutional force is largely attributable to systemic deficiencies within the CPD and city. We found that CPD does not adequately train its officers to use the appropriate amount of force.

For example, we observed training on deadly force that used the video made decades ago with guidance inconsistent with both current law and internal policy.

We that found CPD officers do not fully report their uses of force and that supervisors are not appropriately reviewing these uses of force. We found that Chicago's accountability systems are broken. Many complaints that should be investigated or not.

And when investigations do occur, they are glacially slow and staffed by overworked and undertrained investigators who often fail to obtain basic witness statements and evidence.

Officers are too rarely held accountable for misconduct and when they are, discipline is unpredictable and ineffective. We found that CPD's approach to data collection on use of force prevents CPD from spotting dangerous trends, responding with remedial training, and sharing information that would be useful to the public.

We found that CPD's promotion systems are not transparent and we found that CPD is failing to provide officers with the support that they need to deal with the stress and trauma of their jobs.

We make these findings acutely aware that this is a time of significant challenge for Chicago residents and police officers. Gun violence has spiked. Relations between police officers and residents is strained, and officer morale is suffering.

But really, this context only heightens the importance and urgency of our findings. The failures that we identify and that we heard about from residents and officers alike have deeply eroded community trust, particularly in African-American and Latino communities suffering the most from gun violence on Chicago's south and west sides.

[11:15:03]These neighborhoods are the hardest hit by CPD's pattern of unlawful force and breakdowns in the city's accountability systems. These breakdowns breed distrust and undermine policing in the very communities that need fair, proactive policing the most.

Distrust of law enforcement makes residents unwilling to share information and that makes it harder for officers to solve and prevent crimes. Addressing the deeply (inaudible) police community distrust is a critical part of fighting crime and reducing violence in Chicago.

Chicago's leaders including, especially the mayor and superintendent, of course, are aware of many of these problems and to their credit have been working to address them, such as revamping EPRA, bringing officers new de-escalation training, rolling out body cameras, and adopting a new policy on the release of video system on some --

BERMAN: You've been watching a news conference from Chicago where the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the results of a 13- month investigation into the Chicago Police Department. They found that the Chicago Police Department had a pattern of excessive force, exhibited a pattern of excessive force.

And, importantly, the Chicago Police Department has agreed the city of Chicago will enter a consent decree with the Justice Department to work on policing in that city going forward.

It was (inaudible) right there that the minority community in Chicago has been disproportionately hit by this use of excessive force. This stemmed from the video released over a year ago by Laquan McDonald being shot and killed by a police officer.

I want to bring in Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst. Paul, this was an interesting news conference right there. This was a 13-month civil rights investigation. They did find a pattern of excessive force. They did announce a consent decree. Explain to me what this all means.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The Justice Department has conducted a number of these evaluations of cities across the United States. They did it in Newark, New Jersey, for instance, where there were repeated complaints of excessive force by police departments.

And what they do is they come in and they give recommendations as to how to improve policing, and maybe there will be increased funding that will be found for the Chicago police, hopefully, as a result of this.

But I have to say, John, I find it to be very, very unusual to hear this in Chicago at this time, because Chicago has one of the most brutal homicide rates in America, over 750 killings I think this year so far.

Last year, I think there were 3500 shootings in the mostly minority neighborhoods of Chicago. So a lot of people are saying that, you know, policing is not aggressive enough in Chicago.

And I think that there will be many who will look at this report and say this is going to force the police to back off even more from aggressively policing the dangerous neighborhoods out of fear they'll face federal sanctions of some kind if they're aggressive in policing.

BERMAN: Let me just tell you what was said about this because Loretta Lynch addressed that. First of all, she said the excessive force stemmed from deficient training and poor supervision. She did note the rising number of homicides in Chicago, the plague of homicides in that city over the last year or two that has been on the rise.

Not to record levels, but it certainly been on the rise in a very alarming way. She says the pattern of excessive force has eroded trust in minority communities and has prevented people from coming forward with information that may help in investigations, may prevent more murders.

So what they seem to be trying to do, Paul, was say that maybe all these things are tied up into one little package.

CALLAN: Yes. And, you know, I think all of those points are quite legitimate. Having been a homicide prosecutor myself, I know that cooperation from the community in making cases against the bad guys is critical. And if you don't have the trust of the police and law enforcement officials, you cannot solve crime problems.

But of course, on the other hand, you need a cooperative police force that's willing to go out and put their lives on the line to fight the bad guys. So it's a really delicate balance, not to scare the police out of aggressive policing.

But on the other hand, to make sure that they honor and respect the legitimate law-abiding citizens in these neighborhoods and hopefully the Department of Justice will find a way to achieve these two competing goals.

BERMAN: It is a difficult challenge to say the least. Paul Callan, thanks so much for being with us.

CALLAN: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: In just a moment, we're going to have much more on what we have learned what is told to Donald Trump about the claims of Russian interference and perhaps having incriminating information on him.

Plus disagree with Donald Trump on torture, on other issues? Well, maybe you can qualify for his cabinet. The president-elect says he wants his cabinet nominees to be themselves, after new disagreements emerge just one week before he takes office.

Plus we have breaking news, more breaking news, President-elect Trump's transition team confirms that the president-elect's national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, recently exchanged text messages and phone calls with the Russian ambassador.

[11:20:09]What were they discussing? Why? Details ahead.


BERMAN: All right, we have more breaking news right now. We'll tell you exactly what we just heard from the Trump transition. I'll tell you why it's important.

Trump transition spokesperson Sean Spicer just told us that President- elect Donald Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had phone conversations and exchanged text messages with the Russian ambassador this past December.

The reason they were doing this was to wish each other Merry Christmas and also to set up some meetings between then President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin after President-elect Trump takes offices.

Now that in and of itself not in any way controversial at all. This came up because there was a report in "The Washington Post" this morning that suggested that maybe General Flynn was speaking to the Russian ambassador to discuss, negotiate the sanctions placed on Russia by President Obama. If that were the case, that would be a little bit unusual, but Sean Spicer says no, this was a planning meeting to talk about Christmas and talk about future meetings. So there's that.

I want to talk much more about this Russia issue and what's happening in the Trump team.

[11:25:05]I want to bring in our panel right now, CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, senior politics reporter for "USA Today," Heidi Przybyla, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, and CNN political analyst, John Avlon, also the editor in chief of "The Daily Beast" and the author of this new book, "Washington's Farewell: The Founding Father's Warning To Future Generations," I carry my copy with me always.

Dana, I want to start with you. Not the General Flynn thing, but what we've learned in the last 24 hours involving this summary that was given to Donald Trump with these claims that Russian intelligence had been collecting information on Donald Trump, perhaps incriminating information.

Now we have Vice President Joe Biden, not an anonymous source, we have the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, not an anonymous source, confirming that this information was passed on.

We also now have this CNN reporting that the FBI director himself, James Comey, briefed Donald Trump on this. This is exactly and precisely what CNN has reported all along.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hashtag not fake news. This is -- look. I'm going to veer into Brian Stelter's land for one second because I feel really strongly about this, sorry, Bri. Here is the deal.

The fact that Joe Biden said this on the record, the fact that, as you said, James Clapper in his statement following his conversation with Donald Trump to try to cool the temperature a little bit between the two, said on the record that this happened, backs up the only thing that CNN reported, which was that basically a process story, that the intelligence community gave this information to the president-elect.

And by the way, the current president and Vice President Joe Biden, did so just as an FYI, and that CNN did not publish anything of the details of it because it was not verified, just as the intelligence community and James Comey told the president-elect, not verified but you should know this is out there.

The reason why I'm going to veer into Brian Stelter's lane is that I don't expect it, but it would be really nice for our friend, Sean Spicer, or for the transition or even the president-elect to acknowledge that this was accurate and that CNN and other credible news organizations are not out there doing fake news.

It's not what we do and as we turn the page to a new administration, all of our institutions need to be refined and frankly respected and retain credibility, especially places like CNN and others who are doing their job that is laid out by John Avlon, talking about the founding fathers, by the founding fathers.

A basic democracy needs a free and fair and, yes, adversarial press. That is what we do. OK, I'm off my soapbox. You can have it back.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Dana, you can fill in for me on Sunday mornings. We're describing this process of journalism which often starts with anonymous sources, that's what CNN was doing several days ago, having to rely on anonymous sources to get this information out there.

Then sources on the record have been confirming it, not just here on CNN. Other news outlets as well. I think that is an important point for our viewers to see and especially as we have this news story just this hour, David Ignatius in "The Washington Post" was using anonymous sources on this issue of Michael Flynn speaking with the Russian ambassador, now on the record Sean Spicer confirming at least part of it.

This is the process of journalism, not always pretty, but it's a reminder I think to our viewers about how anonymous sources sometimes are necessary, and we get the on the record sources later.

BERMAN: Also, the facts are facts, period.

BASH: Exactly.

BERMAN: Full stop. John Avlon, let me read you what Donald Trump has written about this today. He says, totally made up facts by sleaze bag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans, fake news. Russia says nothing exists probably released by intelligence in quotation marks even knowing there is no proof and never will be. My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days."

What do we think that means? My people will have a full report within 90 days. Does this mean he's going to present his own facts on this?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I hope it means that once he takes the office of president, the people on his team will release a detailed report on Russian hacking. What I'm concerned it might mean is that Trump partisans acting outside the government will be issuing a counter report.

Look, there is the tradition that the office changes the man more than the man changes the office. There is no sign that Donald Trump is going to stop being Donald Trump. At some point those two things are going to go into contradiction.

But hopefully, the responsibilities of being president will lead him to at least deal with the same set of facts as the rest of us, even if he's tweeting from the oval office.

But what is happening, what he and his team have done, constantly beating the drumbeat about fake news, is intentionally designed to muddy the waters and increase legitimacy of partisan outfits that are very favorably skewed towards him and degrade the idea of objective fair truth. BERMAN: You know, Heide, you want to bring up one point --