Executive Action on Gun Control Examined; Afghanistan Fighting Against Taliban Forces Detailed; Iran Versus Saudi Arabia; Oregon



Against Taliban Forces Detailed; Iran Versus Saudi Arabia; Oregon

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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Republicans are blasting the plan, calling it an abuse of presidential authority and an assault on the Second Amendment.

Let's get right to CNN's Jim Acosta. He's live at the White House.

Jim, the president got very, very emotional today, even crying as he spoke about the 20 first-graders killed in the Sandy Hook mass shooting.


Not something you see every day, the president weeping openly here at the White House, taking aim at what he's called the biggest frustration of his time in office. That is the inability to pass gun control. President Obama is now going around Congress to tighten up the nation's background check system.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It was perhaps the most emotional speech President Obama has ever given in office, first embracing the crowd of mass shooting victims and their families on hand, then openly crying as he made the case for new executive actions on gun control.


ACOSTA: The president wiped away tears as he recalled what he has described as his saddest day in office, the slaughter of 20 first- graders and six adults in the Sandy Hook school shooting.

OBAMA: Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad. And, by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.


ACOSTA: Under the president's new executive actions, a warning to nearly all gun sellers to conduct background checks or risk prosecution, plus new FBI or ATF agents, $500 million for mental health care, and a new push to develop smart gun technology.

To hammer home the argument, the president was joined by the father of Daniel Barden, who died at Sandy Hook.

MARK BARDEN, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: As a nation, we have to do better. We are better. We're better than this.

ACOSTA: And former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was nearly killed by a mass shooter five years ago. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is now a leader of victims' families.

(on camera): Well, it's almost like you're a community of people now.

MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: We are, for incredible, unbelievable, devastating circumstances. So it's not a community that people wanting to belong to. Just leave it at that. You don't want to be invited into that club.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The new executive action stopped short of a law mandating universal background checks across the country. The president blamed the NRA and Republicans in Congress for that.

OBAMA: So, the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage.

ACOSTA: The NRA responded, saying: "The proposed executive actions are ripe for abuse by the Obama administration, which has made no secret of its contempt for the Second Amendment."

And Speaker Paul Ryan said: "Rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, the president goes after the most law-abiding of citizens. His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty," a sentiment echoed on the campaign trail.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's obsessed with undermining the Second Amendment. He's obsessed with burdening law- abiding citizens who are going to follow the law, no matter what it is.

ACOSTA: The White House says that's pure politics.

OBAMA: I believe in the Second Amendment. It's there written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms, no matter how many times people try to twist my words around.


ACOSTA: But President Obama has been good for gun sales. Consider the stock prices since President Obama was first elected into office. Smith & Wesson up 808 percent, Apple 342 percent, Nike 342 percent, and Google up 350 percent.

Not -- we should also mention, much of the president's ability to enforce these new actions, Jake, depends on Congress spending the money to hire new investigators at the ATF and FBI. Republicans have long said the president should enforce the nation's existing gun laws, and the White House says GOP lawmakers can now put their mouth -- or their money where their mouth is, Jake.

TAPPER: Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

Joining me now in studio, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips. They're the parents of Jessica Ghawi, who was killed in the Aurora movie theater massacre in 2012.

Thanks so much for joining me. I know I speak for everyone here and everyone watching that we say our thoughts and prayers are with you. What a horrible ordeal and how strong you must be.

First of all, let me just ask, what was it like to be in that room today?

SANDY PHILLIPS, MOTHER OF VICTIM: Well, you know, we have been working at this for almost four years now.

So to be in the room with the president addressing these issues that we have seen for ourselves needing to be addressed, and to see him take the moral leadership to actually cry and share with us -- half the room were victims and survivors, and to share tears with us because we cry every day still and always will.

So, for him to have the moral leadership and the courage to state his purposes and share tears with us and the nation was quite moving.


TAPPER: Let me ask you, and I hate to resist the horrible day, but you want change and you want meaningful change.

When you look at what happened in Aurora, do you know of any place where the system should be improved? That is to say, the shooter bought his four guns legally. Where are the weak links in the chain that would have stopped and prevented Aurora?

S. PHILLIPS: Well, I will let Lonnie answer part of that.

LONNIE PHILLIPS, FATHER OF VICTIM: I don't know if you're aware, but we did sue the ammunition sellers.

TAPPER: Right.

L. PHILLIPS: And we did not lose that case. It was thrown out. It was thrown out because of the PLCAA law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

TAPPER: Right, the immunity that gun manufacturers and ammunition manufacturers have.

L. PHILLIPS: So, of course, that could have stopped it.

There's so many ways to stop it. One of the ways they could have stopped it is what he put in place today, what he talked about today was the mentally ill.

Now, we all know that only 4 percent of the mentally ill are violent, or less. But our daughter would be alive today if that had been in place, where the laws would have allowed his psychiatrist to put him on the NICS system.

TAPPER: And let's talk about that, because, first of all, we should state that the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violence than they are to perpetrate violence.

S. PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

TAPPER: But the psychiatrist who treated the shooter in Aurora before the incident, for months before the incident was so alarmed about things he said and things he did, including telling her that he had homicidal thoughts several times a day, she alerted officials of the University of Colorado.

She even alerted the shooter's mother. But because he had not named a specific target, as you know, she was not allowed to legally institutionalize him against his will for 72 hours. Should that change? Should that part of the law change?

S. PHILLIPS: Absolutely. Absolutely, it needs to change.

And in California -- state to state, they are addressing some of these issues. In California, now you can step in if you're a loved one of someone who is spiraling out of control and seems to be a danger to others or themselves and actually have them committed to a state hospital for 72 hours and have their weapons taken away from them and held until they process through and hopefully get on the other side of the treatment that they need.

TAPPER: In the time we have left, and it's not enough time and it never will be, but tell me, tell us about Jessica.

S. PHILLIPS: Jessi was everything in the world to us and still is. We have been fighting this in her honor. We have Jessi's Message, our 501(c)(3) that we put into place.

And now we live in a camper and we travel the country to speak and work with other victims and survivors of violence and hopefully get them to advocate in their communities, grassroots.

TAPPER: And where can people find out more about your organization or you two if they want to reach out?

S. PHILLIPS: Be happy to share that with you.

It's not a Web page. It's through a San Antonio area foundation. And it's Jessi's Message. And that's where it is.

L. PHILLIPS: You can Google it.

S. PHILLIPS: Google it, yes.

L. PHILLIPS: They can Google it and find it.

TAPPER: Jessi's Message.

Well, we're thinking about her today. And thank you so much for your strength and for coming here and talking to us.

S. PHILLIPS: Thank you.

TAPPER: We appreciate it.

L. PHILLIPS: Thank you very much.

S. PHILLIPS: We appreciate you having us.

TAPPER: This programming note. President Obama will join with CNN's Anderson Cooper for a town hall on the subject of guns in America and you can watch it right here on CNN Thursday night at 8:00 Eastern.

A new super car to rival Tesla and a smart mirror which can tell you before you get something on your face you don't want to be on your face. The future of tech -- coming up.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We have some breaking news in our world lead. One U.S. service member has been killed and two others injured. It happened during a joint U.S./Afghan operation that is still going on right now outside Marja in Helmand Province. It's about 400 miles southwest of the capital of Kabul and that's where Afghan troops are currently locked in a fierce battle against the Taliban.

Let's get right to CNN's chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, who's tracking the story.

Jim, the U.S. has now sent in a QRF. That's quick reaction force. What are you learning?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Clearly, it's still hot on the ground there now. And it has been for several hours, so hot that when they attempted to extract the KIA, The soldier who was killed in action and other wounded, two other U.S. service members wounded on the scene, that medevac helicopter, initially, reports were that it was hit by mortar fire.

As it turns out, as it was landing, its rotor hit a wall there, too damaged to take off. Another medevac helicopter that came to try to rescue the wounded was and get that force out of there, it was in effect warned away because of fire on the ground. If you're sending in a QRF now, you know there's still a firefight under way.

TAPPER: And what role are U.S. forces playing exactly during this operation and during this raid?

SCIUTTO: They say this is part of this very large umbrella that we talk a lot in Afghanistan and Iraq of advise and assist mission.

Now, this can encompass any number of things. And, frankly, the definition has been stretched by this administration as to what those forces do. But our understanding is that this was a counterterror operation. This is a Taliban-heavy area. I have been down there myself on embeds before. They have been entrenched there for years really going back to the U.S. invasion.

And they haven't been able to get them out. And this is a joint operation between U.S. and Afghan forces that came under fire. They're still coming under fire. And we talk a lot about this. There's still a war under way in Afghanistan.

TAPPER: Oh, yes.

SCIUTTO: There's still thousands of U.S. troops there. And they're not just doing force protection. They're doing offensive missions like this one, usually in conjunction with Afghan forces.

TAPPER: And that's always the question about this joint U.S./Afghan operations, because while unquestionably there are strong and qualified Afghan troops and commanders, the question about whether they are up to the task of actually taking on the Taliban, whether they have the military capability, is always in question, and whether or not the U.S. is actually leading these missions, four or five soldiers with a platoon of Afghans.

SCIUTTO: And to be fair, there's often a lot of fudging of the details there. Who was in the lead? Well, we were just in the rear. But, clearly, that help helps, right, whether they need the help.

And I will hear from U.S. forces, and I'm sure you have heard as well, that Afghan forces fight bravely, they take risks, et cetera.


SCIUTTO: But, as you know as well, U.S. special forces are pretty good at what they do.


SCIUTTO: So, when they're together, those forces are often stronger, but that, as we know, this president and others have said those forces can't be there forever.

TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

The U.S. is also closely watching as more Middle East countries take sides in this escalating standoff between the two regional Muslim superpowers in the Middle East. On one side, you have -- on one side of the Gulf, you have Iran. On the other side of the Gulf, you have now Kuwait joining the list of countries backing the big rival, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait and other countries cutting or coming close to cutting ties with Iran.

The tension, of course, is sectarian. It goes back centuries, Sunni vs. Shia, but it intensified quite a bit this past weekend when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric. [16:45:10] And now, Iran says all of this is actually a Zionist conspiracy. CNN's Nic Robertson is in Saudi Arabia's capital city of Riyadh. Nic, the rhetoric on both sides not helping at all.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There is no sign that the tension between these two major powers in this region is backing off. You have the Iranian President today accusing the Saudis of committing a crime by executing the Shia Cleric. The Saudis say that he was fermenting terrorism here in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis that there product cut economic ties with Iran, they've stopped flights between the two countries.

They say that religious pilgrims who come Iran and their thousands to Saudi Arabia to visit the holy sites here, they can still come. But what you see across the region, Saudi Arabia is getting more backing. Kuwait today, cutting diplomatic ties with Iran. They joins Sudan, they joined Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates as well withdrawing their ambassador from Iran.

So Saudi Arabia is getting more backing. There's no sense at the moment that I'm getting from officials that I'm talking to here at these tensions are going to come down any time soon. They see Iran as meddling in Saudi Arabia's internal affairs. They also feel the pressure of Iran on their borders. Yemen to the south where there's an ongoing fight there, there's an ongoing war with the Houthis. The Saudis there feel that the Iranians are backing the Houthis to the north as well, Iraq and Syria.

So Saudi Arabia really feels that pressure at the moment. They also feel that they're being more isolated in the region from their old ally, the United States. You see the United States cutting this nuclear deal with Iran. That's how the negative impacts in here. They feel more isolated. They've beast up their army, beast up their forces over the recent few years. And what we have witnessed in the execution of this Shia Cleric who they say is a terrorist, receive a much tougher line taken by the Saudis. And undoubtedly, they knew that this was going to cause increase tensions in the region. Jake.

TAPPER: Nic Robertson in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, thank you.

An armed Anti-U.S. Government Gang in Oregon refusing to give up. The leader of the group saying he's being treated like a terrorist. What's his next move? What about law enforcement?

Plus, how about an ultra high definition television that you can roll up like a blanket? The newest gadgets just revealed, next.


[16:50:59] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, in our national lead, an armed anti-U.S. Government Gang continues to occupy a federal building in Oregon. That takeover is now going to day four and those men and women who have seized that building are not budging. The self-styled citizens of constitutional freedom say they are in it for the long haul to "restore and defend the constitution". Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities are being especially careful not to provoke them, especially because some of the guys with guns have been very clear that they're not afraid to use them. Let's now go to Princeton, Oregon, to CNN corespondent Paul Vercamen.

Paul, you spoke with the leader of this gang, armed anti-U.S. Government Gang moments ago. Have they specified their demands? What did they have to say?

PAUL VERCAMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have to a degree and yet it's still murky, Jake. What they are saying is they are really upset with the bureau of land management of their government agencies. They feel that there's been a vast land grab and at one point they want to see if they can't return government land, federal government land back to private owners and this means going back decades if they have to.

Now, by the same token, we're talking about the stance that the Ammon Bundy has taken here. And he wanted to clarify for me that he is not anti-government. Well, he should know that's because in 2010 his trucking business received more than a $500,000, small business loan from who else but the federal government. He talked about that.


AMMON BUNDY, ACTIVIST, CITIZENS CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOM: I am not anti-government. I understand and believe in -- and all those that are here understand and believe that there is a role for a government. And that the federal government's role is to protect the states from the outside world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what do you say to a critic who says that's hypocrisy, you're taking a small business loan from the federal government?

BUNDY: Well again, I believe that there are roles in what's the federal government have to play, right? And that was an SBA loan. And I took that loan and that was an effort in assisting the people in using their rights.


VERCAMEN: And they bowed (ph) dozen or so people who are left inside this reserve on this protest, they say they will stay for as long as it takes to get what they want. Jake.

TAPPER: The FBI, Paul, is working with the state police and with the local sheriff's deputies to try to resolve this without any violence. Have they explained what their strategies are to end this takeover peacefully?

VERCAMEN: No, Jake, they haven't explained anything but actions speak louder than words. And we'll call this strategy, we'll call it apathy and ice. It's cold out here, subfreezing temperatures. I think that they believe that they can just wait these people out. And by apathy, I mean there is not an officer insight. We haven't seen any four miles, 30, 40 miles. Not a county, a sheriff's deputies or anybody else, or an FBI agent. Clearly, the idea is to stay away, Jake.

TAPPER: Paul Vercammen, thank you so much.

Our Money Lead now, what's the thing you live just fine without in 2015 but you will not be able to live without in 2016 and beyond? Well, the future is here. The Consumer Electronics Show is launching in Las Vegas and we're getting a sneak peek at some of the pieces of tech that were once just a pipe dream.

Like, for instance, a smart mirror. It looks at you and can tell you things like whether you need to hydrate or whether there is a zit in your future or how about LG's new 18-inch high definition screen that you can roll up like a newspaper.

CNN Tech Correspondent Samuel Burke joins us now live from Las Vegas. Samuel, there is a super secret car there, I understand, that hopes to make TESLA even a thing of the past?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Jake, CES, the C is supposed to stand for consumer but I'm starting to wonder if they stands for car or maybe even China. There has been this mysterious company backed by a Chinese multi billionaire competing against TESLA trying to pluck away talent, getting them from Audi, BMW and most importantly form TESLA.

Now, last night they finally had their big unveil here and now this company really has everybody buzzing. They start grabbed the first headline here at CES. It's just a concept car for now.

But Jake, I just took a trip from Phoenix to San Diego for 30 bucks for a full thank of gas, $3 of the national average for gas. So, it's hard to see how these electric car companies will become viable in the short term. They're not making profits. But long term people are hopeful for what they can do for the environment.

TAPPER: And Samuel, over winter break, I saw about 9000 vines and various photographs of people falling off those hoverboards that were supposed to be the latest permutation of the future, anything to replace those exploding hoverboards?

BURKE: Yeah. Everybody talking about that here. So, at CES, they say they've learned that people want alternate modes of transportation, including this smart skateboard from blink.

I just had my appendix out Jake, so I don't want to end up back in the hospital that I've been trying it down. I've been doing OK, 499 bucks will get you this smart skateboard attaches, connects to your smartphone and goes about 5 to 6 miles.

The companies say they've learned, yes, people want this alternate modes of transportation but you can't use cheap lithium ion batteries or they might explode, so this company have guaranteeing me that it won't explode. My mom will be very happy.

TAPPER: Your mom will be happy when you stop riding that skateboard, Samuel. That has me worried for you. Thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

Coming up, new clues into the identity of the masked murderer with a British accent featured in the latest ISIS propaganda videos. Who is this person?


[16:55:03] TAPPER: Happening now, tears and anger. President Obama cries as he recalls the victims of mass shootings and expresses frustration at the country's failure to curb gun violence. Will his new gun control actions make a difference?

(Byline: Jim Acosta, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper, Nic Robertson, Paul Vercammen, Samuel Burke )

(Guest: Lonnie Phillips, Sandy Phillips)

(High: Examining the president's initiatives on gun control. . One U.S. service member has been killed and two others injured. It happened during a joint U.S./Afghan operation that is still going on right now outside Marja in Helmand Province. The U.S. is also closely watching as more Middle East countries take sides in this escalating standoff between the two regional Muslim superpowers in the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia. An armed anti-U.S. Government Gang continues to occupy a federal building in Oregon. That takeover is now going to day four and those men and women who have seized that building are not budging. The Consumer Electronics Show is launching in Las Vegas and we're getting a sneak peek at some of the pieces of tech that were once just a pipe dream.)

(Spec: Guns; Death; Policies; Barack Obama; Government; Politics; Republicans; Afghanistan; Military; Taliban; War; Iran; Saudi Arabia; Middle East; Oregon; Protests; Consumer Electronics Show; Business; Technology)