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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Tweets China Should Keep "Stolen" U.S. Drone; Obama Vows to Retaliate Against Russia Hack; McCain Calls for Select Committee Probe on Russian Hacking; Evacuations Postponed in Aleppo Amid Safety Concerns; Putin's Strategy Pushes Russia to Edge of World Stage; Lynch: Uptick In Hate Crimes Against Muslim-Americans; Putin Calls To Wish Pope Happy 80th Birthday. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 18, 2016 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA This is the sign of a possible unraveling of the world order.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: An ominous warning from Senator John McCain as he calls for an investigation into election meddling by Russia. Plus, buses finally arriving in Aleppo as thousands of desperate citizens try to evacuate. And a popular tourist destination in the Mid East under attack. NEWSROOM starts now.

Hey, there. It is 2 o'clock on the East Coast. thanks for joining us. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Fredricka Whitfield. We start with two acts of defiance from two foreign governments escalating diplomatic hostility during the presidential transition.

President-elect Donald Trump refusing to concede Russia hacked the U.S. election and now he's taking an unexpected stance on China after the Pentagon said that China will return that underwater U.S. drone that it seized from international waters. Trump tweeted this out, "We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back. Let them keep it."

So what exactly did he mean by that? CNN's Jake Tapper asked Arizona Senator John McCain for his take on Trump's comments, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What does it mean to tell the Chinese to keep the drone? Is there a strategy behind that?

MCCAIN: I don't know. I know that the Chinese are able to do a thing called reverse engineering where they're able to, while they hold this drone, able to find out all of the technical information and some of it is pretty valuable. But the fundamental here is that the Chinese have taken an American

vehicle in international waters in a gross violation of international law. Maybe they saw the success that the Iranians had after they captured two American vessels and put American sailors on their knees. And then when they were returned, the secretary of state thanked them for that.

Look, there's no strength on the part of the United States of America, everybody is taking advantage of it and hopefully that will change soon. But it's almost unheard of, Jake, for American vehicles and ships in international waters being taken by another Iranian or in this case, Chinese ship, in gross violation of international law; they're flaunting it.

TAPPER: Let's turn to Russia and President Obama on Friday defended his response to the Russia hack during a press conference. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In early September, when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn't happen was to talk to him directly. And tell him to cut it out or there will going to be some serious consequences if he didn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think of the president's response and how do you think the U.S. needs to respond going forward?

MCCAIN: Well, the president's response was sort of an acknowledgment of that and endorsement of what they've already done. The president has no strategy and no policy as to what to do about these various cyber attacks that have possibly disrupted an American election.

We need a select committee. We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to find out exactly what was done and what the implications of the attacks were, especially if they had an effect on our election. There's no doubt they were interfering and no doubt that it was a cyber attack.

The question now is, how much and what damage and what should the United States of America do? And so far, we've been totally paralyzed. I'm sure that when Vladimir Putin was told "cut it out," I'm sure that Vladimir Putin immediately stopped all cyber activity. The fact is, they are hacking every single day in other areas of our military and all kinds of different aspects of American life that they are able to penetrate. And we have no strategy nor do we have any policy towards that and it's very disturbing.

TAPPER: But just to underline what you said, you're calling for a select committee, joint house and senate, to investigate what exactly happened with the Russian hack. Let me ask you, you're being critical of President Obama's posture towards Russia. But President-elect Trump seems to have a friendly posture towards

Russia, one that must upset you given the fact that you've been long been suspicious of Vladimir Putin.

[14:05:04] When President-elect Trump called you to discuss the nomination of General Mattis for secretary defense which will obviously go through your committee. Did you raise your concerns about Russia to him?

MCCAIN: No. Because it was a brief conversation and he mentioned that General Mattis was going to be his nominee, there was not a conversation.

Look, Jake, what's happening here when we see the seizure of these ships, when see the cyber attacks, when we see the dismemberment of Syria, when see the tragedies that are taking place there which are heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking, while we sat by and watched all this happen, this is the sign of a possible unraveling of the world order that was established after world war II which has made one of the most peaceful periods in the history of the world.

We're starting to see that, the strains and the unraveling of it and that is because of an absolute failure of American leadership. When American doesn't lead, a lot of other bad people do and that's why we're seeing this slaughter in Aleppo that breaks your heart.

TAPPER: I understand that you're critical of President Obama on this issue. But are you not even more concerned about the fact that President-elect Trump seems to want to be friends with Vladimir Putin? I haven't heard him ever criticize Putin ever, have you?

MCCAIN: No, I have not heard him criticize Putin. I think reality is going to intercede at one point or another just because of the Russian activities. And I hope that with people like General Mattis and some other people around him that he will very quickly understand what the Russians are all about and that is they are ahead of us in many respects in this whole issue of cyber warfare.

So we not only need a select committee on exactly what they did in this case, but the whole issue of cyber warfare where we have no strategy and no policy. Because it is one of the areas where they have an advantage, perhaps the only area where our adversaries have an advantage over us.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton spoke to her donors on Thursday night in New York City, she sought to explain the election's outcome. She pointed the finger at Putin. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyber attacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: I've heard some commentators criticized Clinton for saying that Putin directed cyber attacks against "The Electoral System," suggesting that she's misleading voters about what happened, that it sounds like she's saying the voting machines themselves were attack. Do you agree with that criticism? And what do you make of her overall argument?

MCCAIN: I have seen no evidence that the voting machines were tampered with. I haven't seen no evidence that the election would have been different but that doesn't change the fact that the Russians and others, Chinese to a lesser degree, have been able to interfere with our electoral process whether how serious it is and whether it would have affected the outcome of the election or not, is the reason why we need to have a select committee.

Jake, the responsibilities for cyber spread over about four different committees in the senate and each doing their own thing, frankly is not going to be the most efficient way of arriving at a conclusion. This is serious business. If they're able to harm the electoral process, then they destroyed democracy which is based on free and fair elections.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: A lot to dissect there. So let's dig deeper with our CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro who worked for John McCain during his 2008 campaign and Alice Stewart, she's the former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz.

Ana, let's start with you. Senator McCain has called for a select committee to investigate the Russian hack. But is that realistically going to help the situation knowing that the incoming Trump administration is so friendly with Russia?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATORS: Look, I think they've got to do what they think is right. I am incredibly proud and grateful of senators like John McCain, of senators like Lindsey Graham who are leading in this issue and who acknowledge and realize that their jobs is not to be anybody's rubber stamp even if that means the incoming president of their own party but rather to defend American interest and to defend our electoral process and our democracy.

[14:10:07] I think that John McCain and Lindsey Graham realize they are a co-equal and independent branch of government and they are going to continue calling for this because as John McCain says this is serious business. And it's something that should unite all Americans.

The election results are not going to change. Donald Trump is going to be the next president come January 20th. That being said, we all have a responsibility and a duty to defend our political system.

SANCHEZ: Alice, to you now, Trump and his supporters have been hesitant to even accept what is apparently the consensus of the intelligence community. I want you to listen to Reince Priebus this morning. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think he would accept the conclusion if these intelligence professionals would get together, put out a report, show the American people that they're actually on the same page as opposed to third parties through "The Washington Post".

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX HOST: But third parties (inaudible) --

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: But, I mean, we haven't heard from Comey. So look, I think that these guys should be straight with the American people and come out and say it. I don't think they've been clear about it. I think that it's been all over the map.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Alice, do you buy that or are trump supporters just hesitant to acknowledge Russian meddling because it might fuel questions regarding the legitimacy of Donald Trump's presidency.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATORS: I think at this point there's beyond enough evidence to indicate clearly there's Russian hacking going on. It did clearly involve the election process, whether or not it swayed the election one way or the other remains to be seen. But I think there's no way to deny the fact that there's Russian hacking going on here.

And I do think some kind of a select committee like John McCain suggested would be in order. But before that goes on, we need to take action from the President Obama. He seems to be downplaying, taking some kind of aggressive action. But something does need to be done whether it's the counter cyber attack or something to push back on a lot of these attacks we're getting from the Russians.

SANCHEZ: Ana, what do you think? Is this just kind of a denial because they don't want people to ask if Donald Trump is a legitimate president or is this really confusion as Reince Priebus says?

NAVARRO: Of course it's a denial. And frankly, it's a tactic that I think does not work and it's counter productive.

Look, if they want to hear from the three agencies, they can. He's the president-elect. He is privy to intelligence briefings. Maybe like instead of taking the time to meet with Kanye West, we would sit down and listen to his daily intelligence briefings. He could ask the three different agencies. And he could realize they are on the same page that it's not just made up by outside sources. If it was, they would have denied it when it came out in the different media outlets today.

There's no doubt at this point, people who've received the intelligence briefings, people in the senate, people in congress are out there saying that all the agencies are on the same page. I feel like I'm in some sort of parallel universe. I cannot believe that I am watching Republicans, I cannot believe that I am watching people who work for the Republican president-elect dissing U.S. intelligence agencies.

And at the same time, not criticizing the KGB agent who was coordinating the stuff from Russia. This guy is not our friend. Not only is he hacking U.S. political systems but he's also very much a part of the tragedy that's going on in Syria, in Aleppo. And I think it's enough of this pussyfooting around the fact that Vladimir Putin is not a friend.

So I would hope that when he does take office, he puts a lot more stock on what the CIA says than on what the KGB agent says.

SANCHEZ: Alice, something John McCain said today during the interview with Jake Tapper, it was really interesting. He alluded to previous administration's attempts to make nice with Vladimir Putin. Famously, George W. Bush said that he looked into his eyes, saw his soul and that he was a good man. President Obama hit the reset button.

And John McCain said that ultimately Donald Trump might find himself in the same position as those presidents did with Vladimir Putin saying that reality will step in the way. Do you foresee this friendliness continuing moving forward or could the results of an investigation change that?

STEWART: I think once he gets into the White House, it's a sobering occupation, it's a sobering position to be in as Barack Obama had said. And also, in addition to the Russian reset we had from Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration, when Mitt Romney four years ago, when Mitt Romney said Russia is a tremendous threat to our nation, Barack Obama mocked him and cast that aside. And he has allowed Russia to continue these cyber attacks and continue to be aggressive towards America and we can't have that.

Look, I think clearly, right now, Donald Trump has been friendly towards Putin but that could possibly more than likely change once he is in office because there's no denying that they are well ahead of us when it comes to the cyber security and the cyber attacks.

[14:15:04] We need to be much more aggressive on that.

And I think it's a mistake to think that just because he's friendly now he's not going to change his tone. Because we have seen the last four and eight years of President Obama being weak that has allowed Putin to be strong when it comes to cyber security and many others. And I think Donald Trump is going to be much stronger once he's in office and the sobering realities of the dangers of Russia are on his desk.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Interesting you say that John McCain essentially saying that the president has no strategy to deal with these cyber attacks. Alice and Ana, thank you so much for the time this week. And we will see you again.

STEWART: Thank you, Boris.

NACVARRO: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Next, buses set on fire in Aleppo. The evacuation of thousands of civilians now postponed. We're live on the Turkish- Syrian border after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We have breaking news out of Syria. The evacuation of thousands of civilians and rebels trapped by fighting in eastern Aleppo is being postponed again over safety concerns.

According to Syrian state TV, buses had arrived in the city and were expected to start bringing people out to neighboring towns but that plan is now on hold indefinitely. Some buses in nearby Idlib were burned even before they could reach their pickup points.

I'm going to bring in Michael Weiss now, he's a CNN contributor and co-author of 'ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror' and CNN's Mohammad Lila, who is live from the the Turkish-Syrian border.

Mohammad, we will start with you. What exactly happened here?

MOHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, this is actually a very big disappointment. There was a lot of hope earlier in the day that these evacuations would take place but we know from a monitoring group that has connections on the ground, especially among the opposition that these evacuations will not be taking place tonight.

And that matches with some of the messaging we've been getting from the red cross simply put, they don't have the security guarantees in place to make sure that they can facilitate this exchange on the ground without anybody getting hurt.

So unfortunately, as you said these evacuations have been postponed indefinitely. There's some talk about maybe trying again tomorrow but that would be the third day in a row where we've been hearing, well, let's try it again tomorrow. Let's try it again tomorrow. And unfortunately, there are no guarantees about tomorrow either.

SANCHEZ: Michael, to you, this disappointment one of many, every ceasefire that they have setup has failed multiple times. Is there any hope for some kind of resurgence or order to get those people out of there?

[14:20:00] MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Turkey and Russia have embarked upon an agreement whereby the civilians and rebels will be moved to areas north of Aleppo City that is now under a Turkish protectorate, thanks to what they call Operation Euphrates Shield. This would in effect create the Turkish safe zone that has been long discussed in Ankara.

But look, the problem is this, the deal that was struck to try and -- this isn't really a civilian evacuation. Let's be clear about what's taking place. This is a forced population transfer. And Assad regime and its Iranian proxies were not privy to the agreement struck between Russia and Turkey. And so what you're seeing now -- I mean the immolation (ph) of these buses was probably done by the Al Qaeda franchise (inaudible). And the reason they're doing it is the regime has insisted -- I mean, Iran has insisted that two Shia villages in Idlib Province close to Aleppo also have to be evacuated as a quid pro quo for removing some 80,000 people from Aleppo City.

So now Sunni jihadists were taking advantage of what they see as a kind of sectarian cleansing ongoing in Aleppo and they're striking at the Shia of Syria. This is a meltdown situation. And this is only going to get worse. I'm seeing images of the leader of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard threatening (ph) to welcome in Aleppo, that is such an inciting piece of propaganda.

I mean, Sunnis are going to now really want to strike out at the Shia. I think the regime has played a very, very poor game at this and I think Iran has too. Even the former secretary general of Hezbollah, a prominent Shia cleric said Aleppo is now the Karbala of all Muslims. This meaning a symbolic tragedy that has afflicted the Shia centuries ago. He sees this as an attack on all Muslims and one that's going to engender a tremendous amount of blowback against the Shia. I think this is what you're beginning to see, little signs of now.

SANCHEZ: Mohammad, to you, a lot of the people that were fleeing Aleppo were supposed to be heading to Idlib. Wouldn't they just be moving from one war zone to another, isn't that the next front in this war?

LILA: Yes. And of course, that was a big question mark in the beginning that look what happened to this people is they leave Aleppo, where are they going, won't they just get bombed by Russians?

But we do know that Turkey's leader Erdogan has spoken with Russia's Putin. In fact, just today, we know there's been a very high level of communication. This is probably the fifth or sixth time that they've spoken on the phone in just the last couple of weeks. And of course, Turkey is looking to assert itself across into Syria by, as Michael said, setting up that Euphrates shield, which is essentially a buffer zone.

So the idea was that Turkey would be in a position to guarantee the safety of the people that are being evacuated from Aleppo. And I should say, Boris, we've seen some of that ourselves. We've been to an emergency field hospital that was being supported by Turkey. Turkey is treating a lot of the victims who are being evacuated from Aleppo. And they're talking about setting up a refugee camp that could house 80,000 people. So that's not a small undertaking, that's massive. So Turkey of course is going to play a big role in securing the safety of those people as they leave Aleppo.

SANCHEZ: Michael, last question to you, taking Aleppo would ultimately give Bashar al-Assad control of the five biggest cities in Syria. Does that effectively end the moderate rebel's hope of overthrowing his regime? Does this mean that the war -- the fighting may not be over but at least the war is decided?

WEISS: Well, he's taking control of the city that's essentially a packloose (ph) gate. I mean, there's not much in Aleppo right now and the cost of reconstructing it and rebuilding it is going to be exorbitant.

But yes. Look, strategically, I think the opposition no longer has any chance of overthrowing the regime. And frankly, that was decided not by the Free Syrian Army or Al Qaeda or anybody else except the western powers that chose not to intervene in the conflict.

And in fact, I'm hearing reports now that U.S. backed rebels are no longer being paid their salaries. And Donald Trump is coming into office saying I really don't want to back any kind of proxy on the ground. My focus is fighting ISIS. So in a sense, yes. Assad has won but it's not really Assad, that this is sort of the irony here.

This campaign, this operation for Aleppo was waged by Russia and Iran and all of the Iranian built proxies. So Assad, although he is the sovereign of all of Syria, it's not him that's touring the battlefield, it's the head of the Quds Force of Iran. Again, the symbolism of that is going to lead to a whole new generation of Sunni jihadism. And it's going to affect Damascus in the long term.

SANCHEZ: Michael Weiss and Mohammad Lila, situation to keep a close eye on, thank you both.

Elsewhere in the Mid East, police in Jordan are battling several gunman in the city of Karak, south of the capital Amman. Nine people have been killed since the attack again early today near a medieval castle known as a popular tourist spot. A Canadian woman and five policeman are among those killed. Official say it appears that five gunmen were involved in the attack.

Reuters is reporting a Jordanian security forces stormed the castle where the gunman were holed up and they were able to free some tourists who were trapped inside. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

[14:25:00]

Back to the states now as Donald Trump's approach to U.S. Russia relations remains under the spotlight concerns rise over Vladimir Putin's reach. After the break, how the Russian president's leadership strategy could shape U.S.-Russian policy going forward?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Vladimir Putin's governing style is a sharp turn from his predecessor Boris Yeltsin and some who know the current Russian leader well say that Donald Trump should be weary of him, CNN's Nick Robertson reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the Soviet Union collapse, the world thought Russia would be a different place. And for a decade under President Yeltsin, it was.

BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: They had free press, they had democracy and they had civil society. The problem is that they didn't have any laws. I mean, they didn't have any rules.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Bill Browder, an investment banker was there in Russia making millions amidst the chaos. But then, Putin came to power. After a few years later, he crash with Browder.

BROWDER: I pointed out that Putin and the people around him have stolen an enormous amount of money from the Russian people and have covered it up.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Browder's businesses were raided. One of his whistle-blowing lawyers, Sergei Magnitsky was thrown in jail, brutalized and died there many months later. Putin rejects every accusation Browder makes and has barred him from Russia for the past decade.

BROWDER: At this point, many people considered me to be Putin's number one foreign enemy and as such, my life is at risk.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): He is right to be worried. Putin's critics get silenced.

SIR ANDREW WOOD, BRITAIN'S AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, he has a proven record of murder for a start, either directly ordered or indirectly encouraged.

[14:30:00] ROBERTSON (voice-over): Sir Andrew Wood was Britain's ambassador to Russia at the same Browder was making his millions. He dismisses Putin's denials of any influence in the deaths.

WOOD: When Putin came to power his main theme was Russia should be a great power. He chose not economic reform and political progress but a relapse into what amounts to sort of a form of a narcissistic xenophobia.

ROBERTSON: In foreign policy that's intervention in Ukraine and Syria annexing Crimea, providing overnight popularity for Putin at the price of (inaudible) long term economic sanctions. Pretty soon all this will be on President-elect Donald Trump's plate.

BILL BROWDER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: He wants to be seen as a great deal maker and as a winner and so Putin has made his wish list very clear. He wants Ukraine. He wants sanctions lifted and he wants to be left alone in Syria.

ROBERTSON: Problem is Putin's idea of deal making not much of a deal.

WOOD: What he's offering I don't think is anything at all. Nice words perhaps.

ROBERTSON: And even his words warns Browder aren't worth much.

BROWDER: Putin doesn't keep to his word. Putin always betrays deals. He takes what's offered and then tries to take some more in the future. That probably won't play that well with Trump who will feel ripped off.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And what are his options going to be then?

BROWDER: To become probably much tougher than any other U.S. head of state before him towards Russia.

WOOD: I think at least for a period it will be in his interests to take things relatively calm.

ROBERTSON: The alternative could be very deeply troubling, two powerful men, two big egos.

BROWDER: I can imagine that we'll end up in a position where both these guys will be thumping their chests and steering each other down.

ROBERTSON: Twenty five years of post-Cold War diplomacy could be about to face their biggest test yet. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Next, Donald Trump closing out his "Thank You Tour" with a request for unity among all Americans, not just his supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: Whether you are African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, we're all American and we're all united by one shared destiny.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:35:43]

SANCHEZ: President-elect Donald Trump is using the last leg of the "Thank You Tour" to offer an olive branch to all Americans, including those who didn't vote for him. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: My message today is for all Americans, from all parties, all beliefs, all races, all walks of life, whether you are African- American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, we're all American and we're all united by one shared destiny. So I'm asking everyone to join this incredible movement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: But is that enough to heal the wounds from a hard fought campaign? Let's talk about this with CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro, and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Alice Stewart. Thank you both, Ladies, for joining us again.

Ana, is this really the best way to reach out to people of color, Muslims, immigrants and other groups that might be fearful that a Trump presidency would embolden some of his less tolerant supporters? NAVARRO: It's certainly one way. There's no mistake that the presidency gives you a bully pulpit that is important to use. It's a good thing that he's using it to be unifying at least in speech. Donald Trump needs to acknowledge that he released very ugly things in American society.

He released an ugly underbelly. It used to be shameful to be a bigot and he allowed it. He promoted it. He peddled in it during his rallies and campaign. I'm not saying he invented it, but I'm saying that peddled in it and he promoted it and I think he has to take responsibility.

So him calling for unity and saying that we're all together in this, he's right, we're all together in this. It's going to make it easier on all of us, including him as the one that going to be governing if we are more united.

The polarization we have in America today I would tell you is one of our biggest national problems. But there's a lot more than he can do than just read things off a teleprompter.

For example, he can go -- he's got a couple more cabinet seats to fill. I haven't seen one Hispanic be named to this cabinet or to a high level position in his administration yet. It would go a long way if we could see a representative government in a Trump administration in all the different levels of government.

SANCHEZ: Alice, do you agree with Ana that we need more diversity on the cabinet?

STEWART: I think we do and I think we will see that. I think he's off to a good start, but I do agree that a little more diversity would be good in terms of showing a good faith effort in bringing about more diversity in the top level positions and throughout his administration.

Look, the idea that many have, especially those on left, we have two Americas this is not an overnight sensation. This is a problem eight years in the making. I think the Obama administration has done quite a bit to show the contrast and two different Americas and I think it's time that we get back on track and show we are one united America.

I agree with Ana, it's a good first step for Donald Trump to make this overture and speak of us united we can be stronger. Unfortunately, we are seeing crisis going on overseas and in other countries that we may have to face and address and that more than ever requires a united American front.

And I think calling by the president to unite and he is going to be the president for all of America, is a good step. We heard from the president himself, Barack Obama and even Hillary Clinton, let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Let's work together and let him lead and give him an honest first step as presidency. I think that is the best way to go forward.

SANCHEZ: Isn't it tough to do that and ask for unity when you're questioning the intelligence agencies and questioning other Republican leaders that have called for investigation into Russian meddling in the election? Doesn't that sow more disagreement?

STEWART: What he's doing with regard to questioning some of these intelligence agencies is something that will have to be carried out with further investigation.

[14:40:03]At the front end, I think it was right for him to question because we're having conflicting information from the CIA to the FBI. At this stage of the game, enough information is on the table where we can remove any doubt whatsoever that Russia was involved in this hacking and moving forward we need to let these go to committee hearings.

I agree with John McCain, we need to have a select committee to investigate some of this. But once we have the findings of this, it will be without a doubt on the same page with regard to the intelligence community.

SANCHEZ: Now Ana, I want to play sound from Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She was on with Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning and she attributed a recent rise in reporting of hate crimes to some of the rhetoric during the election. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": I know that the uptick in hate crimes around the election has been an issue of focus for you. Why do you think there was an uptick around the election?

LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We've been seeing this uptick really in the last several years. The report that the FBI just issued focused on 2015 and saw a rise in hate crimes overall, and rather alarmingly large hate crimes against Muslim-Americans.

Certainly, we've gotten more reports of incidents over the last several years and those reports are under investigation also. We're watching it very, very carefully.

So I think it's a combination of things, the rhetoric certainly around the election makes people awaken certain views in people and they may or may not feel empowered to act on it.

My advice to the new add administration would be to look at this issue very carefully as we are and I know that they'll take public safety very seriously. And I'll leave it to them as to how they want to respond to it.

For me it's important to talk to these groups and these communities who are feeling concerns and anxiety over the statistics and over the numbers and over the rhetoric and over the freedom that some people same to feel at this point in time to just express hate.

You know, it's look -- what we do in the department is defend the first amendment as well. We defended the people's right to say things no matter how hateful they are at times. You always have to wonder, why is it so important to some people to express themselves in the most vitriolic and negative terms possible? I'll leave that for people to consider for themselves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Ana, how do you think Trump is going to take that advice? Is it something that he's actually going to focus on?

NAVARRO: I have no idea, Boris, I'm not a Trump whisperer and can't quite -- I can't quite decipher what he's going to do. I hope he doesn't though because I do agree with Attorney General Lynch that the rhetoric was part of what inflamed the passion in the election.

This election fanned the flames of division and hostility amongst all sides, not just the Republican side. We saw such an energized passionate, at times just angry electorate out there. This did get out of hand for the American people.

Any of us who are on social media and on the receiving end of tweets and social media feedback can tell you just how ugly and nasty it go. I think a lot of people under the guise of not being politically correct, which became an in-political correct thing to do, became vulgar and craft and unhinged and violent and hateful.

Somehow we need to figure out how to tamp that down and figure out how to bring down the temperature because we can't continue going this way. We have got to figure out how to focus on values that we share in common.

And with Donald Trump as president with the bully pulpit of the presidency, I think his debate, rhetoric and words and actions, his appointments can go a long way in setting a tone.

BERMAN: Ladies, a pleasure to have you on. I wish we had more time to chat, but we have to keep it moving. Ana and Alice, thank you so much. We'll be right back after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:47:11]

SANCHEZ: Pope Francis is celebrating his 80th birthday this weekend. It's a significant age in the Catholic hierarchy. At 80 years old cardinals are required to retire from the Electoral College which chooses the pope.

Pope Francis shows no sign of slowing down. To mark his birthday yesterday, he met with homeless people at the Vatican and led a mass for 60 cardinals.

He also reflected on what it means to grow older, saying, quote, "For a few days now a word keeps coming into my mind that seems ugly, old age and it scares me. It scares me. But if one thinks of it as a stage of life, which can give you joy and wisdom and hope, you can begin to enjoy life again." CNN religion commentator, Father Edward Beck joins me. Now Father, in the past, the popes have helmed the Catholic Church up until they passed away, but that obviously changed with Pope Benedict, who for the first time retired in 2013. That was the first time a pope has done that since 600 years. Do you think Pope Francis might follow in his footsteps?

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: You know, Boris, it is possible. When he was elected, he thought he said it would be a short papacy before he went to his father's house. The implication was there he didn't think he would live that long. However, he's already passed his projection of three or four years.

However, maybe what's good for the gander needs to be good for the goose too. So since cardinals need to retire at 80, the implication being their health starts to decline or not as able after that age.

I think if this pope felt that, he would follow. He has praised the decision of Benedict to do so. If he thought he wasn't up to the task, then I think, yes, he would follow in that same suit.

Now I don't think we should anticipate it any time soon because he's already set some of his schedule for 2017. He's going to be visiting Asia and Africa. He's not slowing down yet.

However, I wouldn't be surprised if this pope would follow suit and when he felt he could no longer do it, he may in fact resign or retire as well.

SANCHEZ: He's certainly breaking his own mold in a lot of ways. The pope received 70,000 e-mails wishing him a happy birthday. He got telegrams and phone calls from all over the world from many world leaders including one from President Vladimir Putin. I have to ask, is Pope Francis aligned with President-elect Donald Trump on the idea that we should engage with Russia in a much more friendly way than we have recently?

BECK: Well, I wouldn't say just Russia. Pope Francis believes that you attract more bees with honey than vinegar. So remember he was influential in our own president starting relations with Cuba again, negotiating that deal. He believes that there are a lot of Russian Christians. He's mended rift with the orthodox Russian church.

[14:50:05]And so if he's going to talk to Putin and is going to help Christians in Russia, he's going to do so. Now, that does not mean he approves of everything that Putin does, but Putin picks up the phone and calls him and sends wishes, Pope Francis is going to respond.

I think he just thinks you have to be engaged even with those you don't agree with if you're going to have any kind of advancement. So Putin, whomever, this pope says open the door and see what happens and you see him doing that.

SANCHEZ: Pope Francis has obviously made his mark as we alluded to as one of the most progressive popes ever. He continues to have his battles with you could say the more conservative wing of the Catholic Church, but he hasn't changed that much doctrine in the church. Why so much conflict?

BECK: I think because he has engaged who he doesn't necessarily agree with. He has said that just because somebody is not to the totally in tent, it doesn't mean you just cast them aside. He has said about gays, who am I to judge?

He hasn't change church teaching with regard to gay marriage, but he has certainly met with transgendered people, doesn't means he necessarily always agrees with the lifestyle, but he believes the engagement is the way that you have process with people.

He has said that divorced and remarried, maybe we should look at communion for them. He said let's talk about it. Women priests, no, but let's look at women deacons. He's kind of trying to expand the tent.

And it gets some people nervous because he hasn't changed anything, but he's also saying we have to be open to the conversation and I think some people think you open the door a legal bit and maybe you can't close it again.

SANCHEZ: All right, Father Edward Beck, thank you so much for the perspective. We'll be right back after this.

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[14:55:13]

SANCHEZ: With one week until Christmas, the day that Saint Nick's gifts, the White House is decorated with bows and snow and ice and it's now Donald Trump who decides who is naughty and nice. That's the subject of this week's "Cartonian" by Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): It's the most wonderful time of the year.

TRUMP: Merry Christmas, everybody. We're going to start saying Merry Christmas again.

TAPPER: This year Donald Trump wants to make Christmas great again and he's starting inside Trump Tower which closed down early this week for its annual Christmas party. We in the press were not invited so we have to imagine the festivities such as Kanye singing carols.

One imagines that Santa Trump has a list of naughty or nice, which he is definitively checking more than twice.

There are plenty of gifts he has to dole out such as this one for former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Others however, should probably expect a lump of Cole. I'm looking at you, Governor Romney.

TRUMP: Happy New Year but Merry Christmas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: We have much more just ahead in the NEWSROOM. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Thanks for joining us. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Fredricka Whitfield. There is some new developments out of Syria. The evacuation of thousands of civilians and rebels trapped by fighting in Eastern Aleppo is being postponed again over safety concerns.